We have to wait until Saturday night for Husky football to start, but we are closer to getting our fix of college football. Much closer. Games start Thursday at 4:00 PM PDT. I am nearly beside myself with anticipation.
South Carolina at Vanderbilt, 4:00 PM Pacific, EPSN. Well, how about that? An actual SEC conference game. Sure, it features Vanderbilt, but Vandy isn't quite the creampuff it has been historically. Coach James Franklin took the Commodores to a bowl game last year in his first season, finishing 6-7. That may not sound great, but at Vandy, it's pretty good: Vanderbilt has never gone to bowl games in consecutive years and has never won 14 games over a two year span.
Vandy faces off against South Carolina, which features an insanely athletic defense highlighted by sophomore DE Jadeveon Clowney. Offensively, the Gamecocks aren't a typical Steve Spurrier "Fun 'n' Gun" team: they are a plodding offense driven by the rushing game. Look for junior RB Marcus Lattimore to make an appearance, but play sparingly, as he works his way back from the serious knee injury he suffered last fall. LINE: South Carolina -7
Texas A&M at Louisiana Tech, 4:30 PM Pacific, ESPNU. The Aggies visit the Bulldogs in a border war among second fiddle programs. I would set the over/under on total passes thrown in this game at 90. I may be being conservative. This is also likely to be a pretty good game. Louisiana Tech is sneaky good and Texas A&M will be playing its first game under a new coaching staff and with a new QB running a new offense. And as of a couple days ago A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin was conducting open try-outs at the deep snapper and placekicker positions. Uh oh. Not good.
As far as players to watch, look out for A&M freshman running back Trey Williams, who will return kicks and will rotate into the backfield. He is fast and explosive and will probably become a household name in a couple of years. For Louisiana Tech, expect senior WR Quinton Patton to catch a lot of balls against the Aggies. LINE: Texas A&M -7 **UPSET ALERT**
UCLA at Rice, 4:30 PM Pacific, CBS College Sports. Thanks to the schedule, UCLA Head Coach Jim Mora shouldn't have to wait long to get his first win as a college coach. I will be interested to see sophomore QB Brett Hundley run UCLA's Noel Mazzone offense, but this game won't tell us much about the Bruins...unless they lose it. LINE: UCLA -15.5
Washington State at BYU, 7:15 PM Pacific, ESPN. New WSU head coach Mike Leach takes the Cougars of Washington State to Provo to face the Cougars of BYU. It is also a sort of homecoming for Leach, as he is an alumnus of BYU (class of '83). One wonders how he got through four years on campus without being tossed out for an honor code violation (of the Wild Turkey sort, not the naked co-ed sort). This is another game matching two teams with offenses descended from the original LaVell Edwards BYU passing scheme, although BYU Brandon Doman has the Cougars of BYU running an offense that reportedly incorporates more Pro-style concepts. No matter. Against the Cougars of WSU's defense, most anything should work.
Senior QB Jeff Tuel for the Cougars of WSU should thrive in Leach's offense. And thrive he must, because these Cougars aren't going to win with defense or the running game. Junior WR Marquess Wilson should be fun to watch in this game, as he will be all season. Oddly, the Cougars of BYU are a team that wins with defense, tradition be...darned. This is a pretty tough way for the Cougars of WSU to start its first season under the pirate flag. LINE: BYU -13
Boise State at Michigan State, 5:00 PM Pacific, ESPN. There is no way Boise State should win this game. None at all. Despite BSU's history of mid-major heroics, head coach Chris Peterson has too much to contend with. Like replacing a four year starter at QB. Like replacing nine starters on defense. Like replacing an offensive coordinator. Like replacing two defensive assistants. All of them will be replaced by guys you have never heard of. Guys nobody outside of the greater Boise-Nampa-Caldwell metroplex have ever heard of.
Michigan State should be really good, in a very retro-Big 10 sort of way. Tough defense. Stout running game. Passing game that ranges from surprisingly effective to hard to watch. The only difference between MSU and Big 10 teams of yester-year is that the Spartan defense has speed. Look out for Spartan DEs William Gholston and Marcus Rush. It is probably the best pair of ends in the country that don't suit up for Texas. With all that said, this is East Lansing and Michigan State. This is a program that has made snatching defeat from the jaws of victory a calling card over the years. The Vegas odds makers seem to be hip to that trend. LINE: MSU -7
San Jose State at Stanford, 7:00 PM Pacific, Pac-12 Network. I only mention this game because it features a conference oppponent. The Tree should walk all over San Jose state, even in their first Luck-less game in some time. San Jose State is bad. Real bad. LINE: Stanford -25.5