In just two days, the best weekend of the year begins.
And I’m not talking about the NHL All-Star game.
It’s college football time, folks!
Fans across the nation are throwing on jerseys and firing up barbecues for tailgating as tickets are being gobbled up.
The 2010-2011 college season could not come at a better time. Football is saving fans from summer sports doldrums. The average fan would much rather camp out to see the Fighting Irish than watch the Rays. This includes fans in Tampa Bay.
With so many games to open the season, it’s hard to find the real gems. Hopefully this guide will help.
Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium (Tuscaloosa, Ala.)
When: 7:00 PM ET on ESPN3.com
Why: They might invent a mercy rule for this game.
With Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram out, however, this will still be a good one to watch. It marks the coming-out party for his running back replacement. Trent Richardson, a highly touted recruit in 2009, finally gets to show what he can do as the featured back.
Another interesting note on this game is how the game plan will change with Ingram out of the lineup. Will Alabama start throwing it around to Julio Jones or will Nick Saban keep things the same?
San Jose State will provide whatever resistance they can. Who knows? Maybe they provide tape for other teams on how to stop Richardson for other teams.
Or they get annihilated.
Prediction: Alabama 52, San Jose State 7
Where: Bulldog Stadium (Fresno, Calif.)
When: 10:00 PM ET on ESPN2 & ESPN3.com
These two put on a great show last season in Cincy with the Bearcats coming out on top, 28-20.
Both teams put on very nice offensive shows. Cincinnati passed marvelously. Fresno attacked from a different front to the tune of 290 yards on the ground.
It’s probably going to happen again this year.
The Bulldogs ranked in the top 10 in rushing in 2009. They will continue to pound a weak Cincy front seven. Meanwhile, Zach Collaros and Co. will toss the ball around like a Hot Potato.
Prepare for a another shoot-out.
Prediction: Cincinnati 35, Fresno State 31
Where: LaVell Edwards Stadium (Provo, UT)
When: 7:00 PM ET on CBS
Why: Two similar teams are attempting to establish themselves early in the season with a crucial out-of-conference victory.
If they can’t get their quarterback controversy suited out, it could be a long year for the BYU Cougars.
Jake Heaps and Riley Nelson are competing for the starting job. Both could see snaps in defense of their home turf.
For Washington, there’s no debate at signal caller with Heisman-hopeful Jake Locker. Coach Steve Sarkisian leads a Washington squad flying under the radar in the preseason.
If Locker plays as good as scouts say, however, the Huskies may destroy the radar.
Prediction: Washington 27, BYU, 17
Where: Notre Dame Stadium (Notre Dame, Ind.)
When: 3:30 PM ET on NBC
Why: A win by Notre Dame could put them on the “must-watch” list every week.
New head coach Brian Kelley's Golden Domers approach the season with high expectations and hype. The game will be a showcase for the former Cincinnati coach who replaces the once popular Charlie Weis.
Dayne Crist could lead the Irish like Jimmy Clausen did a year ago. Or his lack of weapons could lead to Notre Dame’s undoing.
Purdue comes into the season with less pressure. New quarterback Robert Marve leads the Boilers attack. If he is as good as Miami thought he was, the Big 10 could be in for a shock.
If not, Purdue could be in for a long afternoon.
Prediction: Notre Dame 30, Purdue 14
Where: Aloha Stadium (Honolulu, HI)
When: 11:00 PM ET on ESPN & ESPN3.com
Why: It’s hard to believe the team most likely to make a bowl in this match up will not be wearing cardinal and gold.
The Lane Kiffin regime begins at USC with a bowl ban. Many fans have ruled out the Trojans as a team to watch this year. Despite no postseason at the end of the tunnel, USC still sees plenty of reasons to put up a fight.
Quarterback Matt Barkley wants to show the world he can be an elite college player. Kiffin promises a different defense with many new schemes.
Plus, they are playing Hawaii. Many from Southern California are using the game as an excuse to plan a vacation.
Prediction: USC 38, Hawaii 10
Where: Michigan Stadium (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
When: 3:30 PM ET on ABC
Why: Michigan's Football tradition could be challenged by an upstart.
The Wolverines enter the 2010 season with numerous questions. They have problems on both sides of the ball.
But these issues pale in comparison to the quandary surrounding Rich Rodriguez. A loss here could put the coach on the hot seat.
The loaded Connecticut team, conversely, comes to the Big House as one of the big dogs in the Big East.
A win at Michigan could give them a huge confidence boost and propel them to their first BCS bowl.
Prediction: Connecticut 24, Michigan 23
Where: Rice-Eccles Stadium (Salt Lake City, UT)
When: 8:30 PM ET on Versus
Why: The Utah Utes are facing a battle of revenge in this game.
Utah has been a huge player in the national picture for most of Kyle Whittingham’s tenure. Last year, however, they could not beat a Top 25 opponent and were left out of the big-time bowls.
That makes them dangerous team with something to prove on week one.
On the other side, the Panthers hope to become a perennial powerhouse. Dave Wannstedt needs to open the season with a bang if he hopes to reach a BCS bowl.
The last time these two played was in the 2004 Fiesta Bowl. Utah pillaged Pitt 35-7.
The Panthers could start the season seeking revenge in this matchup.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 23, Utah 17
Where: Cowboy Stadium (Arlington, Tex.)
When: 7:45 PM ET on ESPN & ESPN3.com
Why: Two teams that ended last season with disappointment face a show down at Cowboy Stadium.
Mike Riley's Beavers just missed the Rose Bowl last year. The school always schedules tough teams early so his squad is ready for the up-for-grabs Pac-10.
TCU, however, could be a bit more than the Beavers can gnaw.
The Horned Frogs enter 2010 with a vengeance following a painful loss to Boise State in the January Fiesta Bowl to Boise State in January.
They will be pumped for the Beaver season opener.
Prediction: TCU 34, Oregon State 24
Where: Georgia Dome (Atlanta, Ga.)
When: 8:00 PM ET on ABC
Why: This is the definition of a statement game for both teams.
The squad who wins this game belongs in the top-tier programs. The loser could fall to the status of just another program.
The ACC has lost its sheen in the Power Six Conferences. North Carolina aims to change that with improved recruiting. A win over an SEC team could help them contend for a conference title.
A loss, however, could likely result in a return trip to the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
LSU is a similar program in a different situation. In one of the hardest conferences, the SEC, the Tigers have faded into the middle of the pack. They hope Can Jordan Jefferson can lift LSU back to their former glory.
With all this at stake, a tiger and a ram would make for a blood bath.
Prediction: North Carolina 28, LSU 24
Where: FedEx Field (Landover, Md.)
When: 8:00 PM ET on ESPN & ESPN3.com
Why: Both these schools have been much maligned by the powers that be in college football.
This season, however, could be a year that either team makes it to the championship stage.
Boise State has its sights set on a second straight undefeated season. They will need it if they want to be in title game contention. Beating the Hokies would help build their résumé early.
Then again, the BCS could still shaft them.
Frank Beamer has received no national title consideration. The Hokies, however, start the season as the favorite for the ACC’s crown. Tyrod Taylor needs to show the country he means business by outplaying Kellen Moore.
This task is easier said than done. Moore’s 2009-2010 campaign was statistically one of the best of all-time.
Prediction: Boise State 35, Virginia Tech 31