BY MICHAEL LEESE
#19 Boise State at Washington The Huskies open the renovated Husky stadium after playing last years games at Century Link field. This is a rematch of last year’s Las Vegas Bowl won by the Broncos 28-26. It was down to the wire as the Broncos intercepted a Keith Price pass with 14 seconds left to seal the deal. Price returns for the Huskies after throwing for 2,728 yards last season. T he Huskies get back 18 returning starters from last years squad!
The Broncos return only nine starters, but still come in ranked #19. The Defense was a big strength last year allowing only 15.8 PPG. However only four starters return on this side of the ball. Joe Southwick will look to improve on his 2,730 yards and 19 touchdowns from last season. I look for a big home field edge, with the opening of the “new” Husky stadium. The Huskies also have the better defense, and much more returning experience! Washington 33 Boise State. 24
North Carolina at #6 South Carolina This is the first of three great ACC/SEC matchups this weekend. The Tar Heels will invade Columbia on Thursday night for only the second meeting between these schools sine 1991. The Heels will bring a high-powered offense led by Bryn Renner. who threw for 3,351 yards and 28 touchdowns! The Heels averaged 40.6 PPG last season and I see no reason why they can’t match that. The Tar heels will be bowl eligible this season, and a win over South Carolina will surely light a fire for the fan base.
The Gamecocks open the season ranked in the top 10 at #6. All-American Jadeveon Clowney will lead what could be one of the better defenses in the country! The Gamecocks allowed only 18.2 PPG last year! Quarterback Connor Shaw is back to lead the offense. Shaw will need to improve on last years 1,956 yards and 17 touchdowns if the are to be serious contenders for an SEC title. I’ll take the better defense and the home crowd in this one! South Carolina 23 North Carolina 16
Tulsa at Bowling Green Huge game for two “under the radar” programs trying to crack the BCS this season. Tulsa returns just ten starters, but have seven of those back on offense. Quarterback Cody Green returns under center, and has both Trey Watts and JaTerian Douglas back, as the trio combined to rush for over 2,300 yards. The Hurricane finished last season ranked ninth in total rushing yards in the FBS. Only three starters return to the defense, and this will be a major area of concern for the coaching staff.
The Falcons have high hopes of a big season. They have 19 returning starters and head coach Dave Clawson, thinks this might be his best team yet. Senior QB Matt Schliz returns to lead an offense that should be much improved over last season. Running back Anthon Samuel is also back. He led the team with 1,064 yards. I see big improvement over last years squad that averaged only 22.8 PPG. The Falcons will also feature a strong defense. Last year they allowed only 16.8 PPG. With veteran leadership back on both sides of the ball, the Falcons could be flying high this season. A victory in week one over a tough Tulsa squad will provide a huge boost! Bowling Green 27, Tulsa 24
#5 GEORGIA AT #8 CLEMSON This is the top game on this weekend’s slate as both teams come in ranked in the Top 10 and with BCS Championship hopes! The Bulldogs have the toughest two-week schedule to open the season in the country, as they travel to Clemson and then host #6 South Carolina in week 2. The Dawgs should be great on offense, as nine starters return to an offense that is loaded with talent. Quarterback Aaron Murray returned after he completed 64% of his passes last year, for an eye-popping 3,893 yards and 36 touchdowns! Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall return in the backfield. The Duo rushed for 2,000 yards a year ago, and will run behind an offensive line that returns! The defense is the area of concern for the Bulldogs as only three starters return.
Clemson returns Tajh Boyd at quarterback, and his numbers mirror those of Aaron Murray. He completed 67% of his tosses for 3,896 yards 36 TDs! He is also the leading returning rusher with 769 yards. Dynamic receiver Sammy Wadkins will surely be highlighted in this match-up, as he has All-American potential. This game could go to the team that has the ball last. I will side with the more balanced offense of the Bulldogs to pull this one out. Georgia 36 Clemson 31
#12 LSU AT #20 TCU This could end up being the best game on the docket this weekend. The Tigers go into Dallas with an offense that returns eight starters and should be much more efficient this season. Zach Mettenberger improved as the season went along last year, and he is poised to take another step forward. Jeremy Hill and Kenny Hilliard both return in the backfield and will run behind a veteran offensive line! The defense does concern me as only four starters return. The Tigers have won the last ten season openers.
TCU returns seven starters on offense and has two experienced quarterbacks. Both Casey Pachall and Trevone Boykin should see action in this game and both are capable of leading the Frogs to the victory. The defense is the strength of the Horned Frogs! They allowed 22.6 PPG last season and have nine returning starters. They feature one of the better defensive lines and secondaries in the country The Tigers have won the last ten season openers, while The Frogs have gone 9-4 versus ranked opponents over the past eight years. I’ll call for a defensive struggle here. LSU 20 TCU 17