College football is finally back, which means that the door that leads to upsets, wacky statistics and boneheaded plays has reopened. Everybody thinks they know what the upcoming season has in store, but that would be the furthest thing from the truth.
There is sure to be a school that nobody has ever heard of that will pull off a shocking upset that turns the sport upside down. Also, a few teams that are considered national championship contenders will crash and burn sooner than later, and there are sure to be a couple of players who were buried on the depth chart that will become the newest college football stars.
Ah, college football is so unpredictable.
Let's throw out everything you had planned for Week 1 and try to predict the madness. Remember, though, that there are sure to be a few twists, as the national championship favorite will stumble out of the gate, a Pac-12 receiver will continue to dominate and there will be a triple-overtime matchup somewhere.
Read on to find out my other bold predictions for Week 1 of the 2013 college football season.
*All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports, unless otherwise noted.
So much for being national championship contenders, as South Carolina will fall to North Carolina in Week 1.
While everybody believes that this is the season the Gamecocks will rise in the SEC East, questions remain at the offensive skill positions and linebacker. Quarterbacks Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson also haven't been the most consistent players throughout their respective careers.
North Carolina lost a lot of talent to the NFL draft, but they return quarterback Bryn Renner and wide receiver Quinshad Davis. There's also key players on defense in safety Tre Boston and defensive end Kareem Martin.
The Tar Heels are a solid football team, and they will be hungry to start the season off correctly. Hopefully you like upsets on the first day of the college football season.
UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley is getting a lot of love from NFL draft scouts, but he was overshadowed by other players within his own conference last year. Still, a first-year player who threw for 3,745 yards, 29 touchdowns and rushed for 355 yards should get a little more respect.
Expect Hundley to come out firing on a Nevada defense that allowed 33.8 points per game last season. He should be more comfortable in the offense with a year of experience under his belt, and he will have an absolute field day against a defense that appeared almost useless a year ago.
Hundley deserves credit as one of the top quarterbacks in the nation. Maybe a monster performance in Week 1 will turn some heads.
Northwestern-Cal is one of the Week 1 matchups that is supposed to be one of the more competitive contests of the week.
Forget about it.
While Cal is undergoing a facelift under new head coach Sonny Dykes, Northwestern returns 15 starters and is a dark-horse to win the Big Ten title. The Wildcats have proven players on the both sides of the ball, while the Golden Bears enter the season as a question mark after finishing last season with a 3-9 record.
There's nothing to see here.
Northwestern will enjoy the trip to California and head back home with a victory.
I wrote earlier in the week that TCU has no chance of knocking off LSU. Let's take it a step further by saying the Horned Frogs won't even score a single point.
The Tigers defense lost many key players to the NFL draft, but there's still more than enough pieces in place for the unit to remain elite. Defensive linemen Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson are future first-round draft picks, cornerback Jalen Collins is a star in the making, and safety Craig Loston is the glue who holds the defense together.
This isn't the Big 12, where a touchdown is scored every 15 seconds. TCU is up against a completely different animal, and they will prove that they are still a year or two away from being able to take that next step as a program.
Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk guaranteed that he is going to win this year's Heisman (h/t ESPN.com).
He certainly has the skill set to do so, as he rushed for more than 100 yards in five of the final six games last season and averaged 7.7 yards per carry for the year.
Still, Seastrunk plays for Baylor, a team that may have produced Heisman winner Robert Griffin III but isn't exactly a hot bed for individual award winners. That is why Seastrunk must catch fire early in the season, and 250-plus rushing yards against Wofford would get folks attention.
Feed the confident running back the ball 25 times and let him go to work against the FCS punching bag.
Tennessee will hold mighty Austin Peay to less than 100 yards.
Sounds easy, right?
Obviously you didn't pay much attention to Tennessee's defense last season, when the Volunteers allowed 471 yards and 35 points per game. The defense couldn't stop a middle school from scoring a touchdown, let alone an FCS opponent.
The good news is that Tennessee does return eight defensive starters and is part of a new wave of confidence inspired by head coach Butch Jones.
It's not Oregon, but holding any team to 100 or less yards is impressive.
Oklahoma State heads into the weekend clash against Mississippi State as considerable favorites, but don't count out the Bulldogs.
They still have experienced players on defense, such as linebacker Benardrick McKinney, who finished second on the team with 102 tackles. But there's also enough offensive talent to keep up with the explosive Cowboys. Quarterback Tyler Russell is due for a breakout season, while running back LaDarius Perkins is one of the most underrated players in the SEC.
Expect the Bulldogs to keep things close throughout and come up with a big defensive play to win the game.
After all, head coach Dan Mullen has to knock off a ranked opponent at some point, right?
Shaq Thompson did a little bit of everything last season as a true freshman. He started all 13 games and finished with 74 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and three interceptions.
He’s doing a lot of stuff; he’s covering, he’s blitzing, he’s playing the run, pass. We try to put him in a lot of spots. If there’s a better way to feature him, we’ll definitely try to explore it.
Washington will play a Boise State team that struggles offensively. With the game tied late, the Broncos will try to do a little too much, and Thompson will be there to make them pay. The Huskies will win on a late interception returned for a score.
One of the best dual-threat quarterbacks you probably never heard of is Wyoming's Brett Smith. Last season, he threw for 2,832 yards and 27 touchdowns, while also rushing for 248 yards and six touchdowns.
He'll have no problem outplaying Nebraska's Taylor Martinez, as the Cornhuskers defense allowed more than 500 yards in the final two games of last season.
Sure, Martinez was incredible last year, but he's struggled with consistency. He threw four interceptions in the final two games and completed less than 60 percent of his passes in the final three contests.
Smith will be the star of the game, but the Cornhuskers will make one more play than the Cowboys, ending any chance of an upset for the latter.
Texas is tired of hearing about how horrible its defense was last season. This year, they will return nine starters, and they will finally have a healthy Jackson Jeffcoat along the defensive line.
That's bad news for New Mexico State.
Jeffcoat is one of the top pure pass-rushers in the country, and he finished second on the team with four sacks last season, despite only playing in six games. Now, he'll line up against an offensive line that allowed quarterback Andrew Manley to get sacked 39 times.
Texas will be a motivated team this season and will take some its frustrations out in the season opener.
Florida losing to Toledo may sound like the most farfetched thing in college football since Michigan lost to Appalachian State.
It's really not, though.
Florida simply can't score points. Regardless of how great the defense claims to be, the offense managed only seven points against Missouri, nine points against Georgia and dropped a whopping 23 against Jacksonville State.
Now, the offense will be without running back Matt Jones as well as offensive linemen Chaz Green and Jon Halapio. Furthermore, Toledo averaged 31.5 points per game last season and returns most of its key players. That's bad news for a Florida team that let a lot of mediocre teams hang around last season due to its struggles offensively.
Seeing an upset take place shouldn't be that difficult.
Auburn has a lot of work to do after finishing last season with a 3-9 record. However, there's a new coaching staff in place and a truckload of young talent.
Head coach Gus Malzahn has taken over and provided an instant shot in the arm with a wonderful 2013 recruiting class. There is also a lot of buzz surrounding quarterback Nick Marshall, who many believe can be the future of the program.
Auburn will host Washington State and should have very few issues against a team that can't play defense. Expect the Tigers to win big and hear a few rumbles about them being back on the map as a respectable SEC team.
It doesn't take much in today's media world.
Freshman Trevor Knight surprisingly beat out junior Blake Bell for the starting quarterback job. His first game will be against a Louisiana-Monroe squad that was quite feisty last season in upsetting Arkansas 34-31 in overtime.
The Warhawks also return 17 starters and won't be scared of the bright lights of Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
This is a game that the Sooners cannot lose, but Knight is sure to struggle against a veteran team looking to shock the world. Oklahoma will head into halftime skating on thin ice, and Bell will step in to help secure the victory. Bell has the experience and the leadership to get the job done.
A quarterback competition continues in Oklahoma.
Ole Miss and Vanderbilt will battle it out Thursday night on ESPN at 9:15 p.m. ET. It is a game that will paint a clearer picture as to who is rising up the SEC totem pole.
Is it Vanderbilt, a team that has taken giant strides each year under head coach James Franklin? Is it Ole Miss, a squad that has come out of nowhere under head coach Hugh Freeze and cleaned house on the recruiting trail with an excellent freshman class?
It may be the season opener to you, but this is a small step for two programs looking to prove themselves. The game will go on for hours and provide college football fans with an overtime thriller.
Hopefully you won't have to wake up early the next morning.
Don't worry Ohio State fans, you won't lose your undefeated streak to Buffalo. However, you should show a little more respect to the Bulls. They aren't an ordinary team that is just showing up for the paycheck. Instead, Buffalo will give its opponent everything it has in a losing effort.
Last season, the Bulls lost eight games, but three of those losses were by one possession. Buffalo also did a nice job of keeping up with Georgia in last year's season opener, as the Bulldogs won 45-23 in a well-fought game that Georgia led 24-16 at halftime.
The Bulls return 16 starters, including former 1,000-yard rusher Branden Oliver. Buffalo won't upset Ohio State, but the game won't be a cakewalk like many expect.
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is a respectable Heisman candidate, but he isn't the only offensive player who deserves consideration on a talented Louisville squad.
Wide receiver DeVante Parker is the biggest playmaker on a Louisville offense that is loaded with productive players. He caught 40 passes last season for 744 yards and 10 touchdowns, but he was just scratching the surface. Parker should be even better this year, as the junior has finally learned how to run routes properly, according to C.L. Brown of the Courier-Journal.
Parker is a wonderful athlete who makes tough catches look easy and has a nose for the end zone. With Louisville hosting Ohio on Sunday, Parker will have the chance to introduce himself to a national audience.
While USC still isn't sure who its starting quarterback is going to be, wide receiver Marqise Lee remains the best at his position. It doesn't matter who the starting quarterback is with him on the field. Just throw the ball up there, and he will go get it in double-coverage.
Lee will be matched up with Hawaii defenders who helped surrender 35.7 points per game last season. Not exactly the best defensive unit, the Warriors have yet to play against a receiver of Lee's caliber, as the junior has 191 receptions, 2,864 yards and 25 touchdowns in two seasons.
This game is obviously going to be a blowout, and Lee will be the one to thank.
Oregon is probably capable of scoring 100 points in a game if the coaching staff would allow the players to play all four quarters. Instead, most of the starters are removed by halftime and the game slows down drastically due to commanding leads.
Still, even with happening, Oregon scored 70 points last season against Colorado and 62 against USC.
Playing an FCS school like Nicholls State is sure to get ugly. New head coach Mark Helfrich will want to keep his guys in the game a little longer to make sure everybody is on the same page. This will obviously result in more points and a larger lopsided victory.
Look at the bright side, at least the Colonels are leaving with a nice paycheck!
If Johnny Manziel has taught you anything in the last year, it's that you don't bet against him. He was only a freshman last season and won the Heisman. Now, he has to top that performance by being even more awesome and producing even larger video game numbers.
Scoring five touchdowns between his arm and legs in a single-half would be impressive, as he has been suspended for the first half against Rice (h/t ESPN.com).
It may seem impossible, but Rice's defense does a poor job of defending. It allowed 425 yards per game and 30 points last season. Keep in mind that they did this against subpar opponents in the C-USA, as the Owls didn't play a single ranked team all year.
Manziel is eager to stick it to all of his critics and prove that last season was no fluke. The best way to do that is to come out firing on all cylinders.
Notre Dame won every regular season game last year, but could have easily lost three or four games. The Irish seemed to just barely beat each opponent on the schedule, as five games were decided by one possession and others were a lot closer than the score indicated.
Will Notre Dame finally take charge and begin blowing teams out this year?
Don't bet on it.
Notre Dame's offense hasn't shown enough consistency to put teams away. Quarterback Tommy Rees is a game manager, and the play calls aren't designed for him to take chances and make big plays. The Irish will continue to rely on their running game and defense to grind out victories.
So, even the game against Temple in Week 1 will be decided in the fourth quarter.
This prediction is almost certain to happen.
Florida State's Jameis Winston has been hyped up to the point of no return. He's been compared to Cam Newton and is one of the main reasons why many have Florida State returning to a BCS bowl.
The Seminoles shouldn't have a tough time with Pittsburgh, but the problem is that the game is being played on Monday night. Everybody will have their eyes glued on Winston, and the slightest big-play will have everyone drooling.
You see, I told you he is the next Hall of Fame quarterback!
Calm down, kiddo. After what Johnny Manziel did last season, a solid performance from Winston against a mediocre team will have folks believing the Florida State signal-caller can duplicate that effort.
Remember some guy named Jordan Lynch?
He returned for his senior season after throwing for 3,138 yards, rushing for 1,815 yards and scoring 44 touchdowns for Northern Illinois last season. What's scary is that he should be even better this season, according to his coach, per . of USA Today
"I can tell you right now he's better (than a year ago)," coach Rod Carey said. "I'm anxious to get him on the field, get him to the fight and see what he can do."
His first test will be against Iowa, a team that returns 14 starters and is looking for a bounce-back year after limping to a 4-8 record last season. Northern Illinois will pull off the upset due to Lynch picking up where he left off and carrying the Huskies on his back.
If you love offense, Georgia-Clemson is the game for you.
Georgia returns 10 offensive starters, including quarterback Aaron Murray and a two-headed monster in running backs Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley. Clemson also has a great quarterback in Tajh Boyd and a speedy wide receiver in Sammy Watkins.
Last year, Georgia averaged 37.8 points, while Clemson averaged 41 points per game. That is a combined 78 points, and you can expect there to be more on Saturday. Clemson also has a history of being bad defensively, while Georgia replaces eight defensive starters.
You think Big 12 games get out of hand offensively? You haven't seen anything yet!
One of the underrated games on Friday night will be when FAU travels south to take on Miami. Of course, the Owls aren't going to win the game, but they could make it closer than anybody expects.
The majority of the FAU players grew up in the Miami area and had dreams of becoming a Hurricane. A lot of them were turned down for various reasons and ended up having to settle for the less popular school. Players from both teams know each other, have family in the area and are certainly going to wake up for this big event.
Besides the motivational edge, FAU also has solid players such as wide receiver William Dukes, who caught 63 passes for 979 yards and seven touchdowns last season. Miami also had one of the worst defenses in the country last year, allowing 486 yards per game.
This game will be decided by three touchdowns or less.
Alabama heads into the season as the predominant favorite to win the national championship, but Virginia Tech shouldn't be taken lightly.
Led by quarterback Logan Thomas and one of the best college football head coaches in Frank Beamer, the Hokies have won at least 10 games in eight of the last nine seasons. There are also nine starters returning from a defense that ranked second in the ACC. If games are truly won in the trenches, Virginia Tech stands a chance with a defense that racked up 35 sacks last season.
Beamer will know the right buttons to push to motivate his team, and the Hokies will approach this game with a chip on their shoulder.
It will be a close contest throughout, but expect Thomas to play well and the underdog to turn college football upside down.