5 Things I think: Going into week 1!

The college football season is finally here! The final BCS season is upon us and we start it off with three televised games Thursday night that include two players that will get some Hiesman hype (JaDaveon Clowney & Marqise Lee), the top recruit from the class of 2013 (Robert Nkemdiche), and the arguably the best receiver in the SEC (Jordan Matthews). We finish the first week of games (a stretch of five straight days of college football) with a game that will highlight the next redshirt freshman phenom in the nation in Jameis Winston of Florida State on Monday night. There are several top-ranked teams playing in games that have no reason to be competitive while there are several games on the docket that could potentially hurt national title runs. We won’t get to see Heisman Trophy winner Johnny “Football” Manziel until the second half … of the Rice game … because of his violation of the spirit of a bylaw. I’m just glad we’ll finally get to talk about something this kid does on the field rather than on Twitter or at a frat party. Over thirty teams will break in a new head coach, including the return of the polarizing Bobby Petrino (Western Kentucky) who faces off against first-time head coach Mark Stoops (Kentucky). There are two teams (Oregon & Wisconsin) with first-year head coaches and three teams (Ohio State, Texas A&M, & UCLA) with head coaches in their second year that are ranked in the AP Top 25. All that being said, let’s go ahead and dive into some games!

1. North Carolina at #6 South Carolina (5pm CST Thursday on ESPN): I’d like to start by saying I hate that we’re starting the 2013 season without Marcus Lattimore on South Carolina’s roster. I was hoping he’d take a medical redshirt so we could see him play in the first season with the playoff system. However, it was a great gamble by 49ers GM Trent Baalke taking Lattimore in the fourth round of April’s NFL Draft and one I think will pay off as early as the 2014 season. JaDaveon Clowney, who we haven’t seen since he made the hit of the season on Michigan running back Vincent Smith in the Outback Bowl, takes the field tonight amid preseason Heisman hype. He faces off against a Tar Heels team that is now eligible for postseason play and is led by an underrated quarterback named Bryn Renner. He’ll need some help from his secondary because Renner will certainly test them as long as he’s upright. UNC head coach Larry Fedora is in his second season and I expect his team to make a run at the ACC title (they would have won the Coastal Division last season if they had been eligible). Steve Spurrier has named sophomore Mike Davis as the starter at running back and I liked what he did in spot service behind Lattimore and Kenny Miles last season. This game will be more competitive than most people seem to think it will be, but remember that South Carolina didn’t start the season off strongly last season either as they struggled in a win against Vanderbilt. North Carolina will be a good team. The Gamecocks will leave the field winners, but I don’t see them winning big.

2.) #19 Boise State at Washington (9pm CST Saturday on FOX Sports 1): You’re probably a little confused as to why I would include this game, right? In my view, it’s more intriguing than some may think. Firstly, this is a rematch of last year’s Maaco Bowl, which Boise State came back to win with less than two minutes remaining. I don’t remember the last time a bowl matchup was followed up by a Week 1 rematch. Boise State is poised to make a run to take back its position as BCS Buster this season and a win against a Pac-12 team can only help them on that journey. Washington has been stagnant at seven wins the last three seasons and coach Steve Sarkisian needs to take the next step if he wants to keep his bosses and his fans from getting restless. This will be the first game in the newly-renovated Husky Stadium and it would be hard to find a better way to christen it than for quarterback Keith Price and tight end Austin Sefarian-Jenkins to knock of a ranked opponent. Unfortunately for them, Boise State only allowed four passing touchdowns all of last season and 15.8 points per game. However, in the aforementioned bowl game the Broncos defense allowed Bishop Sankey to rush for 205 yards. I want to pick Washington because I believe its a team on the rise, but I can’t bring myself to pick against a coach with an 84-8 record and a senior quarterback, especially since the Huskies’ premiere receiving threat (Sefarian-Jenkins) might not play due to his fracture pinky. Boise State wins.

3.) #1 Alabama vs. Virginia Tech (4:30pm CST Saturday on ESPN): The Georgia Dome will be packed on Saturday I’m sure. Fans of both teams will be certainly be willing to make the drive to Atlanta to watch this Saban-Beamer matchup. Alabama is coming off it’s third national title in four years and VT is coming off its worst record (7-6) in twenty. The Hokies would like to make some noise this season and possibly vie for an ACC title, but injuries may hurt them on such a run and on Saturday afternoon. The Hokies’ top two running backs J.C. Coleman and Tony Gregory are hurt with Coleman possibly trying to give it a go Saturday after spraining both of his ankles. Their top cornerback, Antone Exum, won’t be able to play either after tearing his ACL and meniscus in January. Those injuries could cause major problems. If they can’t establish a running game, Saban’s defense, which returns eight starters, will likely keep eight in the box and tee off on quarterback Logan Thomas. Keep in mind, also, that protecting his blind side at left tackle, Beamer is starting a true freshman in Jonathon McLaughlin. The Hokies’ secondary was already going to have trouble in the passing game with the Tide’s receiving corps being stronger than it has been in the thirty-plus years I’ve been watching college football … being without their top corner can only compound those problems. The nation was introduced to freshman Crimson Tide wide receiver Amari Cooper last season; it will be introduced to redshirt freshman Chris Black and freshman tight end OJ Howard this season, both of whom will cause matchup problems for the opposition all season. The Tide is without cornerback Geno Smith due to suspension, but without a running game I don’t know if Logan Thomas will have enough time to take advantage of it. Alabama wins by at least 17.

4.) #12 LSU vs. #20 TCU (8pm CST Saturday on ESPN): These two teams will play in the newly-named AT&T Stadium (Jerry Jones made a fortune from that deal, by the way) on Saturday night and the chess match has already started between Les Miles and Gary Patterson. Les Miles hasn’t announced whether last year’s leading rusher, Jeremy Hill, will play after he was reinstated following his lenient legal ruling that he could remain on probation. Patterson has refused to announce a starting quarterback despite nearly everyone believing that he’ll start Casey Pachall, who was dismissed from the team last year and went into substance abuse treatment. However, the coach continues to leave the door open that Trevone Boykin, who took over for Pachall last season, could get the nod. Additionally, Patterson suspended defensive end Devonte Fields (Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year last season), however has announced that he’ll be in uniform on Saturday. These two coaches just don’t like each other. LSU lost 7 defenders to April’s NFL draft and although Miles has done a good job of reloading in years past, it seems like a tough task to get this defense to jell against this level of competition in the first game. I don’t think this will be the LSU team that we’ve come to expect in years past. Similar to how I feel about Alabama this season, I believe LSU will be much more reliant on the passing game than usual. Zach Mettenberger started to get it together towards the end of last season and new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron seems like a natural fit to take him to the next level. I actually think Mettenberger will be reason LSU wins this game, whether Hill plays or not, and watch for a big game from do-it-all junior Odell Beckham, Jr. Tigers go into Texas and beat a Texas team.

5.) #5 Georgia at #8 Clemson (7pm CST Saturday on ABC): This is the quarterback matchup of the weekend! Tajh Boyd, one of my Heisman favorites, versus Aaron Murray, the best passer in the SEC. Georgia’s defense is very young, especially in the secondary; a group that has already been riddled with injuries this offseason. Clemson’s weakest group on the team is also the secondary so I look for both quarterbacks to have a field day in the passing game. That being said, if I’m Mark Richt, I run it early and I run it often with running backs Gurley and Marshall (please don’t call us Gurshall!) to keep Boyd and wide receiver Sammy Watkins off the field. Boyd is coming off a fantastic performance in a late-game win against LSU in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl and is primed for a big run this year. Both Boyd and Murray could have left for the draft last year but both opted to return for their senior seasons presumably because they saw the potential to make a national title run in 2013. Murray was a mysterious no timeout call with 15 seconds left and then an ill-advised, but instinctual catch by his receiver five yards from the end zone away from playing Notre Dame in January. He can taste it. However, Georgia starts off against Boyd and company this week followed by the Clowney Crew next week. If Murray’s team can pull off those two wins to start the season they’ll be the team to beat going down the stretch. Unfortunately, I have Boyd (who was nearly a member of my Buckeyes) throwing for nearly 400 yards in a high-scoring game which could see both teams in the 40s and winning the game late.

Comments

  1. That Georgia vs Clemson game has so many implications… that should be a great game to watch.

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