Last updated Nov 13, 7:21pm     undertherobe on American Football    0 Comments    645 Views

Strap on those pads, get those helmets on and tie those laces on your cleats because the College Football season is getting ready for the big kickoff. Primarily played on Saturday, the opening week sees games from Wednesday through to Monday as we get our first look at potential National Championship contenders and Bowl winners. Each week I'll be previewing what I consider to be the three biggest games in College Football and trying to provide a bet or two along the way. You can find my season preview HERE where I looked at the prospects of seven teams who I think will be in the mix when it comes to the new College Football playoffs. The Associated Press have released their preseason rankings and the rankings of the teams I previewed are below
Florida State Seminoles
Alabama Crimson Tide
Oregon Ducks
Oklahoma Sooners
Auburn Tigers
Michigan State Spartans
LSU Tigers
Week One is always a difficult one to predict especially in College sports where the turnover amongst players is bigger than in most sports. The seniors have all moved on whilst there were a record number of underclassmen who declared for the NFL draft. This leaves a whole host of freshmen and career backups who are moving into position to start and this week we'll get our first look at some of the favourites for the National Championship as Florida State take on Oklahoma State and Alabama entertain West Virginia. However, we have three matchups between teams ranked in the AP Top 25 in preseason and it's those matches that I'm going to take a look at.

Thursday August 28th

Texas A&M Aggies (21) @ South Carolina Gamecocks (9)

Last Season Texas A&M 9-4 (4-4 SEC West)
South Carolina 11-2 (6-2 SEC East)
Texas A&M finished last season 4-4 in the SEC before rounding off their season, and Johnny Manziel's college career, with their only win against a ranked team in 2013 as they beat the Duke Blue Devils 52-48 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl whilst South Carolina went 6-2 in the SEC and beat Wisconsin 34-24 in the Capital One Bowl.
The Gamecocks were 7-0 at home in 2013 and have won 18 straight at home since a 16-13 loss to Auburn back on October 1st. They will undoubtedly suffer a drop in quality on defense with the loss of Jadeveon Clowney to the NFL whilst QB Connor Shaw & WR Bruce Ellington have also departed. However, that doesn't compare to the difference in the Aggies offense now that Johnny Football has left for the NFL. Manziel was a terrific college QB and helped the Aggies to the 5th ranked team in points scored in 2013 but with Kenny Hill under centre, the Texas A&M offense looks set to be nowhere near as potent in 2014.
Despite losing the aforementioned players, the Gamecocks have an outside chance of making the playoffs. To do that, they need to reach the SEC Championship game as a minimum which will mean they need to win the SEC East which will likely mean a win in Florida against the Gators. The SEC is arguably the toughest conference to win in College Football and the old cliché, there are no easy games, usually rings true here. 18 home wins in a row is an impressive record and in what is likely to be a transitional year for the Aggies with Hill under centre, I can't seen anything other than a South Carolina win on opening night.

Saturday August 30th

Clemson Tigers (16) @ Georgia Bulldogs (12)

Last Season Clemson Tigers 11-2 (7-1 ACC Atlantic)
Georgia 8-5 (5-3 SEC East)
After two consecutive SEC East titles, the Bulldogs had a disappointing 2013 and ended it by losing to Nebraska in the Gator Bowl. Clemson have been to 8 straight Bowl games and have won or tied for 1st in the ACC Atlantic in three of the last five seasons and despite going 7-1 in the ACC last season, they were beaten out of the top spot by a perfect Florida State team who they lost to at home 51-14. They had a Top 10 offense in 2013 but it would be a major surprise to see them repeat that feat with WR Sammy Watkins and QB Tajh Boyd no longer there but they have one of the best defensive lines in college and that should help them in this road matchup with a team from arguably the best conference in college, the SEC. There is a good argument that this could be the biggest game of the season for both teams. With Clemson having to face Florida State on the road and Georgia having to face South Carolina on the road, a loss for either side here is going to make it extremely difficult to climb back into the playoff race.
These sides have met four times since 1995, including the season opener last year, and on three occasions the game has been settled by three points or less. With so much at stake so early on in the year, another tight game seems likely and I'll take Clemson with the points.

Wisconsin Badgers (14) vs LSU Tigers (13)

Last Season Wisconsin Badgers 9-4 (6-2 Big Ten West)
LSU Tigers 10-3 (5-3 SEC West)
With road games at Auburn & Florida and a home game with Alabama to come, the Tigers already face a must win game on opening weekend. Les Miles always sets his teams up to play well on defense and they gave up 21 points or less on eight occasions last season and this year figures to be similar. What they will have to overcome though is the loss of key offensive contributors QB Zach Mettenberger, RB Jeremy Hill & WR Odell Beckham. They do have the no.1 ranked prospect Leonard Fournette at RB but as talented as he is, asking a freshman to make an immediate impact is a tough ask particularly in a game as important as this one.
Wisconsin finished last season without at least a tie for 1st place in the Big Ten West for the first time since 2009, a fourth consecutive bowl loss and in single digits in the win column for the second consecutive season. They also have to contend with a host of departures on the defensive side of the ball. They ranked 6th in scoring defense last year and held opponents to just 102.5 yards per game on the ground to rank 5th. However, they have lost Big Ten defensive player of the year Chris Borland as well as Beau Allen and Pat Muldoon and this could be an ideal game for Fournette to show what he can do, particularly against an inexperience defensive line. They also have question marks on the offensive side of the ball with the loss of star WR Jared Abbrederis and they lack experience in their receiving corps going into 2014.
Home advantage could be key here for LSU as they are 33-2 since 2009 at Tiger Stadium with their only losses coming against Florida and Alabama who were both ranked no.1 in the country at the time. Wisconsin certainly have more questions to answer than the Tigers and with all that inexperience, on the road in SEC country, I'm going with LSU to cover what I think is a pretty low spread considering their dominant home form over the past 5 years.
  • South Carolina Gamecocks to win @ 5/19 (Ladbrokes)
  • Clemson Tigers +7.5 @ 10/11 (sportingbet, betvictor, bwin)
  • LSU Tigers -4 @ 10/11 (bwin)
Check out the American Football forum for more discussion and picks during Week One
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