Week One of the college football season is upon us, and though this week has the usual cupcakes facing the major powers, there are more than a handful of intriguing matchups to get us excited.
Gazing into the crystal ball, here is how I see Week One unfolding.
Vanderbilt at Miami (OH)
The strength for both teams is on the defensive side of the ball. Vanderbilt returns only three starters from an offense that wasn’t good last season. Miami returns an offense that was serviceable last season but had too many turnovers.
Vanderbilt, 24-17 Actual Score: Vanderbilt, 34 Miami (OH), 13
No. 23 Wake Forest at Baylor
Baylor first-year coach Art Briles will be able to improve the Bears, but it’s going to take some time. Wake Forest is far more developed as a program. This one won’t even be close.
Wake Forest, 38-10 Actual Score: Wake Forest, 41 Baylor, 13
NC State at South Carolina
Rebuilding NC State meets a South Carolina team that could be Steve Spurrier’s best yet. The Gamecock defense will prove far too much for the Wolfpack.
South Carolina, 35-20 Actual Score: South Carolina, 34 NC State, 0
Oregon State at Stanford
Oregon State breathed a sigh of relief when wide receiver Sammie Stroughter was granted a fifth year of eligibility. If the defense can produce like they did last season, the Beavers may surprise some teams. Stanford will be starting over after having some moderate success last season.
Oregon State, 31-20 Actual Score: Stanford, 36 Oregon State, 28
Syracuse at Northwestern
Northwestern returns an experienced quarterback in C.J. Bacher, an experienced running back in Tyrell Sutton, and a defense that should be improved. Syracuse is at rock bottom, and coach Greg Robinson will be fighting an uphill battle all season long.
Northwestern, 42-20 Actual Score: Northwestern, 30 Syracuse, 10
No. 3 USC at Virginia
Who will get the start for the Trojans: Mark Sanchez or Mitch Mustain? It won’t matter—USC’s defense will be too tough for a Virginia squad that is rebuilding after a ton of key losses. This could get really ugly.
USC, 54-21 Actual Score: USC, 52 Virginia, 7
Utah at Michigan
Utah returns its three biggest weapons on an offense that produced big numbers last season. Michigan returns almost no one from last season’s offense, but defensively the Wolverines should be dominant. Will that be enough to keep them in games? Utah has a pretty good defense of its own.
Utah, 27-24 Actual Score: Utah, 25 Michigan, 23
Oklahoma State at Washington State
It’s the dawn of a new era at Wazzu, but it will take some time to get this program moving in the right direction. Oklahoma State has the pieces in place to have a good season. They will have to show that they can be consistent.
Oklahoma State, 42-20 Actual Score: Oklahoma State, 39 Washington State, 13
Appalachian State at No. 7 LSU
Can the Mountaineers do the unthinkable two years in a row? LSU has a dominant defense and won’t overlook Armanti Edwards and the Appalachian State attack. The Mountaineer defense will struggle against the Tigers.
LSU, 41-27 Actual Score: LSU, 41 Appalachian State, 13
Florida Atlantic at No. 11 Texas
Howard Schnellenberger had to go and open his mouth. “Texas isn’t a tough, physical team,” he said. Ask Arizona State how tough and physical Texas can be when someone doubts them. Texas in a rout.
Texas, 58-24 Actual Score: Texas, 52 Florida Atlantic, 10
No. 24 Alabama at No. 9 Clemson
Everyone is pointing to the future for Alabama, but the time to start winning is now, as Bama returns key players on offense. Clemson has been here before: huge preseason hype, only to fall flat during the season. Bama slows down Clemson’s dynamic duo of running backs and wins a close one.
Alabama, 31-27 Actual Score: Alabama, 34 Clemson, 10
Michigan State at California
The Cal offense is facing a star power outage for now, but don’t bet on it lasting very long. The next group of Bear playmakers is only about a half-season from being steady and exciting producers. The Spartans return a steady QB, a killer RB, and a defense that could be one of the Big Ten’s best. This will be a close one.
Michigan State, 31-28 Actual Score: California, 38 Michigan State, 31
Washington at No. 21 Oregon
An injury to projected starting quarterback Nate Costa may throw a monkey wrench into Oregon’s plans. Backup Justin Roper doesn’t have the ability to make plays with his feet, but he was impressive in last season’s bowl game. Washington quarterback Jake Locker is fresh off the injury list himself. This could be unexpectedly close.
Oregon, 34-28 Actual Score: Oregon, 44 Washington, 10
Kentucky at Louisville
Louisville will improve upon last season’s disappointing season. Quarterback Hunter Cantwell will prove he was more than just an insurance policy to Brian Brohm. Kentucky is replacing everyone of note on the offense but does have a promising defense that surely won’t underachieve for a second season. Or will they?
Louisville, 38-24 Actual Score: Kentucky, 27 Louisville, 2
Fresno State at Rutgers
Rutgers needs to replace Ray Rice, which may prove to be more difficult than it seems. A big concern will be not getting predictable with the pass. Fresno State is tough and will provide a great opening day litmus test for the Scarlet Knights. The Bulldogs may prove to be too tough.
Fresno State, 31-27 Actual Score: Fresno State, 24 Rutgers, 7
No. 18 Tennessee at UCLA
It’s a new era for UCLA football, and new starting quarterback Kevin Craft will have trouble against the Tennessee pass defense, which could be one of the best in the nation. Tennessee’s Arian Foster will carry the load for the Volunteers and be the difference.
Tennessee, 30-24 Actual Score: UCLA, 27 Tennessee, 24 (OT)
Game of the Week
Aug. 30—No. 20 Illinois at No. 6 Missouri
Last season at this time, this game didn’t seem like that big of a deal. This season, it’s like a BCS bowl game. The Illini must find a replacement for Rashard Mendenhall, and Daniel Dufrene looks to be that guy. Missouri returns Chase Daniel and speedy receiver Jeremy Maclin to last season's Big 12 runner-up.
This will be a great opening week matchup that could go either way. My gut says...Illinois by a hair.
Illinois, 35-34 Actual Score: Missouri, 52 Illinois, 42
Aug. 30—East Carolina at No. 17 Virginia Tech
The Hokies took a beating through graduation and dismissals, losing their top receivers, three-quarters of the starting defensive line, two All-ACC linebackers, their leading rusher, and the placekicker. They had a tight game with East Carolina last season with those players.
The East Carolina Pirates return a loaded defense that excelled in takeaways last season. This will be the opening weekend shocker.
East Carolina, 21-17 Actual Score: East Carolina, 27 Virginia Tech, 22
This Week: 13-5
For the year: 13-5