College football took a beating this offseason. Some of the nation’s premiere programs have been mired in scandals that rocked the nation. There was the Nevin Shapiro scandal at the University of Miami. The Terrelle Pryor and Jim Tressel mess at Ohio State. Reggie Bush returned his Heisman Trophy and USC’s post season ban is over. UNC is still trying to figure out how to keep their athletes in class. LSU stand out and last year’s Heisman Trophy runner up Tyrann Mathieu is in rehab for smoking pot. The Jerry Sandusky scandal in Happy Valley rocked not only the college sports world but it shocked just about everyone who has a soul.
With all that said, it’s time to get ready for what we actually enjoy about NCAA football… the actual games. And this season is shaping up to be a season that can actually overcome all the dirty that muddled the water in the off season. To get ready for the season here are the top ten games to watch in the opening weekend. Be sure the check back each week for a preview of the top match ups for each weekend.
#9 South Carolina @ Vanderbilt
Thursday August 30th 7pm EST
With the SEC dominating football it’s fitting that we kick off the season with the first SEC match up of the season. The Ol’ Ball Coach marches his Ninth ranked South Carolina team into Nashville to take on the Commodores of Vanderbilt. South Carolina is coming off of an 11-2 season that was capped by beating Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl. Heisman hopeful Marcus Lattimore will be suiting up for the Gamecocks after suffering a season ending injury last year. The Commodores are coming off a bowl season that ended with them losing to Cincinnati in the Liberty Bowl. But, this is a team that was 5-2 at home last year and is looking to grow from last year.
#24 Boise State @ #13 Michigan State
Friday, August 31st 8pm EST
Boise State coach Chris Peterson owns a 73-6 (4-2 in Bowl Games) record since taking over the program in 2005. Yes, in 6 years his team has only lost 6 games with only 4 of them coming in the regular season. However this year the Broncos will be with out the winningest QB in NCAA history. With Kellen more (50-3 as a starter) will have to make some adjustments and learn what post Moore life will be like. Boise also had six players selected in the NFL draft with two going in the first round (no, Kellen Moore was not drafted). Saying Chris Peterson has a rebuilding project on his hands in a bit of an understatement considering all he lost but if there was ever a coach for the job, it’s Chris Peterson. Michigan State is also looking to find a replacement after losing a great QB. Kirk Cousins was the face of this program for years and will definitely be missed. However both of these teams have been able to do great things with the players they recruit. Boise State has been the poster child for doing more will less and Michigan State is used to dealing with recruiting pressure from Big Ten powerhouses Michigan and Ohio State. This is also the first match up of ranked teams this season.
Miami (OH) @ #18 Ohio State
Saturday, September 1st Noon EST
Usually watching a program like THE Ohio State University open their season with a cupcake game isn’t really newsworthy. However this game marks the start of the Urban Meyer era in Columbus. Can he create the same magic he did when he took over the program in the swamp and led Florida to two national championships. We know one thing, it won’t be there year due to their ban from post season play this year. But with the Ohio State name and Urban’s ability to recruit the top high school players in the country don’t be surprised when Ohio State is sitting near the top of the polls in the near future. if there is one thing that could sour the Meyer/OSU relationship it could be the fact that Meyer’s teams in Gainesville had more than a few run-ins with the law. Something that won’t sit well with an Ohio State fan base that is looking for their program to clean up it’s act and leave the Jim Tressel & Terrelle Pryor mess behind them.
Ohio University @ Penn State
Saturday, September 1st Noon EST
Well all know the terrible things that have been brought to light during the Jerry Sandusky scandal. It is hands down the ugliest black eye that the sport had gotten and will take years to overcome. Some thought that the football program should have been banned from playing football at all for at least a year. The NCAA decided to punish the program differently and possibly handicapping the program for longer than the death penalty would have. The football program has been hit with a 60 million dollar fine, a 4-year bowl ban, scholarship reductions and had to vacate all wins dating all the way back to the 1998 season. Also, current players, including Silas Redd, were given an opportunity to leave and play immediately for other programs further punishing PSU. Even with the sanctions and the dark cloud hanging over the program, top QB recruit, Christian Hackenberg decided to keep his commitment to the school giving first year head coach, Bill O’Brien a silver lining on what is otherwise a grim outlook for the next four years. This game marks the first step in the long process of returning Penn State football back to a national power and trying to leave the terrible things that Jerry Sandusky & Co. have done, behind them.
Miami (FL) @ Boston College
Saturday, September 1st 3:30pm EST
The U lost a lot of it’s swagger this past season when Nevin Shapiro, the convicted felon, revealed all of the NCAA rules he had helped break. Including, paying for players apartments and providing VIP tables at popular South Beach night clubs and strip clubs. Miami is still waiting on final word from the NCAA on its punishment but just list Penn State and Ohio state this is a program led by a new head coach, Al Golden, that is looking to turn the page on its ugly past.
Hawaii @ #1 USC
Saturday, September 1st 7:30pm EST
These two teams faced off in 2010 with USC winning a shoot-out 49-36. Don’t expect the score to be that close this time around. USC managed to withstand a two year bowl ban and scholarship reductions to emerge unscathed at #1 in the preseason rankings. The Trojans are undoubtably lead by their Heisman hopeful senior QB, Matt Barkley, who passed on a first round selection in the NFL draft to come back to USC and compete for a national championship. Barkley has two high powered weapons in WRs Robert Woods and Marqise Lee. The trojans also plucked 1,200 yard RB, Silas Redd, from Penn State. The hiring of Lane Kiffin to succeed Pete Carroll was questioned by many, considering his head coaching record of 12-21 (Raiders & University of Tennessee) but if he can get the program to finish the season anywhere near its lofty preseason ranking he would successfully quiet his critics while being in the middle of a national championship run.
#8 Michigan @ #2 Alabama
Saturday, September 1st 8pm EST
Ladies and gentlemen, this is it. The college football Gods have shined down and blessed us with one of the greatest match ups of the season. Coming to you live from “Jerry World” better known as Cowboys Stadium. Two of the most storied franchises in all of college football will square off this Saturday with everything on the line. Michigan owns the most wins in college football (895) while Alabama owns the most national titiles (9) in the poll era. The Wolverines are coming off of Brady Hoke’s first season as head coach where they went 11-2 and beat Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl and put the Rich Rod era far in their rearview mirror. Nick Saban’s Alabama team went 12-1 and beat rival LSU in the BCS National Championship game. Denard Robinson is one of the most electrifying athletes in the sport and has the ability to change the game at a moments notice, with his feet or his arm, just as he did against Notre Dame in the Big House in one of last years most exciting games. Alabama may have lost their most exciting player in Trent Richardson but Nick Saban has created a monster in the Crimson Tide defense that is annually one of the top defenses in the country. He also brings in the nations 4th best recruiting class according to ESPN. If you aren’t excited for this match up you here are two things you should do: First, check your pulse. Second, take a look at the combined numbers for these two programs.
Wins – 1,709
Conference Championships – 68
Heisman Trophy Winners – 4
All-Americans – 125
Arkansas State @ #5 Oregon
Saturday, September 1st 10:30pm EST
At first glance this match up may not look interesting. Until you see the man holding the clipboard for the Arkansas State Red Wolves. That man is head coach and offensive mastermind Gus Malzan who was the offensive coordinator and QB coach at Auburn for the 2010 National Championship game against Oregon. Gus figured out a way to beat Chip Kelley’s Oregon team back then and I’m sure he’s got a couple tricks for the Ducks’ defense this year. Don’t think the Oregon faithful have gotten over that tight championship battle with Gus’ Auburn team. Do the Ducks gave the firepower to easily handle Arkansas State? Yes. But even if this game gets out of hand there are two very solid reasons to watch. D’Anthony Thomas is possibly the fastest man in college football and has the ability to amaze fans the way Reggie Bush did back at USC. Secondly, Phil Knight and Nike have been using Oregon as a test school for some of their most outlandishly awesome and awful uniforms for a long time and with, what seems like, 100 different uniform combinations to choose from there is always something interesting to see at an Oregon game.
Kentucky @ #25 Louisville
Sunday, September 2nd 3:30pm EST
One of the great traditions in college football are the rivalry games and the names they are given. The opening weekend of the season gives us this years Governor’s Cup. The battle between these two schools is not lost just because the game is taken from the hardwood to the gridiron. These schools hate each other and being in-state rivals, you can bet these athletes are going to fight for bragging rights. These two schools have faced off 24 times with Wildcats holding the 14-10 advantage over the Cardinals. With Louisville hanging onto the bottom of the AP poll the school needs to follow up last years win in Lexington and pick up this early win at home if it hopes to give the rest of the big east a little bit of credibility this year.
Georgia Tech @ #16 Virginia Tech
Monday, September 3rd 8pm EST
The season long battle for the ACC’s Coastal Division kicks off on Labor Day with Georgia Tech playing a virtual home game against #16 ranked Virginia Tech at the Georgia Dome. Virginia Tech had BCS hopes last year before losing to Clemson in the ACC title game. Frank Beamer leads his Hokies onto the field hoping to make it to the ACC title game. Both of the Tech schools are looking to bounce back and get the losing taste out of their mouths from last years bowl games. Georgia Tech lost in OT to Utah in the Hyundai Sun Bowl while Virginia Tech lost in the ACC title game then lost to Michigan in overtime in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.