Alabama/Clemson highlights schedule
By Raphielle Johnson
The first Saturday of the college football season is finally here, and weather is already playing around with the schedules of some. Gustav has forced LSU to shift its game with Appalachian State to 10 o’clock local time, limiting the time Tiger fans have to get riled up for the game. Also, Tulane will be moving its practices to Alabama in anticipation of their game at Alabama next weekend. The Green Wave are off this weekend. Hopefully there aren’t any major issues in regards to evacuation plans and everyone on the Gulf Coast remains safe.
As for the big games of the weekend, two games featuring ranked teams are on the marquee. Alabama and Clemson face off in the first Chick-Fil-A Kickoff in the Georgia Dome, with tickets being out of reach for those still looking. And in St. Louis, rivals Illinois and Missouri renew their antipathy in a game that both teams should be fired up for. There are some other interesting games on the schedule, including a couple of upset opportunities. Below is the schedule for Saturday along with a quick preview of the action.
11:00 AM ET Appalachian State at No. 7 LSU on ESPN Classic
The first-ever meeting between the reigning champions of the FBS and FCS subdivisions has been moved from late-afternoon to brunch. The Mountaineers, winners of the last three FCS national titles, will be taking on a challenge much tougher than their trip to Michigan last year. As for the Bayou Bengals, Andrew Hatch will get the start at quarterback, but Jarrett Lee should also see some action. In their last meeting ASU hung with the Tigers for three quarters before falling 24-0. I like the Tigers to take care of business, even with a crowd that could be a bit more subdued than usual.
12:00 PM ET Youngstown State at No. 2 Ohio State Big Ten Network
Sorry, but the Penguins stand little chance of winning this one. Ohio State will give them a heavy dose of Beanie Wells and the other running backs, and the defense will be its dominant selves.
12:00 PM ET Akron at No. 13 Wisconsin Big Ten Network
J.D. Brookhart’s Zips won at NC State a couple of years ago, beginning the end of the road for one Chuck Amato. No such luck here, as P.J. Hill and Zach Brown should carry the day for the Badgers.
12:00 PM ET No. 17 Virginia Tech at East Carolina on ESPN
Upset opportunity here for the Pirates. Last year’s game was an emotionally charged game that the Pirates had little chance of winning, but they hung in there. Despite playing in Charlotte (as opposed to Greenville), ECU could possibly win this one behind quarterbacks Rob Kass and Patrick Pinkney. But there’s no Chris Johnson, which is a bad thing. As for the Hokies, Sean Glennon is the man at quarterback, but they also have some questions at running back. This one will be very close, but I like the Hokies to win this one.
12:00 PM ET Coastal Carolina at No. 22 Penn State Big Ten Network
I like Penn State, and with ease. It’ll be interesting to see how new starting QB Daryll Clark does in his first start, however.
12:00 PM ET Bowling Green at No. 25 Pittsburgh on ESPNU
Another possible upset. Pitt has been the in vogue team to win the Big East and make their second appearance in the BCS. But if the players put the cart in front of the horse they could run into some trouble, starting with this game. The Falcons will put the ball in the air, led by QB Tyler Sheehan and an experienced corps of receivers, the Panther secondary could have its hands full. But Pitt linebacker Scott McKillop is one of the better players in the country at his position. This should be a good one, and I’m going to take the Panthers behind RB LeSean McCoy.
12:00 PM ET Syracuse at Northwestern on ESPN2
Northwestern will win this game, but the Orange need this one in the worst way for the sake of head coach Greg Robinson. Tyrell Sutton, who only played seven games last year due to injury, should be back to his usual form in this one. Syracuse also has some good backs, and the viewers should get their first look at freshman Averin Collier.
12:00 PM ET Western Kentucky at Indiana Big Ten Network
I like the Hoosiers, but this one is tricky. WKU ups the ante with their scheduling in their second year at the FBS level. How good are they? We’ll find out here, as the Hoosiers should be pretty good this season.
12:05 PM ET Maine at Iowa Big Ten Network
Iowa…and it won’t be that close. Or at least it shouldn’t be.
12:30 PM ET Georgia Southern at No. 1 Georgia on ESPN GamePlan
The nation’s top team kicks things off with Georgia Southern. The only intrigue here is the introduction of Uga VII to the masses.
12:30 PM ET Hawaii at No. 5 Florida on ESPN GamePlan
Hawaii has new uniforms and a new head coach. Florida has Tim Tebow and Chris Rainey. Percy Harvin may sit this one out, but it won’t matter. Gators, big.
2:00 PM ET Southern Utah at Air Force
Air Force will win this one with ease.
2:00 PM ET Ohio at Wyoming on The Mtn.
Ohio lost Kalvin McRae to graduation, which could hurt their chances. But which Wyoming shows up for this one: the one that dominated Virginia in last season’s opener, or the one that lost six of its last seven games after a 4-1 start. I’ll say the Cowboys by a field goal.
3:30 PM ET No. 3 USC at Virginia on ABC
Virginia will start either Scott Deke or Peter Lalich at quarterback in this one, and to tell the truth it really won’t matter. Jetlag…I doubt it. Mark Sanchez has looked good in practice after suffering a dislocated kneecap a few weeks ago, meaning that the Trojans should be clicking on all cylinders in Scott Stadium. Trojans win this one by a comfortable margin.
3:30 PM ET Villanova at No. 8 West Virginia on ESPN GamePlan
Villanova has a pretty good program, but they don’t have athletes the caliber of Pat White and Noel Devine. And I expect a big day from Jock Sanders as well. Mountaineers win this one big.
3:30 PM ET Utah at Michigan on ABC
Now a loss in this season opener would not be an upset for Michigan. Little experience back with the exception of the defensive line and running back, and the Utes are a team not enough people have been talking about in regards to a run at the BCS. Brian Johnson is one of the better dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation, provided he stays healthy. I like Utah to win this one.
3:30 PM ET Oklahoma State at Washington State on Fox Sports Net
Paul Wulff makes his debut at Washington State, but in Seattle against a Cowboy offense that is loaded. Zac Robinson threw for more than 3,600 yards last season and could top those numbers now that he’s the full-time starter. But there are still some questions needing answers on the defense for OSU, but the Cougars lack experience at the skill positions. OK State gets the job done in the Pacific Northwest.
3:30 PM ET Towson at Navy
First game for new Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo and he’ll be without QB Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada for this one. But Towson isn’t much of a threat, regard less of who the Middies line up under center.
3:45 PM ET Delaware at Maryland on ESPNU
Maryland should win, but this is a dangerous game as the Blue Hens have one of the best programs at the FCS level. QB Rob Schoenhoft makes his debut for Delaware after transferring in from Ohio State. Go with the Terps.
4:00 PM ET Tulsa at UAB
The Conference USA opener for both, with Tulsa being the favorite to win the league in the eyes of many. UAB should be better this season, but they’re still a ways away under Neil Calloway. The Golden Hurricane begin their march toward C-USA supremacy with a road win.
4:30 PM ET Illinois State at Marshall
Marshall should win, and they will. But if they don’t head coach Mark Snyder’s seat would get rather toasty.
6:00 PM ET Northern Iowa at No. 16 Brigham Young on The Mtn.
BYU will win, and they’ll win by a sizeable margin.
6:00 PM ET McNeese State at North Carolina
ACC darkhorse North Carolina should have little trouble with McNeese State. RB Greg Little will be supplemented by one of the league’s best wide receiver corps.
6:00 PM ET TCU at New Mexico
The Mountain West opener for both and this one is an absolute toss-up. Donovan Porterie has improved immensely at quarterback for UNM since the beginning of last season, but he returns to school without his two best receivers from a season ago. The Horned Frogs didn’t live up to the preseason hype last season, but thanks to the talent at BYU and Utah they’re riding under the radar a bit heading into the season. I like TCU to win this one.
6:06 PM ET South Carolina State at UCF
No Kevin Smith or Kyle Israel for the Golden Knights, but I still like them to take care of SCSU in this one.
6:45 PM ET Mississippi State at Louisiana Tech
Mississippi State will win this one on the strength of their defense and running game, a formula that brought them eight wins in 2007. But be warned: Louisiana Tech is a better football team than they were last season, and the team now has a full understanding of what’s expected of them by head coach Derek Dooley and his staff. If the Bulldogs (yes, the team share a nickname) pull the upset, I wouldn’t be surprised one bit.
7:00 PM ET Chattanooga at No. 4 Oklahoma
Sooners will roll.
7:00 PM ET Louisiana-Monroe at No. 10 Auburn on ESPN GamePlan
Same for the Tigers, even though some Auburn fans may be inclined to give the Warhawks a standing ovation before the game for winning at Alabama last season.
7:00 PM ET Florida Atlantic at No. 11 Texas
This one got a bit more interesting when FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger called out the Longhorns, saying that they “lacked toughness” despite their polish. Not sure who he was trying to motivate, but the Horns should be more than ready for the game. And they’ll also be retiring Vince Young’s number before the game. Rusty Smith and the FAU offense will look to challenge the young Texas secondary early and often in this one and they should have some success. The defending Sun Belt champs aren’t short on talent, but is it Texas-level talent? I say no, and expect Texas to win.
7:00 PM ET Eastern Washington at No. 12 Texas Tech
Beating of the day, but at least the people who handle the finances within the EWU athletic department will be counting a few more dollars.
7:00 PM ET Tennessee-Martin at No. 19 South Florida on ESPN GamePlan
Skyhawks is a pretty cool nickname, but the Bulls will handle them with ease. Matt Grothe has a wealth of talent at his disposal, and DE George Selvie should finish the first half with multiple sacks. After that, hang out on the sidelines.
7:00 PM ET Western Illinois at Arkansas
Bobby Petrino begins his run in Fayetteville with the Leathernecks. Arkansas will win this game, and they’ll do so through the air.
7:00 PM ET Northern Illinois at Minnesota Big Ten Network
Jerry Kill had a lot of success at Southern Illinois, and he’ll look to continue his winning ways at Northern Illinois. But I don’t see the first win coming tonight, as the Gophers have a little more talent than they did in 2007. But how much better is their defense, which was one of the worst in college football last season? They may win, but I see them giving up some points in the process.
7:00 PM ET Memphis at Mississippi
Familiar foes get together in Oxford for the first game of the Houston Nutt era. Jevan Snead takes over at quarterback for the Rebels, and this should automatically mean an improvement in their passing game. But how do they replace the departed BenJarvis Green-Ellis at running back. Memphis has a good amount of talent on offense, but they’ll have to contend with DE Greg Hardy. I like the Rebels to defend their turf, but they’ll have to work hard in doing so.
7:00 PM ET James Madison at Duke
The first game for David Cutcliffe at Duke will also be the first win for David Cutcliffe at Duke.
7:00 PM ET Western Michigan at Nebraska
Western Michigan is expected to compete with Ball State and Central Michigan for supremacy in the MAC West, and the Broncos are hoping to exceed what the Cardinals were able to do in Lincoln last season. Ball State missed a field goal late that would have won the game, the first true sign that Bill Callahan was on his way out. Bo Pelini’s return to Nebraska should mean an immediate improvement on the defensive side of the ball, and the offense stands to be pretty good again this season. Nebraska wins it.
7:00 PM ET Southern University at Houston
Kevin Sumlin’s first game as head coach at Houston, but Case Keenum is back for his second year as Cougar starter at quarterback. Houston wins.
7:00 PM ET Louisiana-Lafayette at Southern Miss
Another first-year head coach in Conference USA, with this one being Southern Miss’ Larry Fedora. Expect a little more imagination from the offense, but the defense should be its usual selves behind LB Gerald McRath. USM wins.
7:05 PM ET Florida International at No. 14 Kansas
Last year’s score was Kansas 55-3. I’ll say Kansas 51-10, as FIU has gotten a little better. But they’re nowhere near Kansas right now.
7:05 PM ET Arkansas State at Texas A&M
Mike Sherman begins his run in College Station with a game against an Arkansas State team unveiling a new nickname (Red Wolves). Despite FB Jovorskie Lane missing this one, the Aggies win on the strength of QB Stephen McGee and RB Mike Goodson.
7:05 PM ET North Texas at Kansas State
Kansas State wins rather comfortably.
7:30 PM ET Boston College at Kent State on ESPNU
Chris Crane is the new starting quarterback for the Eagles, who also debut a new running back in freshman Josh Haden. But the Golden Flashes have one of the best tailbacks in the MAC in Eugene Jarvis. It’ll be interesting how the diminutive Jarvis deals with massive defensive tackles B.J. Raji and Ron Brace. BC wins this one in Cleveland, but Kent State will give them all they can handle.
8:00 PM ET No. 24 Alabama at No. 9 Clemson on ABC
The game of the day in my opinion, and I don’t think it’ll disappoint either. If Clemson wins, they were supposed to. A win for the Crimson Tide, on the other hand, would be a bonus. Both teams will be displaying a number of true freshmen in the Georgia Dome, with the Bama masses clamoring for a look at WR Julio Jones. James Davis and C.J. Spiller make up the best running back tandem in the ACC, and Culler Harper is the league’s best quarterback. Clemson begins the season in the Top 10, but they’ve had a history in recent years of not living up to expectations. A loss here would start the whispers once again. I’d love to pick the Tigers, but I see Nick Saban on the other side of the field and think otherwise. Roll Tide.
8:00 PM ET UC Davis at San Jose State
Should be a routing win for the Spartans, but it was UC Davis who a few years back (2005) won at Stanford. San Jose State isn’t as bad as that Stanford team was.
8:00 PM ET Michigan State at California on ABC
Kevin Riley gets the start at quarterback for the Golden Bears in a game that you probably won’t see if you don’t live in a Big Ten or Pac-10 market (or if you have ESPN GamePlan). Michigan State could be a darkhorse to make things interesting in the Big Ten behind QB Brian Hoyer and RB Javon Ringer. California is favored to win this game, but I like Mark Dantonio’s team to pull off the surprise.
8:00 PM ET Idaho State at Boise State on ESPN GamePlan
Boise State wins this one. Big.
8:30 PM ET No. 20 Illinois at No. 6 Missouri on ESPN
Bragging rights are on the line in this one, and both teams should have ample motivation to beat their rival in St. Louis. Illinois lost last year’s game…but they were the ones in the BCS while Missouri routed Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl. Add to this the “BCS” chant by elated Illini fans following their win in the annual basketball game and there you have it. The Illini will miss Rashard Mendenhall more than the Tigers miss Tony Temple, meaning that Mizzou will win this game.
9:05 PM ET Grambling State at Nevada
Grambling should be one of the better teams in the SWAC this season. But they wouldn’t be one of the better teams in the WAC, which is what Nevada should be. Wolf Pack win.
9:30 PM ET Cal Poly at San Diego State
The Aztecs will win this one.
10:00 PM ET Idaho at Arizona
Wildcats will win by putting up a lot of points. And don’t expect the Vandals to seriously test the unproven Arizona defense either.
10:00 PM ET Utah State at UNLV
Yes, neither one of these teams is very good. But it will be an entertaining game due to the fact that the Aggies and Rebels are about equal. UNLV wins, but many of the fans in Sam Boyd Stadium will be looking to find out when basketball season tickets go on sale. Those Runnin’ Rebels will be good this year.
10:11 PM ET Washington at No. 21 Oregon on Fox Sports Net
Bitter rivals kick off their conference slates in Eugene, where the “Autzen Zoo” should be in full throat. Justin Roper gets the start with Nate Costa out for the season again due to a knee injury more serious than originally thought. Jake Locker can do it on the ground or through the air at quarterback for the Huskies, but is there enough talent around him to steal a road win? But for the sake of Ty Willingham, U-Dub had better not get blown out in this one. I like Oregon.
10:22 PM ET Northern Arizona at No. 15 Arizona State
Sun Devils should have little trouble with one of two warm-ups before they host Georgia on September 20th.