College Football: Week One Preview
It’s finally here; the greatest four months of the year have finally arrived. It’s been 234 days since Alabama narrowly defeated Clemson in the 2016 College Football Play Championship Game, and on Thursday, September 1st, the 2016–17 college football season kicks into high gear, and to say that this season starts off with a bang is not an understatement.
There are not any games between ranked teams on Thursday night, but there are two compelling prime-time matchups: South Carolina at Vanderbilt in Will Muschamp’s first game as leader of the Cocks, as well as Appalachian State at #9 Tennessee in the Vols’ first game as an over hyped and over-ranked team in the Butch Jones era.
Friday night also does not have any matchups between top-25 teams, but there is a rivalry game between Colorado and Colorado State, as well as a game between #8 Stanford and Kansas State. While the Cardinal have the large advantage in raw talent and star power, I never count out a Bill Snyder-coached team.
Saturday is when the big guns come out. There are three games between ranked teams spread throughout the game, starting with #15 Houston vs #3 Oklahoma, then moving to #18 Georgia vs #22 North Carolina, and finishing with #1 Alabama vs #20 USC. There are a handful of other intriguing matchups throughout the day Saturday, including Western Michigan at Northwestern, #16 UCLA at Texas A&M, Wisconsin vs #5 LSU, Northern Iowa at Iowa State, and #2 Clemson at Auburn. Between all of those games, there’s 12 consecutive hours of football fun to be had on Saturday.
This action-packed opening weekend closes with #10 Notre Dame at Texas on Sunday night and #11 Ole Miss vs #4 Florida State on Monday night.
Game of the Week: Houston vs Oklahoma
Of all the great games taking place this weekend, I think the most entertaining one will take place at NRG Stadium in Houston (this is technically a neutral site game) between the Cougars and the Sooners. Both teams are highly talented, with Oklahoma bringing in the 19th best recruiting class in 2016 according to 247Sports, while Houston’s class was ranked 35th, which is highly impressive for an American Athletic Conference school. Both teams feature dual-threat, Heisman-caliber candidates in Houston’s Greg Ward, Jr. and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, the walk-on turned superstar. Houston returned much of its team that shellacked Florida State in the Peach Bowl last year, and Tom Herman keeps improving as a young coach. Expect the Cougars to give Oklahoma a run for their money, if not pull out a victory over the national semi-finalists from last season.
Upset of the Week: Appalachian State at Tennessee
Even if Houston defeats Oklahoma, it will not be the biggest upset of the weekend. The biggest upset of the weekend will occur on Rocky Top, as the Volunteers’ heads will be too big from all of the preseason hype they’ve received, to the point where they won’t be able to put their helmets on correctly. Tennessee is much more talented than App State, and they will have the home field advantage, but the Mountaineers have a history of going into stadiums of 100,000+ people and defeating top-10 teams. App State returns much of their team that went 11–2 last season, and Taylor Lamb has big play ability as both a thrower and a runner. If Tennessee executes their gameplan and takes advantage of their talent, they should beat App State fairly easily, but the Vols have never done that under Butch Jones, and I don’t expect that to change just yet. On Thursday, Rocky Top will be a Rocky Flop.