College Football: 10 First-Weekend Upsets to Watch out for in College Football

Eric Galko@OptimumScoutingFeatured ColumnistJune 12, 2011

College Football: 10 First-Weekend Upsets to Watch out for in College Football

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    GREENVILLE, NC - SEPTEMBER 05:  DeAndre Presley #2 of the Appalachian State Mountaineers drops back to throw a pass against the East Carolina Pirates at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on September 5, 2009 in Greenville, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Ge
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    The start of a new college football season begins with hype, educated guesses of top 25 rankings, tons of conference previews and preseason All-Americans.

    It also begins with every team having zero wins and zero losses. So by the end of the first week of college football, around half of the FBS teams fighting for a perfect season will have their dreams cut out. Some teams can't expect to go undefeated based on their enrollment, program prestige, returning seniors, or overall conference strength.

    However, many of the top teams across the country try to start out with an "easier" game in Week 1. Still, these 10 games could make those projected "tune up games" into potential Week 1 upsets.

Tulsa at Oklahoma

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    GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 01:  Landry Jones #12 of the Oklahoma Sooners throws the ball against the Connecticut Huskies during the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl at the Universtity of Phoenix Stadium on January 1, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Peters
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Probably the least likely of any upsets on this list, Oklahoma is viewed as the favorite by many to win the BCS title. That's thanks to the numerous returning seniors on offense and defense and two Heisman contenders in quarterback Landry Jones and receiver Ryan Broyles.

    However, Tulsa should not be treated like a cupcake game to start the season. If it wasn't for such a difficult schedule, they'd be in the mix for one of the best teams in their conference and maybe even a Top 25 team.

    Quarterback G.J. Kinne and receiver Damaris Johnson should be productive all year, and could provide explosive plays all season, including in Week 1.

    Oklahoma should still pull this in a shootout, but this could be a good way for Tulsa to show the C-USA and the rest of the country that they can be deadly this season.

East Carolina at South Carolina (in Charlotte)

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    COLUMBIA, SC - NOVEMBER 06:  Jerico Nelson #31 of the Arkansas Razorbacks tries to stop Marcus Lattimore #21 of the South Carolina Gamecocks during their game at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 6, 2010 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter L
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Battle of the Carolina's (sort of), South Carolina is maybe the the SEC East favorite, while East Carolina is likely to finish around .500.

    Still, while South Carolina has the firepower of quarterback Stephen Garcia and two potential Heisman candidates in receiver Alshon Jeffery and running back Marcus Lattimore, the Pirates of East Carolina can still potentially strike some fear.

    Last year, the Pirates scored at least 35 points in every game but two: against Virginia Tech and North Carolina, both on the road. Senior quarterback Dominique Davis has the talent to make defenses pay, and in his first year at ECU, he lead them to the 8th passing team in the country.

    South Carolina has the SEC depth and the offensive firepower to win this one, but it may be an unsure shootout in Week 1 if they aren't careful and prepared.

West Michigan at Michigan

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    JACKSONVILLE, FL - JANUARY 01:  Quarterback Denard Robinson #16 of the Michigan Wolverines passes against the Mississippi State Bulldogs during the Gator Bowl at EverBank Field on January 1, 2011 in Jacksonville, Florida  (Photo by Rick Dole/Getty Images)
    Rick Dole/Getty Images

    Michigan knows all too well about Week 1 unexpected losses at the Big House, but this year looks to be different. While new coach Brady Hoke will inherit a team that wasn't built for his system necessarily, he does return nine offensive starters, including three receivers and Big Ten OPOY Denard Robinson, and seven defensive starters.

    Still, Week 1 against a MAC foe isn't going to be as easy as it sounds. They might be facing one of the toughest quarterbacks they'll see all year (with the exception of Kirk Cousins at Michigan State and Ryan Lindley at San Diego State) in Alex Carder of Western Michigan.

    Only a junior, he has future MAC phenom written all over him if he can feel more comfortable in the pocket and continue to develop.

    Michigan has a chance this year to seize the Ohio State misfortunes and the athleticism of Denard Robinson into a potential Big Ten title run. But before they get to Big Ten play or even Notre Dame, they'll need to start 1-0 against Western Michigan.

Montana at Tennessee

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    COLUMBIA, SC - OCTOBER 30:  Tyler Bray #8 of the Tennessee Volunteers against the South Carolina Gamecocks during their game at Williams-Brice Stadium on October 30, 2010 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    After a Week 1 stomping of Tennessee-Martin, the Tennessee "volunteered" to give Oregon, Florida, LSU, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and almost UAB a win early in the season. This year, coach Derek Dooley needs to start out with a bang.

    Montana struggled a year ago unexpectedly, but they are perennial Big Sky contenders, one of the best FCS conferences. However, they still finished in the top 10 in total defense a year ago at the FCS ranks, and with Nate Montana and a hungry Montana team, they could come out swinging.

    Even with the impressive play at times by Tyler Bray at quarterback and Tauren Poole at running back a year ago, they have four sophomores and a junior starting on the offensive line and  only two returning defensive front seven players.

    This team's best win last year was against Kentucky in a 24-14 win at home, so they should treat every game like a crucial, must-win match each and every week.

Southern Methodist at Texas A&M

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    DALLAS - SEPTEMBER 24:  Quarterback Kyle Padron #2 of the SMU Mustangs celebrates a touchdown in the third quarter against the TCU Horned Frogs at Gerald J. Ford Stadium on September 24, 2010 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Now we get to the real potential Week 1 upsets.

    SMU, lead by quarterback Kyle Padron and, maybe more importantly, head coach June Jones, are fastly becoming a team that could compete for a C-USA crown and a top 25 ranking.

    Many are excited to jump on the Texas A&M bandwagon as the second best team in the Big 12, with quarterback Ryan Tannehill on NFL Draft board radars and the explosive Cyrus Gray and Jeff Fuller coming back. And with 18 starters returning, they may very well be in the BCS mix by season's end.

    An experienced secondary, playmakers on offense, and a head coach ready to win now: that's what BOTH teams have to offer, and though Texas A&M may have the depth and more NFL talent, they can't treat the Mustangs lightly in Week 1.

Appalachian State at Virginia Tech

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    GREENVILLE, NC - SEPTEMBER 05:  Travaris Cadet #7 of the Appalachian State Mountaineers runs with the ball against the East Carolina Pirates at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on September 5, 2009 in Greenville, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Image
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    The good ole Appalachian State Mountaineers. Safe to say they are maybe the most noted upset in recent college football history, and could pull off yet another major upset again this year.

    Currently ranked 3rd in the Sporting News Top 25 for the FCS ranks, they easily could finish as the champs of the FCS once again, especially with senior quarterback DeAndre Presley and receiver Brian Quick.

    The Hokies lost their two top running backs and one of the most decorated quarterbacks in their history in Tyrod Taylor. Sophomore Logan Thomas plays a lot differently than Taylor did, being 6'6'' and 245 pounds, but he'll have two great receivers in Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale, both potential NFL prospects.

    The Hokies should take this game very seriously, being their best match-up they'll play until October, but the Mountaineers wont be scared going to Lane Stadium, and it should be a must see match-up Week 1.

James Madison at North Carolina

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    CHAPEL HILL, NC - NOVEMBER 13:  Head coach Butch Davis of the North Carolina Tar Heels reacts to a play against the Virginia Tech Hokies during their game at Kenan Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Gett
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Butch Davis, head coach of the Tar Heels, had to deal with a lot last year, holding the team together through the allegations and reports and the players suspended/kicked off the team.

    This year, he'll have a chance to start fresh, with mostly a whole new crop on offense and some talented defenders that stepped up a year ago.

    However, as much as he'd like to start this team off with a win, and that usually is the plan against an FCS team, it won't be an "easy" win for this team.

    Formerly a CAA power (and that means more than most non-BCS conferences), James Madison has struggled the past two years. But with Kansas State transfer Billy Cosh at quarterback, this team feels it can compete in the CAA, and with that means they think that they can compete with just about any team in the country.

    With a new quarterback and mostly new secondary, they should be a bit worried, but North Carolina has the depth and potential NFL talent to win this game. That's if they can keep their composure, of course.

Montana State at Utah

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    SOUTH BEND, IN - NOVEMBER 13: Jordan Wynn #3 of the Utah Utes looks for a recevier against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium on November 13, 2010 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Utah 28-3. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Imag
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Another Big Sky foe that could play upset team in Week 1 is another team from the state of Montana.

    Montana State, one of the two teams that gave FCS champion Eastern Washington a loss last year, features an offense that has the firepower to not only give Eastern Washington a run for their money, but give newly added Pac-12 team Utah a scare early as well.

    Montana State features quarterback DeNarius Moore, who threw for over 3,000 yards and 23 touchdowns with only six interceptions last year in his first season with the team, and running back Orenzo Davis, who was almost kicked off the team this offseason, who had 1,126 yards and 10 touchdowns last year.

    Utah returns quarterback Jordan Wynn, who lead the offense to have the 23rd ranked scoring offense in the nation last year. However, the team's leading returning rusher had only 124 yards, and they have only three returning defensive starters, all linebackers, which doesn't bode well against a passing attack like Montana State.

South Florida at Notre Dame

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    SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 25: Head coach Brian Kelly of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish watches as his team takes on the Stanford Cardinal at Notre Dame Stadium on September 25, 2010 in South Bend, Indiana. Stanford defeated Notre Dame 37-14.  (Photo by Jo
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Athlon Sports, one of the best magazines in previewing college football every year, has Notre Dame ranked 6th in their preseason polls. And I've seen others that feel the Fighting Irish not only should be back in the 8-9 win range consistently, but also in the heart of the BCS mix.

    While they have 16 returning starters, including playmakers such as Michael Floyd at receiver, Cierre Wood at running back, Harrison Smith at safety, and first team All-American Manti Te'o at linebacker, they'll have to start off with South Florida, at Michigan, and then Michigan State—three not so easy wins.

    South Florida will be their first test, with a team that is healthy again this year, has six returning defensive starters for a team that was in the top 25 in every major category last year, and returns the Big East's best quarterback athlete in BJ Daniels.

    Notre Dame has the talent to stop them and compete, but it won't be a walk in the park for the Irish as they start out the year trying to get back to 10 wins and a top 10 finish.

William & Mary at Virginia

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    ATLANTA - OCTOBER 09:  Head coach Mike London of the Virginia Cavaliers against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Bobby Dodd Stadium on October 9, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Reaching the NCAA football PLAYOFFS (at the FCS level, of course) for two straight seasons is always a great accomplishment, but after a surprise loss to Georgia Southern last year in the first round, William & Mary should be hungry this year to win again.

    With quarterback Michael Paulus, one of the best in the FCS at his position, he has a chance to lead his team to a CAA title, a potential FCS National Title, and a win over Virginia in Week 1.

    Virginia's head coach knows what it's like for these FCS teams playing the big boys, as Mike London was the Richmond head coach just two years ago. With lots of talent in the secondary and the defensive line, William & Mary's Paulus won't have an easy road for the upset, but it should be a test for both teams to see where they stand for the rest of the year.

     

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