Week 1 of the college football season officially kicks off on Thursday night, headlined by a SEC showdown between South Carolina and Vanderbilt, while BYU and Washington State close out the night with a shootout in Provo. The favorites can't win every game each week, so it's no surprise one of the most popular discussion points every Saturday is upset picks. Each week on AthlonSports.com, the editors will give an upset pick for the upcoming week of action.
College Football's Week 1 Upset Picks
David Fox (@DavidFox615): Indiana State (off) over Indiana
Indiana State of the Missouri Valley used to be one of the worst teams in Division I football, but the Sycamores have slowly become more competitive -- enough so that they’ve cracked the preseason FCS coaches’ top 25. The Sycamores also return FCS’ leading rusher from last season, Shakir Bell. It seems we see an FCS over a major conference program upset each opening week. This may be it. Indiana improved as last season went along, but the Hoosiers are still in bad shape.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall): Washington State (+13.5) at BYU
The best two (and only two quality) offenses BYU faced last fall, Utah and TCU, dropped a combined 92 points in two easy wins over the Cougars. Mike Leach, who graduated from BYU and studied offense under the great LaVell Edwards, is now leading the way for an offense that boasts all the necessary pieces for his Air Raid attack to instantly succeed. This was the nation's No. 9-rated passing attack last year and Leach could claim the best passing offense in the nation this fall. In primetime on national television in a game that could decide bowl eligibility, Leach will have his Cougs ready to compete against a solid, but not great BYU team. It would likely be the biggest upset of the weekend so it might be a long shot, but don't sleep on Wazzu.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): Ohio (+6) at Penn State
2012 begins a new era in Happy Valley, as Bill O’Brien takes over as head coach and the Penn State uniforms will feature the names of the players. While there is some excitement around the new coaching staff and a new look on offense, the Nittany Lions can’t play in a bowl due to NCAA sanctions and lost a handful of players due to transfer. Ohio is a dangerous Week 1 opponent, as it won 10 games and played for the MAC title last season. The Bobcats gave Rutgers all it could handle last year and returns 12 starters from that team, including All-MAC quarterback Tyler Tettleton. Even though the Nittany Lions have a solid defense, there will be some growing pains on offense, which gives Ohio an excellent shot at an upset on Saturday.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch): Western Michigan (+9.5) over Illinois
Western Michigan went 1–3 outright vs. teams vs. BCS conferences in 2011, with a win at UConn, a lopsided loss at Michigan (34–10) and close losses at Illinois (23–20) and vs. Purdue (37–32) in the Little Caesers Pizza Bowl. This is a team with a senior quarterback (Alex Carder) and a veteran offensive line that will not be intimidated by playing on the road at a Big Ten school. The big key for Western is finding a way to stop the run; last year, Illinois rolled up 296 yards on the ground in its win over the Broncos. Western Michigan 30, Illinois 27
Mark Ross: NC State (+3) over Tennessee
No one needs an opening win more than embattled Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley, but I just don’t think NC State will oblige him and the Volunteers on Saturday night in the Georgia Dome. On offense, the Vols will lean heavily on the duo of quarterback Tyler Bray and wide receiver Justin Hunter, especially now that All-SEC wideout Da’Rick Rogers is no longer on the roster. However, this strategy plays right into the hands of NC State’s defensive strength. The Wolfpack have one of the best secondaries in the nation led by All-American David Amerson. On offense, NC State has a strong-armed quarterback of its own in senior Mike Glennon, who will lead an attack that’s not near as one-dimensional as UT’s.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman): Ohio (+6) over Penn State
This may seem like an anti-Penn State selection because of scandals and roster depletion, but Franks Solich’s Ohio Bobcats are a quality team with a good chance of repeating last season’s 10-win campaign. Despite winning its first bowl game in school history last December, Ohio will still be a hungry team after blowing a 20-point lead in the MAC Championship Game. Quarterback Tyler Tettleton (38 touchdowns accounted for in 2011) is a great fit for the no-huddle attack, and the Bobcats defense should be the best unit Ohio has had during Solich’s tenure. Penn State should still have a quality defense despite the offseason personnel attrition, but I just don’t see where the points are going to be produced. In a surreal setting in Happy Valley, I’ll take the Bobcats over the Nittany Lions, 16-13.
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