Lindsey’s Five Most Important College Football Games of Week 1
In most sports, the first week of the season never eliminates a team from playing for the championship.
College football, however, is not like any other sport.
One untimely loss, even in Week 1, and your favorite team’s chances of getting to the BCS Championship Game can vanish into thin air.
This season in college football is no different. In Week 1, there are several games that could end the BCS Championship dreams for some of the premier teams in the country if they lose their season opener.
Of course, if your team has a misstep in Week 1, you can take heart in knowing that LSU got to the 2007 BCS Championship Game with two losses, proving that there is an exception to the rule.
Below are the five most important college football games of Week 1.
No. 15 Pittsburgh Wears Out No. 24 Utah
If Pittsburgh has any hope of putting themselves into the BCS Championship conversation, they need to take the Utes to the woodshed tonight.
Coach Dave Wannstedt has the weapons to put points on the board, with Heisman Trophy candidate RB Dion Lewis and likely NFL first- round pick WR Jon Baldwin stretching the defense. Lewis ran for 1,799 yards last year, and he should have a big game in Salt Lake City against Utah’s defense, who lost its top four tacklers and replaced seven starters from 2009.
Utah’s defensive coordinator is likely hoping to take advantage of the inexperienced offensive linemen of Pittsburgh by dialing up some special blitzes and stunts.
Utah’s talented offense is led by sophomore QB Jordan Wynn, who threw for 338 yards and 3 TD passes against California last year in the Poinsettia Bowl. Additionally, first-team All-Mountain West Conference running back Eddie Wide returns.
Pittsburgh has two of the best defensive ends in the country: seniors Jabaal Sheard and Greg Romeus. The Panthers will need Sheard and Romeus to put pressure on Wynn because Pitt will be starting two new cornerbacks against Utah.
Prediction: Pittsburgh grinds it out slowly in Utah, 24-17.
Notre Dame Gets Brian Kelly Era Off to a Good Start Against Purdue
This game might be the beginning of a great coaching rivalry between second-year Purdue coach Danny Hope, who upset Ohio State last year, and new Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, who almost crashed the BCS Championship party with Cincinnati last year.
In addition to new faces on the sideline, there are new faces behind center for each team.
Purdue is led by Miami transfer Robert Marve. As a freshman for the 'Canes, Marve threw for 1,293 yards and completed more than 54 percent of his passes. Look for him to throw often to Keith Smith, who had 91 catches and 1,100 receiving yards for the Boilermakers last season.
This game will likely determine whether the hype surrounding Marve was justified and whether Purdue can be a spoiler in the Big Ten. Adding to the story line of the game is that Marve was recruited by Kelly when he was at Cincinnati.
Notre Dame is led by junior QB Dayne Crist. Crist has several solid weapons at his disposal, including RB Armando Allen, TE Kyle Rudolph, and WR Michael Floyd. The key for Notre Dame is Floyd, who averaged 18 yards a catch and scored 9 touchdowns despite missing several games last year.
If Purdue is to upset Notre Dame in South Bend, Big Ten sack leader Ryan Kerrigan and his teammates will have to put constant pressure on Crist before he can find Floyd, as the Boilermakers have replaced their entire secondary in 2010.
Prediction: The Kelly bandwagon starts early; Notre Dame beats Purdue 31-21 to begin BCS Bowl talk.
No. 7 TCU Keeps Rodgers Boys and No.24 Oregon State in Check
Are the Horned Frogs back after their disappointing loss to Boise State last year? Or will it be a happy homecoming deep in the heart of Texas for the Rodgers boys?
TCU is led by QB Andy Dalton, who hopes to pass football legend Slingin' Sammy Baugh for the most victories in school history with a win over the Beavers in the season opener. Dalton is a dual threat who threw for over 2,700 yards and ran for 500 yards in 2009. Dalton also makes few mistakes; he has thrown only 24 interceptions in 1,001 career attempts.
The Frogs return most of the starters from their stingy 4-2-5 defense that allowed only 240 yards a game. Linebacker Tank Carder’s star appears to be rising, and with three experienced linemen (Kelly Griffin, Cory Grant and Wayne Daniels) in front of him, Carder should be able to wreak some havoc this season.
Jacquizz Rodgers is ready. “I can’t wait for it, at this part of the year everyone interviews you with the same questions mostly. You get tired of it. How are you and (brother) James approaching his senior year, Heisman talk and the TCU game and family and friends?"
Jacquizz should be used to the attention, as he rushed for 1,440 yards on his way to 21 rushing TDs last year. James has garnered his fair share of attention as well: his 5,077 all-purpose yards place him in second in the NCAA among active players.
The question will be whether the new Oregon State QB, sophomore Ryan Katz, can limit mistakes—like his TCU counterpart—in his first game as a starter. Coach Mike Riley has confidence in Katz, saying that “he has a wonderful arm. He is pretty much unstoppable, so I don’t think he’ll be intimidated by anything.”
On the defensive side of the ball for Oregon State, don’t overlook DT Stephen Paea, who returns after flirting with the idea of leaving early for the NFL.
Prediction: The Frogs took the awe factor out of playing in Cowboys Stadium by holding a couple of their practices there, whereas OSU’s quarterback Katz may be a little star-struck early playing under the bright lights. I like TCU, 27-17.
No. 21 LSU Survives Defensive Slugfest with No. 18 North Carolina
In Baton Rouge, the question for Coach Les Miles appears to be "what have you done for us lately?"
LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson knows all too well that his coach is on the hot seat. "It didn't surprise me when I got asked about the hot seat a couple of times," Jefferson said. "I knew the question was going to come, but we're going to keep him off the hot seat. There's not going to be any hot seat for Les Miles."
LSU athletics director Joe Alleva may have put Miles on the “coaching watch list” last January with an open letter to fans on LSU's website.
"LSU had a nice season in 2009 with nine wins and a New Year's Day bowl game," Alleva said. "On the other hand, being 'nice' is not our annual goal. We intend to contend for and win championships."
The letter was posted on Jan. 11, 10 days after LSU’s 19-17 bowl loss to Penn State in the Capital One Bowl.
North Carolina’s Head Coach Butch Davis has his own problems to worry about in Chapel Hill; several Tar Heels players are under investigation by the NCAA for improper contact with agents, and the university is looking into potential academic misconduct by a former tutor.
Additionally, on Wednesday, North Carolina announced that preseason first-team All-ACC DT Marvin Austin will miss the game against LSU.
Fortunately for Davis and Carolina Blue fans, the Tar Heels have four more preseason first-team All-ACC defensive players to pick up the slack, including the best player of the defensive unit, LB Quan Sturdivant.
Prediction: North Carolina likely has too much on its mind to beat the Tigers; LSU will win a defensive slugfest, 17-10.
Will No. 4 Boise State Against No. 10 Virginia Tech Live Up to the Hype?
This game pits two of the best college programs in the nation, and two that get the least amount of respect from your average college football fan.
The Broncos have gone 49-4 in Head Coach Chris Petersen's four seasons at the helm, and last year became only the second team in NCAA history to record a 14-0 season.
Virginia Tech just extended the contract of Coach Frank Beamer through 2016 as thanks for guiding the Hokies to their sixth straight season with 10 or more wins.
Despite what both programs have accomplished, the loser of this game will likely see their BCS Championship Game hopes come to an end.
While both teams have historically held their opponents to less than 20 points a game, the advantage in this game has to go the offense.
Boise State is led by QB Kellen Moore, who threw 39 TDs while only being intercepted three times and finished second in the nation in passing efficiency. Expect Moore to have another fantastic year with two All-American candidate wideouts in Titus Young (79 catches, 1041 yards, 10 TDs) and Austin Pettis (63 catches, 855 yards and 14 TDs).
The running game is by committee, with senior Jeremy Avery leading the way. The Broncos averaged 186 yards on the ground last year.
The Hokies quarterback Tyrod Taylor drawing favorable comparisons from Coach Beamer to arguably the best quarterback in Virginia Tech history: “I feel the same way with him out there as I did when Michael Vick was out there,” said Beamer, “Any play has a chance of going a long ways.”
While Taylor “only” threw for 2,300 yards last year, the top six receivers for the Hokies return, so everybody should be on the same page if Virginia Tech goes to a no-huddle offense.
Behind Taylor are two running backs who have each rushed for more than 1,200 yards and 10 TDs in a season.
Darren Evans, coming off a knee injury that sidelined him last year, ran for 1,265 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2008. Not to be outdone, Ryan Williams ran for 1,655 yards and 21 touchdowns last year.
Prediction: While it would be an amazing story for the Broncos to go undefeated again this season, the funny bounces that occur in football suggest that the bewitching hour is close at hand. The Hokies, playing in front of a friendly crowd at a neutral site, should outlast the Broncos, 31-28.