Welcome back to another season of fearless, if not sometimes insane, college football picking. This year, I will be picking five top games (down from 10 - 13 last year) to watch. Why? Like this week, there are just a few really good games...time is short...why waste it watching bad football?
So...without further ado, let's look ahead to Week 1 - Labor Day Weekend!
THURSDAY NIGHT SPECIAL: UNLV at WISCONSIN (ESPN, 8 p.m. Eastern) - Russell Wilson, why oh why did you abandon your Asheville Tourists teammates in July? Was it too hot in the mountains? Were you looking to begin your post-graduate work in Madison? Or was it that you struck out nearly 50% of the time you batted? Yeah...all three of those. In any event, Wilson is an exceptional athlete. I saw him personally through the course of his three-plus months of baseball here in Asheville, and believe me, this kid is smart, well-spoken and fast. He could have a great season up in Madison...considering what he had to work with at N.C. State, he's in for a real upgrade. UNLV will not offer much competition, which should help Wilson's confidence as he leads one of the best teams in the Big 10 Conference to a huge win! Jump Up! Jump Around!! The 5th Quarter will rock! Wisconsin rolls...by 5 touchdowns!
FRIDAY NIGHT SPECIAL: TCU at BAYLOR (ESPN, 8 p.m.) - "Friday Night Lights" may have ended its run on television, but as everyone knows, in Texas, Friday nights means FOOTBALL! Begin your holiday weekend with this one, because there could be a huge UPSET! Yes, we all know TCU is back...but without their quarterback, Andy Dalton. This is a big issue. They will be breaking in a new starter, sophomore Casey Pachall, who will be starting his first game ever on the road. Baylor is led by their senior QB, Robert Griffin. The Bears were pretty good (at times) last year. And, since this one is being played at Baylor...and it is the first game of the season...despite the fact that TCU is favored by 6, I see no problem in calling for the upset. Baylor by 10.
Saturday, Sept. 3
BOISE STATE at GEORGIA (in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta) (ESPN, 8 p.m.) - This is a must game for the Broncos if they have ANY thoughts whatsoever in trying to play in a BCS bowl game again. Just why did Georgia schedule Boise? According to head coach Mark Richt, "I thought Kellen Moore would have graduated by now." Uh, coach...he's still there. And while he lost some fine receivers (Titus Young, Austin Pettis), Moore's top target will be Tyler Shoemaker. Boise can no longer wear their all-blue unis for home conference games (see my last blog), but it really won't matter what they wear in the dome. This is a MUST-WIN game for them. They are not a big team, but that has not mattered for several years. Like last year's opener at FedEx Field against Virginia Tech, Boise is a big-time, big-game team. Favored by 3.5, they will cover this one.
OREGON vs. LSU(in Dallas) (ABC, 8 p.m.) - Talk about a big opener, No. 3 Oregon travels to meet No. 4 LSU in the biggest football stadium of them all, Cowboys Stadium in Dallas. This is the Willie Lyles Bowl, named after the man who has brought the NCAA visiting to both schools involved. Nevertheless, they will be locking-up down in Big D on Saturday night (this is why DVR's were invented...two prime-time match-ups that should both be fun). The Ducks are exciting...fast...colorful. LSU loves to play at night in the heat. Oregon - home of 60?? summer days and Louisiana - home of 60?? winters. It'll be hot in Dallas...but they'll close the roof and it'll be 72?? for everyone! I love watching the Ducks move the ball...eleven seconds between snaps...motion, action, fun! Juniors - QB Darron Thomas and running backs LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner - lead this veteran team. They lost their top three receivers, so Lavasier Tuinei looks like he's the top target this season. For LSU, what effect will Jordan Jefferson's absence make? Probably not much. Jarrett Lee (in spots) ran their offense nicely last year...and won the Florida game. I am not really sure how the entire chain of events will affect the team - will they be a better team because of it? Possible. But right now, their defense will be tested...the latest odds show Oregon has moved from a one point underdog to a three point favorite...a huge move in the last week. I like the Ducks, who came ever-so-close to winning the national title last January, to win this big opener and to go on to have an outstanding season.
MONDAY NIGHT SPECIAL: Miami at Maryland (ESPN, 8 p.m.) - Now that the Miami suspensions have been put in place...and the odds have changed from favoring Miami by 6 to favoring Maryland by 3, this is a tough one...for some people. It's hard for me to be objective, though. Randy Edsall, last seen leading the Connecticut Huskies to a horrible loss against Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, makes his debut as the Terps new head coach and among the big questions he has to consider is which one of the Terps new uniform combinations (2,576 possible color combinations) will they debut on national television? But I digress...I'm sure Maryland would have rather had an opener against Towson or Presbyterian...but instead, they get the U. The Canes also have a new head coach, Al Golden, who came from Temple, and the Owls have played the Terps recently, so he knows the OLD system, but everything is new under Edsall. The Terps have a legitimate Heisman candidate, quarterback Danny O'Brien, as their leader. He threw for 2,438 yards last season, and while he does not have Torrey Smith back to catch the ball, he has wide receiver Quintin McCree and tight end Matt Furstenburg as his targets. Running backs are led by Davin Meggett (Dave's kid), and they will be looking to run, if Coach Edsall wants them to. Miami has suspended quarterback Jacory Harris and in his place they will start sophomore Stephen Morris. This is NOT a huge deal. The fact that defensive back Aravious (Ray-Ray) Armstrong has also been suspended may indeed be more important, especially for the Terps passing game. The latest revised odds have the TERPS favored by 3 points. Good luck with this one. Nevertheless, I think Maryland wins at home... by a touchdown. At least my heart thinks this way...
SPECIAL NOTE TO MY READERS:
Due to a planned vacation next week, I will NOT be posting my Top 5 NCAA Football Games to Watch next Thursday. Unless it rains day and night. Not that I will be completely out of contact, but a getaway is necessary. And next Saturday, I will be attending a relative's wedding up on the mid-coast of Maine, so watching college football will be pretty tough to do. I will post some comments when I get back after I have had a chance to see some highlights. My next scheduled post will be on September 15 for Week 3!