College Football Week One: What to Watch For

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College Football Week One: What to Watch For

Icon(Winning team in Bold; all times Eastern)

East Carolina at #9 Virginia Tech, 12 PM (ESPN)

ESPN College GameDay will be in Blacksburg to cover what promises to be an emotional afternoon, as the Hokies begin a season dedicated to those who were lost in the April shootings. 

The matchup isn't as important as the context.  Frank Beamer said this will be a game the players remember for the rest of their lives. Surely the memory will be more symbolic than anything else, because Tech should dominate.

Colorado State vs. Colorado (in Denver), 12 PM

This rivalry isn’t as significant as it was when both teams were better, but the “Rocky Mountain Showdown” means everything to college football fans in Colorado. 

Dan Hawkins' "D-I" football squad should rebound from a 2-10 2006 campaign with his son Cody starting at QB.  CSU running back Kyle Bell may or may not be fully recovered from a knee injury.  Given CU’s domination of the head-to-head series (57-19-2), I’m going to go with the Buffaloes.

Marshall at Miami, 12 PM (ESPNU)

Junior QB Kirby Freeman won the starting job over Kyle Wright, and will get to showcase his arm (and mobility) against an inferior Marshall squad. 

Marshall may keep the game competitive thanks to standout running back Ahmad Bradshaw, but chalk up the first win of the Randy Shannon era.

Washington State at #7 Wisconsin, 3:30 PM (ABC)

After flying relatively under the radar in 2006, the Badgers will have a target on their chests in 2007.

Wisconsin returns 16 starters from a 12-1 team—including Freshman Offensive Player of the Year P.J. Hill, who returns a little leaner than last year and is poised for another 1,500-yard season.

Washington State quarterback Alex Brink will test his arm against the tough Wisconsin secondary as the Cougars try to keep pace with the Badgers...but Wisconsin wins by a few touchdowns.

Georgia Tech at Notre Dame, 3:30 PM (NBC)

Charlie Weis won't say who his starting quarterback will be in the season opener, but whoever it is will have to deal with linebacker Philip Wheeler and a swarm of Yellow Jacket defenders. 

The Reggie Ball Experiment is finally over at Tech, as Taylor Bennett takes over the reins at quarterback.  Conventional wisdom would have the more experienced Yellow Jackets winning this game, but I’ll pick Notre Dame at home in a mild upset.

Wake Forest at #24 Boston College, 3:30 PM (ABC)

Wake went 11-3 and won the ACC Championship in 2006, but is getting no national respect in 2007.

The departures of several players on defense, including Josh Gattis and Jon Abbate, and an improving conference may hinder the Demon Deacons in their quest for a repeat. 

BC features the preseason Offensive Player of the Year in quarterback Matt Ryan. In fact, this matchup is the only ACC game of the week featuring two good quarterbacks (Riley Skinner of Wake Forest is no slouch). 

In a bout of evenly-talented squads, BC gets the nod on home-field advantage and wins in a close one.

Illinois vs. Missouri (in St. Louis), 3:30 PM (ESPN2)

The “Arch Rivalry” game features an experienced Mizzou team, picked to win the Big 12 North, and an Illinois team looking to rebound from a 2-10 2006. 

The numbers say it won’t be close, but Ron Zook has brought in two great crops of recruits—including sophomore quarterback Juice Williams and freshman wide receiver Arrelious Benn—and the Illini are ready for a breakout season.  Still, quarterback Chase Daniel, running back Tony Temple, and receivers Chase Coffman and Martin Rucker should lead Missouri’s high-powered offense to victory.

Oklahoma State at #14 Georgia, 6:45 PM (ESPN2)

In one of the better games of the week, quarterback Bobby Reid leads the OK State Cowboys into Athens to face the Georgia Bulldogs. 

Reid and All-American wide receiver Adarius Bowman have proven to be a deadly combination through the air. With Georgia's top cornerback out due to eligibility issues, the Dawgs could be in trouble. 

Georgia will counter with improved sophomore quarterback Matt Stafford and a stable of running backs that includes Thomas Brown and redshirt freshman Knowshon Moreno.  With my Upset Special Pick of the Week, Oklahoma State wins in a close one.

#25 Florida State at Clemson, Monday 8:00 PM (ESPN)

Bobby Bowden still leads the Bowden Bowl five games to three, but Tommy has won in three of the last four years. 

The speedy C.J. Spiller and powerful James Davis are a dangerous backfield duo, and should cause some problems for the FSU D.  In his junior season, Drew Weatherford will have to make some strides to prove he belongs as a starter for this program. 

On the other sideline, former LSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher has arrived to help the sputtering Seminole offense. Florida State has all the tools it needs to return to the top of the ACC, but the team has to be consistent. 

While Clemson has two studs at running back and a decent offensive line, they have a number of holes—most visibly at quarterback. Besides, Bobby can’t let his son win three games in a row, right?

Florida State wins by a touchdown.

Game of the Week

#19 Tennessee at #12 Cal, 8:00 PM (ABC)

Cal was blown out 35-18 at Tennessee last year, and would like to return the hospitality this weekend. 

The Cal defensive backs, torched by Erik Ainge and Robert Meachem in 2006, are a year older. So is Cal QB Nate Longshore, who threw for over 3,000 yards as a sophomore.

The game will serve as a showcase for Cal wide receiver/punt returner DeSean Jackson, who has the potential to be a better game-breaker than Ted Ginn was a year ago.  Ainge is poised for a great senior year, but will need help from the run game and his defensive front. 

Cal should get its revenge as it opens up the aerial attack early and often.

Irrelevant Game of the Week

Connecticut at Duke, 2:00 PM

Duke has lost its last 20 games, with a 0-12 record last year and a 1-11 record in 2005.  With a win, the Blue Devils can break the streak and be on pace to go 12-0...before, of course, they lose the rest of their games.

D3 Game of the Week

The #7 UW-La Crosse Eagles travel to Abilene, Texas to face the #11 Hardin-Simmons Cowboys—conceivably a better matchup than Louisville-Murray State, which produced a 73-10 result. 

You mean D3 teams actually play tough out-of-conference schedules? And they have a much-desired playoff system? 

At least somebody is doing something right.

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