2015-09-04

FBS - Week 1 Preview

The Beginning!

This Thursday (so yesterday) already did start the 2015 College Football Season on the FBS level.
As usual, not many games at season start do have top level quality, many teams do play FCS opponents or teams between 2 very different power levels of conferences do play against each other with a usual high margin result for the stronger team.
Sometimes upsets do happen.

Here are some examples of big upsets in week 1 the last few years.
I only picked upsets by FCS teams over FBS teams.

In 2010 did for example Jacksonville State beat Ole Miss 49 - 48 after 2 OTs.
Jacksonville State had in that season overall a good, but not great season, winning not even their conference and did drop out of the FCS National Championship playoffs in the 2nd round.
Still they did beat Ole Miss on their 1st gameday.
Granted, Ole Miss was 2010 not really good, but they won 4 games in total that season, including 1 in the SEC.
In that game they had a 31-10 lead at the half, but played a very bad 2nd half and especially a very, very bad 4th quarter.
The game score was tied at 34 at the end and the Gamecocks of Jacksonville State earned that win in 2nd OT with a bold 2 point conversion try, giving them the 1-point-lead and the win.
That was a huge upset at that time.

At season start of 2011 did Sacramento State beat Oregon State 29-28 in OT.
The Oregon State Beavers did finish the season with a 3-9 record and all wins were conference wins.
The record of the Sacramento State Hornets would be at the end 4-7 with no playoff participation.
At that time was Oregon State more or less under the radar, but this upset was still not expected.
Funny thing in this game was, the Beavers were trailing at the half and did tied the game with a strong 4th quarter.
They then were in 1st possession in the OT and scored a TD with an extra point.
The Hornets were also able to score a TD, but made a 2-point-conversion-try for the win.
Brave players and coaches!

Also in 2011 at week 1 did the Richmond Spiders upset the Duke Blue Devils 23-21.
Duke was at that time still a pushover and their HC did try to put all the pieces together to get the team on a higher level.
Still they should have won that game.
They finished with only 3 wins that season.
Richmond on the other hand did start great in 2011, they won the next 2 games, but lost all remaining games and did finish also with only 3 wins.
Funny fact on that one: The Blue Devils did lose the 3rd time against Richmond in 6 seasons and had the game winning (or at least the game leading) FG on their feet, but missed it 2 min. to go in the game.

2012 were a bad start for the Pittsburgh Panthers. They lost against Youngstown State 17-31.
The Panthers didn't have a good season that year, but also not a bad one, they finished even with a bowl loss and in total with a record of 6-7.
Youngstown State did look promising after that game, started with 4 wins in total, but lost the next 4 games and finished with 7-4 overall.
Even if the score looks quite clear in favor of the Penguins, Youngstown was never in a high lead and that game could have ended totally different.
At the end did the Panthers lose, because their team did not play good enough together under their new HC at that time.

In 2013 did Eastern Washington overcome Oregon State 49-46.
The Oregon State Beavers were ranked at #25 for season start and would even rebound from that upset later the season to get ranked again (again #25).
The team did finish the season with a 7-6 record, including a bowl win against Boise State.
Not bad as PAC12 team.
The Eastern Washington Eagles on the other hand did finish the season as unbeaten conference champ, and left the FCS National Championship Playoffs in the Semis.
That game at season start was only the 4th win by a FCS team against a ranked FBS team in history.
Basically a weak 1st half did cost the Beavers the game, but that's easy to say afterwards.
Bottom line at that day was, the Beavers were not able to stop the Eagles and the game was close the whole time.

On the same gameday, week 1 of 2013, did North Dakota State win over Kansas State, 24-21.
The Bisons would win every game of 2013 and did finish as FCS National Champion, the 3rd time in a row at that time (they also won last season, so now they won 4 times in a row).
So, it's was clear at that time NDSU would be a very good FCS team, but Kansas State is a BIG12 team, from a conference which is more or less regularly under the TOP4 conferences of the FBS.
And Kansas State was not Kansas (which did win a season before only 1 game), no, they were the defending BIG12 conference Co-Champ of 2012.
Later that season would KSU finish the season with a 8-5 record, including a Bowl win against Michigan.
This upset was well deserved, when the Bisons did score with only a few seconds left on the clock for the lead and the KSU QB did throw an interception the next play after kick-off.

The 1st gameday of 2013 was really special, since at that day did also the McNeese State Cowboys beat the South Florida Bulls 53-21!
A huge win for a small program.
To make the Bulls history short, they had a new HC and did win in that season only 2 games.
McNeese State on the other hand did win 10 games in total and would play in the FCS playoffs until the 2nd round.
The 32 point win margin was the biggest one since the FBS-FCS split in 1978 (at that time I-AA and I-A).

I'm not finished with the 1st gameday upsets of 2013.
UConn did lose on that date against Towson, 18-33.
The UConn Huskies did finish 3-9 in that season and did fire their HC during that season.
The Towson Tigers did play great in 2013 and lost only 3 times. 2 losses did cost them the conference title and the 3rd one did cost them the National Championship, since they lost to above mentioned North Dakota State in the final.
The Tigers had nice control in that game against UConn.

And as last great upset in 2013 on week 1 I have Iowa State losing to Northern Iowa 20-28.
The Cyclones did have a usual bad season in the BIG12 and finished 3-9, but normally they should have won that game.
The Northern Iowa Panthers had a great 1st half and did basically kept the Cyclones from scoring in the 2nd half, while they did score enough to secure the win.
The Panthers did later finish 7-5 and did not make the playoffs.

In 2014 did the Iowa State Cyclones lose AGAIN.
This time against North Dakota State, which did win again against a FBS opponent. The final score was 34-14.
The Cyclones were still a mess, finishing 2-10, but still kept their coach.
NDSU did win, as mentioned above, the national championship the 4th time in row in 2014 and did lose only 1 time during the season.
In that upset against the Cyclones did the Bisons never really stumble after they adjusted in the 2nd quarter.

And as last upset special I have the win of the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats against the Florida International Panthers, with a score of 14-12 in 2014.
With that score there is not much room for big comebacks or leads and based on the box score, having only scores in the 2nd and 4th quarter of each 7-6 for the Wildcats, it looks like a quite boring game.
Never the less, nobody in the Panthers organization had that game as a possible loss in mind, I'm sure.
The Wildcats did win their conference in 2013, but stepped out of the playoffs after the 1st round and even if they won their conference again in 2014, they were not qualified to play in the playoffs with 9 wins total.
FIU on the other hand did win 4 games in the FBS in 2014 and kept their HC.

With so many upsets in week 1, it will be fun to see, which game will be lost by a FBS team this season start.
Potential games are there, many.
But picking a winner will be too hard, so I will leave it to the review of week 1 to tell you if an upset did happen and which teams were involved.

For the statistical friends under the readers:
The team with most wins against FBS teams from the FCS since the split in the 70's is Youngstown State with 20 wins in 49 games.
6 of those wins alone are from rivalry games against the Akron Zips (Steel Tire trophy).
The Zips were a FCS teams once and did switch to the FBS in 1987 but continued the series until 1995 and lost 6 of 9 meetings and had 1 tie.

Now let's have a look at the BLOCK OF GRANITE TOP GAMES FOR WEEK 1

Fri. Sept. 4 - 10:15 pm ET
Washington @ #23 Boise State
From the coaches point of view, this game is the most interesting one this week.
Chris Petersen is the HC of the Washington Huskies and he will visit his former team, the Boise State Broncos.
Petersen did coach the Broncos for 5 seasons as OC and 8 seasons as HC, guided the team that way from 2001 to 2013.
The team did win several conference titles under his OC watch and even more under his HC time.
He took the Huskies job last season, and did inherit a quite good team.
The Broncos didn't wait too long after Petersen leave and took Bryan Harsin as new HC.
Harsin is a former Boise State player, who started his coaching career as Graduate Assistant at Boise in 2001, the 1st season of Petersen as OC.
Harsin gained better position coaching jobs in Boise step by step and became the Broncos OC in 2006 until 2010. 2006 was Petersens 1st season as Broncos HC.
Harsin went on to Texas as Co-OC in 2011 and 2012 and became Arkansas States HC in 2013, where he won the conference that season.
When his school did call for the HC job, for sure he did not think for too long and accepted.
He won the conference in 2014 with the Broncos and the team is for sure again in the mix for the championship this season.
So, basically it's the teacher vs. the student matchup some might say.
The funny thing here is, the Huskies, as PAC12 team, are in this game the underdog!
Boise State, as reigning MWC-Champ is pre-season ranked and a 12+ point favorite to win this. 12+ points!
Many experts did pick the Broncos, but not many did pick them against the spread.
I even found a preview where ALL experts did pick the Broncos and only 20% did pick them against the spread.
It looks like Petersens legacy at Boise does value more, than his coaching skills at Washington.
Don't get me wrong, the game will be open to win for both teams, but I don't think the Huskies will have no chance at all.
Even on the great blue so-called smurf turf at Boise, where the Broncos had many, many home wins.
I think the Huskies are a dark horse to get into the PAC12 championship game.
Such a team should be better than losing 12 points or more against Boise.
My pick is, that the Huskies will stay in the game and win this in a close one.

Sat. Sept. 5 - 7:30 pm ET
Texas @ #11 Notre Dame
I'm a bit stunned that the Fighting Irish are ranked at #11.
They finished 8-5 last season and won their bowl against LSU, which probably did give them the boost in the rankings this pre-season.
I don't think they will win many more games than last season, but you never know.
Brian Kelly should be able to get the job done in his 6th season, otherwise the Irish might look for some other coach. The standards at Notre Dame are high and the university is still thinking the team is as relevant as it was in the past.
Texas on the other hand do have a 2nd year coach with Charlie Strong and he might get the Longhorns back into the ranks and back into the contender position of the BIG12 after a 6-7 record last season.
Texas is a TOP5 team, if you look at the facilities and the money they have, get and spend.
So, everything under a national ranking and a regular spot for a BIG12 title is not acceptable in Longhorns nation.
I think the Longhorns do have some open business inside their roster to solve and because of those issues, do many see Notre Dame as favorite here.
They are a 10+ point favorite, which is more than I would give them.
For me it is a shaky Irish team, which strength I will have to discover during the season (if there is such strength) against an unknown Texas team.
Two coaches which should be able to get their team better will face off here and Kelly for sure has the better situation with his 6th recruiting class coming in, while Strong has to work mostly with players from his predecessors time.
I pick the Irish in a close game here, but I think both teams will play no role at the end of the season on the playoff selection process.

Sat. Sept. 5 - 8:00 pm ET
#20 Wisconsin vs. #3 Alabama
If you look at the games of that 1st weekend, this one is the biggest.
Not only is it the only one, where two ranked teams will match up against each other, it's also a matchup between two potential championship teams.
Wisconsin has a good chance to win the Big10 West Division, while Alabama has the chance to win the SEC West.
Both teams could win their conferences then, even I think the chances for Alabama are much better than Wisconsins.
This matchup here will give some inside regarding strength and status of both teams
The difference here is, that Nick Saban has his Crimson Tide in his 9th season and the team is a well-oiled machine.
On the other hands are the Badgers under new management of Paul Chryst is in his 1st season as HC at the school.
He was the HC of the Pittsburgh Panthers before that and there he was quite OK, but not sensational.
The team he inherited is also a very good one, so chances are good, that they will not be outmatched by Alabama by default.
The Crimson Tide is a 10+ point favorite in this game and I think that's maybe not enough.
As much as I love the smashing Badgers football, the team did lose the Big10 Championship game in a landslide and Alabama was for me on the same level as Ohio State last season, which did beat the Badgers in mentioned championship game.
Yes, OSU did also win against Alabama, but my point is, there are some teams on high levels and some or the highest.
Wisconsin is on a high level, but Alabama is on the highest and therefore I'm expecting a one-sided match, like Alabama had a while ago (2012) against Michigan at season start in the same stadium, winning 41-14.
My pick is, the Crimson Tide will roll and will bury the Badgers, big time.

Mon. Sept. 7 - 8:00 pm ET
#1 Ohio State @ Virginia Tech
I did thought long about taking this game into the list or not, but at the end I thought to myself it will not hurt to have it in it.
Ohio State is ranked #1 as defending National Champion.
Urban Meyer gets already articles over the questions "is he the best?", "Saban or Meyer, who will beat Bear Bryants record?" (of winning 6 National Championships) and so on.
The nation thinks Meyer is the current Football Guru and for sure he is an outstanding coach, but I'm no fan of ranking coaches as "best ever" or "TOP10" or whatever.
I'm pretty sure there are many great coaches in college, which can't show the same kind of success Meyer had and has, just because they do coach under different circumstances.
Are those better or worse?
Who knows.
Frank Beamer of the Virginia Tech Hokies is for sure one of the best, and even if his team did not had much success in the past few seasons, his legacy is big.
It's that big, that I predict a drop in VTs performance over seasons, if not decades, once Beamer might decide to call it a career.
He did lift VT to the heights it is now (or was until the last drop) and history did show, that not very often are schools able to find capable successors.
So two very high respected coaches will have a nice season start with that match.
VT is a 14+ point underdog and that might be not enough, from my point of view.
As much as I like the Hokies, they are not on the level as Ohio State is at the moment.
At least that's my take, now.
There are some voices in the press jungle, which do see a mighty comeback of the Hokies.
A win over the Buckeyes would be a great start.
I doubt it will happen, but I would love to see it, to get the season a bit more excited.
My pick here is, that the Buckeyes are way better and even on the road will they win against VT.

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