One Reason Each College Football Top 25 Favorite Could Lose Week One Game
Week 1 losses don't necessarily end a team's national championship run, but it can put it in serious jeopardy with 11 or 12 games remaining on the schedule.
Most coaches in BCS Automatic Qualifying conferences know that their team—particularly a Top 25 team—has one loss in hand before things get really hairy.
And as we've seen before, if you're going to lose, you might as well get it out of the way early, which gives you time to make up the lost ground.
You always want to get off on the right foot and dropping a game in Week 1 is probably a little sooner than most coaches would like to stumble, but we decided to take the B/R Preseason Top 25 and find one reason why each team could lose in Week 1.
No. 25 Florida
Bowling Green State at No. 25 Florida—September 1, 3:30 pm EDT, ESPN
Florida is once again in the preseason Top 25—barely.
The Gators haven't exactly had the best time of it in the SEC without Tim Tebow and Urban Meyer headlining every football story in the South.
Still, the Gators are showing some early signs of real improvement for 2012, and there's a chance they could contend for the SEC East if they get a little luck on their side.
They won't need much luck in Week 1, though, as the Gators host the Falcons from Bowling Green State.
BGSU has been bouncing around the MAC standings for the better part of the last decade or so, and have finished with as many as 11 wins and as few as two since the 2000 season.
So what can we expect from the Falcons in Week 1 against Florida? Unless Clark Kent is the new quarterback, not a whole lot.
Still, the SEC hasn't been immune to slow starts from the middle of the conference when taking on non-AQ programs in Week 1. The way Florida's offense has performed over the past few seasons, falling behind early could make for some very tense moments in the Swamp.
No. 24 Notre Dame
No. 24 Notre Dame vs. Navy—September 1, 9 am EDT, CBS
No, it's not a typo. If you want to watch the Fighting Irish and Midshipmen from Dublin, you're going to need to set that alarm clock for bright and early Saturday morning.
Kickoff is scheduled for just after 9 am on the East Coast, so good luck all you Navy fans in Hawai'i.
Over the past five seasons, Notre Dame is just 2-3 against Navy. But with Navy's recent downfall and a perceived (or at least hoped-for) football renaissance in South Bend, it's likely that we may go another half-century before Navy beats Notre Dame again.
But with a long road trip and some suspensions already keeping starters at home in Indiana for the Irish, it's not too crazy to think that Notre Dame could come up short in Ireland, is it?
Still, the Irish would need to be stuck in line waiting to kiss the Blarney Stone to drop a Week 1 showdown with Navy this season.
No. 23 Boise State
No. 23 Boise State at No. 13 Michigan State—August 31, 8 pm EDT, ESPN
We come to one of the few Top 25 meetings in Week 1, and with Boise State without Kellen Moore, the Broncos are entering 2012 without their familiar preseason loftiness.
There's plenty of reasons we could list about why Boise State will lose in Week 1 for the first time since 2005, but we're going to go with this little tidbit: The last time the Spartans lost at home was November 21, 2009.
With Boise State playing in the game, it was only fair to mention some sort of home winning streak.
No. 22 Oklahoma State
FCS Savannah State at No. 22 Oklahoma State—September 1, 7 pm EDT, TV TBA
Finishing the season with one loss, a Big 12 title and a Fiesta Bowl Championship was clearly the best year in Oklahoma State's history.
Too bad the Cowboys graduated so much talent.
The Pokes get their 2012 defense of their Big 12 championship underway on Saturday, September 1 against a less-than-dangerous opponent in FCS Savannah State.
In reality, there are fewer teams that are less dangerous than the Tigers. Savannah State is one of the lowest of the low in the FCS, having won just four games over the last three seasons, which includes just one win in each 2010 and 2011.
So what reason can we come up with for Oklahoma State actually losing to Savannah State? Short of a twister sucking half the Oklahoma State football team up and away to Oz, we're at a bit of a loss.
No. 21 Ohio State
Miami University at No. 21 Ohio State—September 1, Noon EDT, BTN
If you're a numbers guy and a fan of Michigan, or Penn State, or Michigan State, or really any Big Ten team other than Ohio State, here's a stat for you: Over the past two seasons, Ohio State is credited with just six wins.
Of course Tattoogate which led to the Tressel cover-up scandal and the resulting turmoil can be blamed for pretty much all of that.
But with six wins over the past two seasons in the record books, you can bet that the Buckeyes are ready to make up for lost time.
Ohio State is ineligible for the postseason this season, which includes the Big Ten Championship Game, so the Buckeyes don't have much to play for in 2012 other than pride.
And there's an awful lot of pride swirling around Columbus.
The first opponent for Ohio State is Miami University. The RedHawks finished 2011 with a 4-8 record, good enough for a tie for fourth in the MAC East. And bad MAC teams don't beat Top 25-ranked Big Ten teams. Or do they?
With all of the hoopla surrounding Ohio State's hiring of Urban Meyer, and the excitement about the returning talent this season, we are still looking at an Ohio State program that is coming off a 6-7 season and its own fourth place finish in the Big Ten Leaders. The truth is we don't know how this year's Ohio State team will stack up.
Ohio State is very proud of the fact that it hasn't lost to another program from the state of Ohio since 1921 (of course avoiding teams like Cincinnati helps). But consider the Buckeyes' slow start to games against teams like Toledo in 2011 and Navy in 2009, and it's at least conceivable that that 91-year streak is in jeopardy.
Just not much jeopardy.
No. 20 Stanford
San Jose State at No. 20 Stanford—August 31, 10 pm EDT, Pac-12 Network
San Jose State certainly made a huge leap in terms of success in 2011.
After two seasons with a combined three victories, the Spartans managed to find five wins in 2011—none of which were against Pac-12 teams, to say nothing of Top 25 programs.
Still, the Spartans appear to be headed back from the edge of the abyss while Stanford is a relative unknown for 2012.
How will the Cardinal function without Andrew Luck? Are they headed back to the era of 1-11, like 2006?
With so much success at Stanford these past couple of seasons, we're quick to forget that the Cardinal went seven years without a bowl game from 2002 to 2008.
Still, Stanford is returning 14 starters from last season, including eight on defense. That should be more than enough to handle a team like San Jose State.
So how can a team like San Jose State get past cross-town behemoth Stanford?
We're not positive, but we're pretty sure an earthquake would be involved somehow.
No. 19 Texas
Wyoming at No. 19 Texas—September 1, Time TBA, TV TBA
We're less than two weeks away from the opening kickoff of the college football season, and Texas fans still don't know what time that kickoff will happen.
With the Longhorns desperate to return to Big 12 glory this season, it's probably somewhat important if they know what time the game starts. But as of August 19, the official schedule on Texas's website still says TBA.
How can Texas win a game if it doesn't know what time it starts?
That gives us one reason why the Longhorns might lose Week 1—and likely the only way they'll lose Week 1 against Wyoming.
No. 18 Kansas State
FCS Missouri State at No. 18 Kansas State—September 1, 7 pm EDT, TV TBA
Here we have another lowly FCS program taking on a FBS Top 25-er.
Missouri State hasn't won more than six games since 1996, when the Bears were 7-4.
Kansas State was in a similar slump for about seven years until Bill Snyder once again resurrected his team, guiding the Wildcats to a 10-3 mark last season.
But was that a flash in the pan, or can we expect more fireworks from K-State?
Snyder has eight offensive starters back for 2012, and the Big 12 is as mixed up as it's ever going to be, so now is the time for KSU to break through.
Realistically, Missouri State's only shot in this game is to walk into Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium full of a belief it can win while Kansas State shows up believing that it can't lose.
A little overconfidence can go a long way in college football.
No. 17 Virginia Tech
Georgia Tech at No. 17 Virginia Tech—September 3, 8 pm EDT, ESPN
In what may be the only Week 1 game featuring a Top 25 team against an unranked team favored by more than its fanbase to win, we'll get an early taste of Monday Night Football with a season-opening ACC Coastal showdown between Georgia Tech and No. 17 Virginia Tech.
For the record, Georgia Tech also received votes in the Bleacher Report College Football Top 25 Preseason Poll and finished with 26 points, which would have been tied at No. 27.
It's interesting to think that the Coastal Division could have its major showdown of the season out of the way in Week 1, but with perennial power Virginia Tech bringing back just three offensive starters and up-and-coming Georgia Tech bring back eight, plus seven on defense, we could have ourselves one heckuva Week 1 game.
The Hokies are going to have to figure out some creative ways to score against Georgia Tech, but if there's one team that can do that, it has to be coached by Frank Beamer.
Georgia Tech, on the other hand, has more than enough offensive firepower to stack up against Virginia Tech this season. If the Yellow Jackets can find any chink in the Virginia Tech defensive armor, they have the ability to exploit it all night long.
No. 16 Nebraska
Southern Mississippi at No. 16 Nebraska—September 1, 3:30 pm EDT, ABC/ESPN2
The first Big Ten year for Nebraska didn't exactly go as planned.
There's plenty of blame to go around, but we can't help but notice that junior quarterback Taylor Martinez hasn't quite emerged as the “next great thing” like we all expected.
OK, he's still just a junior, and there's plenty of time left for him to become a Heisman contender at some point in his career—he's obviously got the athletic ability to impress even the finicky Heisman voters. But so far, he's way too inconsistent for us to place too many eggs in his basket.
And the Week 1 opponent for Martinez and the Cornhuskers is a team that has recent experience in containing a mobile superstar quarterback.
Southern Mississippi shocked the world—or at least the mid-major, non-AQ world—by knocking off Case Keenum and the Houston Cougars in last season's Conference USA Championship Game in Houston. The Golden Eagles have proven they can compete with the best quarterbacks in the nation, and Martinez probably isn't quite at that level yet.
That being said, Southern Miss lost six defensive starters, not to mention a head coach, and will be a different team coming into 2012.
But Southern Miss knows how to capitalize on mistakes. If Martinez can't clean up his game and keep those turnovers to a minimum, the Week 1 recap could have a very sour tone in Lincoln.
No. 15 Texas Christian
Week 1 Bye
OK, so we promised we'd have a reason why every Top 25 team could lose Week 1.
But TCU doesn't play anyone, so it's a little difficult to come up with a losing strategy for the Horned Frogs.
On top of that, TCU has FCS Grambling State in Week 2 and Big 12 cellar-dweller Kansas in their Week 3 Big 12 debut, so it could be a while before we can talk about TCU losing a game.
No 14 Clemson
No. 14 Clemson vs. Auburn—September 1, 7 pm EDT, ESPN
For the third season in a row, we'll all be treated to another hopefully classic showdown between Clemson and Auburn in Week 1.
In 2010, Auburn narrowly escaped Clemson at home in overtime and eventually went on to win the BCS National Championship.
Last season, it was Clemson taking the home victory over Auburn, which helped set the tone for Clemson's ACC Championship run.
Now in 2012, we'll see these two teams meet once again, this time on a neutral field at the Georgia Dome.
There are plenty of reasons for either team to win this game, but the one we're going to highlight for Clemson's possible loss would be its ability to lose games in spectacular fashion, especially against lower-ranked opponents who are really very good.
Auburn enters 2012 unranked in the Bleacher Report Top 25, receiving 26 poll points, or theoretically tied at No. 27. Considering Auburn returns 18 starters from last season, including 10 on defense, that might be a bit low.
Luckily for the Auburn Tigers, they'll have ample opportunity to jump into the B/R Top 25 after Week 1 with a victory over the at times hapless Clemson Tigers.
No. 13 Michigan State
No. 23 Boise State at No. 13 Michigan State—August 31, 8 pm EDT, ESPN
We've already talked a little about this game, but now it's time to focus on why Michigan State could lose.
It all really boils down to something quite simple: It's Boise State.
The Broncos have been trying, in vain, to prove that they belong on a list of the best programs in the country each season. Still, the know-it-all, know-nothing pundits like to hammer the “body of work” argument over and over until we can all recite it, verbatim.
The problem with that argument is that Boise State gets a couple of cracks a year at those top programs, and succeeds. And, of course, it's not as if the coaches and players have any control over the rest of their conference. You play the games scheduled and hope the rest of the nation notices how much better you are.
Unfortunately, folks in the AQ conferences are too snobbish to even consider Boise State, even though they managed to defeat SEC East champion Georgia last season, 2010 ACC Champion Virginia Tech in 2010, 2009 Pac-10 Champion Oregon in 2009, a 10-3 Oregon team in 2008 and 2006 Big 12 Champion Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.
In all honesty, remembering that Boise State can't control its conference schedule, what else does Baron VonHolierthanthou of the AQ elites want from the Broncos?
At least Michigan State has the courage to not only face Boise State, but enter into a multi-year contract with the Broncos which includes MSU traveling to Boise in 2022 with Boise State heading back to East Lansing in 2023.
Other than Oregon and MSU, name some other top AQ programs willing to play Boise multiple times or even once in Boise.
Why? Because Boise State is capable of beating any team on any field on any day, even if that team is an AQ conference champion hopeful that hasn't lost a home game in a few years—like Michigan State.
No. 12 Wisconsin
FCS Northern Iowa at No. 12 Wisconsin—September 1, 3:30 pm EDT, BTN
Here we go again; another Top 25 team picking on the poor, defenseless FCS programs.
OK, Northern Iowa isn't all that defenseless, and the Panthers have their own designs of conference and national championships in 2012.
The Panthers finished 10-3 last season in the cut-throat Missouri Valley Football Conference, and those 10 wins included an appearance in the second round of the FCS playoffs (playoffs, you say?).
With a FCS Top 10 ranking in hand and a returning group that includes two FCS All-Americans, UNI is exactly the type of program that can field a team capable of knocking off an FBS program.
That being said, they are playing Wisconsin, as in the No. 12 Wisconsin Badgers of the Big Ten.
Still, that's probably what a lot of people said about Appalachian State when they walked into Michigan Stadium a few years back.
No. 11 West Virginia
Marshall at No. 11 West Virginia—September 1, Noon EDT, FX
Marshall finds its way to Mountaineer Field for the opening week game against West Virginia.
These two teams met in last season's opener, with WVU walking away with a 34-13 victory. If anything, the mountain will be harder to climb this time around for the Thundering Herd as West Virginia returns eight offensive starters to an explosive team looking to make some national noise in its first Big 12 season.
And that could be one—and perhaps the only one—reason Marshall could sneak past the Mountaineers.
With so much riding on its first season out from under the cloud of Big East inferiority, West Virginia is eager to make its mark on the Big 12. If the Mountaineers are too eager, they might take after their fans and fail to show up for games against teams like Marshall.
No. 10 Michigan
No. 10 Michigan vs. No. 2 Alabama—September 1, 8 pm EDT, ABC
There are only two games in Week 1 that include two Top 25 teams facing off. This one includes two Top 10 teams.
Without question, this is the game of the opening week of college football in 2012, and these two powerhouse programs will clash for the first time since Michigan's 2000 Orange Bowl victory and only the fourth time ever.
Michigan currently leads the all-time series, 2-1, but there's ample reason why Alabama could even the score on September 1.
Alabama, fresh off its BCS National Championship, enters 2012 as one of the top teams in the nation. And it's not hard to figure out why.
Alabama has proven time and again that it's not only a talented team up front, but that there's a lot of talent-in-depth, as well. Nick Saban has built a program to stand the test of time, and with second- and third-string players that can compete with the best starters the rest of the nation has to offer, it's going to take everything in Michigan's arsenal—and then some—to knock off the early national championship favorite Crimson Tide.
Michigan isn't without its own talent, but we're betting Brady Hoke was wishing this game was scheduled for a couple of seasons down the road.
No. 9 South Carolina
No. 9 South Carolina at Vanderbilt—August 30, 7 pm EDT, ESPN
The 2012 college football season kicks off on Thursday evening with a small handful of games kicking off at 7 pm, Eastern. South Carolina not only gets its 2012 campaign underway, but the Gamecocks jump right into the SEC mix with an East Division matchup with the Commodores.
It looks as if South Carolina, with a roster that is refreshingly stable, all things considered, is going to start the season in a neck-and-neck race for the SEC East title in 2012. But if there's one thing that can derail any Atlanta-bound train early on, it's a Week 1 conference loss to lowly Vandy.
So what could possibly slow down the Gamecocks express? If there's one thing South Carolina does better than any other team in the nation, it's get distracted. Over the past few seasons, we've seen nonsense issue after nonsense issue grab headlines away from a program that is otherwise one of the nation's best.
From oft-suspended and eventually dismissed quarterbacks to temperamental head coaches whining about the media, the ink about SC never seems to focus solely on football.
Will 2012 be different? Gamecocks fans hope so. But we'll reserve judgment until we see for ourselves.
For right now, the Gamecocks need to not only shut out all of the SEC East race hype, but they also need to prevent themselves from creating any extemporaneous noise.
No. 8 Arkansas
FCS Jacksonville State at No. 8 Arkansas—September 1, 7 pm EDT, Pay-Per-View
In one of the odder television moves, the first Arkansas game of 2012 will be broadcast only to those who agree to pay for the privilege to watch it—in addition to the already bloated cable bill with the extra sports package.
Nothing like forcing your fans to chip in an extra $34.95 to catch the Hogs beating up on some hapless FCS team, eh? What a rip.
We were going to come up with some fun reason why a team like Jacksonville State might actually beat the Razorbacks. But now, we're going to simply go with a karmic gut-punch.
Seriously, you don't see Alabama, USC, Michigan, Florida State or Notre Dame—all teams with considerably larger fanbases—doing anything like that.
In the end, it must be all about the dollars. Talk about hogs...
No. 7 Florida State
FCS Murray State at No. 7 Florida State—September 1, 6 pm EDT, ESPN
OK, we can't let this one slide.
We ripped on Arkansas for an underhanded grab at the money, so we simply must point out that this Week 1 “showdown” between Florida State and FCS Murray State is the first of two consecutive FCS opponents for the Seminoles.
“Last minute” scheduling issues aside, this is just crazy, to say nothing of wimpy.
We'd like to rely on karma for this one, too, but since we've already used up that excuse, we came up with something a little more divine, because the Racers will need some divine intervention to knock off a team like Florida State.
About the only thing we could come up with to help out Murray State was a combination of untimely Florida State injuries with inexplicable crazy weather in Florida all added on top of unfortunate bout of food poisoning from the Seminoles' pregame meal.
Barring that comedy of events, Murray State should be fully prepared to be completely smoked.
No. 6 Georgia
Buffalo at No. 6 Georgia—September 1, 12:21 pm EDT, SEC Network
Yes, that's correct. With the award for most precise (and odd) starting time is Buffalo at Georgia and the 12:21 pm kickoff!
That may be about the only interesting thing in this game, other than whether the Bulldogs can cover what is sure to be a monster spread.
The Bulls aren't exactly the kind of team you'd expect to knock off an SEC power like Georgia, and there's really no reason to go challenging your preconceived notions now. Buffalo finished 2011 with a 3-9 mark, and most of those games were against other MAC teams. How can they possibly knock off a team like Georgia and its seemingly endless supply of talent?
There is one, tiny chance: Buffalo needs to hope that it was 2011 that was the aberration. We've all convinced ourselves that UGA's abysmal start in 2010 was an anomaly. The whole dust-up over Mark Richt's job and whether he could still cut it was all a momentary lapse in judgment on the part of Georgia fans, right?
Buffalo's only chance is to hope otherwise.
No. 5 Oklahoma
No. 5 Oklahoma at Texas-El Paso—September 1, 10:30 pm EDT, Fox Sports
In one of the more unusual moves for a preseason top ten team, Oklahoma has opted to go on the road in Week 1 to visit a non-AQ program.
Ordinarily you'd expect programs like UTEP to make the trip to Oklahoma, not vice versa. But that's what we have in store for 2012.
Now how can the Miners knock off Oklahoma? Well, when was the last time a Conference USA program coming off of a 5-7 season beat the No. 5 team in the nation in Week 1?
The simple answer to that question is never.
But there's a first time for everything. At the end of the day, if a team like Appalachian State can walk into the Big House in 2007 and beat then-No. 5 Michigan, why can't an FBS program like UTEP do the same thing in its own stadium to a team like Oklahoma?
Just because it's never happened before doesn't mean it can't.
Of course, the Miners will need a little “help” from the Sooners. If Landry Jones has another brain-freeze of a night like he did against Texas Tech last season, Oklahoma may find yet another season derailed way too early.
No. 4 Oregon
Arkansas State at No. 4 Oregon—September 1, 10:30 pm EDT, ESPN
When Oregon originally scheduled this game, the Ducks probably weren't planning on welcoming a 10-win team to Autzen.
The Red Wolves were an pretty well unknown program that had only been to one bowl game in the program's brief FBS history, and had never come close to winning a conference championship.
But now, the Ducks will be hosting the defending Sun Belt Champions on September 1. OK, so the Sun Belt champs probably shouldn't be placed in the same category as the Pac-12 champs, but it's still worth mentioning that we have ourselves a pair of defending conference champions facing off in Week 1 involving a Top 25 team.
So what possible reason could there be for the Ducks dropping yet another Week 1 game (Oregon has lost two of its last three season openers)?
Well, it's exactly that: History seems to be working against the Ducks. A loss to Arkansas State wouldn't be the first time a ranked Oregon team has faltered against a non-AQ opponent in Week 1. Oregon also got off to a painfully slow start last season with what some consider to be a more talented team than the 2012 version.
Again, we're not suggesting anyone drive out to Vegas and put their 401(k) on Arkansas State to win. But if you want to play what is sure to be a huge spread, no one is stopping you!
No. 3 Louisiana State
North Texas at No. 3 LSU—September 1, 7 pm EDT, ESPNU
North Texas, the really tiny minnow in the biggest of college football ponds.
The Mean Green are heading into Death Valley to start the 2012 season, and as the name implies, there aren't many who expect them to emerge alive.
But we promised to give you a reason how LSU could lose. In this case, it probably involved some unfortunate reaction to the ingestion of grass.
No. 2 Alabama
No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 10 Michigan—September 1, 8 pm EDT, ABC
We're back to the game of the week, and the possibly epic showdown that will do absolutely nothing to calm the Big Ten vs. SEC debate.
We already know Alabama is going to be profoundly excited for the opportunity to obliterate the crown jewel of the Big Ten. And we know that Michigan, as resurrected as it seems to be, is not quite back to fighting weight.
So how is it that Alabama might lose this game?
(This is the part where SEC fans might need to avert their eyes).
Is it possible that those four offensive players Alabama loses, three of which are skill position players, were that elusive magic ingredient needed to take a good team to the level of a national champion?
Is it possible that Alabama's vaunted defense, with just five returning starters, will be just porous and inexperienced enough that Michigan's offense can slip through?
Is it possible that the SEC's cycle of dominance is beginning the wane ever so slightly?
Is it possible that the Big Ten isn't as terrible as the SEC pundits and Southern Elites have led us to believe?
To put it simply, yes, any or all of these things could be true.
And if that's the case, Alabama might find Michigan to be much more of a team than originally thought.
And if not, Michigan can still rest easy on its 24-9-1 all-time record against the SEC.
Hey, if SEC fans can use the past to prove how great they are, why can't Michigan fans?
No. 1 Southern California
Hawai'i at No. 1 USC—September 1, 7:30 pm EDT, Fox
We come to our final Top 25 team, and the preseason No. 1 team in the Bleacher Report Top 25 Poll—the University of Southern California.
It's been a while since we've talked about a national championship USC team without the words “vacated” or “scandal” somehow attached. It must be refreshing for Trojans fans.
But the Trojans won't be kidding when they take to the field on September 1. You can bet that USC will be deadly serious as they finally get a crack at not only a postseason bowl berth, but a Pac-12 and maybe even BCS championship.
The first hurdle, if you can call it that, is Hawai'i. The Warriors will get their 2012 season off to a rousing start by trying to tackle the top team in the land.
Hawai'i has proven capable of producing some good teams, and we're all familiar with the Warriors' penchant for piling up the passing yardage.
But this is USC, and we're all pretty certain that the Trojans are going to be back in top form this fall.
There is, however, one little caveat we'd like to mention.
With all of the talk and hype surrounding USC this preseason, one can't help but notice that there's been more than a few mentions about the perceived lack of depth for the Trojans.
Whatever your take on USC and whether it deserves the top spot in our poll, it seems pretty obvious that a championship run of any kind will require nearly the entire starting roster to remain healthy through the season—not something any team can easily do.
If, God forbid, a Trojan goes down early, or even before the opening kickoff, we may see just how exposed USC's lack of depth will become.
And Hawai'i is capable and more than willing to expose any defensive weakness for all the world to see.