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[+] Team Summaries

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Games to Watch in Week 1

You should watch every game this weekend, but if you have a job or a life or a limited attention span, here's where you should focus your energies.

Legend: Team1 (line) [ATL in ‘07] vs./at Team2 [ATL in ‘07] (location)

Illinois (+8.5) [-0.42] vs. Missouri [-10.51] (St. Louis)

Why we care: It’s the only game this weekend that puts two really good teams on the same field.

What to watch for: First, how does Illinois recover from the loss of RB Mendenhall? Second, enjoy the Daniel to Maclin show.

Misc.: Missouri was better at football than Arkansas last year. In fact, matching those two up in a bowl game was an insult to the Big 12.
Missouri coaches and players have probably all invested in second homes in St. Louis to offset the hotel expenses. Regular season college football is not supposed to be played at neutral sites-only bowl games.

Pick: Missouri by 10.

Utah (+4) [-5.12] at Michigan [3.44]

Why we care: This is the first of a series of games pitting MWC teams against beatable BCS opponents, which will be important for legitimating a BYU (or Utah) run at a BCS bowl. Oh, yeah, and Michigan hired a new head coach.

What to watch for: The Michigan offense. Michigan is only two years away from a late season #2 ranking and a year away from a preseason #5. If the offense clicks, this could be a tough team (and Rich Rodriguez might just get a big head—the shame). If not, Utah will run away with this game and the year of the MWC begins.

Misc.: Last year, Rich’s team was called the Mountaineers. Last year, Rich’s new team lost to the Mountaineers. Last year, Rich’s team almost won a DI-A national championship. Last year, Rich’s new team wasn’t good enough to win the DI-AA national championship.

Pick: Utah by 5.

Troy (-6) [-9.65] at Middle Tennessee [-2.32]

Why we care: Two of the three best teams in the Sun Belt will be taking the field in Murfreesboro this Thursday. For Sun Belt teams, conference titles and a chance to knock off a BCS team are everything.

What to watch for: Last year, Troy had a legitimately good offense, averaging 453 yards a game, scoring 41 against Oklahoma State in a winning effort and another 34 against Georgia in a loss. Troy has to replace a QB Haugabook, though, and Thursday will be our first competitive look at new QB Jamie Hampton.
Middle Tennessee, on the other hand, has to replace almost everyone. Thursday’s game will help us decide whether the Blue Raiders are competing or rebuilding in 2008.

Misc.: Last year, Troy knocked off BCS foe Oklahoma State and Middle Tennessee State came a sliver from knocking off a very good Virginia team. In the next several weeks, the Troy Trojans will travel to LSU, Ohio State and Oklahoma State.

Pick: Troy by 10.

Wake Forest (-13) [-3.48] at Baylor [1.75]

Why we care: The beginning of the Art Briles era in Waco. Baylor has been competitive in the past under the great Grant Teaff, and could be again if Briles is able to make more out of less talent with a quirky offense (as Mike Leach has done at Texas Tech). If Baylor does become competitive again, the Big 12 South will be the best division in college football, hands down.
Some people care about ACC football, too. If Clemson slips, Wake Forest should get their shot at Virginia Tech in the ACC championship game-a game that will belong to the Atlantic representative.

What to watch for: With QB Riley Skinner, RB Josh Adams and 9 starters on defense back from last year’s team, we should know what to expect from Wake Forest. The question marks are all on the Baylor side. QBs Kirby Freeman and Robert Griffin have the talent to run a dynamic offense, but experience in the offense and the skill players around them to make it click have gone AWOL. The Baylor defense was horrible last season and we can anticipate a repeat performance.

Misc.: I probably played in 20 high school football games in stadiums larger than Wake’s Groves Stadium. One of those games was against Waco High.

Pick: Wake by 20.

Appalachian State (NA) [NA] at LSU [-4.56]

Why we care: University of Michigan 32 Appalachian State University 34

What to watch for: The QBs. Mountaineer QB Armanti Edwards is supposed to be the real deal – Wikipedia page and all. He looked like it against Michigan last year, but then again, Oregon’s Dennis Dixon looked like he could have walked on water had it been raining a week later in the Big House. LSU is reloading, but LSU recruits well enough to reload. Inexplicably, LSU will need to rely on a 47 year-old Harvard transfer at QB in Andrew Hatch. This game gives us a sneak peak of LSU’s new team and of Heisman hopeful Armanti Edwards against legitimate talent.

Misc.: Let’s just say, hypothetically speaking, that App. State pulls this one out. Could they get Les Miles fired, too?

Pick: LSU by 25. (Les, your job is safe until Alabama comes to town.)

Clemson (-5) [-5.08] vs. Alabama [1.83] (Atlanta)

Why we care: The national sports media have collectively built a shrine to Nick Saban and his unachieving Crimson Tide. This game also represents Clemson’s first test.

What to watch: Line play when Clemson has the ball. The Alabama D-line is not going to win many games singlehandedly, but it just might win this one if the Clemson O-line is as poor as some fear. Clemson’s D is good enough to keep Alabama in check and the offensive skill guys for Clemson are good enough that, if given time, it could be a long day for the Tide.

Misc.: I don’t like Nick Saban.

Pick: Clemson by 10[0?].


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