College action

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The College football season kicks off this Thursday night and runs through Monday’s big Boise State/Virginia Tech game. Every ranked team will be in action with six of them squaring off against each other.

Between the mascots, the marching bands, the student body and the pageantry that college football brings to the sporting table, there isn’t much else that can match it from an excitement level.

Every game means something; for the top flight programs, a loss can devastate the season. For the up-and-coming program, a loss can stunt their bowl chances. Every school has a different agenda and it all plays out well as somewhat of a drama for each over the course of the year.  

For the six ranked teams that face off against each other this week, it seems illogical for them to plunge into the season this early against such tough competition.

TCU and Boise State have had some creditability issues the last few seasons because of their conference affiliation and playing good teams early is understandable, but with the way the BCS is structured with the power conference teams having an edge, all any of those teams have to do is just beat up on each other within their conference and win out.

It makes no sense for a team like LSU to hurt their chances this early in the year by losing to a good North Carolina team.

The team that will be interesting to watch this season is USC who will be ineligible for a bowl. How will this team respond knowing that there is no championship carrot dangling in front of them like years past to keep them focused and motivated? They are ranked No. 14 in the AP poll and climbing the ladder could serve as some motivation, but the seniors and juniors on this squad who know they will never play in a BCS title game have to be a bit torn about their feelings.

What’s worse for these kids is that the cool, swanky, surfer guy coach who recruited them isn’t even going along for the ride with them; he bailed, and now they get Lane Kiffin who has shown that he has no loyalty to anything. It’s a tough up hill road for the men of Troy to climb and it begins in Hawaii Thursday where USC is a 21-point favorite. It would be surprising to see Hawaii with its depleted offensive line be able to stay within three touchdowns, even with USC’s unknown psyche.

Here in Las Vegas, we’ll all get the pleasure of welcoming the folks of Wisconsin who play UNLV Saturday night. There will be around 15,000 Badger fans toiling around the city this weekend and I’ve never seen a more likable bunch from any school. The Wisky fans are some of the most pleasant, down to earth people and it’s a pleasure to have them here. As for the game, the Rebels are 21-point home underdogs with hopes of shocking the college football world. The Las Vegas sports books are hoping that they do because all the early action has been on Wisconsin and by game time, with many of the locals showing little faith in their team they are bound to lay the points as well.

There are lots of big spreads this week due to the mismatches. Ohio State is a 29½-point favorite at home against Marshall. Last year the Buckeyes let a good Navy team sneak up on them and almost lost. Don’t look for that to occur again as they should win by 40 over Marshall. Texas and Florida start new eras with new quarterbacks, but the spread still reflects as if Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow were still playing. Texas laying 29 at Rice and Florida 36 at home against Miami-Ohio seem a little high with new captains piloting the ship in their first outing.

I’ll be looking for a much improved UCLA squad this year with a nasty new defensive squad that should stifle opposing teams’ offenses all season. UCLA opened a 2-point road favorite, but Kansas State quickly shot up to a 2½-point favorite upon news that UCLA starting quarterback Kevin Prince may not play. Sophomore Richard Brehaut has been taking all the snaps in practice the last two weeks and will be ready if Prince can’t go. This is one of those games where I’m going with the coach in their opener. Rick Neuheisel gets his teams fired up for the openers everywhere he’s been and has his team believing they can beat anyone. He took a less talented squad to Tennessee last year and won at a very tough environment and should do the same this week.

Reminder, this week is the last chance to enter the college football contests at Leroy’s and Station Casinos. Also, if looking to bet college football games that aren’t part of the rotation, check out the Las Vegas Hilton Super Book the day before the game and they’ll have all the “Extra” added games on the board.

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