bill-swift - August 21, 2012
There are no fans that are more loyal than college football fans. No matter how bad the team is they always cheer them on as if they could win the national title each and every week. Teams know this. They know that no matter what fans are going to fill the stands and scream till their hoarse each and every game.
So they take advantage of this by scheduling horrible match-ups for the first 2-3 weeks (typically the non-conference games). Fans will come anyway and the team gets to work out the kinks prior to the games that actually matter (and are competitive). Luckily, not everyone adheres to this logic.
It's pretty rare, but on occasion there are a few games in the early weeks that are quality match-ups. Just to make sure you didn't miss out on any of them, we've done he research and looked into the crystal ball. If you can't watch these games in person or on television you'll be kicking yourself for setting your DVR:
No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 8 Michigan, Saturday, September 1: This game could break the national title hopes of the loser. Michigan will be looking to cement its status as a contender by knocking off the defending champs. If they do it will be largely because the Tide don't have an answer for Denard Robinson. With so many starters to replace on defense, the Tide could use a warm-up game before playing someone like Michigan.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban has his hands full replacing a ton of personnel on both sides of the ball, but lucky for him, when you win national titles you tend to attract the best recruits. Eddie Lacy could make people forget who Trent Richardson was with the line he has ready to block for him.
Week Two (yep, there is only one really good game in Week One):
No. 23 Florida vs. Texas A&M, Saturday, September 8: This is a statement game for the Aggies. After there much publicized departure from the Big 12, all eyes will be on them to see if they can hang with the Big Boys of the SEC. Most are expecting Texas A&M to falter, but with new head coach Kevin Sumlin (his Houston Cougars were an offensive juggernaut the last few years) the Aggies could surprise a few people.
For Will Muschamp, the second year coach of the Gators it will be a chance for him to revisit an old rivalry; Muschamp was the offensive coordinator for the Texas Longhorns from 2008-10. He has a lot of holes to fill on a team that was just 7-6 last season, but his knowledge of his opponent could be pivotal.
No. 6 Georgia vs Missouri, Saturday, September 8: The Tigers were a good team in a tough Big 12 conference last season. This year they are going to be playing even better competition after making the move to the SEC. This one rates simply because it is the SEC welcome party for the Tigers. Missouri has some solid talent returning like QB James Franklin and RB Henry Josey and it will be up to those two to keep Heisman trophy candidate Aaron Murray and the Georgia offense off the field.
Week Three (yes, Week Two was crazy slow):
No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 10 Arkansas, Saturday, September 15: Should Alabama actually lose against Michigan in Week One a victory here could vault them right back into the title hunt. The Razorbacks are going to have a very tough team with two potential Heisman candidates on the roster, RB Kniles Davis and QB Tyler Wilson. Should the Razorbacks defeat the Tide their name will start popping up in national title talks so look for them to come out fired up.
For Nick Saban and his Tide they will need to replace some key personnel. With Nick Saban recruiting it is likely that he'll be inserting players that will be more than capable of picking up where last season's title winner left off. A second loss would of course knock the Tide out of the title chase.
Texas A&M vs. SMU, Saturday, September 15: This was one of the more exciting match-ups last season and could very well be the same this year. Head coach Kevin Sumlin will have the Texas A&M offense operating on all cylinders with running backs Christine Michael and Benjamin Malena leading the way; defense could once again be an issue for the Aggies. Zach Line returns to lead the offense for the Mustangs. SMU head coach June Jones could very well turn former Texas QB Garrett Gilbert into exactly what the Longhorns had hoped he would be.
No. 1 USC vs. No. 21 Stanford, Saturday, September 15: Stanford will have its hands full with this one. Trying to stop the Trojan offense will be no easy task. RB Stepfan Taylor will likely be the Cardinals best defensive player since Matt Barkley can't score if he isn't on the field. Having all but one of the starting front seven back will certainly come in handy as well for Stanford.
This is one of those games that if the underdog (Stanford) can get a couple breaks, the over-confident favorite (USC) might find the end result a little upsetting.