With our long hibernation from college football about to end, I decided to take a look at what opening week could mean for the AP top 25 and the Big 12. All games are Saturday, 8/31, unless otherwise noted.
1. Alabama @ Virginia Tech
The consensus #1 team in the country plays what in years past would be a tough opener, but not so in 2013. Va Tech struggled in 2012, needing wins in their last 2 games to become bowl eligible. This should be a snoozer. If not, Bama will have a chink in the armor.
2. Ohio State vs Buffalo
3. Oregon vs Nicholls State
4. Stanford DNP (vs San Jose State on 9/7)
5. Georgia @ #8 Clemson
Easily the highest ranked matchup of the opening weekend, partly because of the SEC love given by the pollsters. Only a blowout would do any damage here. A close loss to another highly ranked opponent would not cripple the season for either of these teams.
6. South Carolina vs North Carolina
Nice rivalry game right out of the gate. This is no cake walk for the Gamecocks, although playing this at home is a huge help. NC finished a respectable 8-4 (5-3 ACC) last season (post season bowl ban), and I always feel like SC is a bit overrated due to Spurrier. The Tar Heels are predicted to be better in 2013, with many feeling they have the best offense in the ACC. Any kind of a win would be ok, but a loss would be pretty bad and likely drop SC WAY down in the polls. You gotta be rooting for Larry Fedora and the Tar Heels.
7. Texas A&M vs Rice
9. Louisville vs Ohio
For me, Louisville is easily the team with the most to lose. Ohio is coming off a good but rough season, starting 7-0 before stumbling through an injury plagued stretch of 1-4. The Bobcats ended the season with a blowout of UL-M in the Independence Bowl. All signs point to another good season, however Ohio must replace its entire defensive line as well as 3 offensive linemen. Frank Solich has done a good job, and they won't be afraid of the big stage, opening last season with a win over Penn State in Happy Valley.
After easily handling Florida in the Sugar Bowl, we quickly forgot that after starting 9-0, Louisville whiffed on the way home with horrible losses to Syracuse and UConn, and eeking out a 3 point win over Rutgers to close the regular season. Louisville needs a blowout here, no messing around. Anything else will be a red flag for a team that is the darling of a number of pollsters, and is showcasing a Heisman candidate at QB.
10. Florida vs Toledo
Fully expect the Gators to handle this, but they better be awake. Wouldn't be shocked if Toledo has a lead at some point in this game before Florida gets their act together. End result could be closer than expected, but don't think anyone will really be paying attention if it is.
11. Florida State @ Pittsburgh
This is my pick for biggest upset of the week 1.While I'm inclined to think Pitt can make a game of this, I'm not confident enough to go out on a limb. The Panthers played a lot of good games last season, beat 2 ranked teams, and lost that 3 OT thriller to Notre Dame. That all transpired, however, against a really weak list of opponents. Any win is good for the Seminoles.
12. LSU vs #20 TCU (Neutral Site)
Neutral site my ass. Jerry's World is a home game for TCU, no bones about it. This is the game EVERYONE is anticipating. The Horned Frogs easily come in as the team with the most to gain, and LSU is tied at #2 with the most to lose. Any win for either side will be trumpeted by the winner and their conference. If TCU can absorb the pounding, Patterson might find a way to get it done. Blowout either way is a disaster.
13. Oklahoma State vs Mississippi State (Neutral Site)
Definite neutral site game at Reliant Stadium in Houston. OSU comes in tied with LSU at #2 with the most to lose. As a double-digit favorite, any loss is a mess for the preseason Big 12 champion Cowboys. The obvious key matchups are OSU's QB's and WR's vs the Bulldogs' young secondary, and Miss State's experienced and physical offense vs a defense that had trouble getting off the field in 2012. While OSU would look to be the superior team overall, the Bulldogs offense brings the EXACT ingredient necessary to neutralize the Cowboys' strength. I've predicted a fairly easy win for OSU, but if you want to bet on an upset in week 1, this is likely your best option. Much like LSU/TCU, any win for either will be a plus, but a close loss could also look good for the Bulldogs as a middle tier SEC team playing a team favored to win the Big 12.
14. Notre Dame vs Temple
15. Texas vs New Mexico State
16. Oklahoma vs UL-Monroe
The Sooners should handle this at home, but don't forget that UL-M beat Arkansas in OT, lost to Auburn in OT, and gave Baylor a game to start 2012. With a new QB leading the way, OU needs to be alert and in control. Anything less than a blowout win for the Sooners will bring out the squealers. A loss, well, I'm not even going there...
17. Michigan vs Central Michigan
18. Nebraska vs Wyoming
19. Boise State @ Washington
As is the case EVERY time they venture outside the friendly confines of the "smurf" turf and take on any team from a traditional football conference, Boise always gains some love with a win, even if it's at the expense of an opponent that isn't a big deal. The Huskies' record in 2012 was only 7-6, but that was with 2 consecutive losses to end the season (rivalry vs Wash St and a bowl game against....Boise St). They lodged 2 excellent wins over top 10 teams (Stanford/Oregon St), both at home.
Washington gets the Broncos in Seattle, and after suffering a close defeat in the bowl game should be looking for some revenge. Not a LOT at stake for either team with a loss, but a win would look good for a Huskies' squad trying to climb back into the top half of the Pac-12.
21. UCLA vs Nevada
The Bruins' final record does not do justice to the season they had, closing out with 3 consecutive losses, 2 in a row to Stanford, then a horrible showing against Baylor.
Nevada closed out a disappointing home stretch with close losses to Boise St and Arizona. This is another one of those games that could be closer than expected, but UCLA should get the W if they pay attention. They better, because any loss would not look good for a defending Pac 12 division champ.
22. Northwestern @ California
NW closed out 2012 in style with a nice bowl win over Mississippi State to finish at 10-3 (5-3 Big 10). Cal sucked, losing their last 5 to end up 3-9. Northwestern should handle this no problem, but it is a major conference opponent on the road, 1st game of the year. Funny stuff can happen.
23. Wisconsin vs UMass
24. USC @ Hawaii
Lane Kiffin stinks. That's about all we need to know here.
The Trojans fell flat on their collective asses to close out 2012, losing 5 or their last 6, including a horrible bowl loss to Georgia Tech. Turmoil and turnover leave a boatload of question marks heading into this season. While USC handled Hawaii easily in Los Angeles last season, this game is on the island, and the Warriors are usually tough at home for a variety of reasons.
Unfortunately for Hawaii, they stink worse than Kiffin. An uncharacteristic 3-9 record last season doesn't point upward, so all eyes will be on USC to see how they perform. Anything less than an easy win won't be good for Kiffin and the Trojans, who seem to have ceded home turf to UCLA for the time being.
25. Oregon State vs Eastern Washington
As for the rest of the Big 12
-Tech @ SMU
Kingsbury's opening gig, and, thanks to injury, with a freshman at QB. Could be a rough start for the Red Raiders, but I think they handle their business. Better not be sleepwalking, though, as SMU finished with a winning record due to 2 nice wins to close out 2012 over Tulsa and Fresno State.
-Kansas State vs North Dakota State
-West Virginia vs William & Mary
-Baylor vs Wofford
-Iowa State vs Northern Iowa
No sleepwalking here either for the Cyclones. The Panthers had a losing campaign in 2012, but closed their season winning 4 of the last 5, had a close loss to Wisconsin, and never lost a game by more than 13 pts. Rhoads needs a solid win (blowout preferred) to indicate anything other than business as usual in Ames.
There you have it. The rest of the week will be previews and predictions, questions with the enemy, and, yes indeedy, Picks from Joe's!
Time to get this show on the road.