Week 1 Games That Will Shakeup 2013 USA Today Top 25 Coaches Poll
The USA Today Coaches' Poll was released on Thursday, which means that after months of searching for an excuse—any excuse—to talk about college football, there's finally a legitimate reason to do so.
But come early September, it will be totally irrelevant.
Arkansas was ranked No. 10 in last year's preseason poll, but was wiped off the grid completely after losing to Louisiana-Monroe in Week 2. Michigan, meanwhile, began the year No. 8 but fell to No. 19 after being mutilated by Alabama.
There might be an Arkansas-sized upset looming among this year's Week 1 schedule, but predicting a shocker of that magnitude is difficult; part of its beauty is its ability to come out of left field.
Some games, however, are guaranteed to shakeup the polls.
Ole Miss at Vanderbilt
When: Thursday, August 29 – 9:15 p.m. ET
America's highest-profile conference, the SEC, doesn't wait long to get its season started. Prospective conference darkhorses Ole Miss and Vanderbilt will tee things off in Week 1.
Though neither team was ranked in the first iteration of the Coaches' Poll, whoever wins this game in Nashville will likely shake things up in Week 2. They appeared back-to-back in the "also receiving votes" section (Ole Miss with 32, Vanderbilt with 29) so it's not like either is off voters' radar.
That holds doubly true for Ole Miss, who wouldn't just get a conference win by beating Vanderbilt but a ROAD conference win. That's a rare and impressive feat in the SEC, and voters would surely take notice.
No. 1 Alabama vs. Virginia Tech (N)
When: Saturday, August 31 – 5:30 p.m. ET
This only won't shakeup the polls is if Alabama wins by, say, 10-17 points.
Anything closer than that, and the Crimson Tide might cede some votes atop the rankings. While teams like Ohio State (vs. Buffalo) and Oregon (vs. Nicholls State) will start their year with blowout wins, Alabama would have just played a four-quarter contest.
Any margin greater than 17 points, especially against a prestige program like Virginia Tech, would make Alabama a unanimous (or closer-to-unanimous) No. 1 pick in the second poll. They received "just" 58-of-62 first-place votes in the preseason version.
Should the unthinkable—a Virginia Tech upset—happen, the poll would implode. Alabama would drop to somewhere in the teens, while the Hokies would probably go from unranked to Top 10.
No. 5 Georgia at No. 8 Clemson
When: Saturday, August 31 – 8:00 p.m. ET
Depending on how you feel about AJ McCarron and Johnny Manziel, this could be the best QB matchup of the regular season.
Tajh Boyd was the ACC Player of the Year last year, finishing with 4,410 total yards and 46 total touchdowns. Aaron Murray might have been a conference player of the year, too, had he not played in the same conference as the Heisman trophy winner. He led the nation with 10.1 yards per pass attempt and 8.6 total yards per play.
The two will led their high-powered offenses against question mark-laden defenses in an opening-week matchup with major poll implications.
If Georgia wins, Clemson will probably drop to the mid teens, while Mark Richt's squad might leapfrog Stanford (who opens the season with a bye). If Clemson wins, it would almost certainly end up in the top five and might also be able to leapfrog the idle Cardinal.
No. 13 LSU vs. No. 20 TCU (N)
When: Saturday, August 31 – 9:00 p.m. ET
The second (and final) Week 1 game between two ranked teams, LSU-TCU promises to be a good old-fashioned slugfest.
Both teams have high-upside quarterbacks that are shrouded with question marks. LSU's Zach Mettenberger and TCU's Casey Pachall are both capable of playing like All-Americans, but neither one can be wholly trusted.
And neither one gets an easy start to their 2013 campaign, each taking on one of the nation's best defenses. LSU lost some key players but has always remained dominant under similar circumstances, while TCU brings back almost everyone from the nation's best secondary.
Ranked Nos. 13 and 20 respectively, whoever wins this game will immediately vault into the Top 10. If it's a close game, the loser—even if it's TCU—might still find itself in the Top 25, but a blowout loss might knock one of them out.
No. 19 Boise State at Washington
When: Saturday, August 31 – 10:00 p.m. ET
The Huskies and Broncos ended last season the same way they'll begin this one: against each other.
They'll play one another for a second consecutive game in Week 1, the two contests separated by a tidy eight months. Boise State beat Washington 28-26 in last year's Las Vegas Bowl, which was one of the better games in last year's postseason.
Things will look a little different this time around—a lot in the case of the Broncos. They return just nine starters to Washington's 18, which, given the score of last year's bowl game and the Huskies' home-field advantage, would seem to make them prohibitive underdogs.
But alas, Boise State—not Washington—is the sole ranked party in this game, and a true road win against a Pac-12 bowl team would jettison it up the rankings. Washington, meanwhile, would almost certainly crack the Top 25 (perhaps in Boise's place?) should they avenge last year's defeat.