College Football Predictions 2011: TCU, Other Teams on Week 1 Upset Alert

Alex Joseph@alex_brosephAnalyst IAugust 30, 2011

College Football Predictions 2011: TCU, Other Teams on Week 1 Upset Alert

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    College football officially begins this Thursday night at 6 p.m. EST with a matchup of Murray State at Louisville. 

    While this may not be the most exciting matchup, it's still a starting point.

    No. 11-ranked Wisconsin and No. 20-ranked Mississippi State are the only two ranked teams playing on Thursday, but do either have a chance of being upset? 

    It's possible. But it's Week 1, anything is possible. That's the beauty of it. 

    Highly ranked programs normally schedule "cake" games in order to get their season started correctly, so in that regard, a Week 1 upset is hard to imagine.

    But because it's the first week, the first AP Poll has to be taken with a grain of salt, as the "greatness" of these teams has been measured on speculation rather than performance. 

    With that in mind, Week 1 upsets seem pretty valid. So who is going to be unlucky this year? 

    I've looked at the top 25 according to the AP Poll and measured the likelihood of each team's upset alert.

    Let the football and speculation begin. 

No. 1 Oklahoma vs. Tulsa

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    Upset Alert: Low

    Final Score Prediction: 49-17, Oklahoma

    It's always hard to imagine a No. 1-ranked team losing in the opening week to an unranked opponent, and that statement remains true for this game.

    That doesn't mean that Tulsa won't put up a good fight, though. 

    Tulsa's G.J. Kinne is back for his senior season, and he is ready to put Tulsa on the map. Last year, Kinne led the Golden Hurricanes offensive attack, which averaged the sixth highest point total per game last season at 41.4 points. 

    Unfortunately for Tulsa, its stand-out wide receiver Damaris Johnson has been suspended indefinitely after being questioned by the police about his girlfriend's arrest on an embezzlement complaint. 

    In the end, Oklahoma's talent outweighs Tulsa's at nearly every position. The Sooners also playing in Norman where they have only lost two games in the Bob Stoops era (1999-present). 

    The Sooners look poised to be great this season, and their success will start with an easy win over Tulsa.

No. 2 Alabama vs. Kent State

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    Upset Alert: Very Low

    Final Score Prediction: 45-7, Alabama 

    Remember when I said that great programs usually schedule a "cake" game to begin their season? 

    Yeah, this is one of those times.

    No disrespect to Kent State, though. It just doesn't have what it takes to compete with the likes of Alabama. 

    With Greg McElroy, Julio Jones and Mark Ingram all in the NFL, Alabama will surely have some holes to fill in its offense.

    Running back Trent Richardson is expected to step up this season as the leader of the offense. Richardson averaged 6.5 yards per carry last season and looked virtually unstoppable at times.

    If the Tide can get their offense going, they may be the most well-balanced team in the country. Alabama finished with the third-ranked defense in the NCAA last season, and it has the chance to even better that this season.

    Alabama will pick up a more than easy victory at home against an utterly defenseless Kent State squad.

No. 3 Oregon at No. 4 LSU

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    Upset Alert: Medium-High

    Final Score Prediction: 27-17, Oregon 

    This game was a lot more interesting before the Jordan Jefferson scandal. Jefferson, who was the projected starting QB for the Tigers, will definitely be out for this game.

    That puts backup quarterback Jarrett Lee in the starting lineup. In limited time last season, Lee completed 54-of-89 pass attempts for 573 yards and two touchdowns.

    This time around, Lee will have one less target to throw to. Starting wide receiver Russell Shepard will also miss the season opener for an unrelated NCAA rules violation. 

    Before all this happened, I would have given a slight edge to LSU. The game is in Dallas, so the crowd is going to be LSU-dominant, and I really just thought LSU might be more talented. 

    Without Jefferson and Shepard, though, Oregon gets an immediate edge. LaMichael James should be a focal point for the Ducks in this game, so if LSU can stop the run and get average to above average play out of Lee, it might still have a chance.

    Regardless, it's going to be an uphill battle for the Tigers, and I'm not just talking about this game. 

    Look for the game to be close until Oregon pulls away in the fourth quarter. 

No. 5 Boise State at No. 19 Georgia

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    Upset Alert: Medium-High 

    Final Score Prediction: 24-21, Boise State 

    This could very well be the most interesting game in Week 1: an experienced, well-trained Boise State team meets a young and extremely athletic Georgia squad. 

    The current line on this game is Boise (-3), and I think that's going to be about right. 

    Kellen Moore is back for his senior season and should post good enough numbers for Heisman Trophy contention. 

    Last season, Moore threw for 3,506 yards and 33 touchdowns. He was sixth in the nation in passing yards per game, and the Broncos as a whole had the second highest scoring team in the nation at 45.1 points per game.

    But Boise State isn't all offense; it also had the second best defense in the nation, only allowing 12.8 points per game. 

    Of course, these stats are inflated due to the lack of competition the Broncos are always up against, but they are still a very, very good team. 

    Georgia, on the other hand, is coming off a disappointing season in which it finished 6-7. The Bulldogs hope to build on their disappointment and draw from their limited experience this season. 

    Even though losing A.J. Green hurts, the Bulldogs still return 14 starters. It might take some time for the Bulldogs to develop, but they will be good this year.

    Unfortunately for them, the Broncos are good already. Because this game is being played in Georgia, the Bulldogs should benefit from crowd support and have enough adrenaline going to keep them in the game. 

    They might even hold a lead for the majority of the second half, but in the end, Moore and the Broncos will get the job done.

    Like always. 

No. 6 Florida State vs. Louisiana-Monroe

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    Upset Alert: Low

    Final Score Prediction: 42-21, Florida State

    Sure, I could be a realist and say that Florida State is more talented than Louisiana-Monroe, therefore LMU stands very little chance, but where's the fun in that?

    If this game were in Louisiana rather than Florida, I'd even make it closer than three touchdowns. Regardless, I think LMU will cover the current spread (+28.5) and make things tough for Florida State, even if it is only for a quarter or two. 

    With first-round draft pick Christian Ponder gone, you would think FSU would have a tough transition period trying to find a replacement. That's not the case.

    E.J. Manuel is getting high praise from his peers. The junior quarterback who has only started six games in his two-year career was picked to be the ACC's preseason first-team QB. 

    In his limited playing time, Manuel has certainly shown he can get the job done, and his size makes him very imposing: 6'5" and 245 pounds. 

    He can throw, he can run and he can win. That should be the recipe for a winning season at FSU.

    But he won't be the only QB in this game looking to prove something. 

    LMU's sophomore quarterback Kolton Browning is looking to improve on a stellar freshman season: 2,552 passing yards, 385 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns.

    With a full year of experience under his belt, Browning already has a leg up on Manuel.

    Unfortunately, that leg doesn't have near the athleticism or potential. 

No. 7 Stanford vs. San Jose State

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    Upset Alert: Very Low

    Final Score Prediction: 51-7, Stanford 

    This season Stanford has to prove to both the fans and themselves that it isn't just "The Andrew Luck Show."

    This can be thrown out the window for its Week 1 matchup against San Jose State.

    San Jose State finished 1-12 in a weak WAC conference last season, but to be fair, it was under a first-year head coach, did fall victim to injuries and played a really tough non-conference schedule that had it playing at Wisconsin and Alabama.

    The good news for the Spartans is they didn't lose any starters on defense. The bad news is they gave up 463.7 yards per game last season, which was good enough to rank them No. 117 out of 120 NCAA teams. 

    San Jose State will probably finish better than 1-12 this season, but its win streak won't start at Stanford. 

    Luck, a Heisman Trophy hopeful and future No. 1 NFL draft pick, should be able to throw all over the Spartans defense. 

    This game should just be one step up from full-contact practice for the Cardinals. 

No. 8 Texas A&M vs. Southern Methodist

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    Upset Alert: Low-Medium

    Final Score Prediction: 38-24, Texas A&M

    A&M should take care of business in this game. Like most of the other games so far, one team (A&M) has better talent and it's playing in front of their home crowd.

    Speaking of which, Kyle Field is one of the toughest places to play in college football. A&M's infamous "12th Man" should be all over Southern Methodist in Week 1. 

    But for some reason, I really like the idea of SMU making this a close game. 

    SMU is returning 18 of its starters this season, including junior QB Kyle Padron and junior RB Zach Line. 

    Last season, Padron threw for 3,828 yards and 31 touchdowns while Line ran for 1,494 yards and 10 touchdowns. 

    SMU ended up finishing 7-7 in C-USA last season, and I like it as an underdog favorite to win it this year.

    As much as I like putting all my hope into this SMU team, A&M really will have too much talent and experience. 

    A&M basically returns its entire offense and really only has to replace Von Miller on defense. I'm not saying "only" like it will be easy to replace a No. 2 draft pick, but the Aggies should be feeling good if they only lost one key player on defense. 

    Senior wide receiver Jeff Fuller should stand out in this game. If he has a great season, like most expect he will, Fuller should be a first-round draft pick. 

    SMU will surprise some people in this game, but A&M will prove to be victorious. 

No. 9 Oklahoma State vs. Louisiana-Lafayette

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    Upset Alert: Very Low

    Final Score Prediction: 55-21, Oklahoma State

    Kendall Hunter has moved on to the NFL where he has proven himself in the preseason for the San Francisco 49ers, but QB Brandon Weeden and star wide receiver Justin Blackmon are going to keep OSU's offense relevant all season. 

    Louisiana-Lafayette finished 3-9 in the Sun Belt last season, but that didn't stop it from giving OSU a scare. 

    The Ragin' Cajuns actually held a halftime lead on the Cowboys last season, but that was quickly put to rest in the second half. The Cowboys eventually won 54-28, but not without making a lot of mistakes.

    This season, the Cowboys appear to be even better, and the Cajuns are going through a coaching change and only return five starters on their offense.

    They just won't have the firepower to keep up. 

    One thing to watch for in this game will be the battle between each team's best offensive threat.

    For OSU, Blackmon is a Heisman Trophy candidate and an assured top 10 draft pick. For Lafayette, Ladarius Green is a 6'6", 230-pound playmaker at tight end. 

    Both will end up in the NFL, but which will end up on top in this game?

    Blackmon. Always Blackmon.  

No. 10 Nebraska vs. Chattanooga

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    Upset Alert: Very Low

    Final Score Prediction: 49-14, Nebraska

    Nebraska is going to be good this year. The Huskers will likely be competing with Wisconsin all year for the best record in the Big Ten, and they should take care of business against Chattanooga. 

    Then again, why wouldn't a top 10-ranked team beat a Division 1-AA team?

    Oh yeah, I guess we should ask Michigan about that. 

    Chattanooga is currently ranked No. 14 in Division 1-AA, and it should have enough moxie to give the Cornhuskers a run for their money for awhile. 

    Eventually, though, Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez is going to shine. Martinez's dual-threat capabilities will keep the Mocs' defense on their toes, and sometimes off their toes. 

    This will be a big game for Nebraska to prove to the rest of the Big Ten that it isn't just crashing their party, they're crashing it and stealing all their women. 

    Martinez will prove to be one of the most exciting quarterbacks in college football this season. 

No. 11 Wisconsin vs. UNLV

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    Upset Alert: Very Low

    Final Score Prediction: 45-10, Wisconsin

    Yet again, this looks like it's going to be another Week 1 blowout.

    Wisconsin lost some few key starters off its fifth-ranked offense, including QB Scott Tolzien, but sophomore RB James White is poised to have a great season.

    As a freshman, White ran for 1,052 yards and 14 touchdowns. He did this while averaging 6.7 yards a carry. This was good enough for fifth in the country.

    White could definitely be a dark horse contender for the Heisman Trophy, especially if Wisconsin wins the Big Ten.

    For UNLV, its hopes and dreams look a little different this season. After finishing 2-11 in the Mountain West, the Rebels are only returning 12 starters and are one of the youngest teams in college football.

    To be honest, this could very well be a bigger blowout than 45-10, I was just trying to give UNLV some credit.  

No. 12 South Carolina vs. East Carolina

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    Upset Alert: Low-Medium

    Final Score Prediction: 38-20, South Carolina

    Being that this game is played at a neutral location, I would like East Carolina's odds more for an upset if it were just more experienced.

    East Carolina only returns eight starters this season, but one of them is its standout quarterback Dominique Davis. 

    Last season, Davis threw for 3,967 yards and 37 touchdowns. The 3,967 yards were good enough to make him the No. 4 quarterback in the country (in terms of yards) last year. 

    Davis definitely has the ability to pick apart South Carolina's defense, which only returns six starters this season, but will he have enough help around him?

    ECU wide receiver Lance Lewis has to be the guy who steps up for his team this year. Dwayne Harris was Davis' main target last season, but he has since been drafted by the Dallas Cowboys.

    What South Carolina needs to do to win this game is simple: Throw it to Alshon Jeffery and hand it off to Marcus Lattimore. 

    This is going to be the game-plan all season for the Gamecocks. Jeffery is a top five WR in the country, and Lattimore is another Heisman hopeful. 

    Together, they might be able to compensate for quarterback Stephen Garcia's up-and-down play. 

    ECU will make the Gamecocks work for it, but lack of experience should hurt the team in the end.

No. 13 Virginia Tech vs. Appalachian State

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    Upset Alert: Medium 

    Final Score Prediction: 31-21, Virginia Tech

    As owners of the easiest schedule in college football, the Virginia Tech Hokies start off the season with a tougher-than-it-might-seem type of game. 

    After shocking Michigan in 2007, Appalachian State has really been put on the map. It won the Division 1-AA title three years in a row (2005-2007), but have exited the playoffs early ever since. 

    The Mountaineers lost three players to the NFL draft, so they will be looking to rebuild, especially on their offensive line. 

    The Hokies are also in rebuilding mode after losing arguably the most successful QB in Virginia Tech history, Tyrod Taylor. 

    But the Hokies have something not many other teams have: Logan Thomas, a 6'6", 254-pound quarterback. 

    Thomas is a converted tight end who has a rocket for an arm. Because of his size, Thomas has drawn a lot of comparison to last year's Heisman Trophy winner, Cam Newton. 

    It might be too soon to make that comparison, but Thomas looks to be on the right track. 

    The only problem with this is that Thomas will need time and experience to develop into a Newton-type of player, and this experience has to start Week 1 against a scary Appalachian State team. 

    The Mountaineers have proved to be worthy of consideration and might even hold a halftime lead, but the Hokies should pull away in the second half. 

No. 14 TCU at Baylor

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    Upset Alert: High

    Final Score Prediction: 21-27, Baylor

    Baylor finished 7-6 in a competitive Big 12 Conference last season, and it is returning nine starters on offense, including star QB Robert Griffin III. 

    Last season, Griffin threw for 3,501 yards and 22 touchdowns. He also ran for 635 yards and eight touchdowns. 

    He is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country, and a TCU defense that only returns five starters might have some trouble with him. 

    I'm giving the edge to Baylor in this game because Griffin will be the best player on the field and it's a home game. 

    TCU might be ranked No. 14, but it will likely finish the year lower than that. Sophomore TCU QB Casey Pachall will be making his first start and the game will be nationally televised.

    That may not sound like a big deal, but I would take the senior Griffin over the sophomore Pachall any day, especially if the category was "stepping up in a big game." 

    Griffin has the experience, Pachall will no doubt be nervous.

    Baylor wins a hard-fought game at home and shocks the Horned Frogs. 

No. 15 Arkansas vs. Missouri State

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    Upset Alert: Very Low

    Final Score Prediction: 51-13, Arkansas

    Oh look, another blowout. Who knew?

    Arkansas should definitely feel the loss of star QB Ryan Mallett, who is now Tom Brady's backup in New England, but junior Tyler Wilson will step in and do a good impression of Mallett this season.

    Wilson only earned one start last season (when Mallett was injured) and he did not lead his team to victory. Granted, the loss came against eventual NCAA champion Auburn, but that still couldn't have felt great.

    He played well, though. He completed 25-of-34 passes for 332 yards and four touchdowns. This should be a good sign of things to come this season.

    The passing game should definitely be opened up because junior running back Knile Davis returns and is poised for a great year. He averaged 6.5 yards per carry last season and led the Razorbacks with 1,322 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns.

    The biggest question concerning the Razorbacks will be their offensive line where they have to replace three starters, but that shouldn't be much of a concern against Missouri State.

    Arkansas will win this one big. 

No. 16 Notre Dame vs. South Florida

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    Upset Alert: Medium

    Final Score Prediction: 31-20, Notre Dame

    Senior Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd is the obvious candidate for best player in this game, but South Florida QB B.J. Daniels might be the one to watch.

    Daniels is a dual-threat quarterback who has yet to reach his potential. Last season, Daniels threw more interceptions (13) than touchdowns (11) and was sacked 23 times.

    With almost all of the offensive line returning, Daniels should get more protection this season, which could result in better statistics. 

    Coming out of high school, Daniels was a 4-star recruit who was compared to Robert Griffin, E.J. Manuel and Darron Thomas. This could be the year he puts it all together. 

    Regardless, Notre Dame playing at home should win this game. They return in absurd amount of starters, 10 on offense and nine on defense, and Floyd is the real deal at wide receiver.

    Even though Notre Dame is experienced, I don't see it winning more than nine games this season. 

    Fortunately for the Irish, this is one they will win. 

No. 17 Michigan State vs. Youngstown State

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    Upset Alert: Very Low

    Final Score Prediction: 49-7, Michigan State 

    This will be over after the first quarter. 

    Michigan State is my dark horse candidate to win the Big Ten this season. It should give Wisconsin and Nebraska a run for their money.

    With that said, junior MSU running back Edwin Baker has an opportunity to be really good this season. He ran for 1,187 yards last season with 13 touchdowns. 

    In order to improve on these stats, the Baker will have to rely on the Spartans' young offensive line, which should be the only "question" about the Spartans offense as a whole. 

    The defense is another story. The loss of linebackers Greg Jones and Eric Gordon are sure to hurt the Spartans, but they will have enough time to figure that out. 

    This game will be a walk in the park for the Spartans.

    However, if this game was based on the coolest mascot, the Youngstown State Penguins would get my vote all day. 

No. 18 Ohio State vs. Akron

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    Upset Alert: Very Low

    Final Score Prediction: 56-7, Ohio State

    Needless to say, Ohio State has a lot to prove. 

    There's a new coach in town, Terrelle Pryor is gone and the Buckeyes are looking to right some wrongs. Luckily, they'll have an opportunity to. 

    Last season, Akron finished 1-11 in the MAC and ranked near the bottom of every category statistically. Now they start this season playing against an angry Ohio State team?

    Can you say "blowout"? 

    Ohio State is going to run the score up in this game without letting up. It wants to show the world that it wasn't just Pryor. 

    Sure, the Buckeyes get some buzz from critics and fans, but once Week 5 and 6 roll around and they're playing Michigan State and Nebraska back-to-back, I think that buzz will die down.

    They're going to miss Jim Tressel this year more than Pryor. That should show during conference play. 

    But this week they should be fine and the talk of the town. 

No. 20 Mississippi State at Memphis

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    Upset Alert: Very Low 

    Final Score Prediction: 38-10, Mississippi State 

    Mississippi State kind of shocked college football last season. The Bulldogs finished with a 9-4 record and were ranked No. 15 in the last AP Poll.

    This was a big deal due to the fact that they only had one single vote in either preseason poll. 

    With a balanced passing and rushing attack, the Bulldogs proved to be a tough opponent for every team they faced. 

    They return eight starters on offense, including senior running back Vick Ballard who rushed for 19 touchdowns last season. 

    The glaring weakness for the Bulldogs is at linebacker. They lost all three starting linebackers last season, so the Bulldogs will have to make due with little experience. 

    Memphis is another team that finished 1-11 last season. Here's a shocker: It doesn't look promising again this season.

    MSU wins easily. 

No. 21 Missouri vs. Miami (OH)

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    Upset Alert: Medium-High

    Final Score Prediction: 28-24, Missouri

    Miami (OH) is not only going to beat the +17 spread, it's going to make it laughable. 

    I would have it beating Missouri in this game, but I can't go against Missouri at home in a season opener. 

    Instead, this should be an exciting Week 1 matchup that surprises a lot of people. 

    Miami (OH) finished last season with a 10-4 record including a bowl victory against Middle Tennessee. This year it returns 17 starters (eight on offense, nine on defense) and look poised to take full control of the MAC. 

    Almost all of Missouri's offense returns, except for one big change: QB Blaine Gabbert was drafted.

    Let's not kid ourselves, Gabbert was great. Sophomore QB James Franklin is going to have to step in and make some big contributions in his first start to get Missouri by Miami (OH). 

    And yes, I'm aware that Missouri beat—no, that's not the right word—destroyed this team 51-13 last season, but that was last season.

    Miami (OH) is going to shock the world! 

No. 22 Florida vs. Florida Atlantic

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    Upset Alert: Very Low

    Final Score Prediction: 40-14, Florida

    Finishing 8-5 last season was actually a down year for Florida.

    This season has the potential to be different, and starting off with an easy win against Florida Atlantic should help things get going. 

    The key to the Gators this season will be the hopefully improved play of senior QB John Brantley. As a junior, Brantley threw for just more than 2,000 yards for nine touchdowns, but he also threw 10 interceptions.

    Florida's rushing attack looks promising with seniors Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps likely to split time, but in order for them to produce, Brantley is going to have to be able to take pressure off them. 

    New head coach Will Muschamp will bring a level of intensity to the Gators this season that will hopefully spark some quality play. 

    Week 1 should be a good game to see where they're currently at and where they need to be.

    Look for Florida to have some awkward first quarter possessions, but to turn it around quickly. 

No. 23 Auburn vs. Utah State

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    Upset Alert: Low-Medium

    Final Score Prediction: 30-14, Auburn

    Even though Auburn is only returning eight starters and looks to be in rebuilding mode, the Tigers shouldn't have too much trouble against Utah State. 

    I say this for two reasons: Utah State lost its best player, Diondre Borel, to the NFL draft and the game is being played in Auburn. 

    Like Florida, Auburn is going to be anchored by its running game this season. 

    Sophomore Michael Dyer and junior Onterio McCalebb might be the best running back tandem in college football. 

    Like most good tandems, their style of play compliments each other. McCalebb, who rushed for more than 800 yards last season, is built for speed. Dyer, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season, is more of a hard-nosed, find the hole-type of runner. 

    Obviously, the loss of Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 draft pick Cam Newton is going to hurt, but the Tigers don't have the leeway to mourn. 

    Junior QB Barrett Trotter is going to have to step up if Auburn wants to continue its winning ways. 

    This week will be a sloppy victory for the Tigers, but they won't be able to win like that every week. 

No. 24 West Virginia vs. Marshall

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    Upset Alert: Very Low

    Final Score Prediction: 49-17, West Virginia

    I can't wait to watch West Virginia this season. New head coach Dana Holgorsen is going to turn junior Geno Smith into a Heisman-caliber quarterback. 

    Before Holgorsen was hired at Oklahoma State, its offense was ranked No. 61 in the nation. After Holgorsen left, OSU was No. 2 in passing and No. 3 in scoring. 

    There's no doubt that West Virginia doesn't score at least 49 against Marshall, the problem is going to be the defense. Maybe not in this game, but it could be trouble as the season progresses.

    The Mountaineers only return four starters on a defense that was ranked No. 3 in total points scored against.

    There are seven seniors that are currently starting on the defense, though, so hopefully their limited experience will be less of a big deal.  

    Marshall just hasn't really been the same since Byron Leftwich left. Maybe he can go back for grad school. 

No. 25 USC vs. Minnesota

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    Upset Alert: Low 

    Final Score Prediction: 38-13, USC

    Minnesota was ranked No. 98 out of 120 in terms of defense last season, but it is returning nine starters.

    Unfortunately, it still isn't going to be any good. 

    USC QB Matt Barkley is going to be able to slice through the Golden Gophers defense rather easily. Senior running back Marc Tyler should also have a big game.

    The Trojans are looking to improve on an 8-5 season, but realistically, eight wins is probably a solid number for this season as well. 

    Minnesota has a new coaching staff that is looking to turn around a 3-9 season, but that isn't going to happen in the Big Ten this year. At best, Minnesota is a five-win team, but it could realistically only win two or three and I wouldn't be surprised. 

    USC should dominate this game from the first snap.