2021-09-02 11:37

Welcome back, this week the real start of the season will be celebrated and there are some really interesting games already in week 1.

But before I recap the last week and then preview the highlights of week 1, I will continue with the preview of the conferences.

I left with the independents and all what's left is the 5 so called Power 5 Conferences.

To rate the conferences based on strength is hard, since all have some really big and strong teams in them, but do often lack the depth to make the conference really a juggernaut, even the SEC.
Still the preseason TOP 5 distribution does feature 5 SEC team, 5 BIG 10 teams, 5 PAC 12 teams, 3 ACC teams and 3 BIG 12 teams.
Even it would be cruel, I wish there would be a Bottom 25 list also.

On the other hand, a conference with 10 will automatically create different results, in terms of statistics, than a 14 team conference.

So I will do this by my gut feeling.

Big 12
I start with the BIG 12 for several reasons. The 1st is that except Oklahoma the conference is a no show in the past few playoffs. 2014/15 were Baylor and TCU the team to beat inside the BIG 12 and left out of the playoffs. Since then did Oklahoma run the table. 2nd is, that it features at least Kansas as a real mess, which will likely make the Bottom 25 list easily. The 3rd reason is, that compared to the other conferences, the just don't stuck much respect when scheduling them.
The conference is dominated by Oklahoma, just challenged by surprising Iowa State and a team still to determine. My guess is Texas or TCU, but all contenders will have to play outstanding to push the Sooners from the throne, which might already have their markings in it.

Lincoln Riley took over a very good team 5 seasons ago and since then did never look back and the Oklahoma Sooners did win each season the conference. The Sooners had 3 tries in a row for the National Championship game in a row, but lost all 3 Semi-finals. Last season they did win their 1st Big Bowl since 2017 under Boob Stoobs. This season they are again favored to win the BIG 12.
Iowa State made great progress under Matt Campbells reign. In his 6th season now, he did create a winner out of a very bad team. Last season he won his 1st big bowl game and the team finished with 9 wins, even with Corona. The Cyclones did not win 9 game since 2000! (and before that it was 1906!) The schedule will likely limit them to 2nd place (and their tendency to lose surprisingly winnable games)
The 3rd in line is likely Texas, under new HC Steve Sarkisian. The former HC of Washington and USC, who did basically destroy his career with alcohol and medical abuse. It seems he did beat his demons and did serve as assistant for some seasons for Alabama and the Atlanta Falcons. So experience is big, bigger as for his predecessor and this might be good to lead a team like the Longhorns. The roster is in a good shape as it seems, it just needs some push to bring it on the field, consistently. THAT will be the task (and to pamper the high expectations).
As the next team I see TCU coming back from some unfortune seasons. Gary Patterson is in his 21st! season with the team and he did basically build TCU into that program it is now. The Frogs had some down seasons lately, winning after 2017 with 11 wins since then only 7, 5 and 6 games. The schedule is not a big favor of their interest, but they should be able to top the wins from last season, easily.
I'm waiting for the split between Oklahoma State and their long reigning HC Mike Gundy (17th season), but it just doesn’t happen. They do argue, they do blast each other, but nobody does pull the trigger. Maybe because Gundy does deliver in terms of wins compared to the potential of the team. The worst was 7 wins a few seasons after 4 wins in his 1st. Usually he delivers more, won the conference once. Last season the team won 8 and this season they might repeat. They will have a hard time to do that, but Gundy does usually field a great offense and if the defense can catch up, the sky is the limit.
West Virginia might crash the party and will outplay some teams. Neal Brown is in his 3rd season and the teams’ transition might be over and he has to deliver ... something. If they can crack some of the bigger programs, the Mountaineers might win much more than the 6 wins last season.
Now we get to my favorite underdog team, Kansas State. Chris Klieman is in his 3rd season and the team should progress forward. This team could become very unloved to play. Last season they did upset Oklahoma but were unable to maintain that level. This season they might have a higher overall strength and should be able to get bowl eligibility.
Just 3 teams left, and I have Baylor as 8th. Dave Aranda took over last season and managed to get 2 wins. Baylor did win more games in the past and the program is higher in attention and recruiting level, so they should make progress. How much is open.
Matt Wells is in his 3rd season with Texas Tech and won so far 4 games in each season. Not much. But they have a veteran squad now and a quite easier schedule, so I guess they will win a few more. Enough to save the HC job, I don't know. Expectations are higher, so a bowl trip is needed.
At last I have of cause Kansas. Les Miles had to go, mainly as I understood, because he had some 'inappropriate' contact with female students. Well, I guess he had some needs then ... Lance Leipold came in from Buffalo, where he had turned the program into a winning team. For me, Kansas has major issues in the organization, otherwise other coaches should have had more success than the usual 1-3 wins in the past years. This job could be suicide, still, IF Leipold can win here, he will be recruited fast.

That's the BIG 12. I expect 2 scenarios. Scenario 1 is that Oklahoma is running the table and if so, they have a good chance to get playoff considerations. Scenario 2 is, that some teams will limit Oklahoma and the whole BIG 12 will get demoted and left out of the playoffs. A surprise would be a different team running the table, but I would love to see it.

As next strong conference I put the PAC 12. More accurate is likely to take the ACC, but with Clemson as regular playoff team in the past years and the rise of North Carolina makes me put the PAC 12 here, which was unable to put a team into the playoffs since 2016/2017 and they did not win the National Championship never (same as BIG 12).
Oregon was the team coming closest to a National Championship in 2014/15. They are the favorite to win the PAC 12 (again) but will have to deal with division rival Washington and the winner of the South division, which is likely be USC or Arizona State.

North Division is from my view a 2-team battle between Oregon and Washington, where I see Oregon as favorite.
With playing in Washington the Oregon Ducks under 4th season Mario Cristobal will seek to repeat for a 3rd title in a row and if they win against the Huskies, the door is wide open. They avoid the 2 hottest teams from the south, which gives them an additional advantage.
Washington is in the 2nd season from Jimmy Lake, and we will all wait to see whether the team will keep the strength or will drop a bit. My guess is, the transition will be good and Washington will prevail. If they win against Oregon, they have a good chance to win the PAC 12, but it will be hard.
Next is likely either Stanford or Cal. I stick with Stanford at 3rd, since David Shaw in his 11th season did manage to win many games with his team in all years, except 2019. The only concern should be a very tough schedule.
Cal is next on my list, but they did play poor last season and will need a playmaker. Before that did Justin Wilcox, now in his 5th season, make the team better over the seasons, but now he has to prove the team can win under his recruiting and rebound from 2020. Not an easy task.
I pick Washington State as next team, but I have a bit of a doubt that Nick Rolovich in his 2nd season will get good results from his team. Or better, getting better results than the Beavers. The only reason I did put them here is, the team should be capable to win more games, thanks to the basis Rolovich did inherit from his predecessor.
And the Oregon State Beavers are then bound to finish last. Jonathan Smith has the team now 4 season and we saw some improvements prior COVID-19, so I expect to get back on track, but the competition will be hard and it's not clear how they will rebound from 2020. On to, the Beavers are traditionally not the best recruiting place, so they need to be extra strong to overcome those obstacles, which will be even harder this season.

The South Division is quite open this season. We have USC, with their expectation to win every season the division, but Arizona State, Utah and UCLA will try to challenge them.
I still put USC as favorite into the list, but I expect them to lose some crucial games. I just expect the others to lose MORE crucial games. But it might come down to direct compare or other tie-breaker rules. Clay Helton is in his 6th season and is for sure not the answer as National Championship coach. He won the conference only once and the division twice. For USC that's not enough, so this season could be a do-or-die-season for him.
Arizona State under Herman Edwards did play tough football in all his 3 seasons with the team, but they often did lose games not expected to lose and won games also not expected to win. In his 4th season they might be able to get this done finally and win the division (or more), but they just NEED to play consistent. Their schedule should help them a bit, but not much.
Next in line for me is Utah. Kyle Whittingham in his 17th season did build a winning team, only he did not win the conference so far. Still Utah is a team you don't like to play and that's a good start. They have a mix schedule; therefore, this can go anyway. Overall, I expect them to win enough to stay in competition but lose too many games to win the division by wins.
UCLA is waiting for the Chip Kelly show to ... show up. It's his 4th season and that means the team is all his, all players are recruited by him, so they should fit to his needs now much better. So expectations are higher this season. I still doubt they will dominate the division, but likely they will win some games and might compete.
For the last 2 spots there is Colorado and Arizona. Karl Dorrell is in his 2nd year at Colorado and last season they did 4 of 6, which nobody did expect. It would be the surprise of the PAC 12, if the team would win in that ration again or even better. Still I expect them to win more games than Arizona.
Arizona has hired longtime assistant for many college and pro team Jedd Fisch as new HC. He never was a HC and it will be an interesting experiment, whether he can get the team winning again, which did not happen since 2017, last season of Rich Rod at Arizona. I doubt the transition will be painless, so I pick them finishing last.

Overall, the PAC 12 has all the tools to shoot themselves in the foot and eliminate themselves in total from playoff consideration by winning and losing against each other too often. Let's face the truth, so far you needed a very good season to get into the playoffs, with no 2-loss team (prior the playoffs) ever getting to the Semis.

Which bring me to the ACC. The overall strength is not that great here, but the conference does field with Clemson a constant contender for the national championship in the past years, winning it twice (2016 and 2018). The rest is right now not really in best form, but features some promising developments, like North Carolinas rise in strength and Miamis’ rebuilding. Likely those 3 teams will have the loudest words regarding the conference title race.

The Atlantic Division is dominated by Clemson, with Boston College and NC State likely being the only teams challenging them, but likely it won't be even close.
Clemson won the last 6 Conference titles, but last season the divisions were abandoned (thanks to Corona and a maybe-once-in-a-lifetime-addition of Notre Dame) and they lost the crucial game against Notre Dame during the season, which cost them the return to the playoffs, even when they did rebound and won the Conference in the rematch. Dabo Swinney is in his 13th season and basically did put Clemson on the map, ahead of all the other big names inside the conference. He lost his superstar QB, but has a very good replacement ready. Their schedule compared to their potential strength is easy, toughest game comes already this weekend against non-conference Georgia.
As best bet for 2nd place inside the division I see NC State. Dave Doeren has built in the past 8 years a quality program, now in his 9th we might see a better season than he ever had with the team. Most wins were so far 9 in 2017 and 2018. BUT they need to play perfect, since their schedule does feature a lot of good or great teams. Likely they will not win 9 games, but enough for 2nd place.
The next in line is then likely Boston College, which did play good under their new HC Jeff Hafley who will try to increase the win total in his 2nd season with the team. Their schedule is quite soft, so they might even jump NC State for 2nd place.
Can Florida State get back to their self-proclaimed-right to dominate? Since a few seasons the program did suffer under some jinx, which is likely program based, not all coaches based. Mike Norvell is in his 2nd season and had much success in Memphis and it will be interesting to see, whether he can break that jinx and win again. A very tough schedule might give them even a losing record again, but a talented group of players and a motivated coach might turn things around.
I put Wake Forest here as 5th team, even they might outplay many teams ranked here higher. Dave Clawson is in his 8th season and did so far likely bring the most out of the program and the players, which is upper mid field. Wake Forest is not the big name you s e l e c t as high-level recruit, so you need to do extra to get 7 to 8 wins regularly. Last season they did drop a bit, but might rebound, if the defense plays better. They play a quite hard schedule, which will not help them. But a bowl is possible.
Louisville is next, with Scott Satterfield in his 3rd season. The coach did great at Appalachian State, so expectations are high to get the game winning again. Last season should be a onetime event with just 4 wins. The will need some help to get to a bowl as it seems, but if the offense can click, they might win some more games than I do anticipate.
At last spot in the division I have Syracuse. Dino Baber is in his 6th season and he has to deliver. His team did peak with 10 wins in 2018 but won only 5 and then 1 game in the last 2 seasons. Not enough to keep a job longtime. Their schedule is quite soft, so they might get some wins, whether this will be enough to secure the job, I don't know.

The Coastal Division is a 2-team race, with several teams playing spoiler. North Carolina is my favorite, with Miami right behind them. But Virginia Tech, Virginia and also Pitt do play sometimes exceptional games, which do produce upsets. That does usually mean the Coastal winner is not highly ranked nationally and is usually the double-digit underdog in the conference championship game.
Mack Brown did return to North Carolina and did fit in like he never left (which was after 1997) and now, in his 3rd season the 70 year old has the team on an energy level which some of the young coaches can't reproduce. They have a mixed schedule, but quite favorable inside the conference. They aim for the division title and even higher.
Miami is since a few years back in the conversation but did lack the final punch to get things wrapped up. Manny Diaz is in his 3rd season and does also aim for the division title. They have a quite easy schedule, but play North Carolina on the road, which might become a factor.
Next is Virginia Tech, which is in Justin Fuentes 6th year and he was able to keep the level intact his predecessor had in the past few seasons, but the hope was that he would increase the win total again to former glory times. Fuente did not deliver so far, but of cause the circumstances are tough, since all other teams did try to become better also. I see only a bowl season coming, with likely a lot close games, but not enough upsets to get higher.
Pat Narduzzis Pitt team is a team you often don't want to play. In the past 6 season it became clear he does field a physical team, which does not give up. Overall is the talent level not on the level of the national contenders, but still he team will win enough to get a quality bowl bid.
I don't like to put Virginia here, as 5th team, but as always, it's hard to set other teams lower. Bronco Mendenhall is in his 6th season and nobody will ask for a replacement. Virginia was very bad, prior his arrival and he won the division in 2019. Last season was not that good, but they might rebound fast. Virginia might surprise all, including me and they might win big. I just doubt they can win all the crucial game, with the biggest on the road.
Geoff Collins is in his 3rd season at Georgia Tech and they might outgrow the change of playing style. They times of running the ball 95% of the time are gone, but of cause the personal is still there. The team will likely play better this season, but their schedule might deny them a winning season, again.
And Duke does get the last spot, even they also might get a better position at the end of the season. David Cutcliffe is in his 14th season and even with a losing record the success at Duke is big. The team was always a losing team, and it did prior to the current coach at 8 bowls in over 100 years team history, and since then in 6! The past 2 years were bad, but that doesn't mean they will fall back to old habits. A quite easy schedule might help them and they might get 6 wins in total, but likely they will get most of them in non-conference games.

Overall, the conference has Clemson and then not much, except North Carolina and/or Miami can win more games than I did anticipate. Expect Clemson in the playoff mix, as long as they can win.

Big 10
The BIG 10 does feature some tough cookies, which will have a say in the national championship. Granted, most will be in the long run more pretenders than contenders, but only time will tell who is what. Likely Ohio State will be the best bet to win the conference, which seems natural, after they won it 2 times in a row and with no signs of losing strength. Others in the mix are Penn State, Wisconsin, Iowa and surprisingly Indiana.
The conference champ has to play almost perfect to get a spot in the playoffs and to have a chance to win.

So no wonder the East Division is favored to be won by Ohio State, followed by Penn State. Some other teams are more or less a mystery, how they will perform, most of them are more on the 'likely not' side because of their recent success in the past, then their potential, especially Michigan.
Ryan Day is in his 3rd season and it couldn't be much more perfect for him at Ohio State. His team did win the conference twice and went to the playoffs and last season even to the national championship game. Only con is, he lost those important games. This season they are likely to repeat. They avoid the likely big shots from the other division and play Penn State at home. Looks good.
Penn State is all James Franklin in his 8th season, and he did produce great results, winning the conference in 2016. Likely the game against Ohio State will determine the division winner, but they also face Wisconsin and Iowa of the West, which will be a much tougher test of strength than OSU will face.
Indiana did surprise the people with winning, period. Tom Allen is in his 5th season and his team is a winner since 2 seasons. But ... he lost all bowl games and his team did play more like a moony teenager, with high energy or low energy, with no sign of consistency, so no wonder there a doubt. The team might surprise, or it might prove the doubter right, I don't know. I think the coach can get enough out of them to have a winning team again.
I wonder what happens inside Michigan under Jim Harbaugh since several seasons. Now he is in his 7th and it seems all wait for the big breakthrough he had at Stanford and San Francisco in the past. His team never looks like something which plays as a unit, more like a patchwork, and his QBs are not really leading the team. He did revamp the staff, but whether that will fix the problems, I don't know. All do wait for the end of that marriage, but right now it seems the couple stays together, at mid-level.
Maryland wanted to become the 'Oregon of the East' but Mike Locksley in his 3rd season did so far win in 2 seasons only 5 games. Not a winning team. It seems they will play better this season and might reach a bowl.
Greg Schiano is back at Rutgers and now in his 2nd season the team will likely get some more wins, but since the program is quite broken, it might take some time to get the Knights back into a bowl game.
Michigan State was in some sort of shock with their old coach leaving as coach with the most wins on program history for retirement and Mel Tucker took over, which went not that good. Now in his 2nd season they will try to catch up, but it will take time and only time will tell, whether the hire was a good one or not. Overall, they will have a hard time winning, but if they do play as Spartans, they should at least challenge every team.

The West Division is quite open with a favorite role for Wisconsin and Iowa, while Minnesota and Northwestern try to overcome both favorites for their shot at the championship game. Those 4 will likely battle it out intensively, with the likely underdog role for the winner inside the conference championship game.
Wisconsin under Paul Chryst in his 7th season did win a lot of football games and several division titles, but did so far not win the conference. Still the team is a tough cookie and likely nobody likes to play against them, since they play physical football in freezing cold Wisconsin. They play Penn State on season start, which will show how the team does see their chances.
Iowa under Kirk Ferentz had some ups and downs in the 22 seasons so far, but more good seasons than bad seasons. The last losing season was 2012, the last division title 2015, the last conference title 2004. It's expected that Iowa will play for the division title which will be tested on a quite hard schedule. Their defense line will be the key. If they find a good unit again, they can actually win a lot of games. If not, they might fall behind a bit.
Minnesota had a great season under P. J. Fleck in 2019, tie for the division title, but Wisconsin went for the Championship game, but had a losing season in 2020. Fleck is in his 5th season and likely wants to get back to the results he had in 2019 or even better, which is likely sabotaged by the scheduling, including Ohio State this weekend. I expect less wins for them than 2019.
And then there is Northwestern. Pat Fitzgerald did very good in the past 15 seasons with the team, except last season winning only 1 game. I think the team will have to work hard to get back in shape and strength, but a bowl should be possible at least.
Nebraska has Scott Frost as HC in his 4th year now and I wonder how long the patience will last, until they will pull the trigger. He cam from UCF, perfect season, ex-Cornhusker, to bring Nebraska back to championship heights, NATIONAL championship heights. So far, he won 4, 5 and 3 games in the past 3 seasons. This season it should be enough to get 6 wins, but they already dropped the game against Illinois. Not sure they are really 5th here, maybe they should be deeper, but for now I believe they will play better next time.
Jeff Brohms success at Purdue did decline with each season. They started at 7, then 6, then 4 and last season 2. Now in his 5th season the Boilermakers fans want to see a return to higher win levels. OK, it's Purdue, so a Bowl game will be a more than good start, but I doubt they will make it that far.
At last I have Illinois, under new HC Bret Bielema, former Arkansas and Wisconsin HC. He has mixed results at his universities, but usually good enough to secure the job for some time. The team won already against Nebraska, but likely they will take some time to get them into the mid field. Still, this team might outperform the expectations and I was tempted to rank them higher.

In total, this conference will have national impact, but I doubt more than 6 teams cracking the TOP 25, more likely only 4 or less. The competition inside will likely mix things up a bit.

That leave the SEC as last conference to preview. Right now, they do look like a winner, not only because they did produce a lot of national champions in the past decade, they were also able to strengthen themselves by adding the 2 big programs from the BIG 12, Oklahoma and Texas. Latest 2025 the SEC will have then 16 teams, and in terms of money did add a big chunk of the overall revenue, while the other conferences did stay the same or did lose.
It's possible, well even likely, the move will happen prior to that, since the situation is not good for the BIG 12 and they likely will try to solve that quickly. Rumors are there are more than 10 teams interested in joining the BIG 12, but likely none of them will be a power 5 school. We might see something happening in the next few month or years, which does not happen often, a rift so deep, it might lead to another split inside division one football, like it was when FCS and FBS were formed out of division one football.
But that's future talk, right now the SEC has 5 teams contending for the championship, Alabama as reigning National Champion, Texas A&M and LSU will try to win the West, while Georgia and Florida will battle out the East. The other teams are likely not strong enough and/or having new HCs.

Starting with the East Division, it's almost a coin flip, whether Georgia or Florida will win the division. The other teams in the East will try very hard, but beside some annoying efforts, they will likely not prevail.
Well, it's not completely true, regarding the coin flip, because the conference schedule does favor Georgia, with Kirby Smart in his 6th season, to win the division, even if they might lose the direct compare to Florida. Smarts team is quite intact and should be great and if they win against Florida, the division is almost 100% sure. They could make the playoffs and might even win it all.
Florida is next in line and they have a brutal schedule, facing Alabama (home) and LSU (road). They could lose both and then the game against Georgia might be just a test, with an insignificant result. Dan Mullen is already in his 4th season and his team has also to find replacements for crucial offense players, so they might need a year of reloading.
I always felt Missouri not yet arrived truly into the SEC as Texas A&M did, but this season Eliah Drinkwitz might get things together and the Tigers might win a lot of games. Not enough to challenge Georgia or Florida, but enough to play a bowl and to finish 3rd.
Then there is Mark Stoops and Kentucky. Stoops did build a winning team there, now in his 9th season, on higher mid-level, but as one of those 'Basketball'-Unis the results are more than respected. The team went to a bowl since 2016 and likely will get it done again this season.
Tennessee hired Josh Heupel away from UCF and hopes to have with this new coach a winner, rebuilding the program. It will take some time, so I think Tennessee will try hard, but will fail to get to a bowl.
South Carolina did get Shane Beamer as HC, a debut for him, and he will try to get South Carolina back into the territory it was a few seasons ago. It will be tough and this season I see a lot of losses, but with time ... who knows.
At last place inside the division is then Vanderbilt. The have hired Clark Lea, former DC of Notre Dame, and they hope to get more wins in the future than the program got under the last coach. A bit unfair, since Vanderbilt is NOT a school for high profile recruits, so the material you have to work with, and which has to play against THOSE high profile schools is limited. But of cause winning is everything. Well, not this season.

The West Division is a 3 team race.
Alabama is the pack leader, reigning National Champion under the reign of one of the best coaches the college football world has seen. Nick Saban is in his 15th season and won 6 national titles with the team and many more conference titles. He did master the system, no doubt, fielding year after year a team competing. The lowest win total of his team was 7 in his 1st year (2007) and 10 in 2010. All signs are on REPEAT this season.
Of cause Texas A&M wants the repeat to cancel because for one they did hire Jimbo Fisher away from Florida State to get a National Championship and they want to win a National Championship really bad, since the last claimed one is of 1939. Fisher is in his 3rd season with the team and had good results, so don't be surprised to see A&M winning a lot this season. The schedule is OK, crucial game is of cause Alabama and LSU.
At 3rd I have LSU, which could get back to championship heights, or we might see another season with problems here and there, which do limit the team to win all games. Ed Orgeron is in his 6th season and is an experienced coach. I expect them to lose the most crucial ones, since I miss a QB for a better season. Still the talent should bring in enough wins to compete.
Ole Miss might become a winner soon, with Lane Kiffin in his 2nd season waiting to get all the pieces together. His offense should be OK, his defense is not so far. So he will play catchup most of the time and sometimes his team will outscore the opponents, and sometimes not. I think they are at least a season away to compete but might spoil the fun sometimes.
Bryan Harsin was hired away from Boise State, where he won a lot of games and several conference championships. But he and the team will have to adjust to each other and Harsin especially to the SEC media stuff. This is no longer Idaho, it's Alabama and everything will be under the microscope. Auburn will win some games, especially against the weaker teams, but not more. Likely no bowl this season.
Arkansas Sam Pittman had already a season to adjust to be a SEC HC, but he was a long time a SEC assistant. His team did play OK (3 wins) in 2020 and will try to get better. But Arkansas is not like the other teams, so talent is not that overwhelming as in the other teams above. I expect another losing season.
And at last I have Mississippi State. Mike Leach came from Washington State last season and got descend results, likely to improve. But as Arkansas they need to be better to compensate the lack of talent (which is still good, don't get me wrong). Schedule is OK, so they might finish better than 7th.

The SEC will field several teams in the bowls at the end of the season and is usually the favorite in inter-conference games. There will be some upsets on that front, but overall I guess we will have again the discussion, whether 2 SEC teams should be in the 4 team playoff bracket.

OK, so let's move on to the reviews of last weeks games.

Just 2 games I selected as the BLOCK OF GRANITE GAMES FOR WEEK 0

Sat. Aug 28
Nebraska @ Illinois
Nebraska was 7.0 point favorite and lost by 8 points. Time for the panic button?
I say, maybe.
Nebraskas’ offense didn't look good and the Illinois defense took advantage of that, making plays, including a fumble TD near the end of the half.
Both teams can go every direction from here.
I think Nebraska will 'swallow' the loss and will move on, and Illinois will have to look, whether their injured QB is out for several weeks and whether the backup, playing quite well for almost the whole game, is eventually growing into the starting role or had some luck and will suck on the upcoming games.
Nebraska 22 @ Illinois 30 -> Jacks TOP GAMES Score: 0-1

Hawai'i @ UCLA
I did state, either UCLA will beat Hawai'i big time or it will be close.
Well, it was BIG time.
The 1st quarter was brutal, with UCLA leading 24-3.
Then it did settle a bit down and did slowly move to the end of the game with a scoreless 4th quarter.
I think UCLA did look sharp and potent on offense.
Enough for the PAC 12 defenses, I don't know, but likely they will be much better than in recent years.
Hawai'i on the other hand will likely have to work hard to survive inside the Mountain West.
Hawai'i 10 @ UCLA 44 -> Jacks TOP GAMES Score: 1-1

Other (or better all remaining) interesting (or not so interesting) games:

Sat. Aug 28
UConn @ Fresno State
UConn had no chance and lost scoreless 45-0! I think it will be a long season for UConn.
Jacks interesting games Score: 1-0

UTEP @ New Mexico State
UTEP did win 30-3 and proofed that New Mexico State is a big work in progress and likely only the concepts are worked on. A lot of work to do there. For the Miners, this was a warmup, whether they can make the next step inside their conference ... we will see.
Jacks interesting games Score: 2-0

Southern Utah @ San José State
The score was only 45-14 for the Spartans, so not a big wham! as the numbers might have made me expect to happen. Still the result is as expected, a Spartans win.
Jacks interesting games Score: 3-0

And that's brings me to a great week 1 list of games.


Sat. Sep 4
#19 Penn State @ #12 Wisconsin
A big matchup already inside the BIG 10 for season opener. That's how it should be.
Wisconsin is favored by 5.5 points, with a warm day in Madison, so no ice box advantage this time of the year.
There is not much to add to the stuff I did wrote above in the preview. Both teams have veteran coaches and it will be a physical match. It could become a defense driven match but expected is some scoring happening.
Wisconsin has the edge here as home team, but overall, this will be a test of who did prepare the team’s best to play on the 1st gameday.
I do trust Wisconsin in total a bit more, so I stay with the favorite, but I expect a very close game.
Badgers win.

#1 Alabama @ #14 Miami
My gut feeling is, this game is already over and Alabama has won it.
Even as away game, Alabama is VERY good in preparation and is stocked with talent, while Miami has a lot potential, but needs to be very sharp and focused to stay in the game.
Vegas has the Crimson Tide at -19.5! That's a lot of points. IF Miami gets this done, all eyes will suddenly look at the Hurricanes, but I just doubt it.
In so many years did Saban just destroy the opener opponent team, it's hard to imagine they will stutter this time.
Crimson Tide win.

#5 Georgia @ #3 Clemson
This will be a very interesting match.
Both teams do have National Championship dreams, both do field a good, if not great, team.
Clemson is 3-point favorite as home team, which is not much.
Key player will be new starting QB of Clemson, D.J. Uiagalelei. He did not manage to win against Notre Dame last season, when Lawrence was unable to play, but did very good and almost got the win.
Now with a season later, he will have to show, if he can carry the load.
Tough 1st match of the season.
I pick Georgia as winner here, doubting Clemsons instant punch ability. I think they need time to adjust and to find their game and with Georgia, there is no room for errors.
Bulldogs win.

Other interesting games:
#23 Louisiana @ #21 Texas
Louisiana did well as Sun Belt team last season and has the potential to annoy Texas a bit. The Longhorns have a new HC and there might be some coordination errors, which a veteran Louisiana team can exploit and use. Still , Texas a home team is favored by 8.0 and I think with that deep talent pool they should win, somehow.
Longhorns win.

#17 Indiana @ #18 Iowa
Iowa is 3.0 points favorite and it shows the respect Vegas brings in for that wild and offense potent Indiana team. The Hawkeyes play at home, which might help them on the 1st gameday big time. The support will carry them to a win.
Hawkeyes win.

#16 LSU @ UCLA
UCLA did good against Hawai'i, but now have to play against a SEC defense. Vegas respects UCLA, otherwise, the line wouldn't be just -3.0 for LSU. I think this is more a result of not knowing what LSU will do, than what UCLA will allow. I have problems seeing UCLA taking this away, but we might see a very entertaining game.
Tigers win.

'Til next time

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