BY MICHAEL LEESE
#16 CLEMSON AT #12 GEORGIA It’s hard for me to get my head around how both these teams come into the season ranked in the top 20 after losing four-year starters at quarterback. Clemson will start Cole Stoudt a senior who has long been the backup to Tajh Boyd. The Tigers also enter this contest suffering the loss of both their top rushers an receivers! Defense might well be the strength of this team early as head coach Dabo Swinney looks to get the offense dialed in. The Bulldogs also suffered the loss of four-year starter Aaron Murray. Hutson Mason gets the opening day start and he has a loaded cast of characters to get the ball too. Todd Gurley and a very deep receiving corp should provide Mason with the weapons he need to be successful. The offensive line will be key as four starters have been replaced. I’ll give the Bulldogs a big edge in this contest, playing with revenge from last seasons 38-35 loss. BULLDOGS SLAY TIGERS BETWEEN THE HEDGES 29-17.
FRESNO AT #15 USC It’s odd that two teams face each other twice in a row. Yet that’s what we have here as USC defeated the Bulldogs 45-20 in last years Las Vegas Bowl. Derek Carr has departed for the NFL leaving the Bulldogs with a huge void under center. Brian Burrell and Brandon Cornette a transfer from Duke both figure to play. Head coach Tim De Ruyter is looking for one of them to step up and claim the fulltime job. Steve Sarkisian will make his debut as the Trojans head coach. Sarkisian returns home to southern california and inherits a team with 14 returning starters. Fall camp has been full of turmoil, as the Trojans have lost three defensive starters to injury. The offense should be just fine with Cody Kessler back under center. Javorious Allen, Tre Madden and Nelson Agholor provide Kessler with plenty of firepower. Sarkision is going to want to make a statement in this contest! TROJANS WIN GOING AWAY 42-21.
#14 WISCONSIN VERSUS #13 LSU This game will have a major impact on both schools. The winner of this game will get a major boost, while the loser might well see their playoff hopes dashed. LSU will go with both Brandon Harris and Anthony Jennings at quarterback, while Wisconsin will go with the untested Tanner McEvoy. Both teams will look to run the ball. The team that throws the ball better should win this game. The Badgers lose their entire front seven on defense! That will be the difference in this one! TIGERS TAKE A BITE OUT OF THE BADGERS 27-17.
MIAMI FLA AT LOUISVILLE Louisville jumps right into the frying pan of ACC football with an opening week tilt against the Hurricane. Bobby Petrino returns to the team he once coached from 2003-2006. The cardinals jump from the AAC to the ACC and do so without Teddy Bridgwater who was a four-year starter. Will Gardner will take the keys to the car, and he should do just fine! The trouble for the Cardinals is a defense that losses seven starters. Miami also has lost several key performers on last years squad and will start a freshman at quarterback. Kevin Olsen figures to start for the Hurricane. The best player on the field figures to be running back Duke Johnson. If Johnson stays healthy, he is one of my picks for a Heisman finalist! This will be a great game to see just where these two programs are. Both sides have many questions to be answered. Al Golden should have the Hurricanes ready to play. HURRICANES BLOW THROUGH LOUISVILLE WITH 23-20 VICTORY.
UPSET SPECIAL OF THE WEEK……..The California Golden Bears were a mere 1-11 last season. Sonny Dykes was in his first year implementing his new “Air Raid” offense. Freshman quarterback Jared Goff adjusted well throwing for 3,508 yards and 18 scores. This will be his second year in the system and he gets back his leading rusher, top two receivers and four out of five offensive linemen! The Bears had a woeful defense a year ago, but even that should improve. The Northwestern Wildcats are coached by one of my favorite coaches in Pat Fitzgerald, who always gets the most out of his talent! He welcomes back 16 starters, but losses perhaps his top two players in Kain Colter and Venric Mark. That’s the difference in this one. BEARS CLAW THEIR WAY TO 33-30 WIN IN BIG 10 COUNTRY.