2015 NCAAF Week 1 Weekend Preview

September 4, 2015

It has been a long week, and to be quite frank with you, I’m worn out. To some degree I did it to myself, saving the entire group of conference previews until the week the season was to begin. On the other hand, I used to be able to get away with that.

Fortunately, one of the few things that can keep me awake is a sporting event. Specifically, college football. So while I watch Washington take on Boise State tonight (which admittedly would have been one of the Five Games to Watch had I published this earlier), I’ll be writing this preview.

Like last year, I want to take this time to apologize in advance if I am unable to publish a weekend preview at any point during the season. I have a year of real world experience under my belt and am pretty confident that it won’t happen, but I will feel bad for my loyal readers if it does.

This week my good buddy Keegan will begin the head-to-head prediction game. It is Keegan’s fourth year as a guest prognosticator on Around The Corn, which means that he’s batting 1.000.

Here is a list of ATC’s top five games to watch this weekend, as well as five more to keep an eye on.

5 Games to Pay Attention to This Weekend

BYU at Nebraska (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

The Mike Riley era begins in Lincoln with a difficult matchup against BYU, which comes into this game with a lot of confidence having do-it-all quarterback Taysom Hill back and healthy. Without Ameer Abdullah on the field to bail the Cornhuskers out of a jam, Nebraska will need a strong team effort to avoid the upset.

The senior Hill will be the focal point of BYU’s offense, but this game may end up being decided elsewhere. The Cougars must replace nearly their entire defense this season which could result in some growing pains early. But Nebraska will only be able to take advantage of this if junior quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. is more accurate as a passer than he was in 2014. Armstrong leaves a bit to be desired at the position and he won’t have a stud running back to open up the field.

The combination of Hill and Armstrong’s inconsistency will make it tough for the Cornhuskers to keep up on the scoreboard. This one should produce a fair amount of touchdowns, but the home team won’t be pleased with the result of Coach Riley’s first game.

My Pick: 34-28 BYU

Keegan’s Take: The post Bo Pelini era begins with a victory! Nebraska 31-28.

Louisville vs. #6 Auburn [game in Atlanta] (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

The Tigers hope to begin and end the regular season in the Georgia Dome, the latter game being for the SEC title. Louisville presents a challenge, boasting one of the best defensive fronts in the ACC. It will be interesting to see how Malzahn adjusts his offense now that he has a capable passer in Jeremy Johnson.

Auburn has the offensive talent to outscore the Cardinals, but whether or not it is easy depends on how the Tigers approach this game. Louisville is young in the defensive secondary, meaning that they could be a target for the strong armed Johnson. Gus Malzahn’s offense has always been predicated on the run game, however, so it remains to be seen just how much the head coach is willing to stray from that strategy. The assumption is that he will let Johnson do what he does best, which would be a good idea.

Louisville does not appear to be ready to seriously challenge a team like Auburn. I think that the Tigers will be able to throw on Louisville if Bobby Petrino decides to stack the box and run on the Cardinals if they stay at home. Either way, Auburn succeeds.

My Pick: 38-23 Auburn

Keegan’s Take: Auburn runs all over Louisville, 35-13.

#15 Arizona State vs. Texas A&M [game in Houston] (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

This game can hardly be considered a neutral site (the distance between College Station and Houston is just 95 miles), which gives the edge to Texas A&M from a crowd perspective. But the Sun Devils are poised to be one of the better teams in the ultra-competitive Pac-12 South, which may be the best conference in college football.

Neither team will be afraid to engage in a shootout, which is likely what this game will end up being. Defense has been an option at best under Kevin Sumlin and will again be a soft spot for the Aggies this year. Arizona State brings back a lot of pieces to the defense but was iffy against the pass in 2014 and will have to contain Kyle Allen, a rising star in the SEC. Quarterback Mike Bercovici could end up having a monster game for the Sun Devils as well.

This will be one of the most exciting games of the day, although in the end Arizona State should have enough to win. Skill players around Bercovici will keep the Texas A&M on the field far more than Coach Sumlin would like and the Sun Devils will be a bit too much for the Aggies.

My Pick: 44-38 Arizona State

Keegan’s Take: This game will more than likely be a fun shootout. I hope and think ASU wins 49-31 just so Desmond Howard (save the Torg) can feel like an idiot for picking A&M to win their conference.

#20 Wisconsin at #3 Alabama [game in Dallas] (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

The game of the weekend takes place in Dallas on Saturday night when the Crimson Tide take on Paul Chryst’s Badgers. This may be the only game between two ranked teams, but there is a clear favorite in this one. Wisconsin will need to play nearly flawless football to beat Alabama in Cowboys Stadium.

Alabama’s defense is scary good, which is concerning for a Wisconsin team that will be without 2014 Heisman runner-up Melvin Gordon. The Badgers offensive line may have trouble getting a push, making things difficult for new back Corey Clement. Help is unlikely to come in heaps from the passing game, either. Joel Stave will need to take a big step in 2015 to be considered a major threat with his arm.

The Crimson Tide may not even be the best team in their own division of the SEC, but in Dallas Nick Saban should be pretty happy with his team. The Big Ten may not like hearing it, but its team will be outclassed in this one.

My Pick: 33-14 Alabama

Keegan’s Take: Alabama lost Cooper, Yeldon and Sims, but they still have Henry who will have a big game and wear the Badger defense down. I don’t see Wisconsin scoring much against Bama’s defense. It will be a run fest for sure with Bama on top 24-14.

#1 Ohio State at Virginia Tech (Monday, 8 PM ET)

The defending national champs will travel to Blacksburg on Labor Day and look for revenge against the only team to beat them during the 2014-2015 season. Virginia Tech is not an easy team to beat at home, but these are far from the same two football teams that played each other last season in Columbus.

The biggest difference between the Buckeyes that played the Hokies in 2014 and the team that will take the field Monday night is that the quarterback will not be making his second career start. Virginia Tech gambled and won last season by blitzing J.T. Barrett often, forcing the young player into mistakes and freezing the unprepared offensive line. Frank Beamer should be smart enough not to use the blitz as liberally this year, as he knows Ohio State’s quarterback, whoever it may be, will carve up the Virginia Tech defense if he does.

The talent pendulum was in favor of the Buckeyes last season, but the experience wasn’t. Now, Ohio State has that, too. Urban Meyer likely hasn’t let his team forget about how it felt to be shocked by the Hokies last season, either. I’m tempted to say that the Buckeyes will win by 35, but I’ll take a rain check on that boldness for now.

My Pick: 41-17 Ohio State

Keegan’s Take: J.T. starts. He makes some awesome throws to Mike Thomas and Braxton, who reminds us how amazing a play-maker he was. Nobody is talking about the Buckeye defense, which I think will have a great game as well. The offense starts a little sluggish and VT’s defense keeps it close but the Slobs and Zeke begin to control the game late third. Buckeyes win solid on the road, 34-13.

5 Games to Flip To

#21 Stanford at Northwestern (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

The battle of the scholars could turn out to be a tight one.

Penn State at Temple (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

The Owls haven’t beaten Penn State in 74 years, but Temple has a solid defense and will give Christian Hackenberg all he can handle.

Akron at #19 Oklahoma (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

The Zips are primed for a solid MAC campaign, but the Sooners will be looking to show the country what they have in this one.

Texas at #11 Notre Dame (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

The Fighting Irish open up the the Longhorns, who must be better offensively than in 2014 to contend in this game.

Eastern Washington at #7 Oregon (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

Vernon Adams will begin his career at Oregon against the team that he once led by passing for over 10,000 yards and 110 touchdowns during his FCS career.

If you would like to become a guest prognosticator like Keegan did this week, please let me know in one of the following ways: email me at kbecks@aroundthecorn.com, send me a message on Around The Corn’s Facebook page, post a comment under this article or send me a tweet @KBecks_ATC. Opportunities to become a guest prognosticator will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Thanks everyone.

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