Although I love baseball, America’s new true pastime – football – is now upon us. The college football season started with a bang as South Carolina rallied to hang on to a road win over Vanderbilt 17-13. The Gamecocks, currently ranked No. 9, almost gave us the first upset of the season on the very first night. I thought it would be fun to go through the six remaining BCS conferences and highlight a game this weekend that could give all us college football fans what we wait for: an upset. So, hit the alarm, because here comes the upset watch!
Big Ten. Western Michigan at Illinois. The Illini started off strong last season, but they went from 6-0 to 6-6, and, it cost Ron Zook his job. So, Illinois hired a new coach, Tim Beckham from Toledo, and they get a pesky Bronco team in the season opener. Beckham isn’t going to look past the Broncos, but Western Michigan is a steep task for a team that might be looking ahead to next week’s re-match at Arizona State (Illinois won last season 17-14). Western Michigan returns 11 starters, including QB Alex Carder, and they had two close losses to Big Ten opponents in 2011: 23-20 at Illinois and 37-32 vs. Purdue in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.
ACC. Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech. All the lights will be turned on the ACC as the Yellow Jackets and Hokies clash Monday night. Virginia Tech went to the ACC title game last season, and the Hokies are a favorite to do so again. But, even though they are at home, they draw a stiff test in Georgia Tech. Virginia Tech won last year in Atlanta 37-26, but only return 3 offensive starters. If Georgia Tech is going to win the Coastal and go to the ACC title game, the road goes through Blacksburg. More bad news for the Hokies: Paul Johnson’s Yellow Jackets started strong last season, going 6-0 before suffering three conference losses. Returning three starters at QB and RB, it can be a long night for the Hokies if Georgia Tech gets their running attack going.
Big 12. SMU at Baylor. Baylor is riding high going into 2012, having finished the second 10-win season in program history. They had wins over Oklahoma and Texas, and a blowout bowl win over Washington 67-56. But, the Bears lost Robert Griffin III, and they have a stiff task in Week One against SMU. SMU has been to three straight bowl games under June Jones, and the Mustangs, since his arrival, have been one of the better teams in Conference USA. The spotlight won’t wither SMU; they gave new Big 12 member TCU one of their two losses last season with a 40-33 OT win at TCU.
Big East. Kentucky at Louisville. The Big East should be all right in Week One, but the conference favorite gets in-state rival Kentucky right out of the gate. Last season, the Cardinals slipped past UK 24-17. Louisville opened up the season in the Top 25, and Kentucky would love to knock the Cardinals from off their perch. Kentucky did have a snap of five consecutive bowl trips snapped last season with a 5-7 mark. The Wildcats will also need marked offensive improvement to down the Cardinals; Kentucky scored 22 total touchdowns ahead of only three FCS teams.
Pac 12. Toledo at Arizona. It’s a new day in Tucson, as the Wildcats welcome Rich Rodriguez back to coaching. For a team that went 4-8 last season, they get a stiff first test in the Rockets from Toledo. Arizona brings back only nine starters, and they are switching offense from spread passing into Rodriguez’s spread option. Toledo finished 9-4 last season including a 5 point loss at Ohio State and a bowl win over Air Force. Matt Campbell takes over at Toledo after being an assistant and looks to add on his 1-0 record.
SEC. Tennessee vs. N.C. State. It wouldn’t be an overwhelming upset if the Wolfpack escaped with a win, but Tennessee definitely needs it more. Volunteer coach Derek Dooley should be feeling the heat after Tennessee missed a bowl last season when they closed 2011 with a 10-7 road loss to Kentucky. In two years since replacing Lane Kiffin, Dooley is 11-14. Eighteen starters return for the Volunteers; a let down in the opening game would be hard to overcome. N.C. State looks to build upon last year’s strong finish where they won their final three including thrashing ACC champion Clemson 37-13 and winning the Belk Bowl over Louisville.