Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Week-by-week guide for 2009
By Mark Schlabach
Bedlam. Revenge. Civil war. Grab your calendar and a marker. Here's a week-by-week look at the best games to watch in the 2009 college football season:
Sept. 3: Oregon at Boise State (10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN, ESPN360.com)
The Broncos came within a couple of points of finishing unbeaten in 2008, losing to TCU 17-16 in the Poinsettia Bowl. If Boise State can beat the Ducks on the blue turf of Bronco Stadium, it will have a great chance of going undefeated in 2009. The Ducks will be looking for revenge in the first game of the Chip Kelly era. Boise State beat the Ducks 37-32 in Eugene, Ore., in 2008, after Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli suffered a concussion in the first half.
Sept. 5: Georgia at Oklahoma State (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
The Bulldogs play a rare season opener on the road -- and will do so without former star quarterback Matthew Stafford and tailback Knowshon Moreno. The Cowboys have their sights set on joining Oklahoma and Texas at the top of the Big 12 South, but for them to do so, their defense will have to be much improved in 2009. Georgia's defense will have to play better, too, especially against OSU's three-headed monster of quarterback Zac Robinson, tailback Kendall Hunter and receiver Dez Bryant.
Sept. 5: BYU vs. Oklahoma (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)
The Sooners' road to another BCS National Championship Game begins with a game against the Cougars at Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Quarterback Sam Bradford, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, starts the season behind a revamped offensive line. The Cougars finished 10-3 in 2008, but the season ended on a sour note with consecutive losses to rival Utah and to Arizona in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Sept. 5: Alabama vs. Virginia Tech (8 p.m. ET, ABC)
A pair of top-10 teams meet in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta's Georgia Dome. The Crimson Tide walloped Clemson 34-10 in the game last year, which helped propel them to a No. 1 ranking and a spot in the SEC championship game. Alabama must replace three starters on its offensive line and quarterback John Parker Wilson. The Hokies lost star tailback Darren Evans to a season-ending knee injury in preseason camp.
Upset alert: Western Michigan over Michigan (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
Sept. 10: Clemson at Georgia Tech (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, ESPN360.com)
Georgia Tech opens its ACC schedule against Clemson at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta. ACC defenses are hoping Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson's triple-option spread offense is easier to defend the second time around; the Yellow Jackets are hoping quarterback Josh Nesbitt and tailback Jonathan Dwyer are even better in their second seasons in the system.
Sept. 12: Southern California at Ohio State (8 p.m. ET, ESPN, ESPN360.com)
Freshman Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley will face a stiff road test in what could be his second college start. The Trojans have won nine consecutive games against Big Ten opponents, winning by an average of 23.7 points. USC crushed the Buckeyes 35-3 at the Coliseum in 2008. The Buckeyes will be playing for more than revenge; they'll also be playing for conference pride.
Upset alert: Houston over Oklahoma State (3:30 p.m. ET)
Sept. 19: Tennessee at Florida (3:30 p.m. ET)
This could be name-your-score for the Gators. New Volunteers coach Lane Kiffin accused Gators coach Urban Meyer of cheating in recruiting in February (because Kiffin didn't understand NCAA rules), and chances are Meyer hasn't forgotten it. Meyer's teams have beaten Tennessee four straight times, including a 30-6 rout in Knoxville last season.
Sept. 19: Nebraska at Virginia Tech (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
The Cornhuskers didn't have an answer for Hokies quarterback Tyrod Taylor in Virginia Tech's 35-30 victory in Lincoln, Neb., last season. Taylor ran for 87 yards and one touchdown and passed for 171 yards in one of his best games as a college quarterback. Now, the Cornhuskers have to travel to Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Va., which is never easy.
Sept. 19: Utah at Oregon (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, ESPN360.com)
No wonder former Ducks coach Mike Bellotti turned over the program to Chip Kelly this season. The Ducks' four-game stretch to open the season is extremely difficult, including a tough nonconference home game against the Utes. Oregon has won six of the past nine games in the series, but the Utes won the last meeting, 17-13 in 2003.
Sept. 19: Texas Tech at Texas (8 p.m. ET, ABC)
Last season, the Red Raiders pulled off one of the most dramatic upsets in recent college football history, with Graham Harrell throwing a 28-yard touchdown to Michael Crabtree in the final seconds of a 39-33 victory over No. 1 Texas in Lubbock. Harrell and Crabtree aren't at Texas Tech anymore; quarterback Colt McCoy and most of the Longhorns are back.
Upset alert: Arkansas over Georgia (7:45 p.m. ET)
Sept. 26: California at Oregon (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
The Bears and Ducks have played in the Rose Bowl once each in the past 50 years. Oregon lost to Penn State 38-20 in 1995; the Bears lost to Iowa 38-12 in 1959. The winner of this game will take an early lead in the race to unseat USC, which might finally be vulnerable in the Pac-10.
Sept. 26: Iowa at Penn State (8 p.m.)
The Hawkeyes spoiled the Nittany Lions' perfect season last year when backup kicker Daniel Murray made a 31-yard field goal with one second to play in a 24-23 upset in Iowa City. This season, No. 21 Iowa is one of only two Penn State opponents ranked in the coaches' preseason Top 25 poll (No. 6 Ohio State is the other; the Lions themselves are No. 8).
Upset alert: South Florida over Florida State (TBA)
Oct. 3: Oklahoma at Miami (TBA)
The Sooners routed the Hurricanes 51-13 in Norman, Okla., in 2007, with Sam Bradford throwing a school-record five touchdown passes in his second career start. The bad news for Miami: Bradford is even better as a junior.
Oct. 3: LSU at Georgia (TBA)
A trip to Athens is the first of three difficult SEC road games for the Tigers, who also play at Alabama and Ole Miss. LSU hasn't won at Sanford Stadium since a 26-23 victory in 1987. Georgia has won six of the past eight games in the series, including three in a row by an average of 21 points.
Oct. 3: USC at California (8 p.m. ET, ABC)
If the Bears are going to end their 50-year drought of not having played in the Rose Bowl, they'll probably have to beat the Trojans. Cal has been competitive in its current five-game losing streak against USC, with four of the defeats coming by 14 or fewer points.
Upset alert: Illinois over Penn State (TBA)
Oct. 10: Alabama at Ole Miss (TBA)
This game could very well decide which team represents the SEC West in the conference championship game. The Crimson Tide scored 24 points in the first half of a 24-20 victory in Tuscaloosa, Ala., last season. Alabama has won 21 of the past 24 games against Ole Miss, including five in a row.
Oct. 10: Florida at LSU (8 p.m. ET)
Between them, the Gators and Tigers have won the past three BCS national championships, with Florida winning in 2006 and '08 and LSU winning in '07. Each time, the game between these two schools was a springboard for the winner. Florida beat LSU 23-10 in 2006 and 51-21 in '08; LSU won 28-24 in '07.
Upset alert: Air Force over TCU (7:30 p.m. ET)
Oct. 17: Oklahoma at Texas (noon ET, ABC)
There won't be a more anticipated game this season, after the Longhorns beat the Sooners last season, then lost a three-way tiebreaker to play in the Big 12 championship game. The tiebreaker helped Oklahoma reach the BCS Championship Game; the Longhorns settled for the Fiesta Bowl. With a 45-35 victory over Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl in 2008, though, the Longhorns have won three of the past four meetings in the Red River Rivalry.
Oct. 17: USC at Notre Dame (3:30 p.m.)
No series better illustrates how much the Fighting Irish have fallen than the one with USC. The Trojans have won seven games in a row over Notre Dame -- their longest winning streak in the 80-game series -- and have won by an average of 27 points during their recent dominance. Last season, the Fighting Irish didn't pick up a first down until the last play of the third quarter and finished with just 91 yards of total offense in a 38-3 loss.
Oct. 17: Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech (TBA)
The game in Atlanta could very well decide which team wins the ACC's Coastal Division. The Hokies have won four of their five games against the Yellow Jackets since joining the ACC. Virginia Tech won 20-17 in Blacksburg, Va., last season, with Dustin Keys kicking a 21-yard field goal with about 4 1/2 minutes to play.
Upset alert: Tulsa over Boise State (8 p.m. ET, ESPN, ESPN360.com)
Oct. 24: TCU at BYU (7:30 p.m. ET)
This could be a matchup of potential BCS busters. The Horned Frogs ended BYU's "quest for perfection" last season with a convincing 32-7 rout in Fort Worth, Texas. The Horned Frogs sacked Cougars quarterback Max Hall six times and ended the Cougars' 16-game winning streak, which was the longest in the country at the time.
Oct. 24: Oregon State at USC (8 p.m.)
Can the Beavers do it again? Last season, Oregon State stunned the Trojans 27-21 in Corvallis, Ore., a loss that helped knock the Trojans out of the BCS Championship Game. Jacquizz Rodgers ran for 186 yards and two touchdowns for the Beavers, and his brother, James Rodgers, caught two touchdown passes. After losing 26 games in a row against USC from 1968 to '99, the Beavers have won three of the past eight meetings. But they haven't won at the Coliseum since 1960.
Oct. 24: South Florida at Pittsburgh (TBA)
The Bulls and Panthers figure to be two of the better teams in the wide-open Big East. Last season, the Panthers upset the No. 10 Bulls 26-21 in Tampa, Fla. Pittsburgh's defense held USF quarterback Matt Grothe to 129 yards passing and 25 rushing. Pittsburgh had lost its previous two games against the Bulls before last season's win.
Upset alert: Arkansas over Ole Miss (TBA)
Oct. 31: Georgia vs. Florida (3:30 p.m. ET)
The game formerly known as the "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" continues to be a massive hangover for the Bulldogs. Florida has won 16 of its past 19 games against Georgia, including a 49-10 rout in Jacksonville, Fla., last season. At least the Bulldogs enjoy an off week before this year's game.
Oct. 31: USC at Oregon (8 p.m.)
This is another game that could go a long way toward determining the Pac-10 champion, and the Trojans have had their problems at Autzen Stadium. Oregon has won four of its past six home games against the Trojans, including a 24-17 victory in 2007. USC blasted the Ducks 44-10 at the Coliseum last season.
Oct. 31: Texas at Oklahoma State (TBA)
The Longhorns have beaten the Cowboys in 11 consecutive meetings, but they narrowly avoided their first defeat against OSU since 1997 with a 28-24 victory in Austin last season. The Longhorns had to overcome a pair of fourth-quarter miscues by quarterback Colt McCoy to win the game.
Upset alert: Baylor over Nebraska (TBA)
Nov. 7: Oklahoma at Nebraska (TBA)
One of college football's most storied rivalries has become a one-sided affair. The Sooners have dominated the Cornhuskers under coach Bob Stoops, winning five of six contests. Oklahoma scored 35 points in the first quarter of a 62-28 rout last season, the most points Nebraska has allowed against the Sooners.
Nov. 7: LSU at Alabama (TBA)
The Saban Bowl returns to Tuscaloosa, Ala., where his former team defeated his current team 41-34 in LSU's national championship season in 2007. Last season, the Crimson Tide beat the Tigers 27-21 in overtime in Baton Rouge, La.
Nov. 7: Ohio State at Penn State (TBA)
This might be the game that decides which team wins the Big Ten championship. The Nittany Lions won 13-6 at the Horseshoe last season, their first victory in Columbus, Ohio, since joining the Big Ten. The Buckeyes blasted Penn State 37-17 in their last trip to Happy Valley in 2007.
Upset alert: East Carolina over Virginia Tech (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, ESPN360.com)
Nov. 13: West Virginia at Cincinnati (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN360.com)
The Bearcats beat the Mountaineers 26-23 in overtime in Morgantown, W.Va., last season, a victory that went a long way toward helping them win their first Big East championship. It was only Cincinnati's second victory in 17 tries against the Mountaineers.
Nov. 14: Utah at TCU (7:30 p.m. ET)
These potential BCS busters played a classic game in Salt Lake City last season, with the Utes winning 13-10 on quarterback Brian Johnson's 9-yard touchdown pass to Freddie Brown with 48 seconds to play. The Utes are 5-1 against the Horned Frogs since 1996.
Nov. 15: East Carolina at Tulsa (8:15 p.m., ESPN, ESPN360.com)
It's a rematch of the 2008 Conference USA championship game, which the Pirates won 27-24. Both teams should be in the C-USA title hunt again this season.
Upset alert: Arizona over California (TBA)
Nov. 21: Oklahoma at Texas Tech (TBA)
The Sooners walloped the Red Raiders 65-21 last season, handing Tech its first loss of the season and ending its Big 12 title hopes. But Oklahoma has to travel to Lubbock, Texas, this season, something that didn't work out well for rival Texas in 2008.
Nov. 21: Ohio State at Michigan (TBA)
The storied rivalry has become lopsided in the Jim Tressel era, with the Buckeyes winning seven of eight games against their most hated rival. Ohio State has won an unprecedented five consecutive times against Michigan, which was humiliated 42-7 last season. It was Ohio State's biggest rout in the series since 1968.
Nov. 21: LSU at Ole Miss (TBA)
If things go as well as expected for the Rebels, this could be the most anticipated game in Oxford, Miss., since Archie Manning played quarterback there. Ole Miss ended a six-game losing streak to the Tigers with a 31-13 win in Baton Rouge, La., last season.
Upset alert: Michigan State over Penn State (TBA)
Nov. 27: Alabama at Auburn (2:30 p.m. ET)
The Crimson Tide finally ended the Tigers' six-game winning streak in the Iron Bowl with a 36-0 shutout in 2008. New Auburn coach Gene Chizik welcomes Alabama to Jordan-Hare Stadium, where the Tide haven't won since 2001.
Nov. 27: Pittsburgh at West Virginia (TBA)
The Mountaineers lost to the Panthers 19-15 last season after LeSean McCoy scored his second touchdown with 52 seconds left. That loss hurt, but not nearly as badly as a 13-9 defeat in 2007 that cost the Mountaineers a chance to play for the BCS national championship.
Nov. 28: Florida State at Florida (TBA)
The Sunshine State rivalry used to be the game to watch at season's end. But the Gators have beaten FSU five straight times, including routs of 45-12 in 2007 and 45-15 in '08.
Nov. 28: Oklahoma State at Oklahoma (TBA)
Like so many other in-state rivalries, the Bedlam Series hasn't been very competitive recently. Oklahoma has beaten the Pokes six straight times, including a 61-41 rout in 2008. If the Cowboys are going to become contenders in the Big 12 South, they'll have to perform better against their most bitter rivals.
Nov. 28: Georgia at Georgia Tech (TBA)
Paul Johnson turned the Peach State's rivalry upside down with a 45-42 victory at Sanford Stadium in 2008, beating the Bulldogs in his first try as the Yellow Jackets' coach. It was Tech's first victory in the series since 2000.
Nov. 28: Utah at BYU (5 p.m. ET)
It's really one of the more underrated rivalries in college football because these two teams -- and their fan bases -- just don't like each other. The Utes beat the Cougars 48-24 last season to preserve a perfect season and a BCS bowl invitation.
Upset alert: South Florida over Miami
Dec. 3: Oregon State at Oregon (9 p.m. ET, ESPN, ESPN360.com)
The Ducks spoiled the Beavers' hopes of playing in their first Rose Bowl since 1965 with a 65-38 rout in Corvallis, Ore., last season. It was the most points the Beavers had ever allowed.
Upset alert: Fresno State over Illinois (12:30 p.m. ET)
Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.