Opening night schedule, previews
By Raphielle Johnson
The day has finally arrived! Opening night for the college football season here, and hopefully 2008 will be as wild and unpredictable as the 2007 campaign. Just one ranked team (#23 Wake Forest) will take the field on this night, but there are a few games of interest that you should pay some attention to. Below is the schedule for tonight, along with previews of some of the day’s key games.
7:00 PM ET Northeastern at Ball State
Ball State quarterback Nate Davis looks to pick up where he left off in 2007 (30 touchdowns to just six interceptions) in what should be a relatively routine win for the Cardinals.
7:00 PM ET UTEP at Buffalo
One of the day’s more interesting games, as both squads should be in position to increase their win totals this season. QB Trevor Vittahoe is the leader for the Miners, while senior Drew Willy is one of the better quarterbacks in the MAC. The Miners by a field goal.
7:00 PM ET Eastern Illinois at Central Michigan
Dual-threat QB Dan LeFevour will be looking to lead CMU to back-to-back MAC titles. This game should be nothing more than a warm-up heading into their game at Georgia next week.
7:00 PM ET Indiana State at Eastern Michigan
Not much is expected of the Eagles this season in the MAC, but they should take care of business here.
7:30 PM ET Hofstra at Connecticut on ESPN360
The Big East co-champs kick things off, hosting former Atlantic 10 Football foe Hofstra. No Wayne Chrebet for the Pride, meaning that the Huskies should take care of business.
7:30 PM ET Jacksonville State at Georgia Tech on ESPN360 Who knows if this game is going to be competitive for four quarters. But you do have two reasons to watch: Paul Johnson’s first game as Georgia Tech head coach (let’s see how well the installation of the option has gone), and the new Jacksonville State quarterback. Oh, his name is Ryan Perrilloux, who went from SEC Championship Game MVP to removed from the LSU football team within about five months.
7:30 PM ET Vanderbilt at Miami (OH) on ESPNU
Both offenses will be of some interest tonight. With Vandy, how much has starter Chris Nickson improved? And if he should struggle, do the Commodores quickly insert Mackenzi Adams? As for Miami of Ohio, they were one of the nation’s worst in total offense last season, and improvement there could be the only thing between the Redhawks and the MAC East crown.
7:30 PM ET Eastern Kentucky at Cincinnati
Dustin Grutza takes over for the departed Ben Mauk at quarterback, and he’s got an outstanding corps of wide receivers to get the ball to. But the guys to watch in the Cincinnati uniforms may be the defense, most notably corner Mike Mickens. The Colonels may have won the Ohio Valley last season, but this is a big step up. Also serves as a warm up for the Bearcats, who travel to Oklahoma next weekend.
7:30 PM ET Charleston Southern at Miami (FL) on ESPN360
Seven players are suspended for this one, including quarterback Robert Marve. Marve will split time with Jacory Harris at the position this season, meaning that his absence robs him of a “work out the kinks” game before being tossed into the fire next week (at Florida… Good luck with that). But the Canes should roll, serving up a heavy dose of Javarris James and Graig Cooper.
7:30 PM ET Troy at Middle Tennessee on ESPN360
One of two conference games on the slate for tonight (Oregon State @ Stanford being the other), with Troy looking to start their run at an outright Sun Belt title. The shared with FAU last season, but a bitter season-ending defeat at the hands of the Owls meant that the Trojans would be spending bowl season in…Troy, Alabama. Middle Tennessee on the other hand has one of the league’s more versatile players in tailback Desmond Gee.
8:00 PM ET South Dakota State at Iowa State on Fox College Sports
Austen Arnaud gets the start at quarterback for the Cyclones, who host a Jackrabbit program making its debut as a member of the Missouri Valley Football Conference. This could be a struggle early, given Iowa State’s turnover on offense, but they should put this one away.
8:00 PM ET North Carolina State at South Carolina on ESPN
Russell Wilson gets the first start of his college career for NC State…and it happens to be in a stadium that may be one of the loudest in America. At least he’s got a nice stable of running backs (Jamelle Eugene, Andre Brown and Toney Baker) that can relieve some of that pressure. Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks are loaded on defense, returning ten starters on that side of the football. As for his quarterback, Tommy Beecher will get the nod, and the staff is hoping that they can leave him at the position for a little while. I like South Carolina’s defense to carry the Gamecocks to a victory.
8:10 PM ET No. 23 Wake Forest at Baylor on Fox Sports Net
The Demon Deacons begin a season in which many expect them to challenge Clemson for ACC Atlantic supremacy. Riley Skinner and Josh Adams will lead the offense, with Alphonso Smith and Aaron Curry being two of the mainstays on defense. As for the Bears, the Art Briles era begins tonight with a question mark at quarterback (Coach Briles knows who the starter will be, he just hasn’t told anyone). Blake Szymanski, Kirby Freeman and Robert Griffin could all see time under center, with Szymanski and Freeman (at Miami) being the most experienced of the group. And a defense like that of Wake’s isn’t what you want to see with an unsettled quarterback race, so I see the Deacs winning this one.
9:00 PM ET Oregon State at Stanford on ESPN2
Both Oregon State and Stanford have some questions about the quarterback position needing an answer tonight. The Beavers will go with Lyle Moevao as the starter, with Sean Canfield missing much of fall drills due to a shoulder injury. He’s listed as the backup, but you have to think head coach Mike Riley is hoping to leave him on the sidelines for this one (Justin Engstrom should be number two for tonight’s game). Stanford also has a question under center, even with Tavita Pritchard (who engineered the upset of USC) starting. Both teams need consistency from the position if they are to improve their standing in the Pac-10 this season. Also keep an eye on two of the better wide receivers in the conference: Oregon State’s Sammie Stroughter and Stanford’s Richard Sherman. I'll take the Beavers in a road win.