The 2012 college football season is upon us, and like each year, there will be Week 1 favorites who come out a little flat. Expectations are not easy to live up to, and with these three teams, we will see that maxim on full display.
This is not to say they will keep up these uneven performances for the rest of the season. But this first round of games is a good chance to see if the nation's best have ironed out the kinks and plan on executing, from the jump, at the highest possible level.
The three seasons under the watch of Rich Rodriguez can best be described as rocky. Rodriguez never lived up to the potential he showed at West Virginia, and the team never found an identity.
Brady Hoke, from little-known Ball State, came into last season inheriting a team in limbo. They had just finished the previous two seasons in poor fashion, and were badly in need of direction. He provided just that, leading the Wolverines to an 11-2 season and their first BCS bowl appearance since 2006.
The 2012 season will not be an extension of last year's, however. Michigan has the unenviable job of hosting the defending BCS title champions, the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Michigan's hopes rest with star quarterback Denard Robinson. Robinson is an athletic specimen, possessing the ability to take over a game with his legs at any minute. His arm, however, has been a work in progress, and I find it hard to believe he will be able to beat the Tide in the air. He may get his yards running, but Nick Saban will keep the Wolverines from beating them over the top, and will win by two touchdowns on Saturday.
Clemson seems to be a team without a true sense of itself. Last year did not end well for the Tigers (see: Orange Bowl loss), and the offseason has not been much better. With the departure of offensive coordinator Billy Napier and running backs coach Andre Powell, who knows what this team will bring to the field offensively?
Coupled with the fact that Clemson is going up against an Auburn team that ended last year with an impressive win against Virginia, I see the Tigers coming out of the gate with a hitch in their step.
The Tigers may have the talent to compete in a pretty wide open ACC, but I can't imagine them shaking off last year's tough finish this quickly.
While the Ducks may be a sexy pick to make noise in the BCS, I foresee problems in their opening match. Arkansas State may not jump out as a team that could hang with big bad Oregon, but it possesses a ton of talent on both sides of the ball. Last year, according to College Football News, it led the Sun Belt conference in scoring, passing and yards. Its defense wasn't too shabby either, leading the conference in sacks and tackles for a loss.
Head coach Gus Malzahn has the full confidence of his team, and I see it causing problems for the Ducks on both sides of the ball. Oregon will pull out a victory, but it won't be easy thanks to an aggressive approach from Arkansas State.
Week 1 Schedule
Here is a link to the full schedule of games for Week 1, courtesy of ESPN.