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2011 NCAA Football – Week 1 Best Games

Can you smell it??? It’s COLLEGE FOOTBALL SEASON! One thing I want to do this season is pick out a few games each week that I believe are the best games of the week and preview them a bit. I’ll go over why these games are particularly important from a big picture standpoint and hopefully give some insight into why these particular games are must see games of the week! It’s been a little busy around here and I’m gearing up for some Wisconsin/UNLV tonight so I’m happy to get this out a half an hour before game time! I didn’t quite make it before Louisville kicked off, but Cardinals fans will have to forgive me. Here is to a great opening weekend of college football!

Obviously the big game of the week. These are arguably two of the best 5 teams in the nation so there are massive national championship implications concerning this opening game. I thought it was going to be hard for LSU to win even with QB Jordan Jefferson & WR Russell Shepard playing. With both of them gone, the QB situation comes down to Jarrett Lee & Zach Mettenberger. Oddly enough, “Lucky Les” probably gets lucky here because Jefferson isn’t playing. As for Oregon, they’ll get a test from an extremely talented LSU defense, but Chip Kelly might have the most brilliant offensive mind in college football and he’s had an entire offseason to prepare for the Bayou Bengals. I think Miles’s seat gets a little hot after this one, which me things could get ugly. Current Line: Oregon (-3)!
Let’s forget about Boise St. for a minute. Georgia & South Carolina are in the same boat in a way this year because Florida is transitioning a bit while both SC & UGA miss LSU & Alabama. Georgia even misses Arkansas. That means the Bulldogs have not only a GREAT shot at winning the SEC East, but also get to 12-0 for a chance at a national championship. Georgia also gets SC in Athens. That all somewhat crumbles if Georgia opens up with a loss to Boise St. There is no doubt Georgia is talented, and with the game being in Atlanta, Georgia maybe “should” win the game. A loss here doesn’t doom the season, but it makes it tough and I tink it gives a little more credence to the whispers that maybe there needs to be a HC change. Boise St.’s story is the same. Can they go 12-0 and finally get a shot at a national championship? A win over Georgia would be HUGE especially if Georgia goes on to finish 11-1 and win the SEC East. The national implications here aren’t as significant as LSU/Oregon, but they are there nonetheless. Current Line: Boise St. (-3).
WOW! LOVE THIS GAME! Obviously I’m a Notre Dame homer and a Brian Kelly jock sniffer so I hope ND beats the absolute piss out of South Florida. However, the objective analyst in me sees a VERY difficult home opener for the Irish. South Florida has an excellent team with a very good coach led by QB BJ Daniels who is a helluva playmaker. USF could give ND some trouble. On the other hand, ND is led by arguably the best coach in the country and have a veteran team of talented players. Kelly knows how to get the absolute best out of his players and the Irish will now be in their 2nd year of Kelly’s philosophies. The defense is going to be filthy and I think if Dayne Crist can stay healthy, the offense will hum. One thing to keep an eye on is how much bigger the Irish are than South Florida. Looking over the rosters, ND looks a lot bigger. We’ll know a lot about ND after this game I think. If they hammer the Bulls, then Irish Nation can start thinking about a possible 12-0 season. If they struggle then Kelly needs a bit more time turning it around. Very excited about this one. Current Line: Notre Dame (-10).
I can’t believe I have this being the 4th best game of the week. That’s how strong this opening week is. With Texas A&M all but leaving the Big XII and SMU making it known it would love a shot at the Big XII, this matchup creates an interesting storyline. If A&M wins then it looks as if the Big XII is moving down a notch by potentially replacing A&M with SMU. If SMU wins, what a slap in the face it would be to Texas A&M!? Don’t count the Ponies out. Junes Jones has this team headed in the right direction. It’s taken 20+ years for SMU to get past the “Death Penalty” but in the past two seasons, SMU is 15-12 with 2 bowl appearances. They return 18 starters. Their road schedule is murder, but who knows? A&M too returns 18 starters from a 9-4 squad. They are a legitimate national title contender and have every reason to believe they could be playing for a national championship. This game is interesting because while SMU is a lot better than we might think, it’s also a statement game for A&M. I can’t wait to see what happens in this one. Current Line: Texas A&M (-15.5).
Oklahoma is the #1 team in the nation coming into the season, and I’m pretty confident in saying they should be able to put away Tulsa especially with the turnover in Tulsa’s coaching staff with former HC Todd Graham now coaching at Pittsburgh, but the Golden Hurricane is going to be an exceptional team this year out of the CUSA. Tulsa returns 18 starters from a 10-3 squad so don’t sleep on them. The problem with Tulsa is that they can’t play a lick of defense which is unfortunate when you are going up against Landry Jones and the Sooners. Oklahoma should win and probably in a convincing manner, but Tulsa is good and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them at double digit victories by season’s end. This game has an odd feel about it. No upset alert, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Oklahoma didn’t cover. Current Line: Oklahoma (-24.5).
I think this is one of the best games of the week so I’m glad it gets Friday all to itself. TCU is rebuilding massively after a perfect 13-0 season which saw the Horned Frogs win a Rose Bowl and finish #2 in the nation. However, TCU lost 8 starters on offense including QB Andy Dalton and 6 starters on defense. We know Gary Patterson is an outstanding coach, but can TCu take on that many losses and still churn out a 10-2/11-1 season? Baylor I think is close. Art Briles is a solid HC and the Bears are coming off their first bowl season since 1994! QB Robert Griffin is back along with 8 other offensive starters. Baylor is going to score. The problem is that Baylor was downright awful defensively last season. I don’t know if TCU wins this game, but if Baylor can tighten up the defense, it will be a great story to see the Bears get a win over a highly ranked TCU squad. The line is only -4.5 in TCU’s favor so it should be a tight one. Current Line: TCU (-4.5).
Before the NCAA hammered Miami this past week, this was shaping up to be an outstanding ACC game. Even still, this game is interesting because it marks the beginning of two coaching careers at their new schools. Al Golden takes over in Miami while Randy Edsall left UConn to take over Maryland. The Terps aren’t a bad team to begin with and should be able to run the ball relatively well. So far so good with Al Golden down in Miami-FL. Outside of the recent suspensions to his players, everything you heard about Golden down in Coral Gables was positive. For this game, Miami-FL is severely handicapped. They don’t have their starting QB, a starting WR, 3 starting D-Linemen and a starting LB. It cuts at their depth something fierce. Add to the fact this is a road game, and it spells disaster for Golden, but great opportunity for Edsall. I’ll definitely be watching. Current Line: Miami-FL (-5.5).
The beginning of the Brady Hoke era! My intuition is that Michigan hit a home run with this hire and Hoke is going to take Michigan not only back to the top of the Big 10, but also back to the national discussion regarding championships. However, this first game is going to be extremely tricky. Western Michigan is going to be one of the better MAC teams and they return 15 starters. You know WMU is full of players from Michigan who feel as if Michigan thought they weren’t good enough to play every Saturday in the Big House. They’ll have a chip on their shoulder to be sure, which makes the game even more interesting. Maybe I’m a little too high on the Wolverines, but I think they are in for a very good year. They have too much coming back and Hoke has a reputation for getting the most out of his players. How badly Michigan beats WMU will tell us a lot about Michigan in my opinion. If Michigan rolls and wins by 20-30 points, then look out. If they struggle and win by 7 points or less or even lose, then things are worse than I thought in Ann Arbor. Current Line: Michigan (-13.5).
I love love love this game! In Phil Steele’s 2011 annual, he lists Northwestern at #46 and Boston College at #47 in his Power Poll. These are almost evenly matched teams. I love this game from the Northwestern side. Obviously I’m a Pat Fitzgerald homer, but I think NW could be in for a big season. They avoid Ohio St. & Wisconsin from the “Leaders” division, while getting Michigan, Michigan St. & Penn St. at home! Obviously a win over BC isn’t crucial and NW isn’t going to win a national title, but a win here could kick off a season that could be special which makes sense with it being Dan Persa’s senior season. BC is almost at the opposite end in the ACC. They play a murderer’s row of opponents on the road such as Clemson, Va Tech, Notre Dame, Miami-FL & Maryland! They also play Florida St. BC is a good enough team to go bowling, but they could wind up 4-8. A win over Northwestern is extremely important for their bowl hopes. Current Line: Boston College (-3).
Houston is going to be an intriguing team because they could be this year’s Boise St. or TCU. They really don’t play a tough non-conference slate against AQ teams except for UCLA who they get at home. Plus QB Case Keenum who is making an assault on the college record books. Houston is going to score and they are going to score a ton. I don’t know if a 13-0 season could put them in a BCS bowl, but it certainly makes their case for a potential Big XII slot should the conference come calling after Texas A&M bolts for the SEC. For the Bruins, it’s a tough game to open with, especially with the heat that is on current HC Rick Neuheisel. UCLA has enough players back to win the Pac-12 South especially because USC can’t play in the title game, but their early season schedule isn’t easy. They have road games against Houston, Oregon St. and Stanford while playing a home game against Texas. They could easily start the year 2-4 which is why a win over Houston & momentum is crucial. This game is more interesting than you think. Current Line: Houston (-3).
This is an interesting game simply from a domination point of view. East Carolina isn’t really that good this year so South Carolina should put the hammer on them as you can see by a line that is 3+TD! On the other hand, South Carolina in recent seasons sometimes doesn’t come to play and it makes them lose games they should ordinarily win. Games against Kentucky & Vanderbilt immediately spring to mind. The Gamecocks have a team and schedule that sets them up well to get to the SEC title game where they have to hope Alabama chokes in order to potentially play for a national championship. It’ll be interesting to see how they take care of business against ECU. They need a statement. Also, keep your eye on true frosh DE Jadeveon Clowney. He could be a BEAST! I’m really interested to see the statement Spurrier & Co. make on opening weekend. Current Line: South Carolina (-20.5).
Minnesota isn’t going to win this game, but let’s not forget what a great coach Jerry Kill has been. He was absolutely outstanding at S.Illinois & N.Illinois in turning those programs around. It’s funny to see Minnesota & Indiana get coaches who everyone seems to believe will be successful considering how down the Gophers & Hoosiers have been in the past. Kill is having to bring in a new QB for the Gophers, but otherwise Minny has a lot coming back. USC of course is playing for pride and should be one of the more elite teams in the nation. If this was Tim Brewster against Pete Carroll, the game wouldn’t even make the list, but now there is some intrigue. The Trojans are paying for pride only, but 2011 will be interesting for USC because if they make significant strides, then it’s not entirely out of the question for them to be right back in the national championship mix in the first year they come off probation. Current Line: USC (-24).
This one could get interesting. Rice is returning 17 starters and has a very veteran team. Remember too that it was as recent as 2008 that the Owls went 10-3. Back then, Rice actually played Texas in Austin and lost to the Longhorns 52-10, but this Texas team isn’t the 2008 version. Texas is coming off a 5-7 season in which wholesale changes were made to Mack Brown’s coaching staff. There is no question that Texas has the superior talent, but this game has an odd feel. Either Rice is going to get blown out and Texas is back, or the Owls keep this close and Texas still has quite a bit of work to do. Current Line: Texas (-24).
Marshall sucks and they are playing in Morgantown meaning that line is a little light in my opinion. The really interesting aspect to this game is new WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen’s offensive fireworks show that is coming to West Virginia. This game doesn’t necessarily have national implications, but it’ll be interesting to see what kind of offensive firepower West Virginia can come up with. If it’s powerful enough, we might be going back to the days when RichRod was coaching up the Mountaineers and keep in mind that WVU has a schedule that is suitable for an undefeated run if they can beat LSU in Morgantown. Current Line: West Virginia (-21.5).
Kent St. is going to get hammered, but that’s sort of the point. Kent’s best attribute is their returning offense, but unfortunately Alabama has 10 returning starters on defense and Nick Saban is the HC who also just happens to be the best defensive mind in college football. This game is still one of the best because I think the Tide are the best team in the nation and it’ll be interesting to see new QB AJ McCarron carve up the Flashes. Current Line: Alabama (-38).
A really great non-conference game between a couple of good teams. Ole’ Miss has 9 returning starters on offense and Houston Nutt is a helluva coach, but he’s in a bad spot in the SEC West with LSU, Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn & Mississippi St. I don’t know if Ole’ Miss wins especially with not much returning on defense and BYU returning QB Jake Heaps. The Cougars return 10 starters on offense. Should be high scoring, and Ole’ Miss needs the win. Current Line: BYU (-3).

September 1, 2011 - Posted by | Baylor, Boise St., Boston College, Georgia, Houston, LSU, Maryland, Miami-FL, Michigan, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon, SMU, South Florida, TCU, Texas AM, Tulsa, UCLA, Western Michigan

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