After a long offseason featuring massive surprises in the headlines, college football finally resumes this weekend. To most people, an eight month offseason does not seem so long. To college football fans, those eight months, spanning from January to the end of August, are an eternity.
What happened during those eight months? The scandals and NCAA investigations of Ohio State, Miami and Oregon have made the violations committed by USC a pinprick. The sweater-vested symbol of Ohio State was forced to resign as head coach, Jim Harbaugh of Stanford will now coach the San Francisco 49ers and as of July 1, 2011, the Pacific-10 conference warmly welcomed newcomers Colorado and Utah to produce the Pacific-12 conference.
You could be wondering, why do we, the fans of college football, care? What do we have to show for the players’ and the coaches’ accomplishments? The answer is simple. Just five letters, in exchange for sixty minutes of football a game. Pride.
Pride is that hat you wear. Or that flag on your car. That obnoxious bumper sticker or gaudy orange t-shirt if you are a fan of Tennessee. It’s that chant you shout every day, just because. That time of year is here. The moments we treasure, the sights we adore, the aromas and barbeques that make our mouths water and the echoes of cracking pads during tackles are in our near futures. And there is nothing like it.
The time is here. The time to dream of football glory, and the time is here to fantasize over what can happen—because that is the beauty of college football. That every given day, any given team can beat another given team. The time is here to make our assumptions and predictions. Here are mine for the 2011 college football season.
Biggest Games and Predictions:
LSU vs. Oregon (September 3)
This matchup has been highlighted on the college football calendar since the day it was scheduled, and there is no better game to kick off the 2011 season than with two top five teams competing during primetime. Oregon is looking to rebound from its national championship game loss, but boasts returning offensive threats Darron Thomas, LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner. As for LSU, the recent suspensions of starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson and star receiver Russell Shepard will negatively impact the Tiger offense.
Final Score Prediction: Oregon 28—LSU 17.
Boise St. vs. Georgia (September 3)
The #5 Broncos meet #19 Georgia in a game that promises to interest football fans on opening weekend, also during primetime. Broncos quarterback Kellen Moore returns for his junior year, and has impressed thus far with his high passing yards and touchdown. However, he has lost wingmen Austin Pettis and running back Doug Martin to the NFL, which should impact the Boise State offense.. On the flip side, the Georgia Bulldogs have had a difficult time finishing games, which has contributed to close losses in the past. Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt is on the hot seat this year, though a win against Boise State will definitely gain him more respect in the eyes of the Bulldog nation. Both teams will showcase new Nike Pro Combat uniforms for this game.
Final Score Prediction: BSU 31—Georgia 20.
Notre Dame at Michigan (September 10)
In the second year of the Brian Kelly era at Notre Dame, these two rivals will meet under the lights at historic Michigan Stadium. No game has ever kicked off at nighttime in Ann Arbor, so that sets up the perfect scene for this matchup. ESPN’s College Gameday will broadcast from Ann Arbor and both teams will also feature different retro uniforms. It should be interesting to see the fans’ reaction to the uniform combinations due to the fact that both teams come from storied uniform traditions. Notre Dame quarterback Dayne Crist has not played a game since mid-2010 due to injury, but should rebound nicely this game. Michigan boasts the speed of scrambling quarterback Denard Robinson, but Robinson has to be more consistent with his passing in 2011. Additionally, look for the riled up Wolverine fans to rattle the Irish offense.
Final Score Prediction: Michigan 27—Notre Dame 21
USC vs. Utah (September 10)
The first ever game of the inaugural Pacific-12 conference kicks off at the Los Angeles Coliseum, featuring the USC Trojans and the Utah Utes. The Trojans will still have signal caller Matt Barkley for the 2011 season, but his performance this year will definitely impact his future for next season: Returning for his senior season, or leaving for the NFL Draft. Barkley posted nearly three thousand yards passing last season, including 26 touchdowns. If Barkley can cut down on his interceptions and throw a few more touchdown passes this season, there will be little doubt that Barkley should be a Heisman Trophy contender come December. As for the Utes, quarterback Jordan Wynn has also showed leadership qualities and has led the Utes to impressive seasons in his past. USC has not won a conference championship since 2008, and cannot compete for one this year due to NCAA imposed sanctions, but will play again as a “spoiler team” in the Pac-12 conference.
Final Score Prediction: USC 28—Utah 24
Oklahoma at Florida State (September 17)
ESPN’s College Gameday will be on site for this matchup, which features two top ten teams in the #1 ranked Oklahoma Sooners and the #6 Florida St. Seminoles. Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones has racked up some serious passing yards in his past three seasons with the Sooners, and should too be looked at as a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender this year. Oklahoma wideout Ryan Broyles has impressed college football fans with his speed, endurance and stats and should make a great team with Jones once again. Second year Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher has done a nice job cleaning up his football squad since the departure of legendary head coach Bobby Bowden, yet the Seminoles seem a bit overrated, beginning the season ranked #6 nationally. The loss of quarterback Christian Ponder should give the FSU offense a new look, though new quarterback E.J. Manuel looks promising for the near future.
Final Score Prediction: Oklahoma 30—Florida State 21
Nebraska at Wisconsin (October 1)
The #10 ranked Cornhuskers have moved from the Big-12 conference to the Big-10, and there should be no tougher challenge for quarterback Taylor Martinez and the Nebraska defense than facing the Wisconsin Badgers in their first ever Big-10 conference game. Due to the departure of Badger quarterback Scott Tolzein, newly transferred Russell Wilson has taken over the reins in Madison. Badgers running backs James White and Montee Ball should see the majority of playing time at the halfback position, while the ball-hawking Wisconsin defense will continue their dominance from last year’s campaign and Rose Bowl appearance. One thing is for sure: Bret Bielema will have his Badgers ready to compete. As for Nebraska, quarterback Taylor Martinez’s inability to finish close games hurt Nebraska’s BCS chances last season, and should hurt their record this season. The electric and intimidating crowd at Camp Randall Stadium will inevitably prove to be too much for the Cornhuskers.
Final Score Prediction: Wisconsin 35—Nebraska 24
Oregon at Stanford (November 12)
Two of the Pacific 12’s most explosive offenses square off in a crucial conference divisional matchup in mid-November. The Stanford Cardinal possess one of the nation’s best quarterbacks, Andrew Luck, who surprised the entire nation by remaining at Stanford for his senior season instead of leaving early for the NFL Draft. Luck is the preseason favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, and should be on top of his game in Stanford’s biggest test of the season against the Oregon Ducks. Luck led the Pac-12 last season with 32 touchdown passes, along with 3,228 yards passing. The difference in this contest should come down to defense, as both offenses threaten to post high scores and overall yardage each week of the season. The Ducks will travel to Stanford Stadium on November 12 with a predicted undefeated record, but the venue where they will compete happens to be the stadium where the Ducks last lost a regular season game. Look to see the victor of this contest in the Rose Bowl, with a Pacific-12 conference title under their belt as well.
Final Score Prediction: Stanford 33—Oregon 29
Other games worthy of making the list:
South Carolina at Georgia (September 10)
Oklahoma State at Texas A&M (September 24)
Alabama at Florida (October 1)
Oklahoma vs. Texas (October 8)
USC at Notre Dame (October 22)
Wisconsin at Michigan State (October 22)
Stanford at USC (October 29)
LSU at Alabama (November 5)
TCU at Boise State (November 12)
Notre Dame at Stanford (November 26)
Ohio State at Michigan (November 26)
Oklahoma at Oklahoma State (December 3)
2011 Conference Champion Projections:
ACC: Florida State
Big East Conference: West Virginia
Big Ten Conference: Wisconsin
Mountain West Conference: Boise State
Pacific-12 Conference: Stanford
Big 12 Conference: Oklahoma
BCS Bowl Matchup Projections:
Rose Bowl: Stanford vs. Wisconsin
Orange Bowl: West Virginia vs. Florida State
Fiesta Bowl: Texas A&M vs. Nebraska
Sugar Bowl: LSU vs. Boise State
Heisman Trophy Finalists Predictions:
Landry Jones (Oklahoma)
Matt Barkley (USC)
LaMichael James (Oregon)
Andrew Luck (Stanford)
Kellen Moore (Boise State)
Heisman Memorial Trophy Winner: Andrew Luck (Stanford)
Remember that these are predictions, which can only go so far. It’s college football, and anything can happen at any given moment. If you don’t believe me, watch a game. Watch two. Cheer for USC. Cheer for UCLA. Cheer for the underdog. Cheer for the game. Believe me, give it one game. Just one. You will be hooked forever, like me.
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