College Football Spoiler Alert: Week 1
Saturdays! What are they made for? Cartoons? No! Yardwork? Stop. Going outside and enjoying the world and having a good time? OK, now you're just being silly.
The obvious (and quite frankly only) answer, of course, is college football. And with the commencement of September, it's finally back, and ready to take over every aspect of your life once again. A season full of drama, dreams, and debauchery awaits!
It's been a long eight months without college football, so you may be a little rusty. Who are these new guys? What game should you watch? What's a trendy upset to declare so you can rub it into to your friends for the rest of the season? Say no more, as we take a look at 10 of Saturday's biggest matchups...
(all rankings reflect AP Poll; all times EST)
#21 Stanford @ Northwestern
It's not too far-fetched to believe that the Wildcats could pull off a stunner here. Northwestern's coaching staff, who has overseen consecutive bowl no-shows after a surprising 10 win season in 2012, will enter the season with seats hotter than a July afternoon at nearby Wrigley, and a win over a ranked opponent would alleviate some of that pressure. Plus, Northwestern could be a trendy upset pick because they're hosting a PAC-12 team that's essentially playing the game at 9 am. However, the Cardinal have had no such problems in the past (Such as a 2013 trip to Army) and come into this season as a contender in the ridiculously competitive PAC-12, while NW appears to be a Big Ten also-ran. Keep an eye on Cats RB Justin Jackson against the vaunted Cardinal defense. Jackson ran for 1,187 yards and 10 TDs as a true freshman last year. If he can break out, NW has a chance, but with the Cardinal run defense (7th in the nation last year) on the patrol, don't count on it.
Stanford 31, Northwestern 13
Louisville vs #6 Auburn (@Atlanta)
Auburn has always been a school known for its running backs. Bo, Ronnie, Cadillac, you name it. The tradition looks to stay alive, with junior college transfer Jovon Robinson looking to be a dominating prescience in the backfield, but the Tigers are giving rave reviews to new QB Jeremy Johnson. Having spent the past two season backing up Nick Marshall, Johnson is ready to hit the big stage, and the Tigers believe he could be their missing piece. Also looking to make his mark for the Tigers is Will Muschamp, who begins his tenure as Auburn's defensive coordinator on Saturday. The Cardinals' offense, anchored by QB Reggie Bonnafon and RB Brandon Radcliff, will show flashes of brilliance but they also feature a shaky offensive line that returns just two starters. If Muschamp's new D penetrates that line, the Cards will be seeing red.
Auburn 24, Louisville 13
Virginia @ #13 UCLA
The Bruins could very end up winning the PAC-12 and one of the four coveted College Football Playoff spots, but they cannot take the Cavaliers lightly, no matter how many experts have them near the bottom of the ACC. For one thing, Virginia played the Bruins very well last season, keeping pace with them in a close 28-20 decision in Charlottesville. Consider that UCLA will feature a true freshman making his first collegiate start in Josh Rosen at quarterback, and the Cavs will enter Pasadena with 1-0 on their minds. However, UCLA just has too many weapons for the inexperienced Cavs to handle. A mere five starters are back on offense with only one skill player, WR Canaan Severin, left over from that close opening week game last year. Virginia will keep it close, but UCLA gets the W-I-N.
UCLA 27, Virginia 23
BYU @ Nebraska
BYU is a team that knows all about fast starts. The Cougars got off to a 4-0 start last year (that included a blowout win over Texas and another win over a power conference team in Cal) before explosive QB Taysom Hill got injured. Hill hasn't played since a tough loss to Utah State back in October, and gets immediately greeted with Nebraska of the Big Ten. The Huskers will need a strong start to the 2015 season, entering the year with losses in three of their previous four games. BYU has proven before they can hang with the big boys, and a win on the road against a B1G school on the national stage would greatly impress a Power Five school looking to expand. If Hill returns to his pre-injury self, commandeering the Cougars' high scoring offense (14th in the nation last year), we could have our first big upset of the young college football season.
UPSET SPECIAL: BYU 37, Nebraska 31
Penn State @ Temple
One of the biggest factor of a rivalry is that both teams need to find success over the years of their struggle. Considering Penn State is 39-3-1 all time against Temple, maybe this battle of Pennsylvania isn't exactly Ohio State-Michigan, though the Owls do have a better chance this year. All but one member of a Temple D that ranked 4th in the nation in points allowed returns, and their passing defense, letting up a paltry 186.9 yards per game, will be a good opening test for PSU QB Christian Hackenberg, whom some see as the top pick in 2016 NFL Draft. However, Penn State has an extremely formidable defense of their own, ranking in the top 10 in the nation of several major categories. Temple will keep it interesting, but don't expect that major gap to get any closer.
Bowling Green vs #25 Tennessee (@Nashville)
4:00, SEC Network
The Vols are a trendy sleeper pick in this year's SEC. In order to prove their supporters correct, they'll need to have a great showing against a Falcons team that has potential to be the best in the powerful but small MAC. The Knoxville faithful have raved all spring about a deadly offensive combo in QB Josh Dobbs, RB Jalen Hurd and WR Marquez North. BGSU will stay in the game thanks to their established offensive threats, but the Vols will have them handled, provided they hang on to the ball. The Falcons ranked 17th in the nation in turnover differential at +10
Tennessee 38, Bowling Green 16
Penn State 20, Temple 7
#15 Arizona State vs Texas A&M (@Houston)
Another PAC-12 contender, another tough opener. With Taylor Kelly's eligibility up, the power of the high octane Sun Devils offense lies in the hands of QB Mike Bercovici, who started three games last season. Despite his relative inexperience, he's already been responsible for some modern classics, like his Hail Mary W over USC last season, and has been pegged by some as a Heisman contender. Furthermore, ASU welcomes RB De'Chavon Hayes, a JUCO transfer who has been nicknamed "Gump" for his speed. In contrast, A&M features a worrisome offensive line that struggled with injury all spring and summer as well as the rest of the offense learning a new zone read style of play. Despite a Liberty Bowl victory, the Aggies also come in rather cold, having wasted a 5-0 start with five losses in their final seven games. If their defense, ranked 102nd in the nation in yards allowed, is unable to control the might ASU offense, it could be a long afternoon for the College Station faithful
Arizona State 41, Texas A&M 21
Texas @ #11 Notre Dame
Not many schools can instantly recover when the quarterback that led them to a national title game transfers, but Notre Dame isn't like most schools. The Fighting Irish are extremely confident with Malik Zaire under center in place of Everett Golson, and they have every reason to be after watching Zaire tear up LSU in a Music City Bowl victory. Also, not many schools can claim they have momentum going into the season when the previous one ended with four straight regular season losses, but again, the Irish aren't like most schools. How quickly we forget the Irish began the year 8-1 (with respectable wins over Stanford and Navy sandwiched in there and the lone loss coming in controversial fashion over then top-ranked Florida State) and 17 starters from that squad are coming back. Texas will improve in the sophomore year of Charlie Strong, but for now, they're still a year away from pulling off an upset of this caliber.
Notre Dame 28, Texas 13
#20 Wisconsin vs #3 Alabama (@Arlington, TX)
Nick Saban is sour enough after winning the National Championship. So how furious and angry is he going to be going into opening weekend with a loss in the College Football Playoff still looming large over them? No matter who plays QB for the Crimson Tide, they'll have magnificent weapons at their disposal like RB Derrick Henry and WR Rob Foster. The top receiving recruit in the Class of 2015, Calvin Ridley, also joins Bama, and he'll look to make an immediate impact. The Badgers do posses fantastic talent, not to mention a win over Bama's rival Auburn in last year's Outback Bowl, but when the coaching matchup comes down to Saban vs Paul Chryst, I'm going Saban any chance I get.
Alabama 36, Wisconsin 21
Mississippi State @ Southern Miss
Only in the SEC could you be ranked near the bottom of the conference and still be considered a dark horse CFP contender. The Bulldogs snuck up and everyone last year, and will seek to pull it off once more in 2015. The first test will be harder than people expect. The Golden Eagles, coached by the very talented Todd Monken, are excited about finally having all their pieces in place for this season, and MSU could possibly be caught looking ahead to the LSU game next week. However, USM's defense will be hard pressed to contain QB Dak Prescott, who returns under center. If he gets loose, it'll be an early night in Hattiesburg.
Mississippi State 41, Southern Miss 10
If Geoff Magliocchetti picked against your school, feel free to call him out on Twitter @GeoffMags5490.
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