Saturday, April 21, 2012

Early College Football Games You Should Be Watching

Will 2012 be the year of the Trojans in college football?

With eight spring games on television today, I thought I would begin my afternoon by looking at the 2012 college football schedule. While I will not look at every week, I will take a look at some great match-ups in the first two weeks. Week one is normally filled with powerhouses playing teams they know they can hang a dozen touchdowns on. However, there are always a few teams that decide to play a real opponent in those first two weeks. 

2011 started off with a bang on a Thursday as Syracuse had to come back against Wake Forest, outscoring them 15 to 3 in the fourth quarter to force overtime. From there, the Orange went on to win by a touchdown in overtime. The season continued on with another great game the following day. TCU and Baylor fought it out in Waco, Texas. Baylor looked to be in a commanding lead going into the fourth quarter 47-23. But, TCU never gave up and went on to take the lead 48-47 with 4:27 left in the fourth. Robert Griffin III started his Heisman season by taking the Bears down the field and leading them to a game winning field goal with 1:04 left. 

The excitement continued the next day with Notre Dame and South Florida. The Bulls capitalized on Notre Dame's turnovers and went on to win 23-20. Auburn squeaked past Utah State 42-38. The tigers had to score two late touchdowns to avoid being upset. Matt Barkley and USC held off Minnesota 19-17. The FCS school Sacramento State shocked Oregon State by beating them 29-28. BYU rallied in the fourth quarter to beat Ole Miss 14-13. UTEP had to take Stony Brook to overtime before beating them 31-24. Finally, the two games between ranked teams ended rather boringly. LSU rolled past Oregon to start their undefeated regular season. Boise State did not struggle with Georgia to start their season as well.

Last year's week one seemed to featured incredible games between non-ranked teams or ranked teams playing mid-level college teams. The games between the two ranked opponents were disappointing at best. Hopefully this year's games between the ranked teams can live up to the hype. Week one looks to have a few games that should pique your interest. Let's take a look at what you should be watching:

Marcus Lattimore will look to start the Gamecocks
season off with a win against another SEC East
team in Vanderbilt
Thurs. August 30th - South Carolina at Vanderbilt - ESPN - The SEC season starts early this year as these two SEC East teams face each other in week one. After dismissing Stephen Garcia last year, the Gamecocks turned to Connor Shaw. He will be back this year, along with Marcus Lattimore, Ace Sanders and Bruce Ellington on the offensive side of the ball. South Carolina also returns Jadeveon Clowney (8 sacks) and Devin Taylor (6 sacks) on the defensive line and D.J. Swearinger in the secondary. How far the Gamecocks go in the SEC East this year will depend on their defense as it looks like Lattimore and Shaw should be able to score plenty of points on offense. Vanderbilt's quarterback, Jordan Rodgers, is returning for his senior year. Alongside Zac Stacy, Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd on the offensive side. The Commodores are also bringing back Rob Lohr and Walker May on the defensive line and Trey Wilson and Archibald Barnes in the secondary. The SEC East should be a three team race against South Carolina, Florida and Georgia. You will have to wait until August to find out which team I think will win the east, but this game will start the season off right for one team and wrong for the other. 

Sparty wants YOU to watch the Michigan State vs
Boise State game to start the season off right
Friday August 31st - Boise State at Michigan State - ESPN - Boise State continues to find ranked teams to lose, I mean play, them to start the season. As previously mentioned, Boise easily beat Georgia last year. The Broncos beat Virginia Tech in 2010 and Oregon in 2009. It is understandable that teams are afraid to play Boise in week one. So much so that a few years ago, Chris Peterson had to basically beg for teams to play. This game should be a great one. Boise State looks to start their Western Athletic Conference, eer Big East Conference, or Mountain West conference season off right by heading to East Lansing to play the Spartans. Both teams will be starting anew with quarterbacks as Kellen Moore and Kirk Cousins were both seniors last year. Boise will also be starting fresh at running back with senior Drew Wright. However, the Broncos will be returning three of their four top receivers. They will also be returning a fairly young defensive line, secondary and linebackers corps. Despite this, I would not count out the Broncos just yet. Michigan State returns their top rusher in Le'Veon Bell but will be missing all four of their top receivers. The Spartans will be returning two of their defensive lineman, three linebackers and four players from the secondary. Could this finally be the year that Boise State is defeated in the first week or will the Broncos pull off the upset again?

Speedster Andre Ellington looks to take a few to the
house against Auburn in the Chick-Fil-A classic
Saturday September 1st - Auburn vs. Clemson - ESPN - Ahh the ole Chick-Fil-A kick-off classic. It always pits two quality teams against each other and this year is no different. Clemson was definitely a surprise last year, going undefeated in their first eight games before losing four of their last six games. Both teams return their starting quarterbacks from last year. Clemson will turn to Tajh Boyd and Auburn will look to utilize both Barrett Trotter and Clint Moseley. Each team also returns their top rushers from last year with Clemson handing the ball to speedster Andre Ellington and Auburn relying on Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb. Stop me if this sounds familiar, but both teams also will have their top two receivers coming back. Clemson has youngster Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins back, while Auburn has Emory Blake and Travante Stallworth coming back. Clemson will be starting a young defensive line after losing three lineman. However, despite the young line, Clemson does have three of their four best secondary players coming back in 2012. Auburn will be returning all of their defensive line, six linebackers and five players from the secondary. With an experienced defense, Clemson should be a team back on the rise in 2012. This jungle on jungle, tiger on tiger match-up, will start the season off right. 

Will Denard Robinson be able to defeat
the returning National Champion
Crimson Tide?
Saturday September 1st - Alabama vs. Michigan - ABC - Denard Robinson is returning for another run at the Heisman, as the mobile quarterback who seems to make every play exciting. Robinson will have his hands full in the first game of the season as the Wolverines take on the defending national champion Crimson Tide. Both teams have their quarterbacks back but the offensive side of the ball should look vastly different for both teams. Alabama lost Trent Richardson and Marquis Maze to the NFL. Michigan is without Junior Hemingway and Kevin Kroger. However, the Wolverines do return their second best receiver in Jeremy Gallon. Alabama will be searching for the new running back and will most likely turn to Eddie Lacy. Michigan has top back Fitzgerald Toussaint back this year as well. With the offense all set, the defense is what most people will be keeping their eye on during this game. The Crimson tide return three linebackers, three inexperienced defensive lineman and three defensive backs. The Wolverines bring back three defensive lineman, four  experienced linebackers and four defensive backs. This game could be a higher scoring game than most expect. Alabama was able to be so successful last year because of their defense, but they may not be able to rely on that side of the ball this year. We will also find out if Robinson can continue his successful seasons and eventually win the Heisman. 

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