Saturday Preview

    
September 5th, 2009

Alabama/Virginia Tech highlights opening Saturday

 

Thursday night may have disappointed some in regards to entertainment value, but it didn’t lack for drama. South Carolina’s defense bailed out an offense that left more than a few point on the field in Raleigh, harassing Russell Wilson and company for sixty minutes in the 7-3 Gamecock victory. Sun Belt champion Troy went on the road and lost by seventeen to a Bowling Green squad that may end up being better than some thought in the preseason. Especially when you measure the Falcons against a Temple team that was picked by the media to finish second in the MAC East, even garnering a couple of votes to win the conference.

 

Temple lost to Villanova 27-24 on a field goal as time expired, but this isn’t the Big 5. The Wildcats have a solid history in football at the FCS level (see: Brian Westbrook), but you cannot turn the ball over four times as the Owls did and expect to win. The same almost went for Indiana, who forced a couple of key miscues to hang onto a 19-13 win over Eastern Kentucky. But for as embarrassing (or potentially embarrassing) as those moments were, they had nothing on what happened at the end of the Oregon/Boise State contest.

 

You’ve probably seen the clips enough to know what happened, and the hammer came down on Oregon RB LaGarrette Blount in the form of a suspension for the remainder of the season (bowl included). Blount will remain on scholarship, which in my opinion gives him two options. One, he can get frustrated with the fact that he isn’t allowed to play and leave school. Or he can continue his studies and take ownership of the situation, taking advantage of the opportunity still at his disposal despite the circumstances. I sincerely hope he chooses the latter.

 

As for Saturday’s slate, there are a few games that should do wonders for fans who wish for competitive games instead of guaranteed beatings. Virginia Tech carries the ACC banner into the Georgia Dome, and given what happened to Clemson last year they need a solid performance at the very least. Georgia visits Oklahoma State without RB Caleb King and LT Kiante Tripp, and it won’t help matters that QB Joe Cox is under the weather. If the game turns into a shootout the Bulldogs will be in serious trouble. Some possible upsets involving non-BCS schools visiting teams in BCS leagues also dot the schedule, so you won’t be forced to watch 73-point underdogs all day.

 

 

 

ACC

 

Jacksonville State @ Georgia Tech 1:00 p.m. ET

No Ryan Perrilloux (suspension), even less of a chance for the Gamecocks than they had last season. Jonathan Dwyer begins defense of his ACC Offensive Player of the Year trophy with a big day on the ground. Yellow Jackets win big.
Northeastern @ Boston College 2:00 p.m. ET  

This would be a very competitive basketball game this season, with the Huskies expected to be one of the better teams in the CAA. But even with the Eagles breaking in a new quarterback in Dave Shiniskie who had to deal with injury during fall camp (ribs) they should pick up Frank Spaziani’s first win as Boston College head coach.  

Baylor @ Wake Forest 3:30 p.m. ET

This game is a bit under the radar but those who tune in will not lack for entertainment. Baylor QB Robert Griffin III was the last quarterback in the country to throw an interception last season and displayed a poise you rarely see in a true freshman. Add to this Olympic-caliber speed and a very good arm and you’ve got a guy poised for a breakout season.

 

On the other side is Riley Skinner, who seems as if he’s been in Winston-Salem for the past decade. And given the display that NC State put together last night, why can’t Jim Grobe’s Demon Deacons throw their hat into the ACC Atlantic ring. Look for the Bears to be far more competitive than they were in last season’s meeting, but Wake will win by a field goal.
Middle Tennessee @ Clemson 6:00 p.m. ET

This is a very dangerous football game for the Tigers. Rick Stockstill’s Blue Raiders have total confidence that they can win (they beat Maryland last year), and Dabo Swinney will use a quarterback in Kyle Parker who has yet to take a snap at the collegiate level. Clemson does have C.J. Spiller, who will now be the feature back following three seasons of sharing duties with James Davis. Keep the turnovers to a minimum and the Tigers should win. If not, things will get rather interesting in Death Valley.
The Citadel @ North Carolina 6:00 p.m. ET  

A good opportunity for T.J. Yates to build in-game chemistry with a new group of wide receivers, and the Tar Heels are loaded at running back with the likes of Greg Little, Shawn Draughn and Greg Rome returning to Chapel Hill. Carolina wins in comfortable fashion, looking to avoid injuries with Connecticut up next weekend.

William & Mary @ Virginia 6:00 p.m. ET

Al Groh has the dilemma of figuring out which quarterback gives his team the best chance to win. Jameel Sewell has the most experience despite missing 2008 due to academics while Marc Verica got a lot of work last season once Peter Lalich was lost for the season. And then there’s Vic Hall, the best athlete on the team who can add a dimension to the Cavalier attack. William & Mary is traditionally one of the better teams at the FCS level, so they can give the ‘Hoos fits. But look for Virginia to take care of business, surviving a scare in Charlottesville.
Richmond @ Duke 7:00 p.m. ET

The last meeting was a really bad sign of things to come for the Blue Devils. The Spiders shut out Duke 13-0 in 2006, kicking off a 0-12 campaign for Duke. And Richmond wasn’t the defending FCS national champion as they are this time around. But the Blue Devils didn’t have David Cutcliffe (Ted Roof was still the coach) and QB Thaddeus Lewis (Second Team All-ACC in 2008) was just a freshman, so things are a bit different. Given what’s happened over the last five seasons it would not be a shock if Duke went down, but look for the Blue Devils to survive the Spiders.
Alabama vs. Virginia Tech 8:00 p.m. ET  

Don’t know if the ACC had this date circled since the end of last year’s Chick-Fil-A College Kickoff, but this is a huge game for the perception of the conference and the Hokies. Tyrod Taylor has the chance to be an All-ACC quarterback but he must show progress in the passing game if that is to occur. Virginia Tech will also have to deal with the loss of RB Darren Evans, and is the offensive line the one that finished 2008 hot or will it be the one that struggled early last season?

 

Alabama also has its fair share of questions, including replacing Antoine Caldwell and Andre Smith on the offensive line. Greg McElroy takes over for John Parker Wilson, and he had a solid spring. Also, having Julio Jones can mean that you’ve already won half the battle in the passing game. Does Virginia Tech have the size and speed to deal with the Crimson Tide on the lines? This area is usually the separator between the SEC and the other conference hoping to be considered the nation’s best. Look for Alabama to win a game that should be far more competitive than last season’s College Kickoff.

Maryland @ Cal 10:00 p.m. ET

The Terrapins pulled off a surprise in College Park last season, jumping out to a big lead and holding on to defeat the Golden Bears. Despite the solid play of QB Kevin Riley the loss was a sign of things to come for Jeff Tedford’s team, which lacked continuity at the position all season long. Riley beat out Nate Longshore for the starting job in 2009 but it remains to be seen just how long he holds onto the job. Luckily for the Golden Bears Jahvid Best is back, this time looking to crack the “Big Three” in regards to his Heisman hopes.

 

Ralph Friedgen’s team will need continuity on the offensive line if QB Chris Turner, RB Da’Rel Scott and company are to keep up with the Golden Bears on the scoreboard. Cal’s defense did lose quite a bit, especially at linebacker, but they do return one of the nation’s best cornerback tandems in Syd’Quan Thompson and Darian Hagan. Maryland winning would be one of the weekend’s bigger upsets; I just don’t see that happening.

Big 12

 

Georgia @ Oklahoma State 3:30 PM

This should be an intriguing matchup, partly because the two teams have decided not to follow the AFCA’s suggestion that teams shake hands prior to the game. Georgia will be shorthanded as well with Caleb King and Kiante Tripp both out due to injury, and Joe Cox is reportedly under the weather but will play. There isn’t as much hype surrounding the Bulldogs in 2009, which may be a good thing since they didn’t handle the praise as well last season. RB Richard Samuel will lead a rushing attack suited to work via committee, and WR A.J. Green will give Oklahoma State’s Parrish Cox all he wants and then some.

 

As for the Cowboys, head coach Mike Gundy runs a spread that is equal parts run and pass. QB Zac Robinson is one of the best dual threat quarterbacks in the nation, and the pairing of he and RB Kendall Hunter can make the Pokes near impossible to stop on the ground. And if you do stop their rushing attack, there’s the matter of containing WR Dez Bryant, who his head coach compared to Jerry Rice earlier this week. Not to mention a defense that could be in store for resurgence under new coordinator Bill Young and you’ve got a team placed in many preseason Top 10 polls. If Georgia can stop the run via players such as DT Jeff Owens and LB Rennie Curran they’ve got a chance. But if the Cowboys get it rolling on the ground look out. Oklahoma State wins by a touchdown.

Missouri vs. Illinois 3:40 PM

With seventeen starters back the Illini may be poised to beat the Tigers in the Edward Jones Dome, something they’ve been unable to do in each of the last four meetings in St. Louis. With seventeen starters back and stars Juice Williams and Arrelious Benn taking their leadership roles seriously Ron Zook has a team that can be a darkhorse in the Big Ten.

 

The Tigers have to adjust to life without the likes of Chase Daniel, Chase Coffman and Jeremy Maclin, a task that may not lack for growing pains. Blaine Gabbert takes over at quarterback and it remains to be seen what one of the best quarterbacks in the Class of 2008 can get done at the collegiate level. The games have tended to err on the wild side between these two border rivals, but it will be Illinois who wins this edition.

ULM @ Texas 7 PM

Is it Colt McCoy’s “turn” to win the Heisman? The campaign begins in earnest against the Warhawks, who will have a tough time slowing him down. Texas starts slow…and then the second quarter begins. Horns win big.

North Dakota @ Texas Tech 7 PM

Taylor Potts makes his first collegiate start, and it won’t even be close. Good opportunity for him to get his feet wet and that’s about it.

Massachusetts @ Kansas State 7 PM

Bill Snyder is back on the sidelines, and what better way to welcome him back than with a victory. The Minutemen may challenge for a half or so, but not much longer in a comfortable Wildcat victory.

BYU vs. Oklahoma 7 PM

This game will be played in the new Cowboys Stadium, and the new digs get a marquee quarterback matchup as a result. Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford has a number of options at his disposal, but he’ll also have to deal with an offensive line that replaces four starters. Left tackle Trent Williams is the lone returnee, and the hope is that this unit has developed enough chemistry to play well. Max Hall is back for another season in hopes of rectifying what went wrong late in 2008 for the Cougars.

 

Too many turnovers led to the defense spending too much time on the field, and the blowouts at the hands of TCU and Utah were solid indicators of what can happen when you don’t take care of the ball. Oklahoma has one of the country’s best front sevens, but they’ll be going up against a solid offensive line. Unfortunately Oklahoma’s Jermaine Gresham will miss the game due to injury, robbing fans of a matchup of two of the leading candidates for the Mackey Award in Gresham and BYU’s Dennis Pitta. Look for the Sooners to win, but the Cougars should be more competitive than they were in their big games last season.

Florida Atlantic @ Nebraska 7 PM

This could be a dangerous game for the Cornhuskers even though they have one of the top defenses in the Big 12. That’s because of senior quarterback Rusty Smith, who is one of the better quarterbacks not drooled over by national media outlets every weekend. Rusty did struggle against opponents from BCS leagues last season, which should serve as motivation on Saturday evening. But do the Owls have enough defense to slow down RB Roy Helu Jr.? They did lose a lot from last season, most notably MLB Frantz Joseph. It’s the first game as starter for Zac Lee, and he should play well enough to get the win.

New Mexico @ Texas A&M 7 PM

Last year it was Arkansas State who went into College Station and left with a win. Given what New Mexico lost from 2008, not to mention having a new head coach in Mike Locksley, it’s tough to see them winning. Jerrod Johnson won the quarterback competition for the Aggies, and he should play well against the Lobos.

Northern Colorado @ Kansas 7 PM

Northern Colorado hasn’t been a very good team at the FCS level, so can they really be expected to beat the Jayhawks? No.

 

Big East

 

Minnesota @ Syracuse Noon

Game one of the Doug Marrone era and it promises to be a competitive one. Minnesota will be favored due to their returns on offense, most notably QB Adam Weber and WR Eric Decker, but the Orange have always been respectable on defense. Offense has been the issue, and the hope is that the former offensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints can return to his alma mater and provide an offensive spark. And how will Greg Paulus play in his first football game since high school? Syracuse has some solid players at running back and wide receiver, so he could be a pleasant surprise. But it won’t be enough to pick up the win.

Liberty @ West Virginia Noon

Game one of life after Pat White for the Mountaineers, and they shouldn’t have much trouble with the Flames behind Jarrett Brown.

Youngstown State @ Pittsburgh 1 PM

When Jim Tressel was the head coach at Youngstown State the Penguins were a force to be reckoned with. Once he left, things went downhill. Pitt may be young at running back but they’re also talented at the position thanks to Dion Lewis and Ray Graham. Look for the Panthers to win by a safe margin.

Connecticut @ Ohio 7 PM

This is a dangerous game for the Huskies, who begin life without Donald Brown and unveil a new offense. New offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead runs a no-huddle attack, and he should be familiar with Ohio’s personnel given the fact that he had the same position at Akron last year. If Zach Frazer takes to the system and some receivers, both young and old, step up the Huskies could be on to something. The defense will once again be solid, led by one of the best linebacker trios in the Big East (Scott Lutrus, Greg Lloyd and Lawrence Wilson).

 

Frank Solich’s Bobcats also run the spread attack, and they’ll play both Theo Scott and Boo Jackson on Saturday. However, despite the depth at the skill positions Ohio was one of the worst offensive teams in the MAC last season. It’s tough to envision them moving the ball up and down the field on Connecticut, but this will be a close game in front of what could be the largest crowd in the history of Peden Stadium. Huskies survive on a late David Teggart field goal.

Wofford @ USF 7 PM

The Bulls play two FCS opponents this season, and George Selvie could end up with more than a few tackles for loss against the Terriers. USF wins big, using this as a good time to build up cohesion on the offensive line.

Indiana State @ Louisville 7 PM

If Indiana State, which lost its opener to an NAIA school (Quincy University), beats Louisville there could be a mutiny in the Derby City. Justin Burke plays well in his debut, and Victor Anderson eclipses the 100-yard barrier by halftime in an easy Louisville win.

 

Big Ten

 

Akron @ Penn State Noon

Can the Nittany Lions repeat as conference champions? A lot will depend upon how they cope with the loss of some big-time offensive playmakers. But Daryll Clark and Evan Royster return, as do linebackers Navorro Bowman and Sean Lee. The answer to the question will come later in the season, but they’ve got enough to beat the Zips.

Minnesota @ Syracuse Noon

See Big East section.

Montana State @ Michigan State Noon

Kirk Cousins beat out Keith Nichol for the starting job, and he’ll have some solid receivers to go to in negotiating things without Javon Ringer. And middle linebacker Greg Jones is one of the nation’s best. Look for the Spartans to win big.

Navy @ Ohio State Noon

Ohio State lost a few playmakers on the defensive side of the football, which may not go well with the fact that the Midshipmen have led the nation in rushing each of the last four seasons. Terrelle Pryor is the unquestioned leader of the Buckeye offense, and that should help his growth both as a passer and as a leader. Ken Niumatalolo’s team hangs around and makes things tough, but one of Jim Tressel’s best traits is the ability to grind out low-scoring games.

Northern Iowa @ Iowa Noon

If this were basketball the Panthers would have a shot at beating Iowa. But it isn’t, and even without Jewel Hampton (knee) the Hawkeyes should take care of business. This will be a good opportunity for Kirk Ferentz to look at a few options to replace the player slated to take over where Shonn Greene left off.

Toledo @ Purdue Noon

The Toledo Rockets playing for someone other than “Toledo Tom” Amstutz? Yes, that day is here, but the Rockets do have a puncher’s chance of beating the Boilermakers. Danny Hope takes over for the retired Joe Tiller, and there are a few holes to fill offensively. Toledo can keep it close if they can force some turnovers, but in the end Purdue will survive.

Towson @ Northwestern Noon

New head coach Rob Ambrose makes his debut at Towson. Unfortunately for the former Connecticut offensive coordinator he’ll open with a Northwestern team that could surprise some people in the Big Ten. Wildcats win comfortably.

Western Michigan @ Michigan 3:30 PM

This is another dangerous MAC/Big Ten matchup, and given the turmoil in Ann Arbor this week you have to wonder if everyone is unified for the sake of Michigan football. They face a Western Michigan offense that has a multitude of weapons, led by QB Tim Hiller and RB Brandon West. Michigan will play three quarterbacks on Saturday: Tate Forcier, Nick Sheridan and Denard Robinson. But they’ll have to lean on a solid stable of running backs in order to have success on offense. Michigan should win this game, but if they aren’t focused on the task at hand they could be in trouble.  

Missouri vs. Illinois 3:40 PM

See Big 12 section.

Northern Illinois @ Wisconsin 7 PM

The Huskies have a chance to win in Madison with their defense being a big reason why. Jerry Kill may have lost Larry English but he’s still got a talented group that does well within the NIU system. The Badgers aren’t much for finesse and John Clay will play a larger role in the offense this season with PJ Hill leaving. If someone scores thirty it would be a surprise; look for Wisconsin to win by a touchdown.

 

Conference USA

 

Appalachian State @ East Carolina Noon

Before Armanti Edwards went down with a foot injury this was a dangerous game for the Pirates. It’s still a tricky affair, but some wind’s been taken out of the sails due to his injury. As long as they don’t get caught looking ahead to West Virginia, East Carolina will win.  

Rice @ UAB 4 PM

How will the Owls replace Chase Clement, Jarrett Dillard and James Casey? We’ll find out in the season opener, which is also the conference opener for both. UAB hopes to make a move up the standings in the East Division, and QB Joe Webb will play a large role in the Blazers’ progress. If Nick Fanuzzi and Toren Dixon can step up the Owls should be in contention for a bowl bid again this season. They’ll have enough to beat an improving Blazer squad Saturday afternoon.

Southern Illinois @ Marshall 4:30 PM

Similar to Louisville taking on Indiana State the Thundering Herd cannot afford a loss to an FCS team. Look for the Herd to take care of the Salukis.

Alcorn State @ Southern Miss 7 PM

Look for Damion Fletcher and company to make short work of the Braves.

Northwestern State @ Houston 7 PM

Case Keenum and company could score fifty on the Demons, given the disparity in talent.

Samford @ UCF 7:30 PM

The Knights have some issues to work through offensively, but they’ve got enough to beat Samford.

Stephen F. Austin @ SMU 8 PM

This is a tricky game despite the fact that SFA is an FCS team. The Mustangs weren’t exactly world beaters last season due to the new system brought in by June Jones and having a true freshman quarterback. Bo Levi Mitchell has a season under his belt so he should be better equipped to score points. Look for Mitchell to show off his progress in an SMU victory.

Buffalo @ UTEP 9 PM

Have the Miners improved? Have they become tougher? Those are the questions that need answering Saturday night as the defending MAC champions visit El Paso. The Bulls have their own questions to answer, most importantly how they go about making up for the loss of James Starks. Turner Gill knew that he wasn’t going to have QB Drew Willy due to graduation. But to lose a player like Starks in fall camp is a terrible blow. They’ve still got WR Naaman Roosevelt and he’ll be a factor. Who wins this game will depend mainly on UTEP’s defense, which was poor last season. If Mike Price’s team can show some toughness they’ll win.  

 

Independents

 

Navy @ Ohio State Noon

See Big Ten section.  

Nevada @ Notre Dame 3:30 PM

For all the talk of Notre Dame possibly getting to the BCS, if they can’t figure out how to stop Colin Kaepernick the run could be over before it even starts. He’s that good. To put it in context: Kellen Moore quarterbacked Boise State to a 12-0 regular season record but it was Kaepernick who was named WAC Offensive Player of the Year. He can run and pass, making him twice as difficult to account for. But do the Wolf Pack have enough defense to deal with an improved Notre Dame offense? For that reason the Irish win, but it won’t be easy by any stretch of the imagination.

Army @ Eastern Michigan 7 PM

Both teams are unveiling new head coaches in Rich Ellerson and Ron English. In that case, go with the experienced Ellerson in a close, low-scoring affair.

 

Mid-American

 

Akron @ Penn State Noon

See Big Ten section.

Toledo @ Purdue Noon

See Big Ten section.  

Kentucky vs. Miami University Noon

The Wildcats were painfully young on offense last season and should be better in 2009. Defensively they lost a lot but do return the best cornerback in the SEC in Trevard Lindley. The Redhawks have a new head coach in Mike Haywood, but changing a culture is tough when said team is coming off of three consecutive losing seasons. Look for the Wildcats to pick up the win at Paul Brown Stadium.

Western Michigan @ Michigan 3:30 PM

See Big Ten section.

Connecticut @ Ohio 7 PM

See Big East section.

Northern Illinois @ Wisconsin 7 PM

See Big Ten section.

Army @ Eastern Michigan 7 PM

See Independents section.

Buffalo @ UTEP 9 PM

See Conference USA section.

Central Michigan @ Arizona 10 PM

An interesting game out West, and the Chippewas have a chance to pull off the upset should their defense show any improvement since last season’s porous performance. Dan LeFevour is one of the best dual threat quarterbacks in the country, and his receiving corps is extremely talented. They’ll have their hands full with a solid Arizona defense that can make plays in space. And with just two starters back on the offensive line, CMU had better keep an eye on DE Brooks Reed.

 

As for the Wildcats, they need to figure out who their starting quarterback will be: Nick Foles or Matt Scott. No decision has been reached as of yet, so you have to go in expecting to see both in some capacity. But there’s a talented corps of receivers despite the loss of Mike Thomas to the NFL and a pair of very good backs in Nic Grigsby and Keola Antolin. At the skill positions the Chips can hang with the Wildcats; the lines are a far different story.

 

Mountain West 

 

Nicholls State @ Air Force 2 PM

Will Air Force rush for 250 yards or more tomorrow? I’d say yes, but they aren’t the kind of team that will blow people out. Don’t judge the ease by the final score; Falcons win.

Weber State @ Wyoming 3 PM

The first game of the Dave Christiansen era sets up to be a routine one, with the Cowboys taking care of business. But keep an eye on QB Karsten Sween, who has been one of the more disappointing players in the Mountain West over the past couple of seasons. Given what Christiansen was able to do with Chase Daniel it wouldn’t be a surprise if Sween had a big day.

BYU vs. Oklahoma 7 PM

See Big 12 section.

New Mexico @ Texas A&M 7 PM

See Big 12 section.

San Diego State @ UCLA 7:30 PM

They’ll be playing this game despite wildfires that have caused terrible smoke issues, and it’s a game that won’t be as easy for the Bruins as you might think. Brady Hoke can get some things done with his offense, as evidenced in the play of Nate Davis last season. The Bruins will need to see solid play from QB Kevin Prince if they’re to move up within the Pac-10, and with a solid defense they could definitely accomplish that. The difference on Saturday comes down to two players: WR Terrence Austin and CB Alterraun Verner. Rick Neuheisel has them and the Aztecs don’t.

Sacramento State @ UNLV 10 PM

This is shaping up to be a big year for UNLV football, and Omar Clayton and company should get off to a good start with a win over the Hornets.

 

Pac-10

 

Portland State @ Oregon State 2:30 PM

With Oregon having their issues at Boise State, could the seemingly always-disrespected Beavers make a move up into the top three of the Pac-10, if not higher? If Sean Canfield can get the ball to playmakers Jacquizz and James Rodgers without turning the ball over too often the answer is yes. The Vikings won’t offer much of a test, but the Beavers are definitely in play for a spot on top of the conference.

San Jose State @ USC 3:30 PM

According to ESPN, Matt Barkley becomes the first true freshman to start at quarterback for a Top 5 team in over thirty years. San Jose State has a solid defense which could give him some confusing looks. But at the end of the day the Spartans have nowhere near the offensive capabilities needed to stay in the game.

Stanford @ Washington State 6 PM

We will learn early how much Paul Wulff’s team has developed since last season’s two-win campaign. The Cardinal beat the Cougars like they stole something in Palo Alto, winning by a 58-0 final. Stanford stands to be a better team with seventeen starters back, including workhorse RB Toby Gerhart. Just how well the Cougars play will depend upon the quarterback position and how well Kevin Lopina (or Marshall Lobbestael or JT Levenseller) performs under center. Four starters return up front for Washington State but they’re young on the defensive line. Look for 100-plus yards from Gerhart, but the final won’t be 58-0.

San Diego State @ UCLA 7:30 PM

See Mountain West section.

Central Michigan @ Arizona 10 PM

See MAC section.

Idaho State @ Arizona State 10 PM

Even with the offensive line troubles from last season that the Sun Devils are looking to get past, they should not lose to the Bengals. If the line can open up some holes for their running backs Dennis Erickson’s team has a chance to exceed expectations this season.

Maryland @ California 10 PM

See ACC section.

LSU @ Washington 10:30 PM

Steve Sarkisian’s first game as head coach at Washington, and you have to wonder (as some did while Tyrone Willingham was in Seattle) who plans the schedules. The Tigers will have a young quarterback in Jordan Jefferson, but it won’t matter. The return of Jake Locker helps out the Huskies immensely, but they’ve got too many holes to fill to entertain any thoughts of beating LSU.

 

SEC

 

Kentucky vs. Miami University Noon

See MAC section.

Western Kentucky @ Tennessee 12:20 PM

The first game of the Lane Kiffin era, and there was no need to say anything that would irk the Hilltoppers. Jonathan Crompton did just enough to win the starting quarterback job, and with a plethora of young players at the skill positions he needs to play well. But when you’re playing a team that didn’t win one game against an FBS opponent last year, it’s more about fine-tuning for UCLA than it is worrying about whether or not you’ll win.

Georgia @ Oklahoma State 3:30 PM

See Big 12 section.

Jackson State @ Mississippi State 3:30 PM

History will be made in Starkville on Saturday, with Jackson State being the first SWAC team to visit an SEC school. Ever. With all of the games played by SEC teams against FCS teams you have to wonder how we’ve gotten to 2009 before anyone called up a SWAC school. It’s also the first game for new head coach Dan Mullen, and is Tyson Lee the answer at quarterback? The Bulldogs did lose to Maine a few seasons ago, but it’s tough to pick against them here.

Charleston Southern @ Florida 7 PM

Charleston Southern is a 73-point underdog. If Florida covers, I sure hope that guarantee money makes up for the look on the faces of those kids walking off of the field.

Louisiana Tech @ Auburn 7 PM

Does Louisiana Tech have the line play needed to knock off an SEC team on the road? If so, Phillip Livas and company have a chance to beat the Tigers. Derek Dooley has turned the Tech program around quickly, to the point where the Bulldogs are expected to be one of the challengers to Boise State atop the WAC. As for Auburn, Chris Todd starts under center in the first game of the Gene Chizik era and the fans would like to see more from the offense in 2009. To expect Auburn to score fifty points a game would be unrealistic, but they at least need to do enough to take some pressure off of the defense. Auburn wins by a touchdown, but it could be closer.

Missouri State @ Arkansas 7 PM

Ryan Mallett begins his Arkansas career and he should have a big night against the Missouri State defense, as should RB Michael Smith.

Western Carolina @ Vanderbilt 7:30 PM

Vanderbilt could be even better in 2009 than in 2008, but whether or not that translates into another bowl bid will depend upon how they navigate their SEC slate. Mackenzi Adams and company plays solid football in beating Western Carolina.

Virginia Tech vs. Alabama 8 PM

See ACC section.

LSU @ Washington 10:30 PM

See Pac-10 section.

 

Sun Belt

 

Western Kentucky @ Tennessee 12:20 PM

See SEC section.

Middle Tennessee @ Clemson 6 PM

See ACC section.

Mississippi Valley State @ Arkansas State 7 PM

Unless Jerry Rice is eligible to suit up for the Delta Devils they aren’t beating the Red Wolves. Sorry.

Southern @ UL Lafayette 7 PM

Southern may have a slightly better chance at winning than their SWAC brethren, but it’s tough to pick who will be next to fall to an FCS team. Well, without Michael Desormeaux and Tyrell Fenroy, UL Lafayette could get into some trouble. But they will survive in the end.

Florida Atlantic @ Nebraska 7 PM

See Big 12 section.

UL Monroe @ Texas 7 PM

See Big 12 section.

 

WAC

 

Nevada @ Notre Dame 3:30 PM

See Independents section.

San Jose State @ USC 3:30 PM

See Pac-10 section.

Louisiana Tech @ Auburn 7 PM

See SEC section.

Idaho @ New Mexico State 8 PM

The conference opener for both in Las Cruces, and despite their overall ineptitude you have to give Rob Akey’s Vandals a shot here. The Aggies welcome a new head coach in DeWayne Walker and there’s been a lot of turnover on both sides of the football. Idaho is a team in the WAC that could move out of its traditional doormat role this season…or they could stay in the cellar. Go with the former, with the Vandals winning a close one on the road.

UC Davis @ Fresno State 10 PM

This is a big year for the Bulldogs, who were a major disappointment after beginning the 2008 season with an impressive win at Rutgers. This year’s opener won’t provide the same challenge, but it is a good spot to get some experience for QB Ryan Colburn.

Central Arkansas @ Hawaii 1:05 AM

The final game of the first Saturday and it’s extremely tough to see Central Arkansas flying all the way out to the islands and leaving with a win. Warriors get the job done behind Greg Alexander.