Ok, so technically college football did start last week, so we’ll refer to this as week 1.5. Having said that here is what I’m watching for on this first week of the college football season.
Can the Big 10 shake off a bad postseason? By the time this is published Ohio St will have taken on an always game Indiana team. What I want to see is if there is any hangover from the postseason for a conference that went 3-7. I would expect some close scores at halftime of a few of these games; PSU vs. Akron, MSU vs. Bowling Green, Iowa vs. Wyoming. But the big one to keep an eye on is Michigan vs. Florida. Michigan is only returning 5 regular starters from last years team (most in FBS). How long will it take for these new starters to develop some chemistry. They don’t exactly get an exhibition game against a very good Florida team.
The return of UAB Football. This might be the best feel good story of week 1. December 2, 2014 was the date UAB president Ray Watts told the team they were dissolving the program. You probably remember the passionate speech by Tristan Henderson. (no you’re crying!) It was extremely controversial but the spirit of the players, alumni, students and supporters have prevailed and at 2:30pm local Birmingham time, the UAB Blazers will return to the field. The only shame is it won’t be televised nationally but hopefully some of the highlight shows are smart enough to show the video of this team making their comeback.
A tough test out of the gate for Sam Darnold and USC. USC was one of the hottest teams at the end of the 2016 season. And they’ll start the 2017 season with a team that went undefeated in the regular season and was only 8 points from finishing the season undefeated. Darnold and the men of Troy will have to face a defense that finished 26th overall in FBS. Can the new golden boy of USC live up to the hype and take care of the Broncos and start their run to the college football playoffs.
The start of the Coach O era in LSU. This will be the first season opener for Coach Ed Orgeron as the head coach of the LSU Tigers. The shadow of Les Miles still hangs strong at Tiger Stadium. No one will doubt Coach O’s passion for the game. But passion will only get you so far. The Tigers need to come out strong against a BYU team that won 9 of their last 10 games last season and started the 2017 season with a win over Portland State. The biggest knock on this program has been the lack of a top notch QB. Can senior Danny Etling be good? He doesn’t have to be great with Derrius Guice lining up behind him at RB. But even there is a question mark. Guice had wisdom teeth surgery this week and his status for Saturday is in question. I expect this one to be, as they say, “Closer than the experts think”.
The biggest opening game in history. At least that’s what they are calling Alabama vs. Florida St. We all know how good the ESPN hype machine can be but honestly I don’t remember a bigger opening week game. One of these teams is going to start 0-1 and basically need to run the table to make the College Football Playoff. If they do then we could certainly see a rematch in January. The game within the game here is the revamped front 7 for the Bama defense vs. ACC Freshman of the Year Deandre Francois. Look for this one to be a “feel each other out” type of game. I don’t think we’ll see a high scoring game. I think in the end this Bama team is just too good, and by that I mean Nick Saban is too good.
Enjoy week 1 and let’s be thankful for the return of an old friend.