9 College Football Teams that May Struggle Early

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Tough early schedules could trip up these teams in September

<p> Tough early schedules could trip up these teams in September</p>

Yesterday, we looked at nine teams that could get off to quick starts thanks to manageable schedules in September and early October. Today, we’ll look at the other side.

These nine teams could have rough starts in 2013 thanks to difficult early season schedules.

9 TEAMS HEADING FOR TOUGH STARTS

ARIZONA STATE (Team Preview)
Sept. 5 Sacramento State (6-5, 5-4 Big Sky)
Sept. 14 Wisconsin (8-6, 5-4 Big Ten)
Sept. 21 at Stanford (12-2, 8-1 Pac-12)
Sept. 28 USC (7-6, 5-4 Pac-12)
Oct. 5 Notre Dame (Arlington) (12-1)

Arizona State had a top-25 offense last season, but the Sun Devils will face three top-20 defenses in the first five games (Wisconsin, Stanford and Notre Dame). Arizona State’s eight returning starters on defense also will be tested early, first by Wisconsin’s and Stanford’s physical run games, then by USC’s Marqise Lee. So if you’re keeping track, Arizona State will face the defending Pac-12 champion, the defending Big Ten champion and the BCS runner-up. And even Sacramento State defeated Colorado in Boulder last year.

Related: Athlon Sports preseason top 25 countdown

CAL
Aug. 31 Northwestern (10-3, 5-3 Big Ten)
Sept. 7 Portland State (3-8, 2-6 Big Sky)
Sept. 14 Ohio State (12-0, 8-0 Big Ten)
Sept. 28 at Oregon (12-1, 8-1 Pac-12)

Sonny Dykes won’t have time to ease into his new gig at Cal. Oregon and Ohio State open the season in Athlon’s top three while Northwestern was ranked 24th. The Bears ranked 10th in the Pac-12 in total defense last season, so expect Kain Colter, Marcus Mariota and Braxton Miller to put up numbers. At least there’s Portland State to break up the misery.

FAU
Aug. 30 at Miami (7-5, 5-3 ACC)
Sept. 5 at East Carolina (8-5, 7-1 Conference USA)
Sept. 14 at USF (3-9, 1-6 Big East)
Sept. 21 Middle Tennessee (8-4, 6-2 Sun Belt)
Sept. 28 at Rice (7-6, 4-4 Conference USA)

FAU won’t see much of the stadium the Owls opened a few years ago. They start the season with three road games and only play in Boca Raton twice before November.

GEORGIA (Team Preview)
Aug. 31 at Clemson (11-2, 7-1 ACC)
Sept. 7 South Carolina (11-2, 6-2 SEC)
Sept. 21 North Texas (4-8, 3-5 Sun Belt)
Sept. 28 LSU (10-3, 6-2 SEC)

Georgia is Athlon’s pick to win the SEC East, but a 1-3 start is possible against Heisman contenders in the first two weeks of the season (Tajh Boyd and Jadeveon Clowney). If there’s a good time to face LSU, however, it may be early in the season as the Tigers find their legs on a rebuilding defense.

HAWAII
Aug. 29 USC (7-6, 5-3 Pac-12)
Sept. 7 at Oregon State (9-4, 6-3 Pac-12)
Sept. 21 at Nevada (7-6, 4-4 Mountain West)
Sept. 28 Fresno State (9-4, 7-1 Mountain West)
Oct. 5 San Jose State (11-2, 5-1 WAC)

Hawaii brought back the Rainbow Warriors nickname, a nickname that was nixed by June Jones. Hawaii has also gone back to pre-June Jones results. This opening schedule won’t help.

OLE MISS
Aug. 29 at Vanderbilt (9-4, 5-3 SEC)
Sept. 7 Southeast Missouri State (3-8, 2-6 OVC)
Sept. 14 at Texas (9-4, 5-3 Big 12)
Sept. 28 at Alabama (13-1, 8-1 SEC)
Oct. 5 at Auburn (3-9, 0-8 SEC)
Oct. 12 Texas A&M (11-2, 6-2 SEC)
Oct. 19 LSU (10-3, 6-2 SEC)

Ole Miss won the Egg Bowl, won a bowl game and brought in a top-10 signing class. Still, maybe we should tap the brakes on the Rebels for now. The opening part of the schedule is brutal with four road games in the first five. We know about Alabama’s dominance and Vanderbilt’s resurgence, but don’t forget Texas defeated Ole Miss 66-31 last season. Welcoming Ole Miss back to Oxford are Texas A&M and LSU.

SMU
Aug. 30 Texas Tech (8-5, 4-5 Big 12)
Sept. 7 Montana State (11-2, 7-1 Big Sky)
Sept. 21 at Texas A&M (11-2, 6-2 SEC)
Sept. 28 at TCU (7-6, 4-5 Big 12)
Oct. 5 Rutgers (9-4, 5-2 Big East)

Before SMU begins play in the American Athletic Conference, the Mustangs will take a quick tour of its former Southwest Conference foes. SMU will have a tough time getting through Texas Tech, Texas A&M and TCU (the latter two on the road) with a win. Even SMU’s FCS opponent, Montana State, is expected to contend for that division’s title.

SOUTHERN MISS
Aug. 31 Texas State (4-8, 2-4 WAC)
Sept. 7 at Nebraska (10-4, 7-2 Big Ten)
Sept. 14 at Arkansas (4-8, 2-6 SEC)
Sept. 28 at Boise State (11-2, 7-1 Mountain West)

After going 0-12 last season, Southern Miss probably needs to defeat Texas State in the opener to avoid extending its losing streak to 16 games. The game against Nebraska originally was scheduled to be in Hattiesburg but moved to Lincoln when Southern Miss needed the cash to buy out coach Ellis Johnson after one season.

UTAH STATE
Aug. 29 at Utah (5-7, 3-6 Pac-12)
Sept. 7 at Air Force (6-7, 5-3 Mountain West)
Sept. 14 Weber State (2-9, 2-6 Big Sky)
Sept. 21 at USC (7-6, 5-4 Pac-12)
Sept. 27 at San Jose State (11-2, 5-1 WAC)
Oct. 4 BYU (8-5)
Oct. 12 Boise State (11-2, 7-1 Mountain West)

Utah State enjoyed its best season in school history last season. Building momentum into 2013 may be tough with four of the first five games on the road. Before the Aggies play the first home Mountain West game -- against Boise State, no less -- Utah State will face two conference teams on the road (Air Force, San Jose State), two Pac-12 teams on the road (Utah and USC) and two in-state rivals (at Utah, BYU).
 

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