Michigan vs. Alabama at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas
College football kicks off with a blockbuster, and the Wolverines are in a good spot. They have the dynamic quarterback in Denard Robinson and Crimson Tide defense is regenerating. Plus, Michigan’s defense is solid. And yet … as good as Robinson is, speed is what defines SEC defenses and ’Bama can keep up with anybody. Plus, Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron knows something about big games. Alabama wins a close call.Upset of the week
Ohio at Penn State
Except for 100,000 fans at Beaver Stadium, little will seem the same for Penn State. Players’ names are stitched on the back of jerseys for the first time, no “Sweet Caroline” over the stadium loudspeakers (some university officials were concerned about the lyrics “touching me, touching you,” in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal), and for the first time since 1965 a season will begin with Joe Paterno, who died in January. As Penn State sifts through the changes, a dangerous Ohio team visits Happy Valley. Coach Frank Solich’s Bobcats are a strong Mid-American Conference division contender and get my upset pick of the week.Others worth watching
Boise State at Michigan State, tonight
It’s hard to remember when Kellen Moore wasn’t Boise’s quarterback. The job goes to Joe Southwick, chosen starter last week. The Spartans also are starting over at quarterback with Andrew Maxwell getting the call to replace Kirk Cousins. Neither fourth-year junior has started a game since 2008, their last year in high school. Sparty gets my pick.
Auburn vs. Clemson at Atlanta
Clemson’s Tigers broke a 14-game losing streak in this series last season at the Georgia Dome. Both programs break in new coordinators, with Scott Loeffler replacing Gus Malzhan at Auburn, and Brent Venables taking over Clemson’s defense. Clemson gets the edge.
Notre Dame vs. Navy at Dublin, Ireland
Here’s what Irish radio analyst and former running back Allen Pinkett said on Chicago radio station WSCR (670 AM) that got him sent home from this game:
“I’ve always felt like, to have a successful team, you gotta have a few bad citizens on the team. I mean, that’s how Ohio State used to win all the time. They would have two or three guys that were criminals. That just adds to the chemistry of the team. I think Notre Dame is growing maybe because they have some guys that are doing something worthy of a suspension, which creates an edge on the football team. You can’t have a football team full of choir boys. You get your butt kicked if you have a team full of choir boys. You gotta have a little bit of edge, but the coach has to be the dictator and ultimate ruler.”
Wow. Where to go with this? Championship teams need criminals and non-criminals are choir boys? Is the Southeastern Conference one big penal colony? The Irish already have four players suspended for this game, including quarterback Tommy Rees, for confronting a cop at a party. Is that the type of edge Pinkett is talking about? Good call to bring Pinkett home.
Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech, Monday
This winner has represented the Coastal Division in every ACC championship game, and that should be the case again. Georgia Tech’s triple option can give an opponent fits, but the Hokies have had a fall camp to prepare. This game gets national exposure and could kick start the Heisman campaign of Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas the way Baylor’s victory over TCU in last year’s opener launched Robert Griffin III.On the horizon: Sept. 8
Miami, Fla., at Kansas State
Wildcats jumped started last season with victory in South Florida
Georgia at Missouri
Biggest football party in Tigers history
Florida at Texas A
Who will be more SEC ready, Aggies or Mizzou?