The waiting is over. No more watching old games, getting scrimmage updates and talking about what fifth stringer dominated the spring game. It’s time for the real thing. Most teams have scheduled glorified scrimmage games this weekend but two games in particular will have national title implications right out of the gate. It’s funny how other conferences like to dog SEC team’s nonconference scheduling, but the SEC, more often than not, has the marquee nonconference games of the week, which is the case once again in the opening week of 2011.
The blog is gonna have a little different format at least for this week. We will run down the games in order by kickoff and TV schedule. I will tell you what you should be watching as the long weekend goes on (remember we have games on Thursday – Labor Day night). I am still going to pick a winner in the SEC games and the big national games and pick a couple of games in the “If I were a bettin’ man” section, but I just wanted to switch it up a bit.
Note: The games below do not include Rice @ Texas. If you have your own network and no one in the nation is subscribed to the network to watch the game, does the game really happen?
Thursday: There will be a lot of excitement surrounding the first night of football, but it will likely be uneventful.
5:00: Murray State @ Louisville (ESPNU) – Congratulations Murray State, you will have more eyes watching your football game than ever before. Don’t screw it up. You’re probably gonna be stuck watching this game until…
7:00: UNLV @ #11 Wisconsin (ESPN) – I’m probably gonna watch this game just long enough to see those crazy Northerners jump around to the House of Pain song before kickoff. After that, I expect UNLV to get blown out immediately. So I’m gonna tune to…
#20 Mississippi State @ Memphis (Fox Sports) – Everybody’s darling, Mississippi State, starts another season. Dan Mullen is hoping they can get credit for beating all unranked teams like last year again. This shouldn’t be much of a game after the first half, but the Memphis guys will be pumped to play a neighboring SEC school. Bulldogs 31-14.
Wake Forest @ Syracuse (espn3.com) – See “If I were a bettin man…” below.
8:15: Kentucky vs. Western Kentucky (ESPNU) – Excuse me! I thought it was against the law for the big state school to schedule a game with the lowly, in-state Sun Belt team. What a crazy idea – somebody send the memo out! Watch Western’s RB Bobby Rainey in this one. He ran for 1,600 yards last year. This game is in Nashville at LP Field. It takes the Wildcats a while, but they pull away. Please don’t stay up late watching this whole game. You have to work the next day, but more importantly, you have a lot of football ahead of you this weekend. Big Blue 35-17.
9:00 UC Davis @ Arizona State (Fox Sports) – I will watch this just long enough to see Sun Devil LB Vontaze Burfict rip someone’s head off.
7:00: #14 TCU @ Baylor (ESPN) – The first decent game of the weekend for me. TCU’s nasty defense versus Baylor’s super athletic QB Robert Griffin. Will TCU lose their first game since the 2009 season? I think it could happen in Waco on Friday night. Baylor 23-21
Saturday: The day has finally come. Try to follow along – it’s gonna get crazy fast. There will be times today and numerous times during the year that you will need to bring the second TV into the living room…oh and a laptop, don’t forget the laptop. After all, there is almost a whole minute between plays, so you can watch at least three or four at once.
7:00 AM: Wake up and get you a good breakfast. I prefer anything from Chik-fil-a personally. It’s gonna be a long day and you need your nourishment. Get online and read your favorite gameday websites for any late developments. Check to see which game lines have moved to see if you need to act quickly.
8:00 AM: Watch the minor league hour of College Gameday. Sure Erin Andrews is hot, but when she has to talk for more than one minute at a time like she does sideline reporting, she kinda struggles. You may want to mow the yard if you need to get it done today – forget that you may wake the neighbors. You have some serious football to watch ALL DAY.
9:00 – 11:00 AM: College Gameday of course! This may be a little extreme for the average fan, but I DVR it so I can multitask – go to the store and get supplies for the day, etc. I get home and fast forward through the commercials and the segment they talk about the Big Ten and I’m all caught up again.
11:00 AM (or Big Ten kickoff time as I like to call it): That’s right there are 5 Big Ten kickoffs at this time. Spend 7 minutes each on the following games: Akron @ #18 Ohio State (ESPN), Northwestern @ Boston College (ESPNU), and Utah State @ Cam Newton-less #23 Auburn (ESPN2). Auburn wins 31-10. After you spend 7 minutes each on these, time to change the channel again. Remember you have to knock off the rust of changing your remote just as these guys are knocking their rust off during opening week.
11:21 AM: Kent State @ #2 Alabama (ABC – SEC Network) – Why in the hell does the SEC Network game kick off at 21 after the hour? I bet Dave, Dave and Dave have something to do with it. God be with former Pulaski Academy QB Spencer Keith as he leads Kent State into Bryant-Denny. Saban may take it easy on them since KSU is Saban’s alma mater. But then again, Sabana wouldn’t take it easy on his grandmother in a game of tiddlywinks. Roll Tide 52-3.
At this point in the day, there is really nothing going on unless an upset is brewing in these earlier games. Typical for the first week of the year. Use this time to prepare some lunch, play some Baggo, fix some Man Dip (let me know if you need the recipe), or something else to pass your time.
2:30: Now we’re getting somewhere. Four ranked teams take the field at this time plus some other intriguing games.
South Florida @ #16 Notre Dame (NBC) – See “If I were a bettin man…” below.
Louisiana Monroe @ #6 Florida State (ESPNU) – I wanna see EJ Manuel and the Nole defense just really blow the doors off of ULM like the good ole days to let me know that they are for real this year.
Minnesota @ #25 Southern Cal (ABC or ESPN2) – Something you don’t see too often on opening week – two teams from BCS conferences squaring off. USC’s offense will be fun to watch this year; their defense will give up a lot of points.
Arkansas State @ Illinois (Big Ten Network) – Speaking of scoring, this should be a high scoring affair. The Illini better not be taking the Red Wolves lightly. ASU QB Ryan Aplin can get his offense down the field in a hurry.
3:45: BYU @ Ole Miss (ESPN/espn3.com) – This may be the first time of the day you want to crank up the second TV or the laptop. With Houston Nutt, you never know what is gonna happen. The newly independent BYU Cougars are venturing to the hot, humid south to take on the Black Bears. BYU is favored in this one. Something tells me Nutt knows he doesn’t have too many wins on his schedule this year, and he pulls it out somehow to avenge the opening day loss last year to Jacksonville State. Ole Miss 21-20 (but I never pick Houston Nutt’s games right). This game will take us into the big ones at night. Don’t forget to keep the main TV on the South Florida-Notre Dame game until about 6 because it should be a 4 quarter game.
6:00: #12 South Carolina vs. East Carolina in Charlotte (Fox Sports/espn3.com) – Charlotte is almost directly between these two campuses. Stephen Garcia better not be partying it up Friday night because the Pirates are gonna be ready to pull off the upset. They have done it several times before, including 2008 when they beat Virginia tech and West Virginia in back-to-back weeks. In the end, the Gamecock offense (ECU’s defense is terrible) and defense will be too much. Gamecocks 38-24.
Florida Atlantic @ #22 Florida – Another SEC/Sun Belt home state matchup…crazy I tell ya. Muschamp’s first game as the Gator’s head coach. Charlie Weis will feast on his first pre/during/post game meals in the Swamp. It’s gonna be a memorable night! Gators 42-9
7:00 PM: ATTENTION: BREAK OUT THE OTHER TV FOR SURE FROM NOW UNTIL 11!
#3 Oregon vs. #4 LSU in Dallas (ABC) – Finally! The first great matchup of the year. Top 5 teams at the best neutral venue in the nation. Jordan Jefferson is out for LSU; Cliff Harris is out for the Ducks. Jarrett “Touchdown After Int or TAInt” Lee is the Tigers QB. The Tigers have unproven talent all over the place, but it is talented for sure. We know what the Ducks have on offense – James, Thomas and a relentless pace. In these marquee SEC versus another conference games, the SEC usually dominates when they have better line play on both sides of the ball. Do you remember when a very average Auburn d-line dominated an experienced Oregon offensive line and stymied the Duck offense as a whole? Well, LSU is deeper and more talented than that group of Auburn guys. Oregon returns three o-line starters from last year. Oregon returns one d-line starter; LSU returns one o-line starter. I see LSU doing enough on offense to control the game, and Oregon’s offense being slowed down enough by the exceptional Tiger defense. The defensive backfield is going to have to make some plays for LSU. I’m being stubborn. I think LSU still wins. Geaux Tigers 24-23.
#5 Boise State vs. #19 Georgia (ESPN/espn3.com) – This is apparently going to be the battle of the hideous uniforms – check out here (http://bleacherreport.com/articles/827441-nike-pro-combat-uniforms-guide-to-boise-state-georgia-and-all-new-team-unis). Boise has shown that they are not scared to play anyone anywhere. Georgia is playing in their backyard. Kellen Moore, although kinda goofy, has been pretty clutch in his career and is a very efficient passer. They are replacing the bulk of their receiving yards but still have 1,000 rusher Doug Martin on offense and the defense returns 7 starters. Georgia just doesn’t have the great defense that they had 5-10 years ago even with their new defensive coordinator. They lost AJ Green on offense and lacks great skill position players. Aaron Murray is a highly rated QB for them even though I am not sold on him yet. I was on the fence about this game until I heard today that Georgia kick returner Brandon Boykin was talking trash to Boise’s Coach Peterson via Twitter today. What an idiot. As if Boise needed anymore motivation. Give me the Broncos 24-23.
9:15 PM: Colorado @ Hawaii (ESPN2) – Oh the late night Hawaii game. It has been gamblers’ double or nothing game for years. It will go past midnight if you have the stamina to last that long. You may need a Red Bull (and vodka).
Sunday: We’re not done yet. Only a few more games, and you have survived the weekend.
2:30: Marshall @ #24 West Virginia (ESPN) – Nothing better than a good ole hate match for a Sunday afternoon. This is a big deal in West Virginia. The Mountaineers are gonna roll in this one.
6:30: SMU @ #8 Texas A&M (Fox Sports) – Is this the new Big 12 team versus the newest old Big 12 team? The scoreboard may blow up in this one. You have a June Jones SMU offense returning 10 starters and a Texas A&M offense that is returning 9 starters including QB Ryan Tannehill, RB Cyrus Gray and WR Jeff Fuller. They may be the best trio in the nation. The Aggies better show up for this one, or they could be in trouble. Take the over in this one. I’ll take the Aggies at home 41-30.
7:00 Miami @ Maryland (ESPN) – Not your typical big name Labor Day matchup, but I’ll watch it. Maryland is high on sophomore QB Danny O’Brien, and new coach Randy Edsall will be looking to pick up a big win in his first game. It should be a good atmosphere, and the Hurricane suspensions change everyday. I’m going to go with the home team and an upset here. Terps 20-17.
In other SEC games not mentioned above, Arkansas, Tennessee and Vanderbilt start out 1-0 against terrible competition.
If I Were a Bettin’ Man…
Wake Forest @ Syracuse (-6.5) – This one is pretty simple. Wake was terrible last year and although they have 7 starters returning on both sides of the ball, they are still bad. Doug Marrone led the Orange to their first bowl since 2004 and first win since 2001. This is his third year, which is the year where good coaches usually turn the corner. Well, he’s a good one. They have 8 returning on offense, including QB Ryan Nassib, and 5 on defense. Take Syracuse in this one.
South Florida (+10) @ #16 Notre Dame – Skip Holtz returns to South Bend where his dad Lou spoke with a lisp and coached the Irish for 11 years. The Irish are highly ranked this year for four reasons: 1) they are Notre Dame, 2) the schedule is very easy, 3) they won their bowl game last year against Miami, and 4) Brian Kelly is their coach. I am a huge Kelly fan, so I will give you that one. In other words, the Irish are overrated. South Florida is flying under the radar in the Big East and also beat Miami last year. They have a very fast, athletic team, and QB BJ Daniels has started a lot of games. I think the Irish win here but just by a field goal or touchdown.
Enjoy the weekend!