It's Christmas, baby! The first week of the season is upon us, and we're all really, really excited (everyone apart from my wife, Suzy, but that's another story)!
That's why there are so many exclamation points!
Speaking of exclamation points, "big" schools will want to be avoiding exclamation points—at this time of the year, it generally means upsets.
The VFA brings you a guide to some of the best games on today's schedule. Apologies to Kentucky vs. Western Kentucky: You didn't quite make the list.
UNLV at Wisconsin: Everyone's talking about the Badgers' new signal caller, Russell Wilson, and running back Montee Ball, as well as a fantastic night-time atmosphere in what will be a packed Camp Randall. We're not expecting a whole lot from UNLV, which isn't figured to compete in this Mountain West this year—or this game. Prediction: Randall Rockin'...Wisconsin by 30.
Mississippi State at Memphis: Mississippi State comes into Western Tennessee as a "dark horse favorite," meaning people fancy it to cause a few shocks in the SEC this year. To do that, MSU better avoid one of its own in Memphis. We think Chris Relf and Co. should be able to do that. But if the Tigers are to go to Graceland with a victory, they'd better give up less than their 40 points-per-game average. Prediction: Relf lights up the Mississippi Delta; MSU by 30.
TCU at Baylor: This is one of the games of the week, and it's not even on a Saturday! Robert Griffin is an incredible QB and will cause TCU's defense a whole lot of worry—but only if he get can through TCU's defensive line. And another big question for TCU: Can Casey Pachall take the reigns where Andy Dalton left off? Prediction: Wow in Waco...Baylor by 7.
Indiana State at Penn State: Sorry for being a little ignorant about the superpower that is Indiana State, but we'll throw it out there that they'd probably give Indiana a game this year (which probably says more about IU, if we're honest!). Going into Happy Valley, ISU will be facing a Penn State side with a point to prove after an underwhelming 2010. Lions fans will be praying for a comfortable warm-up before Alabama's visit to Happy Valley. Prediction: Penn State by 31.
Akron at Ohio State: This is the biggest game that no one should give a damn about this season. The Buckeyes are going to beat the crap out of the Zips, regardless of how many players they've got suspended (that's four, by the way). It's going to be a bigger trial for QB Joe Bauserman, who recently got the starting job at The Horseshoe. Prediction: Ohio State by 41.
Northwestern at Boston College: Dan Persa's Heisman campaign gets off and running against upset-minded BC in a game that should definitely get some tongues wagging. It's going to be closer than most people think, especially as BC has a good pair of running backs in Montel Harris and Andre Williams. Prediction: Northwestern by 3 in a classic.
Appalachian State at Virginia Tech: Could App. State be this year's James Madison to Va. Tech? We don't think so! But we said that last year, didn't we? And this year, there's no Tyrod Taylor. Prediction: Tech by 21 in game that's closer than the score would indicate.
South Florida at Notre Dame: A lot of people like USF's speed this year, and it's hardly surprising since the Sunshine State seems to spawn athletes. USF's QB B.J. Daniels is one of those athletes, and the Irish had better be ready for him. Having said that, the Irish have a great coach in Brian Kelly and QB Dayne Crist's going to be solid. The Bulls are also going to have to deal with WR Michael Floyd. After you. Prediction: Notre Dame with a comfortable 17-point victory.
BYU at Ole Miss: BYU won some plaudits by going independent (apparently it helps to spread the word of Joseph Smith that way), but its first game is a tricky one down in the horrible Oxford heat against an Ole Miss side that'll be anxious to prove to everyone it doesn't suck. We'll be able to see how QB Jake Heaps copes. Prediction: Ole Miss by damn! And 7.
East Carolina vs. South Carolina: Every year East Carolina do something to surprise us, so we wouldn't be surprised if it had the lead over rusty South Carolina at halftime in this one. That said, RB Marcus Lattimore and WR Alshon Jeffery are going to be too much to handle for the Bucs, whom we predict will lose by 21 when all is said and done.
Tulsa at Oklahoma: Look, Tulsa's going to be prove to be a test with QB G.J. Kinne and WR Damaris Johnson for the first drive or so, but once Oklahoma's defense has worked it all out—and it will—the Sooners will coast. Prediction: Boomer! Sooner! OU by 41.
Rice at Texas: Texas couldn't possibly be worse than last year, could it? We'll see, live on The Longhorn Network! Prediction: Oh. Dear. Texas by 21.
Boise State at Georgia (from Atlanta): Kellen Moore, the Boise State QB, has been talked up this offseason as the person you'd love to have with the game on the line. It's going to be either him or Georgia QB Aaron Murray that will have that piece of joy. That's right, folks: This might be the game of the day—and the season. Prediction: Georgia by 3 in a nail-biter.
Oregon vs LSU (from Dallas): JerryWorld hosts one of the biggest games of the season as the No. 3 and No. 4 teams get together with a ton of intrigue. First of all, both schools made payments to recruiter Willie Lyles, setting off a mass of controversy. Secondly, the Ducks have seen cornerback/punt returning threat Cliff Harris suspended for speeding while driving under a suspended license. Thirdly, LSU wide receiver Russell Shepard gets suspended for discussing the Lyles case with a fellow teammate. And if it couldn't get better, Jordan Jefferson, the LSU quarterback, gets suspended for getting involved in what will be known as the "Baton Rouge Brawl."
Now: the football. Jarrett Lee takes over as LSU signal caller, which still brings a lot to the table with wide receiver Reuben Randle, running back Spencer Ware and an experience O-line.
On the other side of the fun parade, last season's national championship finalists Oregon still have flat-out athletes—especially with midget dynamo running back LaMichael James, who's going to roast some defenses this year. The Tigers will be hoping it's not theirs. PREDICTION: Oregon by 3 in a nail-biter/classic that will spawn many an ESPN Classic.
SMU at Texas A&M: With A&M deciding that it wants to get out of the Big 12 because its big, bad neighbor from Austin has got a TV network and it doesn't, all eyes are going to be on the Aggies this season. This year's Aggies team—despite the awfulness that will be Big 12 football this year (Oklahoma looks like the only national championship contender from these guys)—comes loaded, including RB Cyrus Gray (with a name like that he should have a career as a bad guy in Hollywood), QB Ryan Tannehill and WR Jeff Fuller. This ain't going to be Kool-Aid for the June Jones cult, who might well be doing a bit of auditioning of their own during this season (Big 12, anyone?). Prediction: SMU sawn. A&M by 31.
Marshall at West Virginia: West Virginia should win the West Virginia derby handily this year, despite recently losing coach Steve Kragthorpe and facing a handy Marshall defense that is pretty much intact from last year. WVU's Geno Smith's the QB to watch, people. Prediction: Burn Couches Burn! West Virginia by 14.
Miami at Maryland: It's Monday Night Football for the University of Miami, and after a horrific offseason this will be just the chance for the whole place to show it can triumph over...blah blah blah.
Anyway, the start of the season going to Maryland ain't going to be easy, especially as Randy Edsall's (finally) taken over the reigns at Terrapinville and he's got a pretty tidy team with him, including seven starters on the defensive line. Danny O'Brien's an excellent young quarterback, and should test Miami's 'D'—especially as safety star Ray Ray Armstrong was one of the eight players suspended for the Nevin Shapiro scandal.
Still, the 'Canes have got athletes. Who cares to bet against them in Al Golden's first game? Prediction: Da U. Miami by 5.