The long wait is over. Week 1 of the 2014 college football season is here, and not a moment too soon.
Though the first Saturday slate is light on marquee matchups, there’s plenty of tasty nuggets for the college-football starved.
The College Football Huddle Roundtable takes a spin around the Week 1 slate, talking best games, upset watch and the most exciting players. Heed their advice; this crew knows its stuff.
Game most looking forward to:
Clemson at Georgia - Chad Morris is a magician but can the Tigers’ offensive coordinator pull off his old tricks without Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins? Clemson’s new-look offensive personnel will be tested between the hedges by a dominant Dawgs front seven.
Upset watch of the week:
Tennessee better watch out Sunday night. The Volunteers have recruited extremely well under head coach Butch Jones but enter the 2014 season with the task of replacing every — yes, every — player on the offensive and defensive lines. Oh, and four words: Chuckie Keeton is back.
Player you’re most excited to see:
It’s not always easy to see him from the East Coast, but how does the dual-threat Myles Jack kick off his sophomore campaign Saturday? Us East Coasters will get a chance to see him up close and personal as UCLA plays at Virginia
Game you’re most anticipating: West Virginia vs. Alabama
I like to imagine Little Tiny Nick Saban in a little tiny hard hat with a little tiny headlamp getting into little tiny crevices that nobody else could reach in some little tiny coal mine in West Virginia and resenting the hell out of it.
And for that reason, I like to imagine Little Tiny Nick Saban using the collective resources of about 47 straight No. 1 recruiting classes to start the Dana Holgorsen farewell tour by just walking up behind West Virginia and snapping their necks to the tune of a 24-0 first quarter deficit. It’s morbid, sure, but damn if it isn’t entertaining.
Upset watch of the week: LSU over Wisconsin
I’ve obliged myself by adhering to the gambler’s definition of the word upset (Wisconsin is currently five point favorites). Quite frankly, I think Wisconsin is a very good football team. Probably a better football team than LSU, but I think Les Miles shows up and channels all that red-blooded Americanism into a “We’re only like four hours from home” ass-whipping of epic proportions.
Someone important for Wisconsin will probably get hurt and then the Badgers will rattle off 10 or 11 wins while LSU loses four games, and eventually we’ll all question the validity of what happened, but, for now, I like LSU.
Player I’m most excited to see: Oklahoma QB, Trevor Knight
What Knight did last year against Alabama was eye-opening, and the obvious question is whether or not he’s capable of parlaying that into consistent greatness in 2014.
However, one thing that people who are basing their evaluation of Knight off the Sugar Bowl might not realize is that he’s an exceptional athlete, too. Before he threw for 348 yards and four touchdowns against the mighty Crimson Tide, he actually had a pair of 100-yard rushing performances and another 82-yard performance with a rushing TD against Kansas State.
Obviously, if he’s as regularly dynamic through the air as he was versus Alabama he’ll be good, but if he shows the rest of the country what the Big 12 already knows about his ability to run, he’ll be incredible.
Most Anticipated Game
Where do I start? I know it’s Week 1 and there’s quite a bit of lackluster non-conference matchups between money programs and the FCS, but there are still plenty of marquee games that could have an impact on the rest of the season.
I’m really interested in seeing how JT Barrett does for Ohio State as he makes his first collegiate start on the road against a tough-as-nails Navy crew—if he can set the tone and gain confidence early, the Buckeyes might not lose as much as people think with Braxton Miller being out. I will also be watching UCLA-Virginia, Utah State-Tennessee, and Miami-Louisville with a special interest.
There were a few big upsets (and near upsets) during Week 1 of the 2013 season, and I think that’s what we’ll see again. However, my biggest upset alert radar goes to Houston, as it opens at its new TDECU Stadium this Friday night against UTSA.
The Roadrunners were winners of five straight heading into the offseason, return 21 (!!!) starters and have Larry Coker—a national champion—as their head coach. Others on the upset watch list include (but are not limited to): Ohio State, Texas (vs. North Texas), and Tennessee.
Player to Watch
A few names that pop up into my head are JT Barrett, Leonard Fournette, Jameis Winston, Jeff Driskel, and the entire Alabama running back corps. But an under-the-radar name that I’m stoked to see back on the field is Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton, who threw 17 touchdowns the first five games before having to sit out the rest of the year with an injury.
He’s been beaten by Auburn, Wisconsin, and USC—all on the road—by a combined nine points during his career. Tennessee has tons of raw talent, but its defensive line is underdeveloped and could be overwhelmed by Keeton’s ability to leave the pocket and stretch the field. This could be where Keeton finally gets a big-time win for his Aggies.
Game you’re most looking forward to
The game I’m most looking forward to is Clemson-Georgia. This matchup was an entertaining 38-35 affair last season and there’s potential for a similar style of game in 2014. Of course, there’s also the potential for a sluggish defensive affair with two new quarterbacks.
The SEC seems to have more volatility at the top than in recent years, and Georgia could win the league if new quarterback Hutson Mason is a capable replacement for Aaron Murray, and the defense takes a step forward under new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.
Clemson is Florida State’s biggest challenger in the ACC, and with a matchup against the Seminoles coming on Sept. 20, it’s a quick turnaround for the Tigers to settle Cole Stoudt at quarterback, as well as find receivers to replace Martavis Bryant and Sammy Watkins. There’s a lot of intrigue and potential with both teams this year, and I’m interested to see how that plays out with some of the preseason concerns on Saturday night.
Upset watch of the week
This is a tough one. I could be totally wrong, but it appears Week 1 may not see much in the way of upsets. So with that in mind, it could be a week of chalk around the nation. However, it’s college football and something crazy will happen. I don’t think Navy will beat Ohio State, but the Midshipmen could make life difficult for Urban Meyer’s team.
With Braxton Miller out, the Buckeyes will turn to J.T. Barrett (and possibly Cardale Jones) to run the offense. Barrett is talented, but this is his first behind an offensive line that lost four starters. Ohio State has a clear edge in talent and will eventually pull away in the second half.
However, with a style of play that’s tough to prepare for, Navy will make things interesting in Baltimore.
Player you’re most excited to see
I have to go with LSU freshman running back Leonard Fournette. Everything about Fournette points to a big season, starting on Saturday night against a Wisconsin defense that’s replacing its entire front seven.
Fournette won’t tote the entire workload for the Tigers, but he could have a huge outing against the Badgers, especially as the quarterback battle between Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris continues into the opener. To throw in another player: Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight. Will he continue the momentum from the Sugar Bowl?