College Football: 10 Intriguing Games for the Upcoming Season
College football has one hell of an act to follow after last season's brilliance. Luckily the football gods blessed us with plenty of salivating matchups to at least put this year in position for a good follow up.
Here are ten of the most intriguing games.
Central Michigan at Georgia (9/6)
Going into the 2008 season, Georgia will no doubt be one of the favorites to win the national championship. Stacked on both sides of the ball, there should be no reason for the Bulldogs to any trouble with a MAC team.
That said, we are coming off a season in which anything that could have happened did happen. Central Michigan is the type of team with enough offensive firepower that, if this season is anything like last season, could really put a scare into a Georgia team with the highest of expectations.
Quarterback Dan LeFevour had more rushing and passing yards than Tim Tebow, and he has his top two receivers from last year to throw to. The two leading rushers from last year also return.
The 100+ ranked defense should not really put up a fight against Knowshon and company, but with this being the Bulldogs' first game of the year against an FBS opponent, they may not have all the engines revved up. If that happens, CMU is more than equipped to compete in a shootout.
While Georgia should be able to ultimately run the Chippewas off the field, if last season taught us anything, it's that nothing can be taken for granted.
Kansas at South Florida (9/12)
Both USF and Kansas should be ranked in the top 20 going into their early season clash. Try going back in time and convincing yourself of that two years ago.
This is quietly one of the more intriguing non-conference matchups of this year. If they can figure out what went wrong in the second half of last year, USF should consistently be putting a team on the field superior to that of their opponents, with the exception of possibly West Virginia
Nearly everyone that matters returns on the offense, led by Mat Grothe. If tailback Mike Ford can establish himself as a legitimate force in the backfield, the offense should have no weaknesses.
While the defense loses a couple of important contributors, All-American George Selvie is back to anchor a very solid front seven.
Kansas will find it hard to repeat last year's success, but ultra-efficient quarterback Todd Reesing returns to keep them competitive. As an interesting side note, leading returning rusher Jake Sharp, who will be instrumental to Kansas' success, is white.
Nearly everyone is back on defense, but the Jayhawks do lose corner Aqib Talib, which does not help considering the team was already mobility-challenged. This should be an interesting game, but I'm not sure if Kansas has enough speed to keep up with USF.
Ohio State at USC (9/13)
Not much to say about this one. Any self-respecting sports fan can appreciate a non-conference clash between top five teams. It's freakin' USC and Ohio State!
The Buckeyes return nearly every important piece from last year's team. Malcolm Jenkins and James Laurinaitis were probably the best players at their respective postions last year. Vernon Gholston is gone, but he really only showed up for the Michigan game anyway.
Todd Boeckman won't win the game, but he won't have to with Chris Wells in the backfield.
Meanwhile, USC, the team on the other side of the field, may have the only defense as talented and stacked as OSU's. Brian Cushing and Rey Maualuga headline what is probably the best linebacking corps in the country.
The offense is mostly unproven, but this is USC. Mark Sanchez has the potential to actually dominate the game, unlike his predecessor John David Booty. Joe McKnight should now be the full-time starting tailback and put up big numbers.
This game could be a shootout or a defensive struggle, and either team could win either way. Let's just hope it lives up to the hype.
Michigan at Notre Dame (9/13)
Although this game should have very little impact on the upcoming season, it will be the most important matchup between the two teams in years.
Notre Dame desperately needs to show it is a legitimate power after last year's debacle. Michigan needs to show that, while not title contenders, they are not where Notre Dame was last year.
Jimmy Clausen and the Notre Dame offense will need to drastically improve to be competitive, because while Michigan puts a relatively unknown offense on the field, the defense should actually be a solid unit.
Everyone is interested to see how the new-look Wolverines will fare with a completely different system—and what better way to exemplify change than to beat up on the other Midwestern program struggling to adjust to a new era in college football?
Both teams will be fighting for whatever wins they can get.
Ohio State at Wisconsin (10/4)
No, not Michigan—Wisconsin. For the first time in half a decade, this looks to be the most intriguing Big Ten matchup. Wisconsin better be good—for the Big Ten's sake.
Wisconsin never seems to have trouble finding a quarterback, so we can assume new starter Allen Evridge will be fine. Plus, the Badgers have a black-hole-deep corps of running backs, led by the big guy P.J. Hill. Evridge truly just needs to manage the team.
The Badgers will have to use the crowd and this depth at running back to control the game—or else be blown out.
Ohio State will not allow Wisconsin to run over them, so Wisconsin is going to have to bring some defense to the table. Luckily for the Badgers, while incredibly talented, Ohio State's offense is not the type that will run you off the field in a hurry.
The Big Ten title and legitimacy as a conference are on the line in this one.
Clemson at Wake Forest (10/9)
Clemson is by far the most talented team in the ACC. Florida State and Miami are still a couple years away from returning to anything close to their prime form. Virginia Tech has yet to show the ability to put points on the board, not to mention the fact that they lose key members of the defense that won them games last season.
Clemson, meanwhile, has two of the top backs in the country and the top QB in the ACC. Add that to a solid defense bolstered by an incredible recruiting class, and Clemson is the easy favorite to win the conference.
Their biggest competition looks to be Wake Forest. Wake Forest is now consistently producing with considerably less talent than the traditional powers. Riley Skinner is a ruthlessly efficient quarterback, and they have a couple of good backs to highlight a run-oriented attack.
There's not a lot of size but enough speed on the Deacons defense to run with the Tigers for awhile. The back seven should be especially solid.
Clemson has the better team, but Wake Forest is one of the few teams that always plays to its potential, even if the ceiling is lower. That means Clemson will actually have to play to its potential—something the Tigers are not known for doing.
Georgia vs. Florida (11/1)
Both teams will have a tough time getting to this point undefeated, but if they do, this should be just as incredible as USC-Ohio State.
Georgia is nearly flawless with a stiff defense and plenty of talent on offense. Knowshon Moreno is always going to put up his numbers, but the Bulldogs will need Matthew Stafford to live up to his immense talent level if they are going to contend.
Florida showed they could win plenty of games with Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin alone last year. Now they welcome USC transfer Emmanuel Moody to try to add a true running game to the mix. If this works, the Florida offense will be beyond impossible to stop.
The defense that got ravaged by Michigan last year is going to have to make a drastic improvement if they are going to compete with Georgia. Although Derrick Harvey is gone, Florida will always have the talent to field a successful defense. The Gators just need to transfer this talent to the field.
If Stafford turns into a star and Florida's defense steps up, I'm not sure how either team will win.
Texas Tech at Oklahoma (11/22)
OK, here goes: In my opinion, Texas Tech is better than Texas this year.
Tech, of course, is all about offense, and they have all the pieces they need for the ideal Texas Tech attack. Graham Harrell now knows the system by heart, and Michael Crabtree is, well, incredible. The Red Raiders also possess several serviceable tailbacks, which are an undervalued aspect of the team.
Oklahoma returns Sam Bradford, who is the most effiecient passer in the nation. That is generally a good thing for a football team to have. Demarco Murray, if healthy, should be a step up in the running game, as he showed for the first half of the season last year. Oklahoma honestly might have both the best passer and runner in college football.
Because of this, Texas Tech is going to have to field some kind of defense we have never before seen out of a Red Raider team.
While no defense will be able to completely shut down Tech completely, you know the now Lofton-less Oklahoma defense will manage a few stops. The Raider defense will have to answer the call if Texas Tech is to establish itself as a prime-time team.
If Tech is the real deal, we'll know by this time in the season. Here's hoping they are.
BYU at Utah (11/22)
The Mountain West Conference has not one, not two, but three potential BCS busters. BYU, Utah, and TCU are all good enough to make a lot of noise this year. I'm tempted to claim the MWC is better than the ACC.
I, for one, can't get enough of any mid-major team with the potential to crash the BCS party. Here are two of them! Add that to the fact that this is an in-state rivalry, plus the last game of the season, and this is a salivating matchup.
Harvey Unga was a freshman sensation at tailback for BYU and can only get better. Max Hall is a very good quarterback and returns his two leading receivers. 80 percent of the line is back too.
Only three starters return on defense, but since BYU constantly has talent returning from missions, I'm sure there is enough there to do just enough to not lose as their offense puts up 50 points a game.
Utah is very similar to BYU in that they return a talented quarterback in Brian Johnson and runner in Darrell Mack. Assuming Johnson remains healthy, Utah should be able to produce—while maybe not an equal level—a comparable level of offensive production.
Utah has a little more on defense, so these teams really even out well. It could easily be possible, but I have a hard time believing any team can hang with the BYU offense.
USF at West Virginia (12/6)
The Big East really had their eye on something while scheduling this game. It happens to be the same weekend as the conference championships. No other teams playing this weekend will have more realistic shots at being undefeated (although it is never realistic to go undefeated).
West Virginia should be as focused as any team in the country. Offense will be a non-issue. Pat White will return this year and combine with Noel Devine to be the usual West Virginia machine. The defense loses some key members from last year, but plenty of it still remains. I reiterate: No team will be more focused.
The one team in two years that has managed to stop West Virginia has been USF. The Bulls don't have the most size, but over the past two years their speed has completely overwhelmed the Mountaineers.
This year neither team should go in as a true favorite, adding to the tension. The last game of the year, plus conference and maybe even national title implications, equals an exciting matchup.
Georgia at Arizona State: Georgia could have at least five games on the list, but I'm most intrigued by the above-mentioned two.
Illinois vs. Missouri: The Big Ten needs this one. It would have been more exciting if either team's tailback had returned
Texas vs. Oklahoma: Texas just doesn't excite me this year.
LSU at Auburn: More than likely an important game, but potentially more like a boring defensive Big Ten slobberknocker.
Michigan State at Cal: Both teams better than probable preseason ranking.
Texas at Texas Tech: Have more faith in Tech than Longhorns.
Fresno State at Boise State: BYU-Utah Jr.
Arizona State at USC: Easily the two best teams in Pac-10.
Cincinnati at Oklahoma: If Mauk somehow gets eligibility, Bearcats are among elite in Big East.
Insert SEC clash here: SEC powers seem to all play each other.
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