New coach, same UNLV in opener

Aug 30, 2005 6:51 AM

Another season of college football season has finally arrived. And it couldn’t have come any sooner!

Even though the traditional trappings that signal the start of college football — autumn weather, short days, long shadows and fleecy overcoats — are still a few weeks behind, fans can’t help but rejoice the start of a new season.

College football, unlike the pros, still has that pristine element of excitement, the exuberance and tradition that transcends the guaranteed contracts and corporate mentality of the NFL.

One of the challenges of analyzing college football is trying to evaluate the myriad of changes that occur from season to season.

While you can count on most programs to remain intact for at least a couple of years at a time, the movement of players and coaching changes create a dynamic that must be addressed each season.

This season, there are a plethora of coaching changes — assistants as well as head coaches — and to a lesser extend, some movement in players from one school to another.

Obviously, there’s a lot to ponder, but that’s why Fortune Cookies is here. Every week, we’ll try to offer a few tasty morsels among the college games of the week.

So without further ado, here are a few games that have caught our attention this week.

Navy +8½ vs. Maryland: Navy is coming off one of its best seasons ever, but they have to replace nine starters on offense and seven on defense. But the Academy is good at plugging in replacements from year to year. Maryland has suffered some key injuries in the offensive line during fall practice. The Terrapins were only mediocre against the run last year and they’ll have their hands full with the Midshipmen, who have a good shot at keeping this game close. NAVY

Colo St. +7½ vs. Colorado: Colorado State is returning from a disappointing 4-7 season. But their 17 returning starters should come out with a chip on their shoulder and Coach Sonny Lubick will be very motivated to right the ship. Moreover, the underdog in this series has covered the spread eight times in the last 10 games. Even though Colorado has won seven of nine previous home openers, the Buffs have covered the spread only once. Expect a top effort from the Rams. CSU

W. Virginia +2½ at Syracuse: In this Big East match-up, the favorite has won and covered in 11 of the past 12 meetings. And the Mountaineers have covered each of the last four meetings while winning three of them. But there’s plenty of changes at Syracuse, which welcomes new head coach Greg Robinson, the former defensive coordinator at Texas. Also, the Carrier Dome finally scrapped its artificial surface and installed a prescription turf-like surface, which will delight the players. Syracuse has been known as an underachiever in recent years, but that should change with their new head coach. SYRACUSE

UNLV +14½ at New Mexico: The retirement of John Robinson as UNLV’s head coach will have a positive effect, but it may not be noticeable for a season or two. His replacement, Mike Sanford, is the former offensive coordinator at Utah, and his schemes will be difficult for the UNLV players to master in one season. Even though UNLV won at New Mexico two years ago and lost last season because of six turnovers, the Lobos are vastly improved, more experienced and should be ready to play when the Rebels roll into Albuquerque. N.MEXICO

Miami-Ohio +15½ at Ohio St: The early money has come in on Miami, which is probably the right side. Miami is picked to finish atop the Mid America Conference and, even though they break in a new head coach, return enough experienced players to put together a solid effort. In addition, Ohio State doesn’t usually blow people away. And they probably don’t want to show much with Texas on tap next week. MIAMI, O.

UCLA —8 at San Diego St: The Bruins have covered the number 10 times in 12 contests, and are 19-0-1 straight up (SU) lifetime against the Aztecs. The Bruins are also 12-6 ATS when playing non-conference games on the road. With a solid running back in Maurice Drew and good QB in Drew Olson, expect UCLA to pile up the points. UCLA

Louisville —21½ at Kentucky: The Cardinals have become dominant in this in-state rivalry, having covered five of the last six point spreads. During that stretch, Louisville has outscored the Wildcats by an average of 36-20 a game. LOUISVILLE.