Predicting the Score of Every Week 1 College Football Game
College football is nearly upon us, or at least it seems that way to those of us who are fanatics.
Even though the opening weekend is still 18 weeks away, it is never too early to look ahead.
Many argue that nothing brings more excitement and joy than watching the start of the college football season. It bring a ton of pageantry back into the world of sports, as so many fanbases are die-hards who love nothing more than screaming their favorite team's fight song.
In that spirit, here's a way-too-early prediction for every single game on the season-opening weekend.
Note: Times of the games are not yet decided, but all games are on Saturday unless otherwise noted.
Southern Miss at Nebraska
Coach Larry Fedora is gone, and even though Southern Miss will be in good hands with Ellis Johnson, the Huskers will be primed and ready to start their second season in the Big Ten.
Taylor Martinez needs to be more consistent in the passing game to take pressure off Rex Burkhead and the running game, but the hope is that Nebraska’s receivers will improve.
If so, the defense will take things over from there.
Nebraska 41, Southern Miss 13
Miami of Ohio at Ohio State
Urban Meyer is in town and is playing with house money in his first season as Ohio State oach.
The Buckeyes cannot contend for a BCS or Big Ten title because of their recent NCAA violations. But they are capable of accomplishing the same thing USC did a season ago (a 10-2 record and top-five ranking).
Ohio State opens with four home games and has eight for the season. Expect several wins and a few blowout victories. This should be one of them, albeit against a respectable MAC program that should be bowling in 2012.
Ohio State 38, Miami of Ohio 10
Ohio at Penn State
Bill O’Brien can't be pleased after the spring-game performance by quarterback Rob Bolden, so Matt McGloin will likely be the guy to start.
We saw the offense look boring and flat against Houston in Penn State's bowl game, although some attribute that to everything the team had gone through.
Penn State linebacker Gerald Hodges will be eyeing Ohio's star quarterback Tyler Tettleton the whole game. Offensively, the Nittany Lions' Silas Redd should be able to break off more than enough long runs.
Penn State 30, Ohio 14
Eastern Kentucky at Purdue
Coach Danny Hope is looking to get Purdue into consecutive bowls. But more importantly, the Boilermakers are trying to become serious dark horses in the Big Ten.
Led by Kawann Short, arguably the best defensive tackle in the nation, the defense will not allow an upset in the opener, especially at lovely West Lafayette.
Purdue 34, Eastern Kentucky 7
Northern Iowa at Wisconsin
Losing in the NCAA quarterfinals a season ago, Northern Iowa managed a No. 2 ranking in FCS Division I before it was knocked off by fifth-ranked Montana.
Still, a 10-3 record is fabulous. And Northern Iowa will be taking on a Wisconsin offense that will have a few new key starters. However, Montee Ball and James White should chew up plenty of clock running behind another stellar offensive line.
Give me the Badgers by a pair of touchdowns. They should make enough plays on defense to overcome any rust the offense may have.
Wisconsin 34, Northern Iowa 21
Appalachian State at East Carolina
Most remember the year 2007 like it was yesterday, although it was five years ago. That season, the Mountaineers from Boone, N.C., upset Michigan on a blocked field goal as time expired.
Appalachian State did win three straight FCS Division I national titles from 2005-2007, but they could not even make it out of the first round of the playoffs last season.
East Carolina will not be intimidated as it attempts to get back to relevancy as a ranked team. ECU hung with South Carolina for more than a half last season and should be able to earn a fairly comfortable victory.
East Carolina 27, Appalachian State 17
Texas State at Houston
Case Keenum, Patrick Edwards, a slew of defensive players and head coach Kevin Sumlin are all gone for Houston.
Last season, the Cougars were a win away from an undefeated season and the chance to play in a BCS bowl game. They will not be starting from square one under Tony Levine, but the expectations will be a tad lower.
Texas State will be playing its first game as a member of the FBS. The Bobcats are now in the WAC, which has become a conference filled with teams nobody really cares too much about.
Houston 37, Texas State 14
Tennessee-Martin at Memphis
The Memphis Tigers are not mentioned too much because they have not exactly achieved a ton of recent success.
It seems like just yesterday when Memphis running back DeAngelo Williams was dashing down the sidelines in a winning effort in the Motor City Bowl. But it actually was 2005 against Akron, and the team has appeared in only two bowl games since then, losing both.
Dontari Poe is the latest rave in the NFL draft. We are only a day away from seeing him get selected, more than likely, in the first round.
The 2012 Tigers have 15 starters returning, counting special teams, from a 2-10 squad that was atrocious to watch.
They were winless in C-USA and gave up 59 points to Mississippi State in last year’s opener.
Luckily, Tennessee-Martin went 5-6 a year ago and will not muster up too much in this one.
Memphis 33, Tennessee-Martin 14
UCLA at Rice
UCLA is ready for a new start under Jim Mora Jr. The Bruins can only hope he keeps his mouth shut when comparing his team to USC.
It is one thing to let your team know what you expect out of them. But, hopefully, Mora won't get a billboard like slick Rick Neuheisel did when attempting to derail the Trojans' run to the BCS.
Rice is a team from C-USA that is a desperate for success. The Owls' talent is not nearly as bad as it has been in the past.
That said, they should hover around .500, although a beat-down against a Pac-12 team is up first.
UCLA 31, Rice 10
Troy at UAB
Troy was picked to win the Sun Belt last season and could not live up the hype. Before last season, 2005 was the last time Troy failed to appear in a bowl game.
A road win should start this season off on the right foot. But something about watching two 3-9 squads does not seem right in September.
Couldn’t they move this non-conference matchup toward the end of the season?
Troy 24, UAB 16
Central Florida at Akron
Some may recall that one of my favorite mascots is Zippy, the Akron mascot.
Sadly, there have not been many other reasons to be excited about the Zips, who are coming off a dreadful 1-11 season.
If that 1-11 sounds familiar, it's because Akron went 1-11 in 2010. Believe me, being in the basement of the MAC is as bad as it sounds.
UCF had some momentum coming into the 2011 season after it upset Georgia in the Liberty Bowl. But the Knights of C-USA never seemed to get things going, finishing a disappointing 5-7.
Except for the Akron debut of former Auburn and North Alabama coach Terry Bowden, call this a boring matchup between conferences that we may not be hearing a whole lot from, if you will.
But since this is the opening weekend of college football, I never can get enough action from games.
Central Florida, 23, Akron 10
Washington State at BYU
Now we are talking about a few under-the-radar games that should be high-profile instead.
I can't wait for this opener because much more is at stake than you realize.
BYU looks like a bowl team, with All-American receiver Marquess Wilson hauling in touchdown after touchdown.
Plus, Mike Leach will be back on the sidelines for Washington state, which only makes life more interesting. BYU is coming off a 10-3 season despite not defeating a single ranked team.
BYU wide receiver Cody Hoffman may not be quite as good as Wilson from Washington State, but both are tremendous players who are essential for their teams.
In a battle of Cougars, give me BYU in an entertaining nail-biter.
BYU 27, Washington State 21
Bowling Green at Florida
The Gators defense alone should be enough to produce a victory in this opener.
Add in specials teams that can compete with any team in America and an offense that still has plenty of playmakers despite the loss of John Brantley, Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps, and the fans at the "Swamp'' figure to be licking their chops.
Bowling Green better not turn it over early or else this one could get ugly by halftime.
Florida 38, Bowling Green 10
Buffalo at Georgia
Mark Richt’s Bulldogs should be somewhere in the preseason top five when this game is played.
Quarterback Aaron Murray will probably be handing the ball off quite a bit with so many talented backs waiting for their carries.
The defense will likely be without a few starters due to suspensions, but the depth that a top-ranked SEC teams has these days is absurd.
Georgia 42, Buffalo 3
Villanova at Temple
If only this were a basketball matchup, I would watch every play (or possession).
Still, Temple has moved into the Big East, a BCS conference, and will try to knock off Villanova once again.
Villanova has lost two in a row to Temple after defeating the Owls three seasons ago. With Bernard Pierce off to the NFL, Temple will let little water-bug Matt Brown do all the damage.
Can Temple contend for a Big East crown? Dominating this game would not be a bad start.
Temple 28, Villanova 14
Southeast Missouri State at Central Michigan
Does the MAC deserve more respect?
Well, not quite, when several of its teams are consistently struggling to reach .500.
Central Michigan has been abysmal lately, and it does not seem like anything will be changing too much in the near future.
A few 3-9 seasons will do that to you. But that is not to say that Southeast Missouri State will just come into Kelly/Shorts Stadium in Mount Pleasant and come away with a victory.
Central Michigan 37, Southeast Missouri State 10
Towson at Kent State
Had it not been for a few close losses, Kent State may have appeared in a bowl game last season for the first time since 1972. Instead, the Golden Flashes finished 5-7 and stayed home for another year.
The program has only appeared in three bowls in its history. A victory over a quickly improving Towson team, which went from 1-10 to 9-3 last season, would be a decent start.
Kent State 27, Towson 20
Toledo at Arizona
If wide receiver and return-man extraordinaire Eric Page had stayed with the Rockets, Toledo would be a dark-horse candidate run the table this season. Instead, they will have to settle for the upper echelon of the MAC.
Arizona is looking for new coach Rich Rodriguez to take it to bigger and better things, but the growing pains will be severe this season.
This is one of my few upset predictions (as of now). But it will be a close and entertaining contest, with a ton of fireworks.
Toledo 42, Arizona 41
Idaho State at Air Force
Air Force quarterback Tim Jefferson and running back Asher Clark are both gone, but Idaho State has been about as easy a win as it gets for Division I FBS schools.
Those Bengals have failed to win three or more games in any of the last four seasons.
Air Force should dominate from start to finish.
Air Force 45, Idaho State 3
Nevada at California
California quarterback Zach Maynard and receiver Keenan Allen may be connecting on a few deep passes early and often in this one.
They will need every single play because the Cal defense is losing a few studs up front, and Nevada coach Chris Ault should be able to muster up some points and put up a solid fight.
If Cal were to lose this kind of game, coach Jeff Tedford may not make it to another season. But, somehow, he seems to keep finding a way to get enough talented players to win games and keep his job.
Cal 35, Nevada 24
Colorado State vs. Colorado
This neutral-site game between in-state rivals at Mile High Stadium, where Peyton Manning will be watching (or probably not), is an intriguing matchup.
Colorado has lost receiver Paul Richardson for the season with a knee injury, but I still like the Buffaloes' chances to avoid the Pac-12 basement.
Their talent level is not that bad, and the team showed it had a bit of depth on defense last season.
Colorado State would love to bounce back from a tough season that saw it get gashed on defense by everybody.
Expect a close one in this rivalry, but I would lean toward Ralphie and the Buffaloes.
Colorado 24, Colorado State 14
Weber State at Fresno State
Just when you thought you had seen it all, John L. Smith leaves Weber State before coaching a game to take the Arkansas job.
Certainly, this upset a few around the Weber State program, since that was his alma mater. But Smith also had strong ties to Arkansas, having left his job as special teams coach for the Razorbacks at the end of last season to take the job at Weber State.
I do not blame Smith for going back to Arkansas, which offered him a 10-month, $800,000 contract.
Weber State has not recently been a factor as an FCS program, whereas its opponent in this game, Fresno State, is now in the Mountain West.
After struggling a bit in the WAC for the last two seasons, the Bulldogs fired coach Pat Hill, who gave us a ton of good memories, and replaced him with Tim DeRuyter.
Derek Carr is back at quarterback for Fresno State, and he has a few weapons that should expose the Wildcats.
Fresno State 50, Weber State 14
Southern at New Mexico
How good are the New Mexico Lobos?
The Mountain West had a few bad teams last season, but New Mexico just continued to get worse and worse.
The program was once respectable, appearing in bowl games all the time. But now the Lobos can't seem to win more than three games. In fact, New Mexico has won only seven games in the last four seasons!
I could not imagine being a die-hard Lobos fan. Although, the Jaguars of Southern have not exactly been killing it at the FCS level (4-7 last year).
New Mexico 23, Southern 20
Arkansas State at Oregon
The Oregon Ducks will more than likely be bursting into the Arkansas State secondary with some filthy uniforms, and it will be fun to see the scoreboard get lit on fire.
Just watch De’Anthony Thomas get his groove going in this one. He may not even get more than a dozen touches, too, but still will break off a few dazzling runs.
Oregon and Chip Kelly have a track record for hanging nearly 70 points in these sort of games. A solid Sun Belt squad, Arkansas State might hang around for a quarter or two, before it turns into a blowout.
Oregon 59, Arkansas State 20
San Diego State at Washington
Can Washington's Keith Price get some more love, please?
The quarterback is an absolute superstar who is not being talked about enough. In the Alamo Bowl, Robert Griffin III was arguably outperformed by the Huskie, who dazzled us with more than 400 passing yards and seven touchdowns.
If this Heisman dark horse can get UW to at least nine wins, he might have a chance at getting enough votes to finish in the top five.
His dominating season will start in this contest against an Aztecs team that has lost all sorts of firepower.
Washington 49, San Diego State 17
San Jose State at Stanford
Andrew Luck is gone, having taken his talents to the NFL. So, is Stanford officially done as a BCS contender?
The Cardinal came fairly close to a BCS title-game appearance last season. And even without Luck, they figure to be a contender in the Pac-12 for years to come.
Running back Stepfan Taylor, wide receiver Ty Montgomery and tight ends Levine Toilolo and Zach Ertz would be factors on nearly any team on the planet.
Watch David Shaw prove why he is turning into a top-10 coach.
Stanford 49, San Jose State 9
Northern Arizona at Arizona State
Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson did not finish the season on a strong note, so he is now a goner.
Brock Osweiler is also gone, having left early for the NFL draft. And with a new coaching staff, no one can blame him for leaving.
New coach Todd Graham still has running back Cameron Marshall and a few playmakers out wide to challenge for a bowl bid.
The defense loses some of its seniors, but that should not be a factor in this opener.
Arizona State 34, Northern Arizona 13
Nicholls State at Oregon State
Oregon State coach Mike Riley would love to go bowling, if only he could remember how.
All joking aside, the guy is a class act and once was considered the most underrated coach in college football.
A winner and a game-day motivator, Riley and his Beavers have been struggling in the Pac-12. Both sides of the ball have seen a major decrease in production. The offense was ranked 73rd in yards per game and the defense was 84th.
Oregon State better start with a massacre of a victory or else the rumors of Riley being gone will start to pick up.
Oregon State 42, Nicholls State 3
Northern Colorado at Utah
Kyle Whittingham is a tremendous coach who knows how to win close games. So this season sets up perfectly to achieve a level of success that I guarantee you most will not be expecting.
Will the the Utes win 10 or 11 games during the regular season?
Probably not, but I will be shocked if they win fewer than eight. They have an excellent chance to run the table in the first few games before they host Southern Cal, which by then may be the top-ranked team in the nation.
Taking it one game at a time, watch John White IV, one of my favorite backs in the country, go off in this one (if he gets a bunch of carries).
Utah 38, Northern Colorado 13
Jackson State at Mississippi State
Dan Mullen will be missing his bell-cow runner in Vick Ballard, who it would have been nice to see play in the SEC forever. But LaDarius Perkins and crew should fill in admirably.
Chris Relf is gone at quarterback as well, so Tyler Russell needs to improve after every game.
Luckily, the Bulldogs' defense is built for the SEC, with the aggressive defensive backs they have, none better than Johnathan Banks.
Mississippi State 38, Jackson State 3
Jacksonville State at Arkansas
Tyler Wilson played like an All-American in the spring game, but he may play like a perennial Hall of Famer against Jacksonville State.
The Razorbacks could probably roll the ball out on the gridiron and win by just showing up. This is a top-10 team on paper. If the defense plays as well as they are capable, watch out.
Knile Davis will certainly be a key ingredient with his ability to slash and dash. But Wilson is the guy who will lead this team alongside new coach John L. Smith.
Arkansas 63, Jacksonville State 17
North Texas at LSU
This David vs. Goliath matchup does not look that good on paper, unless you are a die-hard Bayou Bengals fan.
LSU can't be stopped at home, especially during night games. Zach Mettenberger takes the ball under center this season, and the weapons he is surrounded with are impressive.
There are enough quality backs to last an entire season and the receivers should be among the best in the SEC, with Odell Beckham Jr. and Russell Shepard, among many others.
Arguably the No. 1 team in the country come August, LSU has the nation's best defensive line and a few guys in the secondary who should be playing on Sundays in the near future.
LSU 45, North Texas 7
Central Arkansas at Ole Miss
Can Scottie Pippen get some eligibility back?
Oh, wait, he played basketball. Anyway, one of the greatest small forwards in NBA history may not enjoy watching Ole Miss running back Jeff Scott run circles around his alma mater.
Outside of Oxford being one of the most beautiful cities in college football (The Grove), Ole Miss fans have not had too much to brag about.
Houston Nutt’s job was on the line last season and his team failed to save him. But that is not to say that Hugh Freeze can't accomplish anything in the near future.
Ole Miss 33, Central Arkansas State 17
Texas A&M at Louisiana Tech (8/30)
Going from Ruston, La., to SEC country to play Texas A&M is a bit of a different atmosphere, but Louisiana Tech will enter this game as the favorite to win the WAC.
The Bulldogs may not be in the same galaxy as the favorites in the SEC, but they could give a few of the lower-level SEC teams a tremendous game.
As one of the leading BCS dark horses, Louisiana Tech has a chance to give the Aggies all they can handle in this season-opening contest.
Having given TCU a run for its money in the Poinsettia Bowl last season, Louisiana Tech will make Kevin Sumlin sweat in his first game as Aggies coach.
Texas A&M 35, Louisiana Tech 31
McNeese State at Middle Tennessee State
Alright, call me a chicken because I have not picked too many upsets thus far.
Well, here goes a shot in the dark between two schools that most of America does not care too much about.
McNeese State went 6-5 in the FCS last season and has what it takes to upset a struggling Blue Raiders squad that went a lowly 2-10 a year ago.
McNeese State 20, Middle Tennessee State 17
Texas-San Antonio at Southern Alabama
Wait, these teams are not even in the FBS, right?
Wrong. There are now 124 FBS programs,and these are two of the newest members.
This will be matchup between teams that will be attempting to prove they are more than worthy of competing with the best talent.
The Roadrunners of Texas-San Antonio lost 30-27 to Southern Alabama last season, and they now meet again as members of the WAC.
UTSA is coached by Larry Coker, who went just 4-6 last season. Watch for a close game, with Coker pulling off the slight upset in the opener of his second season.
UTSA 21, Southern Alabama 19
Lamar at Louisiana-Lafayette
Some just call them Louisiana, but I prefer to call them a team that finally won a bowl game, since it was their first bowl victory since 1943.
A killer passing attack got the best of San Diego State in Louisiana-Lafayette's upset victory in the New Orleans Bowl. But now the Ragin' Cajuns need to look for consistency before a few more teams recognize who they are.
Louisiana-Lafayette 38, Lamar 14
Eastern Washington at Idaho
Watching a game played in the Kibbie Dome on television is an event in itself.
If Idaho had the same red artificial turf as Eastern Washington, the game would be total chaos.
Having a back wall behind the end zone is tough enough to watch. You hold your breath that a player does not go crashing into it.
I mean, this FBS program has been in the WAC doldrums for years. But give me the Vandals in a close contest.
Idaho 28, Eastern Washington 27
Austin Peay at Western Kentucky
Running back Bobby Rainey was a stud and he will be missed by the Hilltoppers.
Still, Western Kentucky showed up last season, going 7-5 despite getting little to no respect.
Give me Western Kentucky over FCS opponent Austin Peay by a decent number of points.
Note: WKY leads its series against Austin Peay, 34-6-1.
Western Kentucky 35, Austin Peay 13
Sacramento State at New Mexico State
Quick, will this be the last time anybody outside of these two programs talks about this game until game day?
Remember, New Mexico State managed to win four games last season. Wait, they won four games?
There were several teams with a much worse record. So in another opening weekend battle between the FBS against the FCS, bank on the FBS taking care of business.
New Mexico State 31, Sacramento State 14
Southern Utah at Utah State
Utah State had one of its best seasons in last decade, but a few playmakers have since graduated or declared for the NFL draft.
But the Aggies' lack of depth is not brutal, so life should not be miserable.
Speaking of brutal, Southern Utah (Thunderbirds is great nickname) did lose in beat-down fashion to UNLV and San Jose State.
In regard to the 2009 game between these schools, the last time they met, Utah State won handily 53-34.
Utah State 34, Southern Utah 14
Kentucky at Louisville
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and Louisville should be fun to watch in the Big East this season. So many playmakers return, and we know coach Charlie Strong will have the defense geared up.
Poor Kentucky will be able to put up a fight in a fairly intense rivalry game, but the Wildcats' program has just been taking a turn for the worse.
Joker Phillips could be coaching his last season in Lexington. That is, unless the Wildcats miraculously get better on defense, despite losing a few stars, and reach a bowl game.
The Cardinals will come out victorious in what has the makings of becoming a BCS season for them.
Louisville 27, Kentucky 13
Southern Methodist at Baylor
One of the biggest upsets in the opening weekend of college football will occur in Waco, Texas.
We all remember what Robert Griffin III did to a top-20 TCU squad. It was an entertaining shootout that came down to the final possession. This one could have a similar finish.
However, give me the road team in the Mustangs of SMU. June Jones is in for one heck of a season, with Texas transfer Garrett Gilbert competing for the starting gig at quarterback and a ton of the best players from C-USA returning on both sides of the ball.
Defensive end Margus Hunt is a beast off the edge for SMU. He is the guy who may steal the show in this one.
Southern Methodist 35, Baylor 31
Savannah State at Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State should be able to start on a strong note with the scary Tigers of Savannah State coming to Stillwater.
Alright, so going 1-7 in the MEAC is not scary, but I actually meant scary as in really bad. Even without Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmokn, Oklahoma State should be able to score 40-plus points.
Running back Joseph Randle is in for another sensational season, and Clint Chelf should be just fine as the quarterback.
Plus, the defense led the nation in takeaways (44), and the secondary has a pair of corners (Brodrick Brown, Justin Gilbert) that may come down with quite a few picks in this one.
Oklahoma State 56, Savannah State 17
Tulsa at Iowa State
Tulsa will feature a few stud backs in Trey Watts and Ja’Terian Douglas. Both will be tough for nearly any team to defend.
As a result, the Cyclones should not struggle too much offensively despite not currently knowing who their starting quarterback will be.
Steele Jantz was a bit more consistent down the stretch, although Jared Barnett was the guy who upset and ruined the BCS title dreams of Oklahoma State.
Either way, with running back Jeff Woody in the backfield and a defense that returns linebackers A.J. Klein and Jake Knott, Iowa State should be able pin its ears back a bit in this one.
Iowa State 35, Tulsa 24
South Dakota State at Kansas
Kansas brought in several former players from Notre Dame, none bigger than expected starting quarterback Dayne Crist.
Charlie Weis recruited all of these players, but that will not necessarily result into immediate success in the improved Big 12.
The Jack Rabbits will provide a scare. We have seen KU lose to FCS opponents before, having been upset by North Dakota State two seasons ago.
Plus, running back James Sims will be out for this game after getting a DUI. This could be where the upset occurs, although I think Weis will escape victorious in Lawrence.
Kansas 27, South Dakota State 23
Missouri State at Kansas State
Collin Klein carried this offense on his back last season. Who knows if Kansas State would have even made a bowl game without the star signal-caller?
The Wildcats' defense was the unit that was once much maligned and now ranks among the best in the Big 12.
Linebacker Arthur Brown and defensive backs Ty Zimmerman and Nigel Malone are a magnificent trio. And even without a ton of points, the Wildcats should not struggle too much in yet another FCS vs. FBS matchup.
Kansas State 42, Missouri State 6
Oklahoma at UTEP
If you are looking for a game to watch Landry Jones absolutely go bonkers in, this would be the one for next season.
No Ryan Broyles, no problem.
Kenny Stills, Jaz Reynolds, Trey Metoyer and Trey Franks will combine for well over 250 receiving yards and a few touchdowns in this one.
Bob Stoops is not likely to pass up on an opportunity to put a smack-down on a weaker opponent, and the Miners certainly fit the bill.
Texas-El Paso will not stand much of a chance, unless, of course, backup QBs Drew Allen and Blake Bell were to miss the game, and Landry Jones forgot to show up.
Oklahoma 59, UTEP 14
Wyoming at Texas
This was expected to be a fairly close game two seasons ago, but the Longhorns instead obliterated the Cowboys 34-7 in Laramie.
Wyoming would be the perfect candidate to upset a BCS team, but not one nearly as talented as the Longhorns.
With a talented cast around him, quarterback Brett Smith should avoid a sophomore jinx. But the Cowboys do not have the beef up front to stay in this game.
Plus, the Texas defense will be much better than that 5-7 squad of two years ago. And we can pretty much bank on the Longhorns' young offense improving a lot. Quarterback David Ash has several proven targets, and Texas is loaded at running back.
The Burnt Orange crowd will be rocking in the opener. This could be a special season for an elite program that has been down a notch for the last few seasons.
Texas 38, Wyoming 10
Northwestern State at Texas Tech
Texas Tech will be putting up a lot more points than it did last season, thanks to quarterback Seth Doege, who figures to be even better than last season.
The Red Raiders did go 5-7 a year ago, but they should be a notch better on both sides of the ball. Defensively, they were gashed in nearly every Big 12 game, allowing 485 yards per game, the 112th-most in the FBS.
It may also be vital to note that Northwestern State went 0-11 two seasons ago, but drastically improved to 5-6 last season.
Tech has 19 returnees and will likely get off to a solid start with a lopsided win.
Texas Tech 52, Northwestern State 17
Marshall at West Virginia
The Thundering Herd were not pleased with the long weather delays in last season's matchup with West Virginia, as the officials nearly called off the game
Heading into this matchup of heated out-of-conference rivals, Marshall is coming off a 7-6 season, capped by a victory over Florida International in the Beef 'O' Brady Bowl.
Wide receiver Aaron Dobson might come down with another ridiculous catch in this game, and he will need a few if Marshall expects to keep up with the Mountaineers' ridiculous offense.
West Virginia 48, Marshall 17
Massachusetts at Connecticut (8/30)
Formerly an FCS school, Massachusetts kicks off its move to the FBS on a Thursday night.
Nothing beats weekday night football, especially when the weather is still gorgeous. Connecticut will be attempting to get back into the bowl picture after finishing 5-7.
The Huskies have talented playmakers, including running back Lyle McCombs. He ran wild last season, toting the rock 275 times for 1,151 yards and seven touchdowns.
Offense will not be nearly as big an issue as it was last season for UConn, but it will be for UMass.
The Minutemen's offense struggled mightily all season. The one opportunity they had last season against an FBS team, they were crushed by a bad (by its standards) Boston College squad, 45-17.
I would not expect that much of a obliteration, but it will not look too pretty.
Connecticut 34, Massachusetts 17
Youngstown State at Pittsburgh
Youngstown State was once a constant presence in the playoffs when Jim Tressel was around, but the Penguins have only appeared in the playoffs just once since 2000.
Plus, we know Paul Chryst will have Pittsburgh prepared in this one. Running back Ray Graham will be back from injury and should be able to quickly bounce back.
Pittsburgh 40, Youngstown State 13
Rutgers at Tulane
Kyle Flood takes over for Greg Schiano as the head coach and many are already doubting if the Scaret Knights can ever get to a BCS bowl.
Well, the recruits are starting to pile up, and Tulane is not exactly a team that is capable of derailing the Scarlet Knights, at least not right away.
Against Houston at home last season, we saw Tulane get obliterated 73-17. There were other times when the Green Wave did not look like an FBS defense, allowing 48 to Duke, 44 to UTEP and 37 to Syracuse.
Rutgers 49, Tulane 7
Chattanooga at South Florida
Remember how every season South Florida seems to crack the top 25 and then fall apart?
Oh, wait, that happens every season nowadays. So it is only a matter of time before they break through, right?
Everybody says this every summer and the Bulls always let them down.
Quarterback B.J. Daniels has been disappointing due to injuries and inconsistency, but he is looking to put all of that aside for his senior campaign.
Barring a turnover fest, the Bulls will not sweat too much in this one.
South Florida 38, Chattanooga 6
Northwestern at Syracuse
In what should be one of the tighter games of the opening weekend, Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald looks to put an end to one of the more miserable stats in all of sports.
The last bowl victory for the Cats was in 1949. That is an issue that needs to be resolved this season. Before they ultimately end that abysmal streak, the Wildcats must first appear in a bowl game.
A road victory in the Carrier Dome would certainly help, but we know the Orange should be solid up front on both sides of the ball.
Even with the loss of defensive end Chandler Jones, Syracuse will give an always undersized and small Northwestern squad all they can handle.
The era of quarterback Dan Persa is over and the Kain Colter experience will officially begin. The triple-threat (QB, RB, WR) is looking for a healthy and consistent season in order to make Northwestern relevant again in the Big Ten.
Northwestern 24, Syracuse 23
Western Michigan at Illinois
The Big Ten loves to take on the MAC because its teams normally see a ton of success. But the Illini struggled to muster much offense last season when these two teams met, a game the Illini won 23-20.
This time, under new coach Tim Beckham, the Fighting Illini figure to use two quarterbacks in their opener. Riley O’Toole and Nathan Scheelhaase have some time under their belts, especially Scheelhaase). So the struggles should not be there, even with the loss of All Big-Ten wideout A.J. Jenkins.
Meanwhile, the Broncos lose an All-American receiver in Jordan White, but quarterback Alex Carder should not be too shabby without him.
The Broncos will chuck it deep early and often in this intriguing Week 1 matchup.
Illinois 30, Western Michigan 17
Indiana State at Indiana
I really feel for Kevin Wilson and his Hoosiers.
Tom Crean has put his basketball squad back on the map, with perhaps a No. 1 ranking in the immediate future. But the football program is still waiting to get the stars to make a run in the Big Ten.
Forget about contending for the conference title, the Hoosiers are just attempting to go bowling right now. The Sycamores returns quite a few from a squad that was 6-5.
This should be a fairly low-scoring battle, since Indiana’s offense is not going to improve a whole lot. The defenses usually dominate early-season tilts, so this could be a game that scares the Hoosiers, even though they will escape with a victory in Bloomington.
Indiana 28, Indiana State 17
Northern Illinois vs. Iowa (Soldier Field)
Yes, this is another contest between the Big Ten and the MAC. However, Northern Illinois is the one program that has been able to compete with any program from a BCS conference.
Not saying Northern Illinois would ever become a consistent threat in any conference from the BCS, but the Huskies have proven they can beat up on most of the competition in the MAC.
Iowa comes in with literally no expectations after losing its top running back, offensive tackle and wide receiver.
Yet, the schedule is almost like a cakewalk by Big Ten standards. The Hawkeyes look to James Vanderberg, one of the more underrated quarterbacks in the country, to carry the team.
Iowa 34, Northern Illinois 28
Minnesota at UNLV
UNLV will be lying in wait for Minnesota in Las Vegas on this Thursday night.
The Rebels have been porous defensively under Bobby Hauck, and Minnesota will be out for blood after failing to reach a bowl game for the second consecutive season.
If this were any other Mountain West squad, we could be in store for an upset. Instead, Minnesota will play keep away and chew up the clock on its way to a victory.
Minnesota 33, UNLV 23
Murray State (FCS) at Florida State
The Murray State Racers could give Florida State a stiff challenge if this were basketball. But FSU has far too many weapons on both sides of the ball in this football season-opener.
Sure, the Racers did manage to go 7-4, but they will not stay in the game if the boys from Tallahassee do anything productive.
Florida State 41, Murray State 3
Southeast Louisiana at Georgia Tech
The Yellow Jackets may have one of those games where they set some offensive school records under Paul Johnson.
Southeast Louisiana only won three games last season, which means Tech quarterback Tevin Washington and his plethora of running backs should go bonkers.
Expect a ton of first downs, yards and points in this one.
Georgia Tech 49, Southeast Louisiana 7
William & Mary at Maryland
In their first season under Randy Edsall, the Terps were an absolutely dreadful 2-10. They are starting to not only lose recruits but starting players.
Maryland is due for a quick turnaround, although the offense will still struggle.
Quarterback C.J. Brown ranked among the worst decision-makers in the ACC last season. The bottom line is that he can only improve, or so Edsall must hope.
While this one could stay close early, bank on a comfortable victory for Maryland.
Maryland 38, William & Mary 17
Elon at North Carolina
North Carolina is looking for coach Larry Fedora to make put it back in ACC contention. The Tar Heels have not yet appeared in the ACC title game. To do so, players like quarterback Bryn Renner need to perform well.
The defense has lost a few players to the NFL draft, but defensive tackle Sylvester Williams and linebacker Kevin Reddick will step up.
Elon is coming off a 5-6 (3-5 in the Southern Conference) season and could test a fairly young Tar Heels team. But at the end of the day, Elon will have no answers for Giovani Bernard, the best back in the ACC.
North Carolina 34, Elon 10
Richmond at Virginia
The Wahoos have arguably the best one-two punch in the ACC in running backs Kevin Parks and Perry Jones.
Parks can grind out drives with tough yards, and Jones can flash brilliance in more ways than one.
Jones should be counted on as one of the top receivers on the team as well, despite starting in the backfield. Quite a few players have been lost on defense, but the depth was impressive last season.
It will be tough for the Spiders to move the ball with any consistency. Plus, Richmond went just 3-8 last season and will not stand much of a chance against an organized coaching Virginia coaching staff (Lord, knows, the Cavs can't be outplayed more than they were against Auburn).
Virginia 37, Richmond 13
Liberty at Wake Forest
With the loss of talented wide receiver Chris Givens, Tanner Price can prove he is the real deal this season. Flanker Michael Campanaro is a possession machine who can carve up a secondary.
Although just a few starters return, the Wake offense should have a healthy and improved Josh Harris back toting the rock.
Liberty was not too shabby last season, having been a top-25 FCS team at different points during the season. But it still is difficult to pick them against a BCS squad.
Coach Jim Grobe has proven he can win, having led Wake to a BCS bowl in 2005-2006, and three lesser bowls since then.
Wake Forest 38, Liberty 21
Florida International at Duke
The Blue Devils are still attempting to go bowling for the first time since their 1995 Hall of Fame bowl victory over Wisconsin.
Duke has gone 2-2 for three straight seasons in non-conference play and is actually 9-7 outside the ACC over the last four seasons.
Meanwhile, the Panthers, who compete in the Sun Belt Conference, are coming off a 3-1 non-conference slate, although they have been abysmal in other seasons.
FIU started as a FCS program in 2002 and was only 15-45 before last season.
Look for Duke to not necessarily become bowl-bound this season, but the Blue Devils should start 3-1, with Memphis and North Carolina Central following Stanford on the schedule.
Duke 24, FIU 14
South Carolina at Vanderbilt (8/30)
The Commodores have South Carolina right where they want them. Well, that is what they hope for.
Steve Spurrier is accustomed to these Thursday night openers. He had a pair of them against North Carolina State in 2009 and 2010.
The Gamecocks won both contests, though the Pack were just .500 teams those years. One could argue that Vanderbilt will be nearly identical, but the talent is much better in my eyes.
Jordan Matthews is a sleeping giant at receiver. He could give the Gamecocks some issues now that Stephon Gilmore is on to the NFL.
Still, give South Carolina defensive ends Devin Taylor and Jadeveon Clowney the edge against whomever starts at quarterback for Vandy (Jordan Rodgers or Austyn Carta-Samuels).
South Carolina 24, Vanderbilt 17
Hawaii at Southern California
Will this game last forever, you think?
The Trojans love to thread the needle and we know Hawaii will be trailing for the entire game. Expect a ton of passing yards. However, the Trojans will do most of the scoring.
USC 48, Hawaii 14
Navy vs. Notre Dame (9 A.M. ET, CBS, Dublin, Ireland)
I hope you can get up really early on a Saturday morning without much of a problem.
Since the Fighting Irish are playing in Ireland, there is clearly extra incentive for Notre Dame fans. But this is the season opener we are talking about.
Notre Dame football is special whether you love to cheer for them to win or not.
Whoever ends up getting the majority of the snaps at quarterback will not struggle against a Navy defense that ranked 86th in the nation a year ago, allowing 413 yards per game.
Notre Dame 41, Navy 17
Miami FL at Boston College
The Hurricanes and Eagles will be battling on Labor Day night in a game that could determine whether or not these team will be going bowling.
Miami had offensive woes last season and the spring game was not exactly what we wanted to see. College football is much better when "Da U" is looking good and they really need a victory over a BC team that is getting back Montel Harris.
Harris of course needs only needs 868 more yards to hold the all-time ACC record that is currently held by NC State's Ted Brown.
Luke Kuechly of course is finally gone at Boston College after leading the nation in tackles for two straight seasons (was second as a freshman).
Look for a low-scoring defensive battle, though I like Miami to break free with a close victory.
Miami FL 16, Boston College 14
North Carolina State vs. Tennessee (8/31, Atlanta, Ga.)
I think both of these teams will improve from a year ago. But when in doubt, it usually is safe to go with the SEC squad.
This will be a close battle between a pair of teams that may actually reach the nine-win mark in 2012 (counting their bowl game).
Tennessee's Tyler Bray could be a top-10 pick next season in the NFL draft and N.C. State's Mike Glennon is a fine college quarterback who should play a pivotal role in the ACC race.
In a shootout, give me wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers and Bray in what could become one of the best games of the entire opening weekend.
Tennessee 35, N.C. State 34
Boise State at Michigan State
Kellen Moore, Doug Martin, Jerel Worthy, Kirk Cousins. B.J. Cunningham and the front four of the Broncos are all gone.
Michigan State is tough to beat in East Lansing, and the Spartans should be about a touchdown favorite. Everybody outside of Boise will be picking the Spartans to start their season on the right foot.
Can Boise State coach Chris Petersen knock off yet another BCS team, or will he finally have a disappointing start to the season?
Boise State has yet to lose an opener for Petersen. However, Michigan State's Mark D'Antonio is the coach who can accomplish such an impossible task.
Michigan State 27, Boise State 24
Clemson vs. Auburn (Atlanta, Ga.)
Auburn will have payback on its mind from a grueling and fairly emotional victory by Clemson last season.
Clemson acted as if it had finally gotten over the hump, but the Tigers finished on a miserable note, getting absolutely torched by West Virginia.
Look for a shootout, with Auburn's defense playing a vital role. Clemson better find a way to run the ball to give Tajh Boyd time to throw down the field.
Auburn is loaded up front, but will they be able to exploit the Clemson secondary?
Since I did side with Tennessee, I am hesitant to pick against the SEC. But I think Clemson will have a successful season, whereas I think Auburn will be a few plays short of a 10-plus win season.
Clemson 31, Auburn 27
Alabama vs. Michigan (Arlington, Texas)
Two of the more prestigious programs in all of college football will be competing on one of the grandest stages of all, Jerry Jones Land.
Dallas Cowboys Stadium better be on your bucket list because it is a remarkable facility.
Just walking around it, you get a true heaven-type of feeling. And with Alabama against Michigan, the place should go bonkers.
,It will be a ton of fun to watch Nick Saban's reloaded defense go against Denard Robinson.
There are so many great matchups, I might have to write a book about it. But we all know that SEC teams tend to dominate in the trenches against the Big Ten.
Can the Wolverines stop Alabama's premier offensive line?
I look for a tremendous atmosphere, with the Tide coming out on top in a game that will not be decided until the fourth quarter.
Alabama 34, Michigan 21