College football fans and bettors alike had their appetites whetted with some Thursday night action, and they'll get to sample a whole lot more gridiron action over the first full weekend of play. After several Games of interest on Saturday, the week closes on Monday with the Bowden Bowl as Florida State visits Clemson.
Thursday was the official start of the college football season, but Saturday is Opening Day for the vast majority of teams -- and for fans. They’ll happily watch their favorite big-time college program put the cleats to some poor mid-major cupcake in non-conference action.
But let’s focus for now on the more competitive matchups in Week 1.
Colorado State vs. Colorado (-2½)
Saturday, Sep 1, 12:00 p.m. (EST)
A packed Invesco Field hosts this bitter rivalry between the Big 12 Buffaloes and the Mountain West Rams. Things should be even more bitter than usual; both clubs are coming off awful 2006 campaigns.
The Buffaloes finally named Cody Hawkins (son of coach Dan) their starting quarterback; he’s never lost a football game at any level as a starter, so why fade him against a Rams team that lost seven in a row to finish last year? That depends if you put your faith in the betting trends. Colorado State is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings with the Buffs, and the underdog is on a 10-1 ATS tear.
Wake Forest at Boston College (-6)
Saturday, Sep 1, 3:30 p.m. (EST), ABC
The storyline in this tilt is a tale of two coaches. For the Deacons, you have reigning AP Coach of the Year Jim Grobe. His quest in 2007 is to prove that last year’s trip to the Orange Bowl was no fluke. The Deacs won 11 games in 2006, upsetting Georgia Tech 9-6 to claim the ACC title. Most of that team is back for another kick at the can.
The Eagles, meanwhile, have a new coach and a new attitude in Jeff Jagodzinski. He’ll open up the air attack for QB Matt Ryan (15 touchdowns, 10 picks in 2006), but it won’t come at the expense of B.C.’s strong running game. Although Wake Forest is 3-1 SU and 4-0 ATS the past four years, the coaching change should give the Eagles a clean slate.
Georgia Tech at Notre Dame (-1½)
Saturday, Sep 1, 3:30 p.m. (EST), NBC
How far will the Fighting Irish tumble this year? They’ve already slipped from 2½-point faves at the open, and it seems the only thing keeping them in the chalk is the Notre Dame mystique. At least Charlie Weis is keeping Tech on its toes by refusing to name his starting QB. Evan Sharpley is expected to get the nod over Jimmy Clausen, for now, but whoever Weis puts under center will be harried by the Ramblin Wreck defense.
The Yellow Jackets, on the other hand, have upgraded their QB situation with Taylor Bennett taking over for Reggie Ball. Tech should win this one outright.
Tennessee at California (-6)
Saturday, Sep 1, 8:00 p.m. (EST), ABC
What should easily have been the match of the week was thrown into doubt Wednesday when X-rays revealed that Vols QB Erik Ainge (19 TDs, nine INTs last year) has a broken right pinky finger. However, he’s expected to start on Saturday, and the betting line had yet to budge at press time.
This is a deluxe revenge game for the Golden Bears. They were mauled 35-18 last year by Tennessee; the rematch takes place in Berkeley, and with the home fans screaming for blood, an improved Cal team should have all the motivation it needs to get the job done.
Florida State at Clemson (+3½)
Monday, Sep 3, 8:00 p.m. (EST), ESPN
The more compelling of Monday’s two matchups is the latest installment of the Bowden Bowl. Big things are expected on the Seminoles side with Jimbo Fisher taking over as offensive coordinator for Jeff Bowden, who couldn’t escape the taint of nepotism during a poor 2006 under legendary coach and father Bobby. Whether the turnaround takes place as soon as this year is a matter up for debate. The same can be said about Clemson’s ACC title chances this season.
The Tigers may have won this matchup three of the last four years, each time as the underdog, but coach Tommy Bowden has yet another new starting QB in Cullen Harper. Will the little-used junior pivot maintain his composure against the solid Seminoles defense?
With so many variables, it’s tempting to take the Under on the total of 45½, given the clock-chewing running attacks on both squads. However, the Over just squeaked by in each of the last two meetings, and FSU should open up its offense significantly under Fisher.