Last weekend's college football games were an appetizer of sorts for the main course of the ”real” start of college football season this weekend. As a die-hard college football fan and just the fall season in general, this is my favorite time of year.
As I have mentioned before, I can pretty much watch and enjoy any sport nowadays. That wasn’t the case before I had experience covering all these sports, but now I'm a fan of all of them. The difference with college football as opposed to other sports is I can watch it as a fan and not really care who's playing. So, here are my top five games for this upcoming week. I'll be watching, and you should too.
Georgia vs. Clemson
This game seems like it has college football playoff implications, and that's pretty cool to see the first week of the college football season. Then again, maybe not, because both teams are likely in line for a college football playoff spot at the end of the year if they finish with only one loss on their schedule. Clemson brings in a new quarterback in D.J. Uiagalelei. Georgia returns J.T. Daniels. Both were top players in their respective classes coming out of high school. After Daniels was injured at USC and his job taken over by Kedon Slovis, he wound up at Georgia and didn't disappoint. In his first season with the Bulldogs, he went 80-119 for 1,231 yards with 10 touchdowns and two interceptions. While Georgia and Clemson tend to have stout defenses, this will be a game to watch the quarterbacks shine.
Alabama vs. Miami
I'm fairly confident the Crimson Tide will take care of business fairly easily against the Hurricanes. But I know for the Alabama fan base down here, this is a big game. Miami's quarterback D'Eriq King is a star, but I have a good feeling Alabama's defense will make him seem like less of one come Saturday.
Penn State at Wisconsin
Each team is coming off a down year by all accounts, so this will be a big year for both teams to right the ship. Wisconsin's quarterback Graham Mertz put on a show last season in the opening game against Illinois, causing former starting quarterback Jack Coan to transferred to Notre Dame.
But the Badgers fell back to earth after that game, finishing out the year 4-3 with two games canceled due to COVID-19 outbreaks with the teams.
Wisconsin teams tend to be built up front on the offensive line, and that appears to be the case again this season. As long as Mertz can stay healthy, the Big Ten West is theirs for the taking.
Penn State started 0-5 last season but won its final four games on the schedule to give the Nittany Lions some momentum heading into the season. James Franklin is a solid coach — he'll figure it out. The Big Ten fandom in me is excited for this game.
North Carolina at Virginia Tech (Friday)
Virginia Tech used to be a shoe-in atop the ACC standings year-in and year-out, but that hasn't been the case for several years now. The big reason to watch this game is for North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell. According to many NFL draft experts, at least at this stage in the game, he is in a battle with Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler for the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft to go to the Houston Texans. Houston, you have a problem.
Obviously that's not a sure thing, but I'm putting that in writing so when that doesn't happen, everyone can again point out that I was wrong.
Mack Brown is a hall-of-fame coach and by all accounts seems like a genuine, sweet guy. He's got a good team, he's 70-years-old and it's difficult to guess how long he'll continue to do this, but if any team has a chance to compete with Clemson, it seems like the one with a star quarterback in Howell and a hall-of-fame coach on the sideline.
LSU at UCLA
UCLA dominated Hawaii 44-10 on Saturday. Former Michigan running back Zach Charbonnet, now a UCLA Bruin, had six carries for 106 yards and three touchdowns. I watched Charbonnet his first two years at Michigan, and I saw a lot of potential in the California native's ability. He is also one heck of a blocker.
His freshman season with the Wolverines, he had 149 carries for 726 yards and 11 touchdowns. His sophomore season, he didn't see a lot of playing time (for some reason) and left.
Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson is also pretty good. He threw for 1,311 yards in his freshman season, 2,701 in his sophomore campaign and 1,120 his junior year. With head coach Chip Kelly on the hot seat, this needs to be a big year for the Bruins for him to be likely to stick around.
LSU hasn't been the same since Joe Burrow left. The Tigers went 5-5 last season, an unusual year for any college football fan to see from the Tigers. But they still have so much talent, including one of the top cornerbacks in the country in Derek Stingley Jr. Both of these teams are going to prove a point Saturday, but I'm intrigued which points both teams will have made when the clock hits zeroes.