Thursday’s packed schedule of college football games has created a genuine buzz among fans of the sport, and the start of the 2014 season has put the focus on the rankings as Saturday’s slate of games approaches.
With No. 1 Florida State, No. 2 Alabama and 19 other ranked teams in action on the first Saturday of the regular season, college football fans must find a comfortable chair, kick their feet up and enjoy a schedule full of action.
|Preseason Amway and AP Top 25 Rankings|
|Rank||Associated Press Top 25||Amway Top 25|
|1||Florida State Seminoles||Florida State Seminoles|
|2||Alabama Crimson Tide||Alabama Crimson Tide|
|3||Oregon Ducks||Oklahoma Sooners|
|4||Oklahoma Sooners||Oregon Ducks|
|5||Ohio State Buckeyes||Auburn Tigers|
|6||Auburn Tigers||Ohio State Buckeyes|
|7||UCLA Bruins||UCLA Bruins|
|8||Michigan State Spartans||Michigan State Spartans|
|9||South Carolina Gamecocks||South Carolina Gamecocks|
|10||Baylor Bears||Baylor Bears|
|11||Stanford Cardinal||Stanford Cardinal|
|12||Georgia Bulldogs||Georgia Bulldogs|
|13||LSU Tigers||LSU Tigers|
|14||Wisconsin Badgers||Wisconsin Badgers|
|15||USC Trojans||USC Trojans|
|16||Clemson Tigers||Clemson Tigers|
|17||Notre Dame Fighting Irish||Notre Dame Fighting Irish|
|18||Mississippi Rebels||Arizona State Sun Devils|
|19||Arizona State Sun Devils||Mississippi Rebels|
|20||Kansas State Wildcats||Texas A&M Aggies|
|21||Texas A&M Aggies||Kansas State Wildcats|
|22||Nebraska Cornhuskers||Nebraska Cornhuskers|
|23||North Carolina Tar Heels||North Carolina Tar Heels|
|24||Missouri Tigers||Texas Longhorns|
|25||Washington Huskies||Washington Huskies|
|Source: USAToday.com and Associated Press.|
Saturday’s Must-Watch Game: Penn State vs. UCF
One of the most intriguing games of the Week 1 schedule is the battle between Penn State and UCF Saturday morning at 8:30 a.m. ET in Croke Park, Dublin, Ireland. You read that correctly—these two teams will go to battle overseas to start the regular season.
The Nittany Lions are entering a new era under head coach James Franklin. The 42-year-old coach spent the last three seasons as the leader of the Vanderbilt Commodores and took the Penn State job during the offseason.
Franklin will be leaning heavily on sophomore starting quarterback Christian Hackenberg to start the year fast, but there are plenty of weapons on the offensive unit. With wide receivers like Geno Lewis and DaeSean Hamilton, plus a tough running back like Bill Belton, the Nittany Lions will be dangerous on offense.
While much of the focus for fans will be on the revamped Penn State offense, the defense has made strides this offseason as well. With several fifth-year seniors returning for one last shot at glory, the Nittany Lions could be a major contender if the chemistry is there from Day 1.
Using a strong defensive line to cause havoc in the rushing and passing attacks, the program’s vaunted linebacker group led by Mike Hull, Nyeem Wartman and Brandon Bell and a secondary that includes hard-hitting players like cornerback Jordan Lucas and safety Adrian Amos, Penn State should be able to pull out the victory on Saturday.
UCF will not go down without a fight, though.
The Knights will begin the season with redshirt freshman Pete DiNovo as the starting quarterback, so Penn State should be expecting a simplified offense for a player who has never taken a snap in college football before.
Look for the team to lean heavily on running backs William Stanback and Dontravious Wilson as DiNovo gets acclimated to the offensive system. A strong group of receivers, which includes Rannell Hall, J.J. Worton and tight end Justin Tukes, will help make the transition easier, but expect the Nittany Lions to bring pressure on the inexperienced QB early and often.
There will be no home-field advantage across the Atlantic Ocean, so the stage has been set for the best overall team to walk away victorious. While the Knights were the better team last season, the lack of Blake Bortles will doom UCF on Saturday morning.
Penn State should roll to a decisive victory.
Predicted Winner: Penn State 40, UCF 20
*Stats via CFBStats.com.