Bama can't be conservative against Seminoles
August 29, 2017 3:06 AM
by Tony Mejia
The first full week of the college football season is upon us, but we already got a preview of what’s in store for us in Week 0. That’s what some referred to the first five games involving FBS schools, which included a no-show from BYU against FCS member Portland State and Stanford destroying Rice.
South Florida spotted San Jose State a 16-0 lead, then surged ahead to lead at halftime before failing to cover by a single point. Colorado State’s annihilation of Oregon State to open its new on-campus stadium undoubtedly thrilled proud alum Jay Kornegay of the Westgate and doubled as the most impressive performance from the preview weekend.
Hawaii’s last-minute win at UMass provided the best game and featured a great finish. Something tells me higher-profile schools will be involved in the week’s most thrilling contest going forward, and we’ll look to narrow down the field here every week by identifying the best matchups going in.
1. Florida State vs. Alabama: Hopefully this lives up to the hype, set at Atlanta’s new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. While the Crimson Tide enter ranked No. 1, the Seminoles would ascend to the top with an upset. It’s no surprise that ‘Bama is favored since they have been every game since Oct. 2015, but the -7 opened some eyes. Clemson won last season’s national title game as a 6-point ‘dog, while FSU beat Michigan outright in its bowl game while getting roughly this number. Expect the outcome to hinge on how much Nick Saban trusts QB Jalen Hurts to take advantage of a Seminoles defense that was often brutal last season but benefits from free safety Derwin James’ healthy return. Even though Dalvin Cook is now the likely starting RB for the Vikings, FSU has plenty of talent around QB Deondre Francois that would allow them to take advantage if ‘Bama is overly conservative.
2. Michigan vs. Florida: Jim Harbaugh lost his first game at the helm against Utah but is 20-4 since and looking to elevate his alma mater to greater heights this season. The Wolverines are breaking out new all-Maize uniforms for this one and will attempt to match their style with substance since they’re coming in losers of three of four. They fell just a play or two short in all those games, and we’ll see immediately if year No. 3 of the Harbaugh era fosters further improvement and consistency as they square off with the Gators in Arlington. Top receiver Antonio Callaway is among seven players suspended for Florida, which joined Michigan in holding a highly scrutinized QB competition in the offseason.
3. West Virginia vs. Virginia Tech: Year 2 of the Justin Fuente era in Blacksburg is being met with great optimism since the legendary Frank Beamer’s successor comes off a bowl win over Arkansas. That followed a tight loss to eventual champ Clemson in the ACC championship game and a November win at Notre Dame too, so the Hokies are clearly in good hands and have been granted the nod as the favorite despite an inexperienced offense led by redshirt freshman QB Josh Jackson. The Mountaineers also have a new guy under center, but Florida transfer Will Grier will have plenty of game action to draw upon at FedEx Field in this Sunday showcase.
4. Texas A&M at UCLA: We’ll get an indication of how seriously to take these teams in their loaded conferences as they join the Mountaineers and Hokies on national television in a parlay-friendly foursome. Josh Rosen and the Bruins benefit from friendly surroundings at the Rose Bowl in this return game after losing last year’s opener in Texas in OT. The Aggies were able to get stops when they needed them in that game but must now find a way to pull that off without top DE Myles Garrett, who has put his talent on display all preseason after the Browns called his name first in April’s NFL draft. The Aggies also lost their top two tacklers, so they’ll be leaning on new leadership on both of sides of the ball in a game featuring a pair of head coaches (Kevin Sumlin, Jim Mora) whose seats will get scalding hot immediately if their teams fail to perform here.
5. Wyoming at Iowa: The Cowboys are a double-digit underdog, but they’ve covered six straight games in that role, winning four of those outright. The Hawkeyes will present a great test for Wyoming due to their depth, but QB Josh Allen will be the higher-regarded passer here and will get to see his poise on display in the toughest road environment he’ll see all season. The Hawkeyes have some issues in the secondary with two key starters having graduated and top returning corner Manny Rugamba suspended for this opener. Iowa is 14-2 in home openers and always a threat to surprise in the Big Ten under the tutelage of Kirk Ferentz, but if there’s an eyebrow-raising upset to come in Week 1, this is certainly a top candidate.
6. BYU at LSU: Originally scheduled to be played in flood-ravaged Houston, this game will be relocated and the teams were still looking for a new venue as Monday unfolded. The Cougs put very little on display in their opener but probably still expected an easier time from an FCS team coming off a losing season and starting a true freshman quarterback. The Tigers won’t be looking ahead or hiding much of their playbook with Chattanooga on deck, so BYU will have to be much better than it showed on Saturday.