College Football Predictions Week 1: Top 25 Teams on Upset Alert
Some of the teams who will start the season in this year's preseason USA Today Top 25 poll are worthy of their designations as the best teams in the country.
Others...not so much.
As the start of the college football season looms this weekend, there are certain teams that are mortal locks to escape without a blemish on their records. And there are others who are already in danger of being shown up.
Here's a look at some of the teams that should be on upset alert bright and early.
No. 18 Stanford
Facing: San Jose State
The biggest reason Stanford absolutely must be on upset alert for opening weekend is because Andrew Luck is gone, as are a couple of key members of the Cardinal offense.
Luck, of course, is on his way to turning the Colts into a competitor once again. Guard David DeCastro, tight end Coby Fleener and offensive tackle Jonathan Martin were also all drafted.
That doesn't mean Stanford is left with nothing, but it does mean that there needs to be some room for adjustment, as is the case when any top-rated quarterback leaves a college program. We could be seeing an entirely different team under Josh Nunes than we did last year under Luck, when the Cardinal went 11-2.
And San Jose State, though it is only two years removed from a dismal 1-12 season, shouldn't be entirely counted out. We've seen teams come out of nowhere to knock off favorites on opening weekend before (see: Michigan).
No. 24 Notre Dame
Facing: Navy (in Dublin)
Notre Dame always gets a lot of respect from the polls, and most of it tends to be based on the program's history rather than its actual chances of remaining in the Top 25 for the entirety of a season.
Which team stands the best chance of being upset?
The truth is, Notre Dame hasn't been dominant in years. Last season, the Irish went 1-1 against Top-25 teams—certainly not the kind of mark you expect to see from a team that's supposed to be one of the strongest in college football.
Once again, the Irish—despite finishing last season at a mediocre 8-5, and despite losing wide receiver Michael Floyd to the NFL—are ranked in the Top 25 to start the season. But given all of the personnel issues the Irish have had in the last few months, it wouldn't be much of a surprise to see them drop the opening game to Navy.
Quarterback Tommy Rees has been suspended for the opener due to an arrest in the offseason, and Navy is no slouch of an opponent. The last time the Midshipmen took down the Irish was two short years ago.
No. 2 Alabama
Facing: No. 8 Michigan
This could be Michigan's opportunity to play opening-week spoiler.
It isn't incredibly likely that the defending national champs are going to drop the first game of the regular season. But seeing the No. 2 team in the nation take on the No. 8 team to kick things off isn't like watching the usual cupcake matchups that seem to populate the schedule in the first few weeks of the season.
So, maybe this one is the luck—or lack thereof—of the draw for Alabama. Last year, it got to kick off its season against Western Michigan; this year, it gets a Big Ten powerhouse looking to make a big statement with a big win over the most recent BCS champions.
It's hard to predict how top-rated teams will respond to early adversity when we haven't yet seen them play a single game. There's the possibility that Nick Saban's squad is still going to show up and play like the beast it was last year—but there's also the chance that this team has gotten complacent and stands to be caught off-guard by what could be a very, very strong opponent.
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