Where to watch, and what to know for Week 1
College football finally gets underway this weekend, starting with a few games on the schedule tonight! Every Thursday we’ll run down the Top 25 in action that weekend and give a quick hit on each game. We actually have two Top 25 teams taking the field tonight (Wisconsin Mississippi State). We also have two games featuring a pair of Top 25 teams clashing with each other on neutral fields (Oregon vs. LSU and Boise State vs. Georgia). Four schools should be taking it easy this week with games against FCS opponents (Nebraska, Virginia Tech, Arkansas, Michigan State).
All games are on Saturday, except where noted. All times Eastern. Associated Press rankings listed where available. Check local listings for games available in your area.
#1 Oklahoma vs. Tulsa
8 p.m. FX
The nation’s top team in the country gets things started with an in-state match-up with Tulsa, and this one could be too close for comfort for a quarter or two. Tulsa knows how to move the football and put up points, and against an Oklahoma defense that may be experiencing some depth issues at the start of the season, who knows if Tulsa can take advantage. At the end of the night though, Oklahoma should pull away with some ease because their offense is pretty good too. Tulsa last defeated Oklahoma in 1996.
#2 Alabama vs. Kent State
12:20 p.m. ESPN3.com
The Crimson Tide still have a quarterback situation to settle. Look for Phillip Sims and AJ McCarron to battle it out in a week one contest against Kent State. Regardless of the questions behind center, Alabama still has a beast of a running back in Trent Richardson and a stacked defense, just the way Nick Saban likes it.
#3 Oregon vs. #4 LSU – Game of the Week
8 p.m. ABC
The game of the week is not without its fair share of off the field drama. LSU and Oregon will each be without some key players due to suspensions for various issues. LSU will probably be affected by the suspensions more than Oregon. The Tigers lose quarterback Jordan Jefferson but feel comfortable with Jarrett Lee taking over for the time being. Oregon’s offense looks to continue the pace they were accustomed to last season but will be challenged by LSU’s defense, similar to the last SEC team Oregon played (Auburn, BCS Championship). In Big D, the Ducks may be too much to overcome for LSU.
#5 Boise State vs. #19 Georgia
8 p.m. ESPN
Boise State has scored some nice victories in recent years bu they are looking for their first win against an SEC opponent. Kellen Moore will need to find some new receivers to throw to on a regular basis and Doug Martin will lead the running game. Meanwhile Mark Richt’s job security remains the main topic in Athens so getting off to a good start could be very important for the head coach closing in on 100 wins. Richt will have a pretty talented quarterback himself, with Aaron Murray already recognized as one of the top quarterbacks in the SEC. Pro Combat uniforms anyone?
#6 Florida State vs. Louisiana-Monroe
3:30 p.m. ESPNU
The Florida State Seminoles will have to get off toa good start this season so that they are playing at top form in a couple weeks when the Oklahoma Sooners come to town. E.J. Manuel takes over for Christian Ponder under center and Florida State hardly ever loses to a team from a non automatic qualifying (for the BCS) conference. Look for the Tomahawk Chop to be too strong in this one.
#7 Stanford vs. San Jose State
5 p.m. Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
Andrew Luck’s 2011 Heisman campaign officially gets underway against a local rival. Look for Luck to have a big game in his season debut as David Shaw makes his head coaching debut. Don’t expect much resistance from San Jose State, who allowed 34.7 points per game last season and had one of the nation’s worst pass defenses.
#8 Texas A&M vs. SMU – Upset Alert!
7:30 p.m. Fox Sports Net
Talk about story lines. Texas A&M has made it clear that they are ready to move on past the Big 12. SMU has been a team mentioned by some as their replacement. Imagine the reaction by the nation if SMU could score the upset against the Aggies? Talk about egg on your face. The thing is, it’s not exactly out of the question. Quarterback Kyle Padron flies under the radar in the quarterback discussion, but if he can lead the Mustangs to an upset, he won’t be quite as unknown for long.
#9 Oklahoma State vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
7 p.m. Fox College Sports
Brandon Weedon is one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, and he has the top wide receiver to throw to in Justin Blackmon. Do not be shocked if they connect for a touchdown as many as four times in the season opener.
#10 Nebraska vs. Chattanooga
3:30 p.m. Big Ten Network
Nebraska enters the season as one of the Big Ten favorites and the season opener against FCS Chattanooga could get ugly in a hurry. Nebraska has won 25 straight season openers, which is now the longest active streak in the Big Ten (Wisconsin is second longest with 11 straight season opening wins).
#11 Wisconsin vs. UNLV
8 p.m. (Thursday) ESPN
Let the Russell Wilson show officially get underway in Madison. While I’m curious to see how he performs against the tougher Big Ten defenses later in the season, his first game should be a cakewalk. UNLV is coming off a two-win season in 2010 and the Badgers once again look to have the makings of a Big Ten championship contender. Uh-oh time for UNLV.
South Carolina has the offensive weapons to do some big things this season with wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and stud sophomore running back Marcus Lattimore lining up on offense (and Stephen Garcia returning to run amok). The Gamecocks will head to East Carolina to take on a team that knows how to throw the football and score points, so Steve Spurrier’s squad could be in for a tougher fight than many would suspect.
#13 Virginia Tech vs. Appalachian State
12:30 p.m. ESPN3.com
The Hokies lost to an FCS power last season (James Madison) but don’t expect a repeat of that this season, even if it is Appalachian State. Logan Thomas takes over for Tyrod Taylor and gives the Hokies a big quarterback to groom in to the position. He should be ready for the job and Virginia Tech’s defense should once again lead the way.
Baylor vs. #14 TCU – Upset Alert!
8 p.m. (Friday), ESPN
TCU should be on high upset alert Friday night when they travel to Baylor. The Horned Frogs won 45-10 last year but this year’s team looks quite different on both sides of the ball. Baylor returns nine offensive starters, including quarterback Robert Griffin III coming off a break-out season.
#15 Arkansas vs. Missouri State
7 p.m. ESPN3.com
Bobby Petrino may have his best defense in years as a college football coach this season, but all eyes will be focused on in-state recruit Tyler Wilson, who will assume the starting quarterback duties following the departure of Ryan Mallett, who helped take the Razorbacks offense to new heights with Petrino’s scheme. He may be nervous about taking over the position, but he’s excited. Once he gets the butterflies out of his stomach, look for Arkansas to romp FCS Missouri State.
#16 Notre Dame vs. South Florida – Upset Alert!
3:30 p.m. NBC
Skip Holtz will in for a bit of an emotional game as he coaches on the same field his father (Lou) once did, leading South Florida in to South Bend looking for an upset. Notre Dame has the talent edge bu do not be surprised if the Bulls hang tough and are in position to win late in the game. South Florida is thinking Big East championship this season. Dayne Crist will be Notre Dame’s starting quarterback and Brian Kelly’s defense looks to continue to improve.
#17 Michigan State vs. Youngstown State
7:30 p.m. (Friday), Big Ten Network
Michigan State should be pretty good this season, yet nobody is really giving them much attention. I’m curious why. The Spartans have some very good running backs coming back and a quarterback in Kirk Cousins coming back after a very good season. I’m not sure they can match their 11 wins from 2010, but the Spartans should be looking to make a statement this season. Look for them to romp the Penguins on Friday night.
#18 Ohio State vs. Akron
12 p.m., ESPN
I like Ohio State a little more than others seem to this season. I get it. It was a terrible off-season for the Buckeyes, but they still have a talented roster. We’ll see what Luke Fickell is made of as a coach as the season progresses, but he should get a victory in his coaching debut in Columbus. Plus, when was the last time Ohio State lost to a school from Ohio? Joe Bauserman gets the start behind center, but expect to see some Braxton Miller throughout the game.
Ohio State has won 32-straight home openers, with the last loss coming in non-conference action against Penn State in 1978.
Memphis vs. #20 Mississippi State
8 p.m. (Thursday), Fox Sports Net
Dan Mullen is the next big up and coming head coach in college football, and for the first time in a while there are actually expectations on Mississippi State heading in to the season. It helps getting a chance to open up against Memphis, one of the bottom feeders in college football right now. Mississippi State has won 11 straight match-ups against the Tigers.
I clearly like the Bulldogs in this Thursday night season opener.
#21 Missouri vs. Miami (OH)
12 p.m. Fox Sports Net
The Missouri Tigers are a dark horse Big 12 favorite, and quarterback James Franklin will look to get off to a fast start with the offense this season and keep the Tigers in contention. Missouri has won 21 straight non-conference regular season games. That streak could be in jeopardy next week, but does not appear to be at risk this weekend against Miami.
#22 Florida vs. Florida Atlantic
7 p.m. ESPNU
Let the Will Muschamp Era begin in Gainesville! The Gators are a bit of a wild card this season. Will it take some time before Muschamp’s plans take form with the Gators or will the offense pick up the Charlie Weis pro-style offense quickly and become an SEC East team to beat already? Against the Owls, the Gators should have plenty of time to figure some things out in what should be win number one for Muschamp.
#23 Auburn vs. Utah State
12 p.m. ESPN2
The defending BCS champions are probably only ranked as a courtesy for winning it all last season. The Tigers return just six starters overall, three on each side, so there figures to be a good amount of rebuilding this season. Fortunately for Auburn one of those players is running back Michael Dyer, one of the best in the SEC and nation. Look for Auburn to have a good number of players get in to the mix and pick up an easy victory in week one.
#24 West Virginia vs. Marshall
3:30 p.m. (Sunday) ESPN
The Friends of Coal Bowl has been a lopsided affair from the start (10-0 for WVU). The Mountaineers just don’t lose to Marshall, although last year’s game was closer than anticipated. Don’t look for a repeat of that scare this season. The Mountaineers, with Dana Holgorsen at the helm and Geno Smith at quarterback should have a fun offense that will be tough for most teams to beat.
#25 USC vs. Minnesota
3:30 p.m. ABC
The Trojans may be the best team in the Pac 12 South but they will be ineligible for postseason play in 2011. The Trojans open up against one of the bottom feeders from the Big Ten, who may see this game as their best chance to play in California this season (Rose Bowl? Ha!). Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley could get off to a fast start against the Gophers, and it could be a long flight back for Jerry Kill in his Minnesota coaching debut.