By the time you read this the 2018 College Football season will have kicked off, in full disclosure it actually kicked off on August Bank Holiday weekend with some smaller D1 and D2 programs playing. Andy Turner reports…
The big kick off weekend is the around the 1st of September with a host of major teams kicking off their seasons. Over the last few seasons there has been the thought that arranging a marquee matchup in the early weeks of the season can provide a boost to the selection committee in the strength of schedule. Well it can, if you win or lose a close game, but if you get shellacked, as various teams have discovered, it can dismantle your credibility early.
Golden rule number 1of recent years is avoid Alabama in high profile season opening games.
So what are the marquee matchups in week 1?
Louisville V Alabama
Louisville begin the post-Lamar Jackson era with a marquee matchup against Alabama. Louisville Coach Bobby Petrino, in a questionable news conference move declared they will beat Alabama. Forget analytics the odds are they’ll get stomped on by the defending National Champs. Live on BT Sport Saturday
Auburn v Washington
In a game which may provide a good indicator as to the teams who will competing for the honour of losing to the above mentioned Alabama in the CFP (college football playoff) Auburn take on Washington. Auburn with QB Jarrett Stidham, a massively overrated Baylor transfer, are once again strongly fancied to compete in the SEC, will take on the pre-season favourite for the Pac-10 conference Washington, who have a strong defence, despite the graduation of Vita Vea and the stellar offensive talents of QB Jake Browning and RB Myles Gaskin both players who will be plying their talents in the NFL in the next couple of seasons.
This is a bigger game for U-Dub (UW get it), they have to win the competitive Pac-10 and beat the bias against west coast teams (the time difference means they often kick off after peak time in USA) to get a second CFP birth in 3 seasons an early big win will count them in good stead. Live on BT Sport this one.
Michigan v Notre Dame
High profile college teams both with coaches who may find themselves on the hot seat with a poor season. Jim Harbaugh was the messiah whom the Michigan faithful dreamt about returning to coach alma mater. While he has raised the profile of the Wolverines he has yet to put out a nationally relevant team and his record against the teams he needs to beat no matter what (Ohio State and Michigan State) is a woeful 1-5 in 3 years.
Brian Kelly had good season in 2017 with a 10-3 record but needs to get the Irish into CFP contention, as always the schedule is brutal so a win against Michigan is a must.
Miami (fla.) v LSU
Talking of coaches under pressure, the always entertaining Ed Orgeron of LSU is struggling as always to put out an offence that equals the sum of its parts and complements the always excellent top class defence. A new offensive coordinator and a new QB Joe Burrow who has transferred from Ohio State are the latest hope for the Bayou Bengals.
They are playing a Miami side on the rise again, they were unbeaten until late in the 2017 season, with QB Malik Rozier who has much to prove against the best teams but with an old fashioned Miami defence, fast and aggressive, this could be one of the best games of weekend. It kicks off late on Sunday night and is live on BT Sport.
One game I will personally be interested in see the Florida Atlantic Owls visiting Oklahoma. Florida Atlantic is now coached by former Raiders and Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin. Oklahoma, losers in the CFP semi-final, begin life without Baker Mayfield against the less than mighty Owls, but in Kiffin’s first year in charge they won their conference title, had double figure wins and set all sorts of offensive records. Lincoln Riley who has been one the most sought after coaches in the off-season will hope his one season QB, Kyler Murray, can click quickly, in what should be an entertaining game and a potential trap game for the Sooners.