College Football Week 1 – Are Early Upsets on the Horizon?
While we have our usual share of "Powerhouse vs. Podunk" games, the opening weekend of rossollege football will actually see some big-time opponents squaring off. Here are some of the questions going into this weekend.
Will Alabama Pick Up Where It Left Off?
With a slew of returning starters and the nation's top recruiting class six years running, it's really no surprise that Alabama is the preseason Number 1. What is a little surprising, however, is seeing a top-ranked team opening the season with a neutral site game against a ranked out-of-conference opponent. But that's exactly what we'll see this weekend when Alabama heads to Cowboys Stadium to take on No. 20 USC.
The Crimson Tide will be breaking in a new (as yet unnamed) starting quarterback as well as replacing Heisman trophy-winning running back Derrick Henry. Riding a 12-game winning streak, Alabama is seeking to become just the fourth team since 1980 to win back-to-back titles.
The game features two of the nation's best receivers in USC's JuJu Smith-Schuster and Alabama's Calvin Ridley. But the game may well be decided in the trenches with a USC offensive line boasting 131 career starts facing off against a Crimson Tide defense led by two consensus preseason All-Americans (DE Jonathan Allen and LB Reuben Foster) in the front seven.
Can Houston Keep Its Title Hopes Alive?
After a 13-1 season and a Peach Bowl upset of Florida State, No. 15 Houston is coming in as a sleeper pick in the national title hunt. But they know that, in order to do so as a Group of Five conference team, they'll likely need to run the table to have a playoff shot. That path starts this weekend when the Cougars host No. 3 Oklahoma.
The Cougars return do-it-all quarterback Greg Ward, Jr. (3,936 total yards and 38 touchdowns last year) and have a chance to put themselves in the national spotlight with a Week One upset of the Sooners. But to do so, they'll have to figure out a way to slow down an Oklahoma offense that features quarterback Baker Mayfield (fourth in last year's Heisman voting) and arguably the best running back tandem in the country (Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon combined for 2,481 yards last year).
The Sooners could probably work themselves back into the playoff mix after a season-opening loss. Houston, however, likely doesn't have that luxury.
Can Ole Miss Take That Next Step?
No. 11 Ole Miss has gotten good at beating Alabama, winning the last two match ups. Unfortunately, they've had other slip-ups that have kept them out of the playoff picture. But the Rebels have a chance to take a big step forward against No. 4 Florida State.
Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly (4,042 yards and 31 touchdowns) is back, but he'll have to replace superstar receiver Laquon Treadwell. On the other side, the Rebel defense that ranked 23rd nationally against the run will have to be stout once again against the Seminoles' Dalvin Cook, who averaged 7.4 yards per carry.
Look for this to be a fun one, with the winner taking a big step toward playoff contention.
How Fun Will Lambeau Be?
Will Saturday's matchup between No. 5 LSU and Wisconsin at Lambeau Field determine an eventual playoff spot? Probably not. But would it still be one of the most fun games to go to this season? Absolutely.
With two of the most raucous and hardest partying fan bases in the country descending on one of the sacred shrines of American football, this should be a tailgate party for the ages.
Can Texas' Comeback Start This Weekend?
After going just 11-14 in two seasons, the warm welcome for Texas coach Charlie Strong is starting to wear thin. He bought himself some goodwill with last year's upset of archival Oklahoma. But he needs a winning record and signs of hope to get the Longhorn faithful back on his side. He could go a long way toward that goal with an upset of No. 10 Notre Dame this weekend.
Notre Dame stomped Texas, 38-3, last year but that game should have little bearing on this year's tilt. The Fighting Irish have just 10 returning starters and plan to play two quarterbacks this week. For Texas, although Strong has not yet announced a starting quarterback, all signs point to Shane Buechele being named the first true freshman to start for the Longhorns since 1944. Although he and the Longhorns will certainly have some growing pains this year, showing some improvement and fight against Notre Dame will give Longhorn fans a reason for optimism.