College Football Predictions: 10 Games That Could Go the Little Guy's Way
In the Adam Sandler remake of the The Longest Yard, the warden asks him how to best get his guard's team ready for their season. Sandler replied back saying that they needed a tune up game.
I think it went something like this, "Back in college we would beat the crap out of Appalachian State or someone and get our confidence up."
Oh, how the times and landscape of college football have changed since those days.
Now it is getting harder to find FBS teams scheduling the top tier FCS schools. The majority of the times you see a FCS top dawg on a FBS team's slate is when they are a consistent doormat.
But there are exceptions.
I have gone through the schedule with my magnifying glass searching out those possible games where the heavily favored, or just favored FBS teams may struggle, or in even some cases lose to the muscle of the little guy.
For the record, I am not saying that out of my list of ten all will be upsets, but I am willing to say that at least half are, with the other half being scares.
So here they are, starting by date, the 10 games the FCS should be licking their chops over.
September 2nd—Eastern Washington at Nevada
On paper, Nevada appears to be better than the boys from Cheney, but you always have to keep your eyes out for that jaw dropper on the Thursday night opener. This will be a game that the Eagles should stay close in as long as they don't get rattled by the Reno crowd, or dual threat QB Colin Kaepernick.
The Eagles win if
They get a strong defensive outing from their front seven, led by All conference standout J.C. Sherritt. They will also need for whoever QBs the game (either Bo Levi Mitchell, an SMU transfer, or Greg Panelli a JUCO transfer) to not make that big mistake that costs them the game.
September 4th—Wofford at Ohio
This game probably isn't on many people's radar unless you are a fan of one of these teams. Ohio will be looking to make another run to the MAC championship game, while the Terriers are trying to bounce back from their worst season in over a decade.
Last season Wofford was hit hard by the injury bug and never seemed to find the right pieces to the puzzle. This season they should once again be a potent option offense with a defense that improves drastically on its 35.5 ppg average.
Wofford wins if
The Terriers show up on defense. They have two solid linebackers returning in SeQuan Stanley and Mike Niam, who missed a majority of last season, along with safety Tommy Irvin who is capable of making big plays. Wofford also will need the option trio of Allen, Rucker, and Scott to stay true to form. I think this one could go Wofford's way and give them momentum heading into a very difficult Southern conference schedule.
September 4th—Grambling vs Louisiana Tech @Shreveport
This game marks the first in the Sonny Dykes era at LaTech. He takes over for Derek Dooley, who is now at Tennessee. So how does it start?
Well, Grambling may give the Bulldogs more they can chew when this one is over. LaTech will be breaking in a new QB, new offensive system, and will be facing a team that is athletic and quick on both sides of the ball.
The Tigers have two backs that can make plays on offense in Frank Warren and Cornelius Walker. But, they also have two guys on defense that could be playing on Sunday in SWAC defensive player of the year Christian Anthony and Cliff Exama.
Grambling wins if
Their defense forces an untested QB in Steven Ensminger to make mistakes. They also must run the ball, chew up some clock, and slow the game down versus a Bulldogs team that will look to go no huddle and play fast. Grambling makes this one a good one to watch on opening weekend.
September 4th—Villanova at Temple
Typically when you talk about this match-up you are talking about an early December matchup in hoops, not football. That is not the case anymore as both teams have aspirations of winning their conference.
Temple will be favored at home, as they have a solid team led by Heisman candidate Bernard Pierce at running back.
Villanova should be the pre-season number one team in the FCS and are the defending champs.
The Wildcats have perhaps the best dual threat receiver/back in all of college football in Matt Szczur. In last year's title game, he went for 159 yards on his way to earning the game's MVP award. The Wildcats also have a running threat at QB in Chris Whitney and a big line to block for him.
Villanova wins if
They run the ball well, play the clock, and can stop Bernard Pierce. This will be the best defense the Wildcats see all season and if they can find a way to move it on the Owls, they have a chance. 'Nova actually beat Temple 27-24 last season, so this actually will be a revenge game for Temple and not Villanova.
September 4th—Richmond at Virginia
This is another game where a rookie coach gets a taste of the FBS. But in this case he also gets a taste of what it's like to coach against his former team. Mike London is this coach as he has moved up from Richmond to take over a struggling Virginia program.
The Spiders enter the 2010 campaign with an overhaul to do on offense, and Division I football's youngest coach, Latrell Scott, at 34. But they do have speed and athleticism and they will be going into Charlottesville expecting to win.
The Spiders win if
They get a big game from USC transfer Aaron Corp at quarterback. He has plenty of weapons at his disposal on the outside in Kevin Grayson, Tre Gray, and Donte Boston. If an offensive line that will mainly be new starters can give him time, then Corp and the Spiders should be celebrating a big win to start their 2010 campaign.
September 11th—Montana State at Washington State
Things in Pullman have never looked so bad as they do now. Under head coach Paul Wulff, they have been beaten by a combined 723 points over the last two years, and many are predicting a zero for in conference play.
Most fans are hoping they can find a way to beat the Bobcats of Montana State in their home opener. But, the Bobcats are a FCS power this year and return 17 starters from a team that some are taking to knock in state rival Montana from their Big Sky throne.
Montana State wins if
They show up? Yes, as much as I hate to say it, Wazzu has questions at QB, defense, and pretty much every spot on the field. The Bobcats defense should win the game as they were the Big Sky's best in yards allowed last season and they return nine of those starters.
September 11th—Eastern Kentucky at Louisville
In this instate battle between the Big East doormat and the Ohio Valley favorites I actually think that the Colonels could be favored. Sure, they were 5-6 a year ago and snapped their 31 year consecutive winning season's streak, but they were young and went through some growing pains.
Louisville will go through these pains this season as Charlie Strong takes over as head coach. The Cardinals don't have a lot of talent, as former coach Steve Kragthorpe was not much of a recruiter.
Eastern Kentucky wins if
QB T.J. Pryor doesn't make mistakes. He was the OVC freshman of the year a season ago averaging just under 200 yards passing per game. He did, however, make mistakes throwing eight interceptions to just six TD's.
The Colonels defense should not be a problem as they have two all OVC players in lineman Andrew Soucy and DB Jeremy Caldwell. I am taking the Colonels by six.
September 11th—Southern Illinois at Illinois
The best team in the state of Illinois will be on the field in Champagne on this day, and it is not the Illini.
Southern has been an FCS power ever since current Northern Illinois coach Jerry Kill took over years ago.
The Illini are another story. Ron Zook led them to the Rose Bowl in 2007, and since then he has earned his spot on the hot seat. This game will be a battle in the trenches as Southern is solid up front, and Illinois is in a transition to an eight man front.
Salukis win if
Their defense gets pressure on whoever earns the start at QB for the Illini. The Salukis have two big time players in corner Korey Lindsey and safety Mike McElroy, who will be able to make the young Illini QB pay for his mistakes.
Also, on offense it doesn't matter who gets the carries, the powerful O-line should do a good job of knocking Illinois off the ball, and to 0-2 on the year.
September 11th—Illinois State at Northwestern
As a Northwestern fan and growing up on the old Gateway conference in 1AA, this one gives me the creeps. Northwestern should win this game, but the Cats always seem to make things interesting in games against this conference.
The Redbirds are a team with a good problem, having two QBs that can possibly start in Drew Kiel, and MVC freshman of the year Matt Brown. Up front all five starters return, plus they have addressed their issues at running back with Wisconsin transfer Erik Smith, and Michigan State transfer Ashton Leggett.
Illinois State wins if
Their defense is improved enough from last year that it can stop a spread offense that will be led by a speedy QB. I think the Redbirds will be able to move the ball, but they have to avoid mistakes against a Northwestern defense that feasts on them.
Again, I am thinking Northwestern wins this one, but I wouldn't be surprised to see this one closer than the experts think.
September 25—Northern Iowa at Iowa State
There is a realistic possibility that Iowa State, a bowl team from a year ago could be heading into this game at 0-3 and desperate. Northern Iowa is looking to get the taste out of their mouth after a close loss at Iowa last season.
Northern has many questions and will be a team looking to retool, but the Panthers have seemingly done this for years now and should have a strong 2010.
The Panthers win if
Running back Carlos Anderson goes for over 100 yards. I think that this will allow starting QB Zach Davis to get some big play action passes down field and put up just enough to win the game. The Panthers defense, which was the MVC's best last year should be able to hold the Cyclones to their 20 ppg average or less.
There will undoubtedly be other games not on my list that will earn their way onto the David knocking off Goliath list. However I don't see any top dawgs in the FBS losing to an FCS team like the 2007 Michigan team did.
So what other games between the bigs and lils will be close? Any other upsets out there? Please feel free to post your comments below, and if you want more check out my college football archives for the Friday Tailgate discussing everything you want to know about heading into the 2010 season.
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