SportsPulse: Our very own Paul Myerberg gives his prognostications and what you need to know heading into the first weekend of college football action.
Shocking disappointments and better-than-expected performances are anticipated each weekend in wild world of college football. It’s especially true early in the season as teams have yet to get into the swing of the schedules and are more prone to mistakes.
The USA TODAY Sports college football staff — Jace Evans, Paul Myerberg, George Schroeder, Erick Smith, Eddie Timanus and Dan Wolken — weigh in with some bold predictions for Week 1 of the college football season:
Boise State will beat Florida State. The fact that I questioned whether this was bold enough speaks to the level Florida State fell to in Year 1 under Willie Taggart. Sure, the Seminoles are still talented; and sure, there’s questions about the Broncos – most notably at the QB position where freshman Hank Bachmeier takes over for stalwart Brett Rypien. Still, the faith here is in Bryan Harsin’s program; Taggart’s group hasn’t earned a similar benefit of the doubt yet.
It wouldn’t even qualify as an upset based on the Amway Coaches Poll: Oregon is No. 13 in the preseason poll and Auburn is No. 16. (The Tigers are favored by about a field goal, however.) Still, I’m calling for the Ducks to ride Justin Herbert, linebacker Troy Dye and a superb offensive line to the sort of win that go a long way toward shaping the perception of the Pac-12 this season. While Auburn has its normal share of athletes on the defensive line, including a potential All-America pick in Derrick Brown, the Ducks are loaded up front with a great starting five and ample depth.
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Southern California’s dive into the Air Raid will be a smashing success – at least in Week 1, when JT Daniels will throw for a bazillion yards and a bunch of touchdowns against Fresno State, quenching talk of a Group of Five upset and as important, quieting talk about Clay Helton’s job status. How Week 2 goes when Stanford comes to town, who knows? But in a make-or-break season, the Trojans will get off to a nice start.
A road game against a conference is always something to feel uneasy about. If it comes in the season opener when you are breaking in a new receiving corps and some young players on defense then there is reason for concern. Such is the situation for Georgia when it visits Vanderbilt.
Yes, they have Jake Fromm and D’Andre Swift as offensive stars. The Bulldogs, however, are thinking about the College Football Playoff and other goals than beating the Commodores. If they come out with less than full focus, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them tested into the second half. Talent should win out in the end. But don’t be surprised if this one is closer than most expect.
The first full Saturday of nonstop college football will conclude with Fresno State’s visit to Southern California, which promises to be a vintage #Pac12AfterDark thriller.
It might actually be less bold to predict a road victory for the Bulldogs, who should once again be in the thick of the Mountain West championship race. This result would of course increase the temperature of USC coach Clay Helton’s seat from merely sizzling to nuclear meltdown.
But it’s not going to happen. It’ll be close, and there will still be much handwringing from the Trojans’ faithful. In the end, however, USC’s new-look offense will do what it’s supposed to and provide the quick-strike scores needed in the fourth quarter to stave off the torch-bearing villagers – for a while, at least.
The whole world is down on Florida State, and probably with good reason. The Seminoles were absolutely terrible last year, and I am not sure that many of those problems (especially on the offensive line) are correctible in just one year. For that reason, a lot of people are expecting Boise State to go into Tallahassee and win on Saturday night or at least keep it close. But my bold prediction is that the Noles will come out in their first game with Kendal Briles as offensive coordinator and win by three touchdowns. Boise State hasn’t been as good in these kinds of non-conference games of late, and I think playing in the sweltering conditions in Tallahassee will prove too difficult for a team that is used to a drier mountain climate.