Mitch Light breaks down and predicts every weekend game.
Thursday night was just an appetizer to college football's kickoff weekend. To get your ready for the first Saturday, we give you predictions for every game from Friday to Monday. All the rankings are based on Athlon's college football rankings. Enjoy.
By Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
Friday September 2nd:
No. 15 TCU at No. 47 Baylor
Baylor is a popular underdog pick, but I’m sticking with the Horned Frogs. Last season, TCU was the best team in the nation relative to its conference; the Frogs outgained MWC foes by an average of 312 yards per game. And when these teams met last season, TCU outgained Baylor 558 to 263 en route to a a 45–10 victory.
TCU 28, Baylor 21
Youngstown State at No. 23 Michigan State
The Penguins actually led Penn State, 7–3, after one quarter in last season’s opener. They got outscored 41–7 the rest of the way.
Michigan State 51, Youngstown State 10
Saturday, September 3
No. 99 Kent State at No. 1 Alabama
Nick Saban takes on his alma mater for the first time as a head coach. On the other sideline, former Ohio State assistant Darrell Hazell, will be making his debut.
Alabama 44, Kent State 0
No. 62 Tulsa at No. 2 Oklahoma
Tulsa’s chances of upsetting Oklahoma took a huge hit when senior wide receiver Damaris Johnson, the Golden Hurricane’s best player, was suspended last week.
Oklahoma 44, Tulsa 10
No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 8 LSU (at Arlington, Texas)
The marquee game of the opening weekend is without some of the most recognizable names — Oregon cornerback and return specialist Cliff Harris and LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson and wide receiver Russell Shepard.
LSU 28, Oregon 24
No. 102 Louisiana-Monroe at No. 4 Florida State
Florida State has a legitimate chance to play for a national title this season. Teams with such lofty aspirations should be focused enough to take care of business against inferior competition.
Florida State 48, Louisiana-Monroe 14
No. 5 Boise State vs. No. 14 Georgia (at Atlanta)
Two keys in this game: Georgia’s ability to put pressure on Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore, and Georgia’s ability to run the ball against the Broncos’ very good defensive front.
Boise State 28, Georgia 24
No. 35 South Florida at No. 6 Notre Dame
It’s the Holtz Bowl, as Skip Holtz takes his South Florida Bulls to face his alma mater — and the school that his father, Lou, led to the 1988 national title. This game could be decided by which quarterback plays better — South Florida’s B.J. Daniels or Notre Dame’s Dayne Crist.
Notre Dame 27, South Florida 20
Appalachian State at No. 7 Virginia Tech
Here is the obligatory comment that Virginia Tech will be prepared to play an FCS foe after last season’s shocking loss to James Madison.
Virginia Tech 34, Appalachian State 10
Chattanooga at No. 9 Nebraska
Former Tennessee Vol B.J. Coleman begins his third season as the starting quarterback at Chattanooga. He will need to play the game of his life to keep this competitive.
Nebraska 47, Chattanooga 13
No. 114 UL-Lafayette at No. 11 Oklahoma State
The Ragin’ Cajuns played three BCS teams last season, giving up 55 to Georgia, 54 to Oklahoma State (at home) and 43 to Ole Miss. The Cowboys will have no problem hitting 50 again (if they so choose).
Oklahoma State 58, UL-Lafayette 3
No. 113 San Jose State at No. 12 Stanford
San Jose State should be much improved in Mike MacIntyre’s second season. That, however, doesn’t mean the Spartans are ready to compete with a very talented Cardinal team.
Stanford 48, San Jose State 10
Missouri State at No. 16 Arkansas
The Arkansas offense will be eager to prove that it can thrive without Ryan Mallett at quarterback (gone to the NFL) and Knile Davis at running back (torn ACL).
Arkansas 48, Missouri State 13
No. 120 Florida Atlantic at No. 18 Florida
Howard Schnellenberger’s final season as a head coach will not get off to a very good start.
Florida 41, Florida Atlantic 0
No. 116 Akron at No. 20 Ohio State
The Buckeyes have been waiting a long time to put the offseason drama behind them and actually play a football game. This one will be over early.
Ohio State 47, Akron 7
No. 70 Minnesota at No. 21 USC
For the record, I think Jerry Kill was the best hire by any school in the nation last offseason. For the record, I don’t think Jerry Kill will win his first game as the head coach at Minnesota.
USC 37, Minnesota 17
No. 82 East Carolina vs. No. 22 South Carolina (at Charlotte)
Last year, ECU featured one of the most explosive offenses in the country, scoring 35 points or more nine times in 13 games (and 44 points or more four times). The problem? The Pirates ranked last in the nation in total defense (478.8 ypg) and 119th in the scoring defense (44.0 ppg).
South Carolina 44, East Carolina 27
No. 94 Rice at No. 24 Texas
We won’t learn a lot from this game, but Texas needs to play well as it tries to right the ship after winning only five games last fall. Keep an eye on Rice running back Sam McGuffie. The former Michigan Wolverine is poised for a big junior season.
Texas 37, Rice 13
No. 93 Miami (Ohio) at No. 25 Missouri
Don Treadwell makes his coaching debut at his alma mater. It could be a rough one. Last season, Missouri ripped Miami 51–13 and rolled up over 230 yards rushing and passing.
Missouri 41, Miami (Ohio) 14
Tennessee Tech at No. 26 Iowa
Watson Brown’s Tennessee Tech club opened the 2010 season against two FBS teams, losing 44–3 at Arkansas and 62–7 at TCU. Expect a similar result.
Iowa 41, Tennessee Tech 7
South Dakota at No. 29 Air Force
South Dakota split its two games vs. FBS teams last year, losing 38–7 at UCF before shocking Minnesota, 41–38. Don’t count on another upset this weekend. Troy Calhoun’s team is too good and too well prepared to slip up in Week 1.
Air Force 48, South Dakota 13
Indiana State at No. 30 Penn State
If you’ve got Silas Redd on your fantasy team (which I do), be advised to put him in your lineup. Last year, Indiana State ranked 105th in the in the FCS ranks in stopping the run.
Penn State 44, Indiana State 3
Liberty at No. 31 NC State
The Flames of Liberty went 8–3 last year and defeated the only FBS team on their schedule, winning 27–23 at Ball State. Quarterback Mike Brown led the FCS ranks in total offense and is a two-time Big South Player of the Year. NC State should win, but the Pack’s defense will be tested.
NC State 38, Liberty 17
No. 97 Arkansas State at No. 32 Illinois
Illinois is potential sleeper in the Big Ten Leaders but first must deal with a pretty good Arkansas State team that is under the direction of new coach Hugh Freeze. The Illini should prevail, but there could be some anxious moments.
Illinois 31, Arkansas State 20
No. 34 BYU at No. 69 Ole Miss
Ole Miss struggled mightily on defense last season, ranking last in the SEC and 107th in the nation, allowing 35.2 points per game. The Rebs will be tested by the BYU offense that is led by sophomore quarterback Jake Heaps, a rising star.
BYU 34, Ole Miss 24
James Madison at No. 36 North Carolina
JMU shocked the college football world by beating Virginia Tech in Blacksburg last September, but the Dukes went to 3–5 in the Colonial.
North Carolina 37, James Madison 14
Montana at No. 37 Tennessee
The Vols host an FCS team to open the season for the second straight season. Last year, Tennessee pounded UT-Martin, 50–0. Montana should pose more of a challenge.
Tennessee 34, Montana 14
No. 89 Troy at No. 38 Clemson
Troy suffered significant losses on offense, but one of three starters back is sophomore quarterback Cody Robinson, who was dynamite in 2010 en route to winning Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year honors. The Trojans struggle on defense, and Clemson should be able to move the ball up and down the field with relative ease.
Clemson 38, Troy 20
Texas State at No. 39 Texas Tech
Dennis Franchione is back on the sidelines as the head coach at Texas State. He will match wits against Texas Tech’s Tommy Tuberville, who coached at Auburn when Franchione was in charge of the Alabama Crimson Tide from 2001-02.
Texas Tech 51, Texas State 10
No. 88 Western Michigan at No. 40 Michigan
There will be more difficult tests down the road, but we will get a glimpse of how much (if any) the Michigan defense has improved under the new regime. Western Michigan boasts an underrated pass-catch duo in quarterback Alex Carder and receiver Jordan White.
Michigan 39, Western Michigan 20
No. 115 Buffalo at No. 41 Pittsburgh
Todd Graham makes his debut at Pittsburgh, and the locals will be expecting to see a ton of points. Buffalo will much-improved at the quarterback position, with former Cincinnati Bearcat Chazz Anderson now taking snaps for the Bulls.
Pittsburgh 38, Buffalo 14
No. 104 Utah State at No. 42 Auburn
Utah State had its moments en route to a disappointing 4–8 record last year, losing at Oklahoma, 31–24 in the opener and beating in-state rival, 31–16, on national television. The Aggies welcome back Robert Turbin, who rushed for 1,296 yards in 2009 before missing last year with a torn ACL.
Auburn 37, Utah State 17
Eastern Washington at No. 44 Washington
The defending FCS champs head west to take on a Washington team that has high hopes in Steve Sarkisian’s third season. Keith Price is the new quarterback at UW, and he has an all-conference tailback (Chris Polk) and receiver (Jermaine Kearse) at his disposal.
Washington 31, Eastern Washington 10
No. 46 Northwestern at No. 45 Boston College
Dan Persa, one of the most underrated players in the nation, returns at quarterback (hopefully!) for Northwestern after suffering a torn Achilles last November. The key for the Cats, however, will be on defense, where they will have to slow down Boston College’s rushing attack.
Northwestern 28, Boston College 21
Charleston Southern at No. 51 UCF
Charleston Southern won three games last year, beating North Greensville, Mars Hill and Presbyterian. Not exactly the most impressive list of victims.
UCF 50, Charleston Southern 0
Northern Arizona at No. 52 Arizona
The Lumberjacks will making their sixth trip to Tucson in the past 10 years. They’ve lost the previous five games by an average of 31.6 points.
Arizona 42, Northern Arizona 10
Sacramento State at No. 53 Oregon State
Oregon State is eager to bounce back from its first losing season since 2005. The Beavers will get the season off to a very nice start.
Oregon State 45, Sacramento State 10
No. 78 Fresno State at No. 54 California
Buffalo transfer Zach Maynard makes his debut as the starting quarterback at California. He’s got some weapons at wide receiver, but the running backs are untested.
California 20, Fresno State 17
No. 92 Louisiana Tech at No. 55 Southern Miss
This game features two very talented offensive players who don’t get much pub on the national level — Southern Miss quarterback Austin Davis and Louisiana Tech tailback Lennon Creer.
Southern Miss 24, Louisiana Tech 17
Delaware at No. 56 Navy
Navy will be tested by a veteran Delaware defense that likely will start eight juniors and seniors. The Blue Hens won 12 games last season and advanced to the FCS title game.
Navy 28, Delaware 20
Austin Peay at No. 57 Cincinnati
There’s a bit of pressure on Butch Jones in his second season after Cincinnati slumped to 4–8 last season. Brian Kelly won 33 games in his final three seasons as the Bearcats’ boss.
Cincinnati 37, Austin Peay 10
No. 61 UCLA at No. 58 Houston
Much is being made about the UCLA quarterback situation — three QBs may play — but this game is all about Johnathan Franklin, Derrick Coleman and the Bruins’ running attack. UCLA rushed for 266 yards in its 31–13 win over the Cougars last season.
UCLA 30, Houston 24
Fordham at No. 59 Connecticut
Paul Pasqualoni returns to the collegiate ranks after spending the last six years in the NFL. His first UConn team is a work in progress. The Huskies will struggle to score points all season.
Connecticut 24, Fordham 10
Northern Iowa at No. 63 Iowa State
Northern Iowa outgained Iowa State 320 to 210 when these teams met last September, but the Cyclones won the game, 27–0, thanks to a 5 to 0 advantage in turnovers.
Iowa State 30, Northern Iowa 17
No. 105 Middle Tennessee at No. 64 Purdue
This one won’t be easy for Purdue, which will send out Caleb TerBush for his first career start at quarterback. Middle Tennessee has decent talent and won’t be spooked by playing a BCS team on the road.
Purdue 27, Middle Tennessee 17
Cal Poly at No. 66 San Diego State
Brady Hoke pumped some energy into the San Diego State program. Now it’s up to Rocky Long, who went 65–69 in 10 seasons at New Mexico (1999-2008) to keep things going in the right direction.
San Diego State 38, Cal Poly 14
No. 76 Colorado at No. 67 Hawaii
Home-standing Hawaii is a seven-point favorite even though Colorado beat the Warriors 31–13 when these teams met last September.
Colorado 34, Hawaii 31
Eastern Kentucky at No. 73 Kansas State
This is old-school Bill Snyder scheduling: Kansas State opens the season with home games against Eastern Kentucky and Kent State — though we must credit the Wildcats for scheduling a trip to Miami (Fla.) in Week 4.
Kansas State 50, Eastern Kentucky 11
No. 80 Army at No. 74 Northern Illinois
This is an under-the-radar game that has a chance to be pretty compelling. Rich Ellerson has done a tremendous job in his two years at Army, with a 12–13 overall mark highlighted by a win over SMU in the Armed Forces bowl last season.
Northern Illinois 30, Army 21
William & Mary at No. 75 Virginia
Mike London’s second season begins with a visit from a solid William & Mary club. Expect heavy dose of Cavs’ tailback Perry Jones.
Virginia 31, William & Mary 13
Richmond at No. 77 Duke
Richmond has won the last two meetings, beating Duke 13–0 in 2006 and 24–16 in ’09. Richmond is dealing with an unexpected coaching change, with offensive coordinator Wayne Lineburg serving as the interim head coach after former head coach Latrell Scott resigned in late August after a DUI arrest.
Duke 30, Richmond 17
Elon at No. 79 Vanderbilt
James Franklin makes his debut as the head coach at Vanderbilt. His task is to improve a Commodore offense that averaged under 300 yards per game last season.
Vanderbilt 37, Elon 13
McNeese State at No. 81 Kansas
The best player on either roster is McNeese State safety Janzen Jackson, a recent transfer from Tennessee. Jackson, however, won’t play in the opener.
Kansas 30, McNeese State 13
No. 84 Indiana vs. No. 111 Ball State (at Indianapolis)
Kevin Wilson has won the offseason at Indiana. Now, it’s time for the first-year head coach to win some games.
Indiana 30, Ball State 10
Idaho State at No. 85 Washington State
Idaho State went 1–10 last season and ranked 114th (out of 117 teams) in the FCS ranks in total offense and 103rd in total defense. Bottom line: The Bengals are terrible. Wazzu in a rout.
Washington State 38, Idaho State 3
No. 86 Ohio at No. 119 New Mexico State
DeWayne Walker needs to get his third season off to a good start. Beating a solid team from the MAC would be a good start. That, however, isn’t likely to happen.
Ohio 30, New Mexico State 20
No. 91 Colorado State at No. 117 New Mexico
Mike Locksley, 2–21 in two seasons, is on the hottest of seats at New Mexico. The Lobos were outgained by 207.8 yards in their eight MWC games last season. They might be better in 2011 — but not good enough.
Colorado State 28, New Mexico 14
Weber State at No. 98 Wyoming
Wyoming ended an otherwise miserable 2010 season on a high note, pounding rival Colorado State, 44–0, in Laramie. Weber State averaged a respectable 20.5 points in two games vs. FBS opponents last season (Boston College and Texas Tech).
Wyoming 31, Weber State 20
SE Louisiana at No. 106 Tulane
The pressure is on Bob Toledo, who has a 13–35 record in four seasons at Tulane. Last season, the Green Wave struggled with SE Louisiana in the opener, netting only 252 yards in a 27–21 win. The Lions went on to win only two games.
Tulane 34, SE Louisiana 17
Stony Brook at No. 108 UTEP
The 2010 UTEP Miners will go down as one of the worst teams ever to play in a bowl game. They went 6–7 overall and ranked 78th in the nation in total offense and 91st in total defense.
UTEP 30, Stony Brook 7
Howard at No. 112 Eastern Michigan
With all due respect to these two teams, this has to be the worst game of the opening weekend of college football. Howard went 1–10 last season, with its lone win vs. Division III Lincoln University. Eastern Michigan has made strides under Ron English, but the Eagles are still near the bottom of the FBS food chain.
Eastern Michigan 30, Howard 6
Sunday, September 4
No. 95 Marshall at No. 24 West Virginia
Dana Holgorsen would love nothing more than to put up a huge number in his first game as a head coach.
West Virginia 44, Marshall 17
No. 49 SMU at No. 10 Texas A&M
The school that really, really wants to be in the Big 12 meets the team that just announced its intention to leave the Big 12. SMU has not defeated Texas A&M since 1984 in the hey day of the Pony Excess days.
Texas A&M 38, SMU 20
Monday, September 5
No. 19 Miami (Fla.) at No. 33 Maryland
The Hurricanes will take to the field for the first time since Nevin Shapiro became a household name in the world of collegiate sports.
Maryland 24, Miami 14