NCAA Viewing Guide: Week 1

The dog days of summer are over. I'll be leaving. - USA TODAY Sports

SWEET SHYRONE STITH! College football is back! The days of pouring through reports of Tommy Linebacker's off-season job painting houses in hope of some shreds of insight into the upcoming college football season are over. "Upcoming" is no longer the word needed, "tonight" is more appropriate.

Normally I'll do 10 non-ACC games and then five (or sometimes all) ACC games. Given that a lot of ACC teams are paired up in the "big" games this weekend, you only get 10 this week. For those new to series, I always omit the Virginia Tech game because it's assumed you are watching it. RIGHT?

Also, I'm going to try a different approach this season from the format I used last year. So stick with me while we work out the kinks over the first week or eight. Let's get to it.

thursday

North Carolina at No. 6 So. Carolina, 6 p.m., ESPN

College football kicks off with the marquee battle of the polar Carolinas.

What they're saying:
Tar Heel Blog's Brian Barbour answers Garnet and Black Attack's Q&A with: Garnet and Black Attach returned the favor, answering Tar Heel Blog with:
The biggest question for me is how the North Carolina offense and South Carolina defense react to one another. Can North Carolina do what it needs to do on offense at the tempo Larry Fedora wants to run? How will the offensive line, which has been rebuilt following the loss of some excellent talent, respond against Clowney? What will UNC's running game look like in the post-Gio Bernard era? Can Bryn Renner start this season playing as well as he did at the end of the last one? I firmly believe UNC will depend more on its offense to win games than the defense so in my mind how the offense holds up will dictate UNC's chances. My gut feeling is UNC makes some dents early but South Carolina ultimately gets enough stops and musters the necessary offense to win 26-20. Unless we turn the ball over, I think South Carolina has the better team and should win. That said, my impression from the South Carolina side is that many Gamecocks fans are overrating how our defense will fare against a very good UNC offense. I expect UNC to keep this game close in the early going, and I wouldn't be surprised if the game is tied or the Tar Heels are winning at the half. With a balanced offense that should be significantly better than UNC's defense, though, I expect South Carolina will keep up early, control time of possession, and eventually break the game open in the second half, when South Carolina's defense will begin to make some plays and slow down UNC's scoring. I project UNC to score between 17-24, South Carolina between 27-38 or so. Likely a good 10+-point win for the Gamecocks against a solid UNC squad.

* * *

Ole Miss at Vanderbilt, 9:15 p.m., ESPN

First all-SEC match-up of the season. Pop quiz, hot shot: which of these two teams finished 2012-2013 with a 9-4 record? The answer: Vandy.

What they're saying:
Juco All-American answers a Q&A over at Anchor of Gold: Chris D'Andrea answered over at Red Cup Rebellion:
I've gone back and forth on this game. Until Chris Boyd's possible suspension, I expected Vanderbilt to win. That likely suspension coupled with a few things I've heard out of practice lead me to believe that Ole Miss will win this one. Last time I checked, the line was Ole Miss by 3, and I think that's about right. It could honestly go either way. Both teams have stout defenses, and those tend to reign in early season games. Last season, Vandy and South Carolina seemed primed for a shootout, but fell victim to sloppy and unrefined play in a 17-13 game. I can see Thursday's matchup going the same way. I.e.: mistakes are made, turnovers are capitalized on, and Vanderbilt gains 2.3 yards per carry as Franklin and his crew frantically tinker with the playbook. Still, I think the tools are there for this offense to work things out. Carta-Samuels will find his groove, Jordan Matthews will do Jordan Matthews things to keep ACS afloat, and the best offensive line this team's had in years will do enough to sustain drives. In the end, it comes down to Carey Spear, who will narrowly notch more field goals than blowout tackles. Vanderbilt 16, Ole Miss 14.

* * *

No. 24 USC at Hawaii, 11 p.m. CBS Sports Network

We all need a late night game to cap the first day of college football's return. Also, Hawaii is back to being called the "Rainbow Warriors" ... I think. Interesting bit to watch? USC's quarterback battle.

What they're saying:
Conquest Chronicles with this little bit: Hawaii fired its offensive coordinator on the first day of practice:
Coach Lane Kiffin has announced Max Wittek and Cody Kessler will be co-starters in the Season Opener vs. Hawaii. Yet practically all credible observers have come to the same conclusion, Cody Kessler has won the quarterback competition and deserves to be named USC's starting quarterback. Price joined Hawaii's staff in February after nine years with the University of Texas at El Paso. He was dismissed from the program for undisclosed reasons on the first day of Warriors' fall camp. Chow said "some issues have arisen," according to the Associated Press. Price also served as the team's wide receivers coach, but Chow will oversee that position and the offense in his absence. Graduate assistants will be expected to expand their roles within the program.

friday

Texas Tech at Southern Methodist, 8 p.m., ESPN

The first game action of Hal Mumme and June Jones at SMU. Should be worth a watch on a Friday night.

What they're saying:
Seth C over at Viva the Matadors offers this on the coaching matchups: More on Hal Mumme at Southern Methodist:
You have to go with Jones and Mumme here, just based off of experience, right? Anything less would be unfair. Don't get me wrong, I think that Kingsbury's upside and potential is so much greater it's not even funny, but we're playing just one game and not the course of a career. Even with a freshman quarterback, I think that Kingsbury has the better team. SMU has matchup problems on the defensive line and now it's a question of whether or not Kingsbury will exploit it. I have a feeling he will. He's had all summer to think about it. I'd also add that Kingsbury gets over-looked for his offensive mind because of who he is, I'm sure it's both a blessing and a curse to be so incredibly good-looking, but Jones and Mumme are coaching legends in their own right. They've generally done it the right way and I like them as coaches. In the short term, Mumme will be tasked with adjusting the SMU offense to improve Garrett Gilbert's effectiveness. The former Texas quarterback completed just 53 percent of his passes last season, with 15 touchdown passes balanced against 15 interceptions. SMU found success on the ground with fullback Zach Line and an occasional draw play by Gilbert, but Line graduated. Hal Mumme's not particularly interested in running the ball, anyway.

saturday

Brigham Young at Virginia, 3:30 p.m., ESPNU

Because hey, it's never too early in the year to watch Mike London struggle with clock management. It's also never too late for Caltrate.

What they're saying:
Nathan Mathis with Vanquish the Foe presents a BYU take on the game with LOLUVA: Streaking the Lawn offers a look at the youth of UVA:
Though maybe not quite as good as last year's, BYU is expected to have another great defense this season. That said, the Cougar's shouldn't have a problem containing Virginia's run game this weekend. With the new uptempo style offense being implemented at BYU, the Cougar's shouldn't have a terribly hard time finding opportunities to put points on the board. The biggest concern for the Cougars in this game is probably BYU's depleted secondary against Virginia's veteran receivers. If Virginia's offensive line can give QB David Watford enough time to exploit the holes in BYU's secondary, this game could get very interesting. Ultimately, it's pretty clear that BYU is the better team. The Cougar's are likely going to walk out of Scott Stadium on Saturday with a victory. But just remember, Virginia is a good team, with good athletes, playing at home, with a need to make a strong statement to begin their season. Don't be shocked if the game is much closer than many are predicting. Prediction: BYU wins 31-24 Mike London released Virginia's depth chart for the season opener vs. BYU yesterday, and it featured 34 underclassmen, more than any other team in the nation. Among those 34, there were 7 true freshmen listed in the two-deep. This number was a little higher than most anticipated, and it seems that later in fall camp, several newcomers played their way into potential playing time.

* * *

Syracuse vs. Penn State, 3:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN2

Syracuse gets its first crack at representing the ACC. The ACC now has to have the most teams with orange as a color of any other conference. These are the things that matter to me.

What they're saying:
A worthy preview from Syracuse blogTroy Nunes is a Magician Black Shoe Diaries brings you this evaluation of Saturday's foe:
Penn State...a name that (if we try hard to forget about the last two years) evokes much of what its proud residents are all about: Grit, determination, an absence of nonsense, and a whole lot of big, strong, ugly guys whose names end in utz, ski, or czek. If we look at the history of Northeastern football in its entirety, the Ivy's can claim ancient success, Syracuse and Pitt can claim dominance in selected eras, and Rutgers can dubiously claim that they called "shotgun" on the first ever game. But it is Penn State that has been the standard bearer. The constant. After Marrone's departure, defensive coordinator Scott Shafer was chosen to step in and continue the relative upward climb up from the abyss that was Greg Robinson's reign. Shafer was the DC at Michigan for one season, 2008, a season which saw the Wolverines finish near the bottom of the FBS in many defensive rankings including scoring defense (80th in the country) and pass defense (87th). His units have improved vastly since then; looking at Syracuse's 2012 defensive numbers, it's not hard to see why he was given the chance. While they ranked a respectable 47th nationally in yards per game allowed, Cuse were 22nd in the country in ypg allowed versus teams with winning records (six games). As for their freshman class, the Orange signed up 22 in the class of 2013, a class ranked t-73rd, 73rd, and 70th by Rivals, Scout, and 247, respectively, but their biggest offseason acquisition comes in the form of Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen, a 6'5" pro-style QB that may very well be the starter come Saturday.

* * *

No. 5 Georgia at No. 8 Clemson, 8 p.m., ABC

In the battle for the supreme Southern draaaaaaaawl, the Jawjuh Bull Dawgs travel nawth to play the Clmsn Tieguhs. Shut up, leave me alone. I tried. This should be your go-to game for Saturday night.

What they're saying:
Vineyarddawg of Dawg Sports offers this (all-too-familiar response for Tech fans) to Shaking the Southland's questions Eric of Shaking the Southland answered some questions for Dawg Sports
FIRE BOBO... oh, sorry, that was a knee-jerk reaction. I think Todd Grantham had pretty much still been in his "honeymoon period" as DC through last year. The underperformance of last year's defense relative to preseason expectations, however, has caused some people to start to question Grantham's ability. I don't think there's widespread dissatisfaction with Grantham yet, primarily because we had such great success as a team last year and there were some magnificent individual performances. So, I'd say UGA fans are still fairly confident in Grantham's ability to gameplan against a team's tendencies and weaknesses. If we start to allow a lot of big numbers, though, don't be surprised to hear people calling him out. As for Mike Bobo... well, the offensive coordinator position is probably the most-maligned coaching position in college football. Any time your offense fails to score on any possession, people think you're a bum. Before 2012, Bobo was probably the coach most Georgia fans loved to hate the most. His play-calling seemed to lack nuance, tended to be rather predictable, and he was extremely fond of what we like to dub "first and bomb" and "calling a draw on 3rd and 7." One does not argue with success, however, and in 2012 Mike Bobo headed what was probably the most prolific offense in Georgia history. Therefore, he now has a newfound host of defenders that have, seemingly, come out of nowhere. To my eye, however, his play-calling style didn't really change that much last year. There were still running plays to set up the play-action pass, and there were still "first and bomb" plays and "draw on 3rd and 7" plays. The difference was that in 2012, the players executed those plays with much greater efficacy, so they simply worked. (One of the calls Bobo was most panned for, by the way, was the "non-spike" at the end of the SEC Championship Game. I 100% agreed with his call not to spike the ball, however, since at that moment we had the best defense in the country on its heels. Why call a timeout and allow them to get reorganized? In the moment, it was a great, and gutsy, call.) That's a long explanation, but I think it boils down to the fact that a lot of Georgia fans probably trust Mike Bobo significantly more than they did last year. I'm still wary, however, of what he will do if our running game isn't as dominant as it was in 2012. In all honesty, they shouldn't. Georgia should expect to move the ball up and down the field Saturday night. I'm in "show me" mode regarding this defense. I haven't seen anything from them that leads me to believe they are capable of slowing down a high powered offense. On paper, this should be Clemson's strongest front 7 in years. Clemson only lost Malliciah Goodman off the DL. The DTs were very young last year, but came on strong at the end of the year. Grady Jarrett, Josh Watson, DeShawn Williams, DJ Reader, and Carlos Watkins give the coaching staff the depth and talent they have been craving at this position. The top 4 LBs are made up of two former 5* recruits, Stephone Anthony and Tony Steward, along with seniors Spencer Shuey and Quandon Christian. It remains to be seen how this unit will fair (sic), but I haven't been this excited about the LB corp in close to a decade. The same cannot be said about Clemson's secondary. The problem back there is the experienced players lack talent and the talented players lack experience. There have also been a number of injuries over the past year and through fall camp. That lack of practice time could lead to some miscommunications.

* * *

No. 12 LSU vs. No. 20 TCU, 9 p.m., ESPN

A pretty good match up in the Cowboys Classic, making Yosemite Sam happy. Can't wait to watch Les Miles eat grass on that enormous screen. Yes, I know Cowboys Stadium has artificial turf. Do you really think Les Miles travels without a burlap bag full of grass clippings?

What they're saying:
Football Study Hall offers an interesting take: And the Valley Shook's look at TCU's program history:
The great advantage TCU has in this game is in its cornerback play with great players in both Kevin White and Jason Verrett. LSU will attempt to match them with Odell Beckham, Jr., and Jarvis Landry, but you can expect TCU to turn its safeties loose in run support while leaning on Verrett and White to handle the sidelines on islands. By doing so, TCU can mix in its "Cover-2 Robber" scheme to the strong side while playing "Cover Blue" on the weak side. In Cover-2 Robber, Carter forces runs inside or plays the cutbacks on runs away from him while Free Safety Elisha Olabode fills the alley and adds a potential ninth run defender in pursuit. On the weak side, Hackett fills the role Carter plays to the strong side. LSU can attempt to respond to these schemes in two different ways. The first is to attempt to run the Frogs over anyways and hope to set up play-action opportunities. TCU played their way back into national relevance, and it is hard not to respect that. Instead of complaining about how unfair the wheels of fate had been, the Frogs built one of the best mid-major programs in the nation, and forced their way back into a major conference. OK, they went 7-6 in their debut season in the Big 12, their worst record since 2004, but it was still an impressive accomplishment. Gary Patterson deserves the lion's share of the credit. The new football palace they have built in Fort Worth is a testament to the rebirth of TCU football. No one gave this to them, TCU simply went out and earned it. I have nothing but the utmost respect for this program. It's hard not to.

* * *

No. 19 Boise State at Washington, 10 p.m., Fox Sports 1

These two teams ended last year against each other with Boise State's 28-26 win over Washington in the Maaco Bowl Las Vegas. Best two out of three!

What they're saying:
pjohn56's FanPost preview from One Bronco Nation Under God: Ryan Priest of UW Dawg Pound's preview of the offense:
n offense, I feel Washington may have better talent, individually, at certain positions. But I feel Boise St. has a better team with more overall options and flexibility. I also feel we execute all of those options at a higher level than UW does their's. On defense, I feel like, again, Washington has some exceptionally talented individuals...especially at Linebacker. But Boise St.'s strengths matchup better against Washington's potential weaknesses than vice versa. This is pretty much the opposite feeling I had concerning Michigan St. last year. Last season, I felt like Michigan St. was one of the worst teams we could have drawn given our inexperience and how we were built. The Spartans had a huge, experienced, and athletic defense while we were rolling out Southwick for the first time. Sparty had a power ground game fueled by a 230+ lb. athletic back, while we had a small, speedy defense built to rush the QB. In this UW game, the tables have flipped. UW runs a finesse, zone blocking run game with a fast and athletic RB. There's nothing wrong with that. But BSU counters with a sideline to sideline athletic front seven. UW has a passing attack that is potentially potent, but Boise St. counters with a freakish pass rush that can neutralize that threat at the trigger man. If we win this game, it will be because Boise St. was the base to Washington's acid in enough facets of the game. Call it Boise State 27 Washington 20 Through the air, Southwick has a definite favorite target in Matt Miller, a second-team all-conference selection who rang up a team-leading 90 yards on six catches against the Dawgs in December. That falls in line with his performance during the regular season, in which Miller accounted for 769 yards and five touchdowns on 66 touches; his production far outpaced Southwick's next-most prolific receiver, Kirby Moore, who chipped in 36 receptions for 368 yards in 2012. Washington's secondary will be tested early in this game by the Bronco's starting receivers, all of whom are at least 6-3 and the lightest of whom weighs 206 lbs. Don't be surprised to see UW's rangy linebackers dropping into coverage until Ajayi proves that he's the type of running back that opposing defenses must stack the box against in order to shut him down. The Broncos' rushers will be helped in this regard by an offensive line that returns two starters from a crew that allowed just nine sacks in 2012, good for sixth-best in the FBS. Though Boise State's offensive schemes don't utilize tight ends with the same fervor that Steve Sarkisian's do, Washington would nevertheless be wise to monitor the play of Gabe Linehan. Though he collected just one catch in four games last year before suffering a season-ending hamstring injury, Linehan put forth an impressive sophomore campaign in 2011, during which he accounted for 252 yards and five scores on just 23 receptions. Boise State will likely throw the ball whenever possible to take the heat off of Ajayi as he acclimates to his new role as featured running back, and it figures that Southwick would target his 6-4, 238 lb. teammate in hopes of accomplishing that goal.

monday

No. 11 Florida State at Pittsburgh, 8 p.m., ESPN

Oh yeah, this is now an ACC game. Good match-up to close out the opening weekend of college foosball, Bobby. FSU shouldn't have any trouble with Pitt, which means I basically jinxed them. This actually has implications for Tech since Pitt is in Tech's division.

What they're saying:
Tomahawk Nation with a bit about FSU's starter at QB. Cardiac Hill previews the game from the Pitt POV:
The hype surrounding the red-shirt freshman surged after Winston's impressive spring game, which included a touchdown on his first pass of the game. Winston followed that touchdown up with several impressive drives. Members of the Media, fans and football "experts" all crowned Winston the starting quarterback since the Spring Game performance. But until today, despite clamoring from the fanbase, Jimbo had been reluctant to name a starter. Many believe the real question facing the quarterback race has not been who will be the starter; but, rather, will the move lead to Coker's transfer. In a few words, the Panthers will have their hands full. The Seminoles come into town as the No. 11/12 team in the nation and will be a tough, tough out. I'm not here to tell you Pitt will win - and I'll spoil my end of week prediction by saying I expect Florida State to come out on top. However, there are a few things that could make the game interesting. Like Pitt, the Seminoles are replacing a quarterback after EJ Manuel went to the NFL. Redshirt freshman Jameis Winston was named the starter and barring something crazy, will be under center at Heinz Field. Winston is immensely talented, but still only a freshman. He's going to make mistakes this season and Pitt needs to hope he starts doing that early. A turnover or two could go a long way in trying to pull off an upset.

There you have it. Ten games from week one. ENJOY THIS GLORIOUS WEEKEND.

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