With college football starting up this week, there are a lot of questions that arise every season. Will Alabama repeat? Will Mark Ingram repeat as Heisman? Who will be this year’s Cinderella school? What player will make the best case for himself in the NFL Draft?
Questions are answered throughout the year. With that being said, week-by-week new questions and answers arise and headlines are made. Week one is filled of excitement, joy, and more importantly adrenaline instilled in fans, players, and coaches.
Not many highlight games are on for the first week, most major schools are playing out of conference opponents that are touch-up games for the bigger matches throughout the year.
Here is an inside look to the top ten games for week one in college football for the year 2010.
North Carolina vs. LSU (Georgia Dome)
The Tar Heels come in being at one of their highest rankings ever for a pre-season, which is thirteen. LSU has been here before, they know what it takes to win, to put on a show and more importantly have the spotlight. With that being said, it’s the new age team against the veteran team. Here’s what you need to know
Who to watch for on the Tar Heels: Only rushing for 567 in ’09 all eyes will be focused on Shaun Draughn (Sr.) for the run game and wide receiver Greg Little for the passing attack. The defense is held down by defensive tackle Marvin Austin and cornerback Kendric Burney. With the Tar Heels being ranked in the top 25, which is a rarity they must prove to the naysayers that they belong at the top. Late Wednesday night a report was put out that Marvin Austin among other players might be suspended for this game, which means the Heels will have to overcome yet again, another challenge.
Who to watch for on the LSU Tigers: Two juniors lead the way for the offense that needs to pick up the pace. Quarterback Jordan Jefferson and running back Stevan Ridley both come in to this season looking to make sure the offense brings together. On defense the Tigers are led by the only regular starter back from last year, defensive tackle, Lazarius Levingston. The Tigers also have a big play defensive back in Patrick Peterson who held highly-touted Georgia wide receiver, AJ Green to just four catches last year.
The Tar Heels and Tigers aren’t fighting for much in this out of conference battle except for respect. The Heels, an underrated team ready to prove its worth in not only the ACC but also the entire college football nation will take on the LSU Tigers. A Tiger team that has been through it all, a team that has to play in one of the most powerhouse conferences, the SEC. It should be a good game till the end, with Carolina’s power defense and LSU’s awaiting offense. The Heels may come out on top.
Purdue at Notre Dame
This matchup has more then just a couple big name schools in it. Notre Dame has a new head coach in Brian Kelly who promises to make the offensive system, “worth watching.”
Who to watch for the Boilermakers- Former Miami Hurricane quarterback Robert Marve will now be under center for Purdue as he had to sit out and await eligibility. Helping Marve will be senior Kevin Smith who led the Big Ten conference in receiving last season. Al-Terek McBurse will need to show a burst since he is now the replacement for injured Ralph Boden at running back. The defense returns five starters from last year and those five will need to produce. The secondary for the Boilermakers is a huge question mark as there are four new starters.
Who to watch for the Fighting Irish: everyone. From head coach Brian Kelly to star wide receiver, Michael Floyd all eyes will be zoned on the new look Notre Dame team and more importantly new look offense. Kelly has promised that his group of guys will play at pace seen at the NFL level. If that is true, quarterback Dayne Crist who comes in replacing Jimmy Clausen, running back Armando Allen and Michael Floyd will need to produce often.
The first game of the year proves to be a big one for both teams this year. With Notre Dame’s new everything and Purdue using a transferee at quarterback there will be rust on both teams. The most important thing is what side can shake off the rust quicker, Purdue or Notre Dame? In the end, Notre Dame has to many skilled players and the Fighting Irish should win this game.
Oregon St. vs. Texas Christian University (TCU) in Arlington, Texas
Respect is something both teams want in this matchup and they get the big stage to prove their worth. The game will be held in what can be called the football palace, new Cowboys Stadium. TCU has had the small-school label on them for to long and Oregon St. while they are not the USC Trojans, they are a very tough opponent to face. It should be more of a test for TCU who has more to prove then Oregon St.
Who to watch for on the Oregon St. Beavers- They come out with a new quarterback in sophomore Ryan Katz, usually a young player can bring worries to a system but Katz has backup. His backup comes in groups of two, brother Jacquizz Rodgers (a potential Heisman trophy winner) and James Rodgers. Both are undersized but their play can’t be measured. Along side of the Rodgers brothers are Markus Wheaton and Jordan Bishop who could be the biggest beneficiaries if the Rodgers’ brothers get to much attention. On the defensive side of the ball many questions arise for the Beavers who lost many starters either due to injury or personal reasons. Everyone must outplay themselves if the Beavers want to be serious.
Who to watch for on the Horned Frogs: The Frogs have nine returning starters on offense and the new guys, which include running back Ed Wesley, have been around the system and have made an impact. Quarterback Andy Dalton could be making his case for the NFL draft but more importantly for some respect. The Frogs did lose first-round pick Jerry Hughes to the NFL but they ranked number one in total defense last season. Using a five man secondary could help the lack of experience with the help of weak-side safety Alex Ibiloye.
Both teams come in with a lot of potential. A lot of firepower on each side as well for both teams. The key thing to look for here is who gets going first. If the Rodgers’ brothers get the Beavers biting the Frogs may have no answer. That is unless of course, Andy Dalton has something to say about it. Dalton has been very successful and it’s hard to go against the normal, the TCU Frogs may win this one in an epic battle.
Boise St. vs. Virginia Tech (Landover, Maryland)
The Boise St. Broncos aren’t just a small school anymore, which is exactly what they want. But did they want it like this? The Broncos have a very tough opponent in Virginia Tech but they will be playing on a neutral field. Star players are on both teams and on both sides of the ball for each team respectively.
Who to watch for on the Broncos: Quarterback Kellen Moore was second in the nation for passing efficiency last season and the thing that makes him lethal is his running backs and wide receivers. Those weapons are highlighted by running back D.J. Harper, who led the team in rushing last season before tearing his ACL. If he can return to top form the Broncos will have a very scary offense. The Broncos defense has been inconsistent at times but will have nine returning starters including the headliner on the d-line, Ryan Winterswyk.
Who to watch for on the Hokies: Their offense is high powered and led by Tyrod Taylor who get’s some pressure taken off him by the running back duo of Ryan Williams and Darren Evans who have the ability to explode on any team in college football. Their defense will face its biggest test right away taking on Boise St. Led by team leaders, defensive tackle, John Graves and Rashad Carmichael will need to play all-out and prove to their teammates that the defense deserves credit as well.
In the end there may just be too much Boise St. for the Hokies. Kellen Moore has another year of experience underneath his belt and Boise St. has more to play for then Virginia Tech who may be able to withstand a loss in the mediocre ACC. The Boise St. Broncos should prove to be victorious in the most anticipated game in week one of college football.
USC at Hawaii
The USC Trojans literally have nothing to play for. After NCAA violations were handed down, the Trojans have been banned from post-season bowl games for the next two years.
Who to watch for on the Trojans: Quarterback Matt Barkley is a sophomore this year but it might be the freshmen who have a big impact on his season. Highly touted recruit, wide receiver, Kyle Prater could be forced to red shirt. Losing Seantrel Henderson to Miami is another big loss for the Trojans who do have a positive in freshman Dillon Baxter. Baxter may see limited touches this season but has the ability to make every touch an explosive play for the offense. On defense the Trojans lose big play maker, Taylor Mays to the NFL and only have five returning starters from last season. Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey and defensive end Armond Armstead will look to be leaders for those newcomers on the defense.
Who to watch for on the Warriors: Using a run-and-shoot offense Hawaii may have the Trojans on their heels all night. Quarterback Bryant Moniz had some spring troubles but will use wide receivers Greg Salas and Kealoha Pilares for assistance to keep the offense running smoothly. On defense there are plenty of newcomers as only six starters return from last year. Showcased by defensive backs Mana Silva and Spencer Smith the Warriors may find some struggles in their first couple of games to stop high powered offenses.
While they may not have much to play for this year, USC plays with pride, fight and determination. They will be using those three motives as a reason to not roll over and let Hawaii have its glory. The Trojans may keep it close for the first quarter but in the end, they will make it a victorious trip to Hawaii.
Connecticut at Michigan
A very interesting game to say the least here as the UConn Huskies take on historic-program Michigan who has struggled lately. After a big signing of head coach Rich Rodriguez the Wolverines have been trapped in their cave for quite some time. Posting only a 5-7 record last season and going 1-7 is not what Big Blue had in mind when hiring Rich Rod. An out of conference game for both teams will test both squads respectively.
Who to watch for on the Huskies: The offense doesn’t have many big names but quarterback Zach Frazer ended the season strong, throwing eight touchdowns and only two interceptions in the final five games. Scary news for opponents of the Huskies is their ground game. Junior running back Jordan Todman didn’t even hit his full potential last season after rushing for 1,128 yards and 14 touchdowns. The defense will be led once again by team leader Greg Lloyd and last season’s Big East tackle leader, Lawrence Wilson. The Huskies have a bunch of well prepared players who can withstand a challenge from Michigan.
Who to watch for on the Wolverines: All eyes will be on quarterback Tate Forcier whose name I love to say. What Michigan fans didn’t love to say was the amount of losses their team had. The eyes of Tate Forcier will also be watching for the other quarterback making headlines, Denard Robinson who is compared to Pat White (a former Rich Rodriguez player) who is also the fastest player on the team. The running back and wide receiver positions are filled with depth so whoever is the quarterback will have many weapons, but those weapons need to produce. The defense returns eight starters and while there may not be one true standout star as there was last year in Brandon Graham, Michigan is deep.
Depth and talent may hold off UConn in this game. If Michigan wants to prove they can play they must start off right. The Wolverines should play up to par to keep their season and head coach’s future alive. Starting off right facing a tough opponent in the Huskies it should be an entertaining game.
Pittsburgh at Utah
An under the radar matchup for the average fan, should turn out to be a fight-to-the-end battle. Pittsburgh is led by Heisman candidate, Dion Lewis who is an explosive running back. For Utah, they will be moving to the Pac-10 conference next season and need every big game they can handle in their season before the big move.
Who to watch for on the Panthers: Obviously the previously-mentioned Dion Lewis will have plenty of focus on him from the Utah defense to the fans watching on television. With that being said, Lewis will have a target on his back but his protector will be wide receiver and big play threat, Jonathan Baldwin who could have a big impact at any moment. The defensive side is led by the nation’s sack leading defensive line. With more depth and talent added to an already big-time force the defense might be the key to this game.
Who to watch for on the Utes: Last season’s Poinsettia Bowl MVP, Jordan Wynn is back under center for Utah and so are running backs Matt Asiata who’s finally become healthy and new starter Eddie Wide who filled in for Asiata nicely. During the fill-in time Wide rushed for 1,069 yards and 12 touchdowns. The defense has more question marks then the offense as they only return three starters from last season. Two of the starters, Dave Kruger and Sealver Sillga can be found on the defensive line and will need to play at their highest level all season.
While the Utes have been impressive throughout their past few seasons, they have many questionable players on defense. Pittsburgh should prevail in this big game held at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Win or lose, expect a huge game from Dion Lewis who will be playing like a man determined for the Heisman trophy.
Washington at BYU
Also being moved from their division after this season, BYU is looking to prove its point. Led by a freshman quarterback and very few returning starters they may have a hard time starting off and scoring points which ranked 11th in the nation last season. For Washington, the coaches are smiling and so are the fans as headline quarterback Jake Locker returned for his senior year and didn’t leave for the NFL draft.
Who to watch for on the Huskies: Shouldn’t have to be mentioned but Jake Locker will need to prove that staying another year was the right decision. Locker isn’t the only one who needs to prove their worth as sophomore Chris Polk needs to prove his 1,000 yards rushing as a freshman was no fluke. On defense six starters return for Washington including senior linebacker, Mason Foster. A defense that held Pac-10 teams to 13 points or less three times last season looks to improve that number and keep their defense as highly-respected as it was last season.
Who to watch for on the Cougars: Freshman quarterback Jake Heaps will have the hearts of many fans relying on him to impress right away. Deep at running back, J.J. Di Luigi and Brian Kariya are likely to see most of the work load to take pressure off Heaps. On defense, junior Jordan Pendleton is the only returning linebacker from last season and will need to keep a consistent core together. Many players will have to rise to the occasion and replace players from last season’s squad.
In a quarterback matchup of senior vs. freshman Locker who was projected to go in the top selections in last year’s draft will have the upper hand. BYU might have a hard time adjusting with the freshman under center which is why the Huskies should come out on top.
Northwestern at Vanderbilt
Big Ten (or is it Big Twelve yet?) vs. SEC in this matchup that may not get the attention it deserves. The Wildcats come out replacing quarterback Mike Kafka with junior Dan Persa in their pass heavy attack. Pass heavy Northwestern against run heavy Vanderbilt who are led by sophomore running back Warren Norman. Both teams may have an offensive showcase to put on but the defenses must play as well.
Who to watch for on the Wildcats: Dan Persa will need to make NW fans say, Mike Kafka who? With more attention on wide receivers, returning starter Sidney Stewart, a senior will need to pave the way for the younger receivers on the squad. Northwestern also has to replace a lot of defensive players but do return six starters from last season. Led by the linebacker group of Quentin Davie, Nate Williams and Ben Johnson the Wildcats need to prove that when one door closes, two more open.
Who to watch for on the Commodores: Warren Norman as previously mentioned will be the headline running back but when he’s not in Zac Stacy will do more then ok as his replacement. Quarterback Larry Smith has had his playing ability questioned on more then one occasion and it’s time to prove the naysayers wrong. On defense there are many new faces, with only three returning starters from last season. Chris Marve will be the head linebacker while Sean Richardson will be leading with his head to make very impactful hits.
In a game where one team has a true rush attack and the opposing team has a true pass attack, defenses are put on the spotlight. With question marks on both side of the ball it also comes down to the coaching system. Northwestern has been underrated for many seasons but should pull off this victory in front of their home crowd.
Wisconsin at UNLV
A matchup that features running back candidate John Clay is the main reason for this game making the list. For any player to make his case for Heisman he must start off right, taking on UNLV is a perfect way for Clay to start. UNLV looks to this game as a motivator; they don’t want to be a push-over team any longer and will fight to the end
Who to watch for on the Badgers: John Clay as mentioned will be key to this game as it is the big game for him to begin. Their offense led by Clay and quarterback Scott Tolzlen led the Big Ten in scoring, rushing, total offense and time of possession last season and returned ten starters. The defense only has six starters but return all three starting linebackers in Chris Borland, Culmer St. Jean and Mike Taylor who need to keep this defense strong.
Who to watch for on the Rebels: Returning eight on offense, Omar Clayton is back at quarterback who has is sixth on UNLV’s all time passing list. His main target, junior Phillip Payne also returns and the two will need to have chemistry in tact if they want to fight for the win. The defense returns eight as well led by cornerback Quinton Pointer who was the team’s top tackler from last season.
As easy as it is to write up Wisconsin as the winner, UNLV will fight. The fight may not last long so the Badgers have the upper hand in this matchup. The potential Heisman candidate John Clay hopes it’s as easy to begin as it was to pick his team as a winner.
So there you have it, a preview for your top ten college football games of week one. It’s finally here so throw on your face or body paint, get your tailgating gear ready and show your school pride. College football shows the top talents in the nation as young guys turn into young men. One thing we can all agree on is Lee Corso should continue to put on those goofy-looking mascot heads.
written by Mike Pendleton follow him on twitter @MP2310