Around College Football Week 1
We can rack the realignment discussions. Banish bar fights and boat rides with bizarre boosters to the backs of our brains. Perish pondering the perversity of poisoning trees. Divest ourselves of the delusion that we can memorize the lists of Legends and Leaders. Forget that the Big Ten boasts twelve, that the Big Twelve now stands at nine, or that Texas Christian University is soon to join the Big East.
Instead, let’s turn our thoughts to dotting the i, toe meeting leather, horns hookin’ em, playing like a champion today, football time in Tennessee, rammer jammer yellow hammer, we … are … Penn State, ringing the cowbells, and to Ralphie, Uga, Traveler, Bevo, Chief Osceola, and the Sooner Schooner.
College football – the game, not the silly season, is back … and for us fans it’s a thing of beauty and a joy forever.
Welcome back to The Campus Game and to the 2011 college football season.
Around the Nation
Opening weekend features more big games than usual. The most prominent matchups take place in Dallas and Atlanta. At the Jerry Dome, the #4 Bengal Tigers of LSU meet #3 Oregon in a pairing of top five teams. The Tigers will be without starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson (suspended). At the Georgia Dome, the home state Bulldogs try to regain some national recognition against #5 Boise State. Both games kick off at 8:00 PM.
Here are some of the other interesting games of Week One. Scroll down for Professor’s Picks.
Wake Forest travels to Syracuse and the Carrier Dome on Thursday night for an ACC-Big East clash. Another inter-conference tilt sees Northwestern of the B1G at Boston College of the ACC. A Miami Hurricane squad decimated by suspensions (see boosters and boat rides above) heads to Maryland in a contest that welcomes new coaches Al Golden (Miami) and Randy Edsell (Maryland) to the ACC.
A Holtz will be coaching on the Notre Dame sidelines Saturday afternoon, but it’s not Dr. Lou. Instead, Skip and the South Florida Bulls face Brian Kelly’s second edition of the Fighting Irish.
Friday night features a fine contest when TCU wanders to Waco for a game against the tough Baylor Bears. The Bruins of UCLA venture deep in the heart of Texas to play the high-scoring Houston Cougars. Watch the Sunday night game between SMU and Texas A&M at College Station. The Aggies want out of the Big 12 and the Mustangs want in … an interesting vibe for this one.
Minnesota and new coach Jerry Kill (a favorite at The Campus Game) go west to tangle with the Trojans of USC. Lane Kiffin and company are in the second year of some severe sanctions … will those penalties be felt this season?
Around the South
Perhaps you have not heard, but the SEC has won the past five BCS national championships. America’s conference gets another chance to enhance its platinum reputation with the two mammoth kickoff classic showdowns. Here is a complete rundown of this week’s SEC slate.
GAMES OF THURSDAY, SEPT. 1
Mississippi State (9-4) at Memphis (1-11)
7 p.m. CT • SportSouth
Memphis, Tenn. • Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium (62,506)
Comment: Dan Mullen and the Bullies hope to build on their strong 2010 finish and should have no problems with the Tigers.
Professor’s Pick: MSU
Kentucky (6-7) vs. Western Kentucky (2-10)
8:15 p.m. CT • ESPNU
Nashville, Tenn. • LP Field (67,000)
Comment: Two teams from the Bluegrass state head south. The setting (LP Field – home of the Tennessee Titans) is probably going to outshine the game, but it’s a chance to see how Joker Phillips has his squad progressing in year two.
Professor’s Pick: Kentucky
GAMES OF SATURDAY, SEPT. 3
Utah State (4-8) at Auburn (14-0)
11 a.m. CT • ESPN2
Auburn, Ala. • Pat Dye Field / Jordan-Hare Stadium (87,451)
Comment: The defending BCS champs retake the field, but have to replace a lot of offense. Utah State will not roll over, but Tigers plenty tough enough for this test.
Professor’s Pick: Auburn
Kent State (5-7) at Alabama (10-3)
11:21 a.m. CT • SEC Network / ESPN3.com
Tuscaloosa, Ala. • Bryant-Denny Stadium (101,821)
Comment: Tuscaloosa gets a much needed boost as the town’s beloved Crimson Tide plays for the first time since the devastation from last spring’s tornadoes. Tide gives everybody plenty to cheer about.
Professor’s Pick: Alabama
Brigham Young (7-6) at Ole Miss (4-8)
3:45 p.m. CT • ESPN
Oxford, Miss. • Hollingsworth Field / Vaught-Hemingway Stadium (60,580)
Comment: A game flying under the national radar just a bit. Houston Nutt’s squads often confound prognosticators, so the professor is tempted to go with a mild surprise here. Nah.
Professor’s Pick: BYU
Montana (7-4) at Tennessee (6-7)
6 p.m. ET • Tennessee PPV / ESPN3.com
Knoxville, Tenn. • Shields-Watkins Field / Neyland Stadium (102,455)
Comment: Derek Dooley sends out a very young Volunteer team against a solid opponent from a lower division. We do remember Appalachian State-Michigan don’t we? Vols do too.
Professor’s Pick: Tennessee
Missouri State (5-6) at Arkansas (10-3)
6 p.m. CT • Arkansas PPV / ESPN3.com
Fayetteville, Ark. • Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium (72,000)
Comment: The Hogs suffered some heartbreak with the loss of Knile Davis (an All-SEC pick on The Campus Game ballot), but Petrino’s pigs still have ample firepower for Mizzou State.
Professor’s Pick: Arkansas
Florida Atlantic (4-8) at Florida (8-5)
7 p.m. ET • ESPNU
Gainesville, Fla. • Florida Field / Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (88,548)
Comment: This is one I am interested to see – not so much for competitiveness (there will be little in this game) but to learn. New Florida coach Will Muschamp has taken a cue from his mentor (Nick Saban) and pretty much blacked out any news on the Gators. If the offense scores, watch out because there is plenty of talent for this Sunshine State squad.
Professor’s Pick: Florida
East Carolina (6-7) vs. South Carolina (9-5)
7 p.m. ET • FSN
Charlotte, N.C. • Bank of America Stadium (73,504)
Comment: The old, head ball coach seems to be pretty excited about this year’s team, the pick of most to win the SEC East. ECU is a nice opening opponent. The Pirates should be good enough to make the Gamecocks work, but not good enough to knock them off before SC heads between the hedges next weekend.
Professor’s Pick: South Carolina
Elon (6-5) at Vanderbilt (2-10)
6:30 p.m. CT • CSS
Nashville, Tenn. • Vanderbilt Stadium (39,773)
Comment: Quick, what is the nickname for Elon? IF you said the fighting Phoenix, give yourself an attababy. Vanderbilt is such a football factory (for this week).
Professor’s Pick: Vandy
Oregon (12-1) vs. LSU (11-2)
7 p.m. CT • ABC / ESPN3.com
Arlington, Texas • Cowboys Stadium (71,167)
Comment: In some quarters (including these), LSU did not lose much with the loss of QB Jordan Jefferson. His replacement, senior Jarrett Lee is a better passer, and has plenty of experience. The loss of standout wide receiver Russell Shepard, ineligible pending an appeal for discussing an NCAA investigation with a teammate, leaves a void not so easily filled. The Ducks arrive as a well-established national title contender, having lost a close championship game to Auburn last season. QB Darron Thomas and RB LaMichael James jump start the fast paced offense. A tough call since the stadium will be about 80% filled with LSU backers, but I’m quacking on this one.
Professor’s Pick: Oregon
Boise State (12-1) vs. Georgia (6-7)
8 p.m. ET • ESPN
Atlanta, Ga. • Georgia Dome (71,147)
Comment: Boy, does Georgia need this game. The Dogs have fallen from the national spotlight when virtually every surrounding neighbor is lifting a crystal trophy. There are a multitude of reasons Dog fans can cite for the current state of affairs … coaching, discipline, injuries, schedule, whatever. Bottom line is Georgia has been mediocre for the past two seasons. Several seasons ago, I sat in the pressbox at Sanford Stadium and watched Boise get physically taken apart between the hedges. Things have certainly changed since then … but tough to get forget that scene. Georgia takes a step toward regaining national prominence.
Professor’s Pick: Georgia
Wake Forest at Syracuse … Doug Marrone and the Orange defeat the Demon Deacons. Professor’s Pick: Syracuse
Northwestern at Boston College … This is a better game than one might think at first glance. BC is always tough, and Pat Fitzgerald is a really good young coach. Slight upset. Professor’s Pick: NW
Miami at Maryland … Al Golden’s debut with the Canes is not an accurate indicator of the program’s talent. Tilt goes to Terps. Professor’s Pick: Maryland
South Florida at Notre Dame … I think USF may win the Big East and ND may go to a BCS bowl, so two good teams. Irish have a chance to be really good. Professor’s Pick: Notre Dame
TCU at Baylor … loss of Andy Dalton is too much to overcome for Horned Frogs as the unpredictable Bears break out with a win. Professor’s Pick: Baylor
UCLA at Houston … a win here might help Rick Neuheisel and the Bruins to a much-needed contending season in the PAC-12. Professor’s Pick: UCLA
SMU at Texas A&M … one of my favorite opening weekend games because of the palace intrigue of one wanting out and one begging to get in … Aggies start their SEC audition tour in fine fashion. Professor’s Pick: A&M
Minnesota at USC … Jerry Kill may do a nice job with the Gophers, but I doubt he has enough talent to knock off the Trojans. Professor’s Pick: USC
See you at kickoff!