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August 28, 2008

Long weekend of intrigue kicks off season

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com.
He can be heard on Rivals Radio every Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. ET and can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.
Finally.

After almost eight months of waiting, the college football season is here.

If that's not enough, there also are some mighty intriguing first-week games: Alabama-Clemson, Oregon-Washington, Cal-Michigan State, Fresno State-Rutgers, Illinois-Missouri, Utah-Michigan well, you get the idea.

Once again, every Thursday, we'll look at each game involving a I-A team that week. This week's games:

SATURDAY'S GAMES
Appalachian State at LSU , 11 a.m., ESPN Classic
The buzz: Can Appalachian State pull off another shocker? No.
The line: No line. | The pick: LSU 31-14.
Western Kentucky at Indiana , noon, Big Ten Network
The buzz: This is the first of four "Big Six" opponents for Western Kentucky, which is in its final season as a transitional member of Division I-A. Western will have some success running the ball, but can it slow IU quarterback Kellen Lewis?
The line: Indiana by 20.5. | The pick: Indiana 40-24.
Virginia Tech vs. East Carolina in Charlotte, noon, ESPN
The buzz: The Hokies slogged past ECU 17-7 in last season's opener. ECU's defense is going to keep the Pirates in the game. If ECU can find someone to run the ball, this one will be mighty interesting.
The line: Virginia Tech by 9.5. | The pick: Virginia Tech 20-14.
Syracuse at Northwestern , noon, ESPN2
The buzz: This looks to be a make-or-break season for Syracuse coach Greg Robinson. Northwestern has a good shot at a bowl assuming it wins this.
The line: Northwestern by 11.5. | The pick: Northwestern 35-20.
Youngstown State at Ohio State , noon, Big Ten Network
The buzz: Connections No. 1 Ohio State coach Jim Tressel is a former coach at Youngtown State (1986-2000)
The line: No line. | The pick: Ohio State 45-7.
Coastal Carolina at Penn State , noon, Big Ten Network
The buzz: Connections No. 2 Coastal Carolina AD Warren "Moose" Koegel is a former Penn State co-captain who played on the Nittany Lions' undefeated 1968 and '69 teams.
The line: No line. | The pick: Penn State 42-0.
Maine at Iowa , noon, Big Ten Network
The buzz: Connections No. 3 Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz is a former coach at Maine (1990-92) .
The line: No line. | The pick: Iowa 35-15.
Akron at Wisconsin , noon, Big Ten Network
The buzz: Akron doesn't exactly have a great history against Big Ten schools the Zips' last victory over a Big Ten foe came in 1894 (12-6 over Ohio State behind the coaching of seriously John Heisman). This is one of 13 Big Ten-MAC games this season.
The line: Wisconsin by 26.5. | The pick: Wisconsin 38-10.
Bowling Green at Pittsburgh , noon, ESPNU
The buzz: Big things are expected from Pitt this season, but this is a dangerous opener. Bowling Green returns 16 starters and is especially potent on offense. The Panthers have to show they've improved their passing attack.
The line: Pitt by 13. | The pick: Pitt 27-21.
Hawaii at Florida , 12:30 p.m., ESPN GamePlan
The buzz: Florida has won 38 of its past 39 openers, and this will be 39 of 40. Hawaii is opening its season on the road for just the fifth time in the past 32 seasons.
The line: Florida by 35. | The pick: Florida 49-21.
Georgia Southern at Georgia , 12:30 p.m., ESPN GamePlan
The buzz: Even Erk Russell's miracle water from beautiful Eagle Creek wouldn't be enough to lift Georgia Southern to an upset.
The line: No line. | The pick: Georgia 45-14.
Ohio U. at Wyoming, 2 p.m., The mtn.
The buzz: Hey, there's nothing like a season-opener pitting a MAC team against a Mountain West team, huh? Wyoming won by one last season at Ohio.
The line: Wyoming by 11. | The pick: Wyoming 26-21.
Southern Utah at Air Force, 2 p.m.
The buzz: Division I-AA Southern Utah was 0-11 last season and has lost 18 in a row. An aside: Southern Utah is nicknamed the Thunderbirds, which is the name of a famed Air Force squadron.
The line: No line. | The pick: Air Force 41-13.
USC at Virginia , 3:30 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN GamePlan
The buzz: The Trojans head east to open the season. UVa is going to have trouble with USC's speed. And with USC's defensive front seven. And with USC's secondary. And with USC's tailbacks. Heck, UVa is in trouble.
The line: USC by 19.5. | The pick: USC 27-3.
Utah at Michigan , 3:30 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN2
The buzz: The Rich Rodriguez era opens at Michigan. Utah's defense is the key to the Utes' upset hopes.
The line: Michigan by 3.5. | The pick: Michigan 24-21.
Oklahoma State at Washington State , 3:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net
The buzz: This is one of three Big 12/Pac-10 matchups this season, and Washington State is involved in two of them (the Cougars also play Baylor).
The line: Oklahoma State by 7. | The pick: Oklahoma State 34-30.
Villanova at West Virginia , 3:30 p.m., Altitude/ESPN GamePlan
The buzz: This would be a big-time Big East matchup during basketball season. Alas, it's football. Villanova has opened against a I-A foe in each of the past three seasons and lost by an average of 23 points per game.
The line: No line. | The pick: West Virginia 45-13.
Towson at Navy, 3:30 p.m., CBS College Sports
The buzz: You want to impress your friends? Correctly spell the name of Navy quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada. Actually, he is expected to miss this game, but it shouldn't matter to the Midshipmen.
The line: No line. | The pick: Navy 29-14.
Delaware at Maryland , 3:45 p.m., ESPNU
The buzz: Maybe Delaware will get an emotional lift from Joe Biden being the Democratic vice presidential candidate. Biden was a running back on the Blue Hens' 1961 freshman team.
The line: No line. | The pick: Maryland 24-16.
Tulsa at UAB , 4 p.m.
The buzz: Last season, Tulsa became the first team in Division I-A history to have a 5,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher and three 1,000-yard receivers. Starting the season against defenseless UAB will get the Golden Hurricane off to a good start as they attempt to match those numbers.
The line: Tulsa by 13.5. | The pick: Tulsa 48-28.
Illinois State at Marshall , 4:30 p.m
The buzz: This looks like a make-or-break season for Herd coach Mark Snyder. Opening the season with a loss to the I-AA Redbirds would not be a good thing.
The line: No line. | The pick: Marshall 23-10.
TCU at New Mexico , 6 p.m., Versus
The buzz: It might be Week One, but this is a huge Mountain West contest. On paper, this game is between the third- and fourth-best teams in the league.
The line: TCU by 6.5. | The pick: TCU 24-20.
Northern Iowa at BYU, 6 p.m., The mtn.
The buzz: This one has a bit of intrigue. Northern Iowa was 12-1 last season and is ranked fourth in Division I-AA. One thing to consider: UNI's pass defense was mediocre last season.
The line: No line. | The pick: BYU 37-21.
McNeese State at North Carolina , 6 p.m.
The buzz: McNeese State was the No. 2 seed in last season's I-AA playoffs but was upset in the first round. UNC has 19 starters back, with the offense the question heading into the season.
The line: No line. | The pick: North Carolina 28-17.
South Carolina State at UCF , 6 p.m.
The buzz: UCF's offense has some holes, and this will not be a good gauge as to whether those holes have been patched.
The line: No line. | The pick: UCF 34-14.
Mississippi State at Louisiana Tech , 6:45 p.m., ESPN2
The buzz: Mississippi State is entering the season with expectations for the first time in a while, which proves Sylvester Croom is doing a good job. Mississippi State is the first SEC team to ever play Tech on its home field.
The line: Mississippi State by 8. | The pick: Mississippi State 24-17.
Northern Illinois at Minnesota , 7 p.m., Big Ten Network
The buzz: Minnesota has some issues, yes, but the Golden Gophers aren't near bad enough to lose to one of the worst teams in the MAC. At least we don't think so.
The line: Minnesota by 8.5. | The pick: Minnesota 35-23.
Louisiana-Monroe at Auburn , 7 p.m., ESPN GamePlan
The buzz: ULM beat Alabama last season. Can the Warhawks beat another SEC team this week? No.
The line: Auburn by 26. | The pick: Auburn 30-7.
Memphis at Ole Miss , 7 p.m.
The buzz: The Houston Nutt era begins in Oxford. The past four games have been decided by a total of 16 points.
The line: Ole Miss by 7.5. | The pick: Ole Miss 28-24.
Florida International at Kansas , 7 p.m.
The buzz: The hounds open the season in Lawrence. This is the dog of the week. KU beat FIU by 52 last season.
The line: Kansas by 36. | The pick: Kansas 45-10.
Florida Atlantic at Texas , 7 p.m.
The buzz: FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger has called out Texas for a lack of toughness. One thing's for sure: Talented FAU quarterback Rusty Smith is going to fill the air with footballs against a rebuilt Texas secondary.
The line: Texas by 24. | The pick: Texas 35-23.
Louisiana-Lafayette at Southern Miss , 7 p.m.
The buzz: This is the first game for new Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora. Having an all-new defensive front has to make him a bit uneasy, given that ULL quarterback Michael Desormeaux and tailback Tyrell Fenroy both rushed for 1,000 yards last season.
The line: Southern Miss by 10.5. | The pick: Southern Miss 28-20.
Western Michigan at Nebraska , 7 p.m.
The buzz: Western Michigan returns all 11 starters on defense. But it's Nebraska's defense that will take center stage under new coach Bo Pelini. You can bet WMU quarterback Tim Hiller will throw it often.
The line: Nebraska by 14. | The pick: Nebraska 35-23.
Chattanooga at Oklahoma , 7 p.m.
The buzz: In the past 20 seasons, Chattanooga which has had just four winning seasons in the past 20 years is 0-19 vs. Division I-A foes, losing those games by an average margin of 34 points per game. Only one of those games was decided by fewer than 14 points.
The line: No line. | The pick: Oklahoma 56-7.
Arkansas State at Texas A&M , 7 p.m
The buzz: A&M has a new coach in Mike Sherman, replacing Dennis Franchione. Arkansas State has a new nickname in Red Wolves, replacing Indians
The line: Texas A&M by 19. | The pick: Texas A&M 28-13.
Eastern Washington at Texas Tech , 7 p.m.
The buzz: This is one of two games against I-AA opponents for Texas Tech this season. The Red Raiders are one of four "Big Six" schools (the others are ACC members Clemson, Florida State and Georgia Tech) playing two I-AA foes.
The line: No line. | The pick: Texas Tech 61-17.
James Madison at Duke , 7 p.m.
The buzz: The David Cutcliffe era begins at Duke with a game against a tough Division I-AA foe ranked in the top 10 of two preseason polls. This is one of five games this weekend matching ACC teams against I-AA opponents.
The line: No line. | The pick: Duke 28-21.
Western Illinois at Arkansas , 7 p.m.
The buzz: The Bobby Petrino era begins at Arkansas with a game against a so-so Division I-AA foe. This game features two of the more distinctive nicknames: the Razorbacks of Arkansas and the Leathernecks of Western Illinois.
The line: No line. | The pick: Arkansas 38-13.
Southern at Houston , 7 p.m.
The buzz: This is the first game for new Houston coach Kevin Sumlin. Southern is a solid I-AA program, but the Jaguars are rebuilding and the Cougars should roll.
The line: No line. | The pick: Houston 38-13.
North Texas at Kansas State , 7:05 p.m.
The buzz: This is one of four games this weekend matching Big 12 and Sun Belt teams. What do you want to bet the Big 12 goes 4-0?
The line: Kansas State by 25.5. | The pick: Kansas State 45-21.
Boston College vs. Kent State in Cleveland, 7:30 p.m., ESPNU
The buzz: Kent State has the nation's leading returning rusher in Eugene Jarvis, but he'll be going against a defense that usually is excellent against the run. Worth watching is how new BC quarterback Chris Crane fares as he steps into the giant shoes left by Matt Ryan.
The line: BC by 9.5. | The pick: BC 21-10.
UT-Martin at South Florida , 7:30 p.m., ESPN GamePlan
The buzz: USF which is ranked in the preseason for the first time in program history is 11-0 in home openers, winning by an average of 28.4 points per game.
The line: No line. | The pick: USF 45-14.
Alabama vs. Clemson in Atlanta, 8 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN GamePlan
The buzz: Nothing like a good early season showdown to get the juices flowing. A Clemson loss in this one and the whispers "Clemson is overrated again" will become shouts.
The line: Clemson by 4.5. | The pick: Clemson 27-17.
Michigan State at California , 8 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN GamePlan
The buzz: An intriguing intersectional matchup between teams who harbor New Year's Day bowl hopes. All eyes will be on California's rebuilt offense.
The line: California by 5. | The pick: Cal 28-24.
UC Davis at San Jose State, 8 p.m.
The buzz: San Jose State has won 12 of its past 14 home games, but is opening a season at home for just the fifth time in the past 21 seasons. Both teams have new starting quarterbacks, so it may take a while for the offenses to get going.
The line: No line. | The pick: San Jose State 24-13.
Idaho State at Boise State , 8 p.m., ESPN GamePlan
The buzz: These in-state "rivals" last met in 2003, when Boise State won by 62. This is the debut for new Boise quarterback Kellen Moore, a redshirt freshman. It's the first time in school history a freshman will open a season as the starting quarterback.
The line: No line. | The pick: Boise State 48-10.
Illinois vs. Missouri in St. Louis, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
The buzz: This is just the 22nd meeting in the series, which needs to be an annual event in St. Louis. Mizzou is ranked sixth in The Associated Press preseason poll, the highest preseason ranking in school history.
The line: Missouri by 9. | The pick: Missouri 31-24.
Grambling at Nevada , 9 p.m.
The buzz: Grambling rolled to a 32-3 win in the teams' only meeting, in 1972, behind coach Eddie Robinson. Things should be different this season.
The line: No line. | The pick: Nevada 38-16.
Cal Poly at San Diego State, 9:30 p.m.
The buzz: Cal Poly, which is No. 14 in the Division I-AA poll, upset the Aztecs in San Diego in 2006. If that happens again this season, you have to wonder about the job security for SDSU coach Chuck Long.
The line: No line. | The pick: San Diego State 23-17.
Utah State at UNLV , 10 p.m.
The buzz: These teams met in the opener last season, with UNLV winning by seven. But UNLV ended last season on an eight-game losing streak.
The line: UNLV by 12.5. | The pick: UNLV 31-17.
Idaho at Arizona , 10 p.m.
The buzz: Idaho enters the season on a 10-game losing streak. This will be No. 11. The Vandals' pass defense was woeful last season, which has to make Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama happy.
The line: Arizona by 27. | The pick: Arizona 48-17.
Northern Arizona at Arizona State, 10 p.m., Fox Sports Net Arizona
The buzz: This will be the 37th meeting, and Arizona State has a narrow 18-14-4 lead. But if this is close, something is wrong with the Sun Devils.
The line: No line. | The pick: Arizona State 42-14.
Washington at Oregon , 10 p.m., Fox Sports Net
The buzz: This is the 101st meeting in this rivalry. This is a make-or-break season for Huskies coach Tyrone Willingham, and the first three games are against Oregon, BYU and Oklahoma. Oregon, meanwhile, will be without starting quarterback Nate Costa for eight to 10 weeks. The Ducks also are breaking in a new tailback.
The line: Oregon by 13.5. | The pick: Oregon 31-21.
SUNDAY'S GAMES
Kentucky at Louisville, 3:30 p.m., ESPN
The buzz: This will be just the 21st meeting between the teams. UK has a lot of rebuilding to do on offense, but all the pressure is on Louisville - which needs to prove last season was an aberration.
The line: Louisville by 3.5. | The pick: Louisville 28-20.
Colorado State vs. Colorado in Denver, 7:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net
The buzz: Each of the past four meetings in this rivalry have been decided by four or fewer points. The Buffs won by three in OT last season.
The line: Colorado by 11. | The pick: Colorado 35-26.
MONDAY'S GAMES
Fresno State at Rutgers , 4:30 p.m., ESPN
The buzz: Fresno State has hopes of being a BCS "interloper" this season, but those dreams end if the Bulldogs lose this one. This is the first game of the post-Ray Rice era for Rutgers.
The line: Rutgers by 5. | The pick: Fresno State 20-17.
Tennessee at UCLA , 8 p.m., ESPN
The buzz: The last game of the first weekend should be a good one. New UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel already is down to his third-string quarterback, and his offense looks to be a mess. The Bruins' defense is another story, and that unit could make things difficult for new Vols quarterback Jonathan Crompton.
The line: Tennessee by 7.5. | The pick: Tennessee 24-10.

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.



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