Four Down Territory Returns: Big Opening Weekend of Big Match-Ups
Football is back…..yes it started last week but if college football is going to call it “Week Zero” then that is about the level of interest we're going to show it….
One quick reminder: College coaches love to say that season openers are more often “lost” by opening-game mistakes than they are “won” by plays made. Given some of what we saw last weekend that held true. Keep an eye on that this weekend.
Also be sure to checkout our new show Nittany Game Week...We air on 9 stations in three states reaching the homes of 16 million people in all or parts of 8 states. The show also is available on our website where you can find stations and times.
Let’s get to it.
First Down: Thursday/Friday Appetizers: #4 Ohio State at Minnesota: Ohio State fans can be forgiven for being nervous about this game. Minnesota returns 20 of 22 starters and virtually ALL of its offensive and defensive production. They also have 10 Super Seniors. Will the play of new OSU QB CJ Stroud match the hype? He’s got a great group of receivers coming back. On defense OSU must rebuild a unit that was an uncharacteristic 59th in the country in total defense last year. This one is no gimme putt……..#10 UNC at Virginia Tech: A lot of people see this as a breakthrough year for UNC. Tarheels' QB Sam Howell is a veteran with over 7,200 passing yards and 68 TDs the last two years. Mack Brown has built an ACC contender this year and this is a good road test to start the season.
Second Down: Saturday Early Action: #19 Penn State at #12 Wisconsin: Both teams return a lot of starters, both teams have their quarterback returning and both teams have a number of question marks. The key to this one may be turnovers and who controls the tempo of the game. PSU was -7 in turnover margin last year—partly because they did not get many on defense. Wisconsin returns 19 of their top 22 players from a defense that was among the best in the country last year......Tulane at #2 Oklahoma: This game was scheduled for New Orleans but Hurricane Ida changed those plans. As if playing the Sooners wasn’t tough enough, now the Green Wave has to go to OU. Beyond sports, take a minute to think about everyone impacted by the storm.
Third Down: More Top 25 Match-ups: #1 Alabama vs #14 Miami in Atlanta: The Tide has made a habit of smashing teams at neutral sites on Labor Day weekend. Miami will need to force new Alabama QB Bryce Young into some mistakes as he makes his first start. Just as vital will be who steps up to replace a number of Alabama stars who are now rookies in the NFL…..#17 Indiana at #18 Iowa: When healthy, Indiana QB Michael Penix is as good as or better than any other returning QB in the Big Ten. But the Indiana rise has also been fueled by a good defense. Speaking of defense, Iowa was one of the top defenses in the country last year. They are riding a six-game win streak and have QB Spencer Petras returning. Petras spent time with a QB guru in California this offseason and if he gives the Hawkeyes a strong consistent passing game the Hawkeyes are top-tier Big Ten contenders.
Fourth Down: Primetime: #5 Georgia vs #3 Clemson in Charlotte: This is THE hype game of the weekend. While Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence is now gone, D.J. Uiagalelei got valuable game experience with starts last year against BC and at Notre Dame. But the top three receivers are gone, as are the top two rushers. Having lived the pressure of that Notre Dame start will be invaluable for D.J. heading into this one. For Georgia QB JT Daniels is right where he belongs as a starter after a year at USC, a year of injury and patiently waiting for his moment for the Bulldogs. He has a deep and talented group of skill players returning around him that make this potentially one of the better Georgia offenses in the last few years…….#16 LSU at UCLA: UCLA demolished Hawaii last week by rolling up 244 yards on the ground. They will need to be better passing the ball this week to beat LSU. On defense UCLA will have to get to the quarterback more often than they did last week. For the Tigers they look to bounce back after 2020's 5-5 season. Through the challenges of Hurricane Ida can they keep their focus on the game and build on the season ending wins over #6 Florida and Ole Miss?.......Sunday Night #9 Notre Dame at Florida State: This one figures to start with an emotional crowd as the Seminoles pay tribute to recently-passed legendary coach Bobby Bowden. The Seminoles will need to eliminate costly turnovers and put pressure on Notre Dame’s new Quarterback Jack Coan who is an experienced transfer from Wisconsin.