Football is, indeed, back. But the schedule suggests TV executives understood your desperation. The best game before 3:30 is Texas A&M vs. Rice. Which says about all you need to know. Mississippi State vs. Oklahoma State and Alabama vs. Virginia Tech both feature double-digit favorites. If time is limited, spend it at night. Georgia vs. Clemson, TCU vs. LSU and Boise State vs. Washington will all be showing at once. The hardcore may enjoy the nightcap between Northwestern and Cal.
Georgia vs. Clemson: Two top ten teams. Two potential top ten offenses. This is the undoubted game of the week. Dabo is affable. Clemson is eagerly riding a wave of bowl hype after upsetting LSU (ignore what happened the year before). Clemson is putting the pieces together. It has not quite done so yet. The Tigers are not an SEC team. They haven’t shown anything in the regular season the past few years suggesting they are equipped to beat one (best win last year: 6-6 Georgia Tech). There are questions about Georgia. One can raise the same ones for Clemson, with less satisfying answers.
TCU vs. LSU: Gary Patterson took a shot at Les Miles’ roster management. (What could Jeremy Hill have done to have LSU players vote him off the team?) Miles has been coy about whether Hill will play. He will “sustain discipline.” Patterson has been equally coy about the status of star defensive end Devonte Fields. Casey Pachall may be back, and prepared to pick up where he left off in 2012. That could mark the difference in what looks like a battle of defenses.
Alabama vs. Virginia Tech: Alabama has hit its apex. Virginia Tech has hit its nadir. The Hokies should have a formidable, Top 15-level defense. The trouble is their offense is an absolute dumpster fire, again. Logan Thomas is virtually the only returning starter, again. The defense and special teams may be a better bet to score than the offense in this game. It will be hyped, but the only intrigue is whether Alabama holds down the pedal long enough to cover. There’s a lot of mutual respect between Saban and Beamer. This feels like Alabama’s games against Penn State in 2010 and 2011.
Boise State vs. Washington: We’re high on Boise State this year. We trust Chris Petersen more than Sark, especially with the better part of a year to prepare. That said, Washington supposedly will be better on offense. The crowd will be jacked in the opener of a new stadium. The Huskies did gut out tough wins against Oregon State and Stanford at home last year. The line is encouraging Boise State betting. We’ll see what Vegas knows.
Penn State (-9) vs. Syracuse: Penn State has a better coach, better talent level and their depth issues should not come into play in week one. The Nittany Lions don’t have a proven quarterback, but theoretically they have the pieces to make one successful. Syracuse? Not this year.
TCU (+4) vs. LSU: Take the points in a shootout. Take the points in a slugfest as well. The argument goes that LSU is going to compact the field and pound TCU. Gary Patterson has a pretty good track record against very talented but predictable, pro-style offenses.
Georgia (-1.5) vs. Clemson: Be wary of road favorites. We know. But Georgia has better talent. The line has been moving to encourage more Clemson action. We see great things from Todd Gurley.
Louisiana-Lafayette (+10.5) at Arkansas: Mark Hudspeth is one of the country’s best young coaches. He’s done a solid job recruiting. The Ragin Cajuns have a good quarterback. They should have beaten Florida last year. Arkansas has holes…everywhere.
Cal (+6) vs. Northwestern: Big Ten teams don’t travel well to the West Coast. It’s a 10:30pm start on the East Coast. Northwestern’s achilles heel last year was depth on defense. Playing against Cal’s tempo could make things…interesting.
Ohio (+20.5) at Louisville: Bet against Louisville while the public still overvalues them. Louisville won two games by more than 10 points last season. Their defense is not that good. Ohio can run the ball and score points. The Bobcats should stay in range.
[Photos via USA Today Sports]