The season is FINALLY upon us. I feel like a kid on Christmas--as a matter of fact, the start of college football season has become way more exciting to me than Christmas in a number of ways. We've had our share of off-season storylines ranging from conference realignment to off-field scandals and the evils of bad agents but the good stuff is finally here. What I'll be doing (or attempting to do) here is trying to pick winners of each week's most high-profile games as well as offering up a few other features, discussing storylines, making fun of people/things, and whatever else I can come up with to entertain anyone who's nice enough to do me the honor of actually reading this crap. There will be an Upset of the Week each week as well as a Game of the Week (complete with Keys to the Game for each team), probably a Heisman Watch, a list of teams I think should be on Upset Alert, as well as a list of Out-of-Whack spreads and whatever else I can drum up for fun...possibly weekly BCS bowl predictions. Anyway, we'll figure it out as we go...
#15 Pittsburgh @ Utah
Don't dismiss Utah quite so fast as they have an offense that returns eight starters, including QB Jordan Wynn. This might prove to be a tougher test for the Panthers than a lot of people may realize. However, Pitt has too much defense and too much Dion Lewis for the Utes to handle.
The Pick: Pitt
UConn @ Michigan
I think you'd have a hard time making an argument for any coach in the country being on a hotter seat than Rich Rodriguez. After two consecutive losing seasons, he's actually made Lloyd Carr look like Bo Schembechler. However, I think this is the year that it all starts coming together for Rich Rod's Wolverines. Denard Robinson will be in total control of the offense and the defense has nowhere to go but up. This is a perfect opening game for this team, playing a good, solid Connecticut team that will test them early but is very much beatable. I like the Wolverines to make a statement in this one that they're on their way back. It won't be easy, and there may not be many points on the board, but they'll pull it out
The Pick: Michigan
Purdue @ Notre Dame
Notre Dame is another team I'm expecting to bounce back after a few subpar years. Charlie Weis wasn't much of a leader on the sidelines and Brian Kelly will be a huge upgrade in that department. In spite of the fact that Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate are gone, Brian Kelly is quite possibly the best QB coach in the country so whoever is stepping in for Clausen will be ready and the defense will be highly underrated, led by Manti Te'o. Don't be surprised if Notre Dame hangs a few on the Boilermakers.
The Pick: Notre Dame
#24 Oregon State v. #6 TCU
Major kudos to Oregon State for playing both top ten non-BCS teams in the opening weeks of the season. It's a very precarious situation for them considering that, in spite of the fact that they'll be underdogs in both games, they still really have almost nothing to gain and everything to lose in both of these games. In fact, I've heard more than one talking head refer to Boise State's schedule as a "one-game season" (the one game being this week's match-up with Virginia Tech) and that the rest of their schedule is a bunch of nobodies. You'd think the #24 team in the country would get a little more respect than that. I expect the Beavers to be in the thick of the Pac-10 title hunt again this year but I think TCU will be a little too much for them with Andy Dalton back and a terrific defense even without Jerry Hughes.
The Pick: TCU
UPSET OF THE WEEK
#21 LSU v. #18 North Carolina
OK...this isn't really much of an upset. I'm not even sure who's actually favored in this one. The thing about this game is that I don't think it's even going to be close. The Tarheels are in the midst of a major scandal and I'm not sure how Butch Davis is going to be able to handle it. He already went through the stress of NCAA sanctions when he was hired at Miami and in spite of the fact that he did a tremendous job bringing that program back, I dunno, I just have this hunch that this will set his laudable efforts with the 'Heels back a long way. Not only that but Marvin Austin, the leader of what was supposed to be a ferocious defense, is now suspended indefinitely, and won't be playing in this game. I think LSU steamrolls a helpless, short-handed, out-of-sorts North Carolina team, beginning a spiral for the 'Heels that will land Butch on the hot seat at the beginning of 2011.
The Pick: LSU
GAME OF THE WEEK
#3 Boise State v. #10 Virginia Tech
This is a ridiculously hard game to pick. These two teams are very evenly matched and both have the ability to create very favorable match-ups for themselves. The QBs will be under tremendous pressure to perform from two of the premier defenses in the country. Boise State's defense faces one of their biggest challenges with the dynamic backfield tandem of Ryan Williams and Darren Evans and Virginia Tech's secondary faces possibly the best QB they'll face all year in Kellen Moore who threw 39 TDs to just 3 INTs last year.
Keys to the Game:
Boise State - 1. Pressure and CONTAIN Tyrod Taylor, 2. Get into the backfield early and often, 3. Kellen Moore must spread the ball all over the field
Virginia Tech - 1. Diversify coverages and blitz packages to confuse Moore, 2. Win the battle up front, 3. Don't rely too much on the run
The Pick: Boise State
I think I'll leave it at that for this week...in the coming weeks I'll start adding more fun features but since I had the special predictions section at the beginning let's just call it a day and next week I'll have all the nice bells and whistles for you.