The college football season is upon us. While many college football teams will feast on cupcake teams on the opening weekend of the season, a few will take on worthy opponents in their first games. Needless to say there probably won’t be much parity on opening weekend; of the 120 Division I FBS teams, only four games are between ranked opponents.
The last few seasons a lot of teams have won games that they were never expected to win. For example, last year East Carolina beat West Virginia 24-3 as quarterback Patrick Pinkney led the unlikely upset. Stanford, a 41-point underdog beat Pac-10 juggernaut USC two years ago as Stanford quarterback Tavita Pritchard completed a 10-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal to receiver Mark Bradford with 49 seconds left to break USC’s 35-game home-winning streak.
Those upsets are the reason I watch college football; you never know who is going to win on any given Saturday.
While most teams take the first week off with virtual free passes because of the skill level of their opponents, the first week isn’t usually a good week for upsets (don’t tell that to Appalachian State or Michigan). But some teams aren’t taking the week off.
Boise State vs. Oregon
Starting Thursday the No. 14 ranked Boise State Broncos will host 16th ranked Oregon at home on the blue turf in a matchup that should provide an offensive showcase. Boise State returns six offensive players from an offense that averaged 37.6 points per game last season including sophomore quarterback Kellen Moore. Moore is back after completing 69.4 percent of his passes last year and earning Western Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year. Junior running back Jeremy Avery takes over for Ian Johnson. Avery averaged 6 yards per carry as Johnson’s backup last year.
For Oregon, the Ducks averaged 41.9 points in 2008 and return five starters on offense. Senior running back LeGarrette Blount ran for 1,002 yards last season and a school single season record with 17 touchdowns as a backup behind Jeremiah Johnson who also rushed for 1,201 yards. Junior Jeremiah Masoli will play quarterback after finding the end zone 23 times (13 passing and 10 rushing) last year.
Pick: Boise State has a slight advantage at home but Oregon will test Boise State’s defense and prevail.
Other ranked teams facing off this weekend are No. 5 Alabama who will play No. 7 Virginia Tech in Atlanta on Sept. 5. No. 13-ranked Georgia will play No. 9 Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla. and No. 20 Brigham Young will head to No. 3 Oklahoma.
Alabama vs. Virginia Tech
The Alabama vs. Virginia Tech game should be a defensive battle that boasts VT as the ninth ranked scoring defense in 2008, allowing only 16.7 points per game last year.
Alabama has plenty of talent, including wide receiver Julio Jones, but will start a new quarterback after the graduation of John Parker Wilson and the early departure of running back Glen Coffee to the NFL. Their defense returns 6′ 5″ 365-pound senior nose tackle Terrence Cody and stud junior linebacker Rolando McClain on a defense that ranked third in the nation giving up only 263.5 yards per game in 2008.
Virginia Tech boasts a good defense that returns seven defensive starters. Cornerback Stephan Virgil intercepted six passes in 2008 for the Hokies.
Pick: I don’t see either offense exploding in this one. The game will probably end up low-scoring with a defensive touchdown making the difference. Virginia Tech is the better team, but Alabama should win.
Georgia vs. Oklahoma State
The Georgia vs. Oklahoma State game should be a good matchup to see if Georgia’s defense can stop Oklahoma State’s offense and if Georgia can recover after losing two key pieces to their offense.
Oklahoma State is stacked on offense with play makers Zac Robinson at quarterback, Kendall Hunter at running back and Dez Bryant at wide receiver. Robinson threw for 3,064 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2008 and used his feet to rush for eight touchdowns. Bryant caught 87 passes for 1,480 yards while scoring 19 touchdowns. Hunter rushed for 1,555 yards last season.
Georgia lost playmakers on offense in quarterback Matthew Stafford and running back Knowshon Moreno to the NFL. The Bulldogs return A.J. Green at receiver who, as a freshman in 2008, caught 56 passes. Their defense was 22nd in yards allowed last year allowing 312 yards per game.
Pick: Oklahoma State should come out slinging the football and win by a couple of scores.
BYU vs. Oklahoma
The BYU Oklahoma matchup shouldn’t be much of a contest. Max Hall returns at quarterback for Brigham Young after passing 3,957 yards and 35 touchdowns in 2008.
Oklahoma returns Heisman winner Sam Bradford who threw for 50 touchdowns and 4,720 yards in 2008. The Sooners averaged 51.1 points per game and third in total yards with averaging 547.9 yards per game.
Pick: Oklahoma should dominate both sides of the ball and win.