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Saturday, August 30th primary television lineup is below.
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Game commentary after the jump.
I watched my first full game of the season last night--a convincing 56-27 victory by Rice over SMU in June Jones' Mustang debut. Rice played exceptionally well, in particular on offense, where Chase Clement and Jarrett Dillar played pitch and catch for touchdowns all night long. The Owls' intercepted freshman Bo Levi Mitchell three times, but their defense badly lacks the kind of speed they'll need to keep things in hand when they visit Austin on September 20th.
We are interested in today, though--Season Opener Saturday. Though most of today's games across the country fail to register as interesting/competitive match ups, there are a handful of games I'm especially excited to see:
Virginia Tech (-11.5) vs E. Carolina
Last year's game in Blacksburg produced a relatively tight contest won by Virginia Tech 17-7. The Hokies look offensively challenged again this season, but their defense should have fun smothering the Pirates, who only gained 261 yards against VT last year, and that was with First Round NFL Draft Choice Chris Johnson at tailback. I like Virginia Tech to win comfortably, 27-9
USC (-19.5) at Virginia
Well, it's in Charlottesville. Beyond that, though, every advantage goes to the Trojans, and it's not close. Al Groh has yet to name a starting quarterback and said Friday it will be a "game-time decision." Virginia's only hope in this one is to try to slog out an ugly, low-scoring game while winning the turnover battle. Overmatched though the Cavs may be, the game will be made or broken by USC itself, which will be trying to ramp up what was a mostly subdued offense in 2007. I think the Trojans control Virgina at both lines of scrimmage and win 31-10.
Utah (+7) at Michigan
The Wolverines have the sexy new system now, but it's anyone's guess what this particular group of players will be able to do with it. On the flipside, Utah's anchored by a senior quarterback and running back, as well as four returning starters on the offensive line. The\Utes took down UCLA and Louisville last year, and this year I could see them knocking off Michigan, 28-24.
Michigan State (+5) at California
Both teams enter 2008 with huge questions still to be answered across numerous units. Michigan State will feature three new starters on the defensive line, while Cal
breaks in a wave of new skill position talent and three new starters at defensive back. Though I have a hard time singling out one team as definitely better than the other at this point, Cal has both the home field advantage and the stronger offensive line. The Bears win a tight one at home, 33-30.
Alabama (+4.5) vs Clemson (Atlanta, GA)
Alabama's defense versus Clemson's offense will be a fun match up to watch for four quarters, especially in the trenches where 'Bama's strong D-Line will test whether Clemson's offensive line has improved from a year ago. The big unknown is what to expect from Alabama offensively. Both Clemson's secondary and defensive line are among the tops in the country, so it's not difficult to imagine a pretty ugly game for both offenses. I'm still going with the devil I know: Clemson wins in Atlanta, 24-14.
Missouri (-8.5) vs Illinois (St. Louis, MO)
There will be some great, great athletes on the field on both sides of the ball, but Missouri enters the season a well-greased machine, while Illinois will be dependent on a big leap forward from Juice Williams to compensate for the loss of Mendenhall. I love Missouri here, 37-20.
Washington (+10.5) at Oregon
Oregon--my sleeper team heading into the season--suffered a big blow late this week when projected starting QB Nate Costa was diagnosed with a torn ACL that will keep him out the entire '08 season. Sophomore Justin Roper slides in as the starter, and I think he'll be fine. Certainly at home against a mediocre Husky team. Oregon wins big, 37-17.