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73 Games Fill Opening Weekend Schedule

by Mike Mitchell
8/20/06

Major colleges play twenty-nine games against 1-AA schools during the long opening weekend. Though I am as much of a critic as anyone regarding such match-ups, it does provide one benefit - more football in more places.

In all, seventy-three games fill the Labor Day weekend schedule. Some of them even mean something.

CONFERENCE GAMES: All games Saturday unless otherwise indicated.

ACC - Florida State at Miami (Monday) - The Seminoles (Atlantic) and Hurricanes (Coastal) reside in different divisions of the ACC but neither can afford to open conference play with a loss. Florida State and Miami are both ACC title contenders and, even more important, national title candidates. Last year, the 'Noles ended a six-game losing streak to Miami with a 10-7 win in Tallahassee in a sloppy, and largely boring, exhibition of football.

Miami missed two field goals and botched the snap on another attempt that would have tied the game with just over two minutes remaining. The 'Canes, who had to blow all their second-half timeouts in the third quarter due to miscommunication, could not stop the clock and FSU preserved the win.

Florida State also missed an easy field goal earlier in the game. That particular 'Noles possession started just two yards from the Miami goal line following a blocked punt and wound up producing negative yardage and zero points. FSU had time-out troubles, too, wasting them all by the 13:31 mark of the fourth quarter.

Read more on the FSU-Miami game here

CUSA - Houston at Rice - The Owls are 1-16 in their last 17 games. The Cougars were 6-6 last season including a 42-13 loss to Kansas in the Fort Worth Bowl.

MAC - Eastern Michigan at Ball State (Thursday) - The Congrove Computer Rankings project Ball State as a 5-7 team and a 4th-place finisher in the MAC's west division. It says the Eagles will dwell in the cellar with a miserable 1-11 campaign.

PAC-10 - Stanford at Oregon - The Cardinal was one of the two teams that lost to a lower-division school last year. Their upset at the hands of UC-Davis ultimately cost them a bowl bid as they completed the year with a 5-6 record. That was still a one-win improvement over Buddy Teevens' 4-7 mark in 2004. Stanford is seen as a "middle of the PAC" team in 2006 while the Ducks are considered one of the top contenders to dethrone USC. Oregon was 10-2 last year after a 17-14 loss to Oklahoma in the Holiday Bowl snapped a seven-game winning streak.

SEC - South Carolina at Mississippi State (Thursday) - 2005 was a strange first season for Steve Spurrier in Columbia. The team got off to an 0-3 start in the SEC but won its last four conference games, including a 30-22 upset of Florida for its only victory over an SEC team that posted a winning season. One thing is for certain - the Gamecocks would be better off if they never played any team nicknamed "Tigers". South Carolina was mauled 48-7 by the Auburn Tigers, scratched 13-9 by the Clemson Tigers and beaten 38-31 in the Independence Bowl by the Missouri Tigers.

Sun Belt - FIU at Middle Tennessee (Thursday) - Rick Stockstill debuts as the new coach at MTSU. Don Strock's Golden Panthers were hit by graduation and need to rebuild after going 5-6 a year ago. Still, the Blue Raiders are only a 7-point computer pick.

WAC - Nevada at Fresno State (Friday) - Fresno State opens the season on a four-game losing streak. The Bulldogs were 8-1 last year when they fell into a deep funk after narrowly losing to top-ranked USC. A WAC title began slipping from their grasp when they lost 38-35 at Nevada the following week. Instead, the Wolf Pack and Boise State wound up sharing the conference crown. The computer lists Fresno State as the favorite to win the WAC title this year with Nevada picked to finish 4th.

IN-STATE BATTLES All games Saturday unless otherwise indicated.

TCU at Baylor (Sunday) - TCU leads the series 47-45-5 but Baylor won 17 of their last 22 meetings and 7 of the last 8. The Bears, however, haven't had a single winning season since the last time these former Southwest Conference rivals last met in 1995. The Bears have won a total of 28 games during that time and last year's 5-6 season was its best since the SWC disbanded. Meanwhile, TCU has notched 73 victories and won or shared four titles in three different conferences (WAC, CUSA and Mountain West).

Kentucky at Louisville (Sunday) - Louisville almost lost this game last year at Lexington. After the Cards took a 28-7 halftime lead, Kentucky rallied in grand fashion and missed by just a yard of either winning the game in regulation or sending it into overtime. Kentucky quarterback Andre Woodson fumbled at the 1-yard line and the Cardinals escaped with a 31-24 victory. The Bluegrass State rivalry is relatively young with the schools meeting annually since 1994. Prior to that, they hadn't played each other in 70 years. Louisville has won 8-of-12 meetings since the series restarted, 6 of the last 7, and 3 in-a-row.

Marshall at West Virginia - It's only the second meeting in modern history between these schools. West Virginia won 42-31 in 1997, the year Marshall moved back up to major college football.

North Texas at Texas - The Longhorns have won all 8 meetings and haven't allowed a point to the Mean Green since 1992. Texas won 65-0 in 2004 and 27-0 in 2002.

SMU at Texas Tech - Last SMU win came in 1986 and Mustangs have dropped 10 straight to their former Southwest Conference rival.

Also

Northern Arizona (1-AA) at Arizona State (Thursday)
Eastern Illinois (1-AA) at Illinois
Florida State at Miami, Fla. (Monday) - Story above.
La.-Lafayette at LSU
Appalachian State (1-AA) at N. C. State
Indiana State (1-AA) at Purdue
Alabama State (1-AA) at Troy

NON-CONFERENCE GAMES All games Saturday unless otherwise indicated.

Akron at Penn State - The Zips won their first-ever conference title last year. Now they get to test their mettle against the legendary Joe Paterno. The teams have only met twice before and the Nittany Lions won both convincingly - 48-10 in 2004 and 70-24 in 1999. All of the games have taken place at Happy Valley.

USC at Arkansas - Can the Hogs exact revenge on the team that embarrassed them 70-17 in Los Angeles last year? The oddsmakers think Arkansas will put on a much better showing and the computer picks the Trojans by 10.

Temple at Buffalo (Thursday) - Combined, these two teams are 7-61 over the last three years. Things are looking so bad for Temple that they are an 11-point computer underdog to the Bulls. Both teams have new head coaches - Turner Gill at Buffalo and Al Golden at Temple.

California at Tennessee - Last year was a disaster for the Knoxville faithful who witnessed their team complete its first losing season since 1988 when the Vols went 5-6. The following year, Tennessee went 11-1 and were SEC co-champs. The computer saddles the Vols with a 5-7 projection while it sees California as the strongest challenger to USC in the PAC-10 and favors the Golden Bears by 5 in this game.

Notre Dame at Georgia Tech - Ramblin' Wreck is 5-26-1 against Fighting Irish but last played each other in 1998 Gator Bowl with Yellow Jackets claiming their first victory over Notre Dame since 1976.

Northwestern at Miami (Ohio) (Thursday) - Randy Walker, who tragically died of a heart attack over the summer, served as head coach for the RedHawks from 1990-1998. His success at Miami opened the door for him to take the reigns at Northwestern. This would have been his 8th year at the helm for the Wildcats.

Northern Illinois at Ohio State - Huskies boast senior running back Garrett Wolfe, the nation's leading returning rusher (1,580 yards).

UTEP at San Diego State (Thursday) - Chuck Long starts his head coaching career for the Mountain West's Aztecs by hosting veteran head coach Mike Price and one of the better teams in Conference USA. This game could say a lot about what type of season each team can expect. Some think SDSU is destined to break .500 for the first time since 1998. The computer projects San Diego State as a 7-5 club and favors them by 2 in this contest.

Also:

Hawaii at Alabama
Alabama-Birmingham at Oklahoma
BYU at Arizona
Army at Arkansas State
Washington State at Auburn
Boston College at Central Michigan (Thursday)
Wisconsin vs. Bowling Green (at Cleveland)
East Carolina at Navy
Southern Miss at Florida
FAU at Clemson
Idaho at Michigan State
Western Michigan at Indiana
Toledo at Iowa State
Memphis at Mississippi (Sunday)
Minnesota at Kent State (Thursday)
Louisiana Tech at Nebraska
Vanderbilt at Michigan
Rutgers at North Carolina
Virginia at Pittsburgh
San Jose State at Washington
Syracuse at Wake Forest
Utah at UCLA
Utah State at Wyoming

POISONED CUPCAKES? All games Saturday unless otherwise indicated.

29 teams play 1-AA schools this week as over 75 schools took the opportunity of a 12th game to schedule a cupcake opponent.

From 2003-2005, 1-A teams are 164-18 in such games. They won 52-of-54 last year.

Several teams are playing schools from within their own state boundaries:
Northern Arizona (1-AA) at Arizona State (Thursday)
Eastern Illinois (1-AA) at Illinois
Appalachian State (1-AA) at N. C. State
Indiana State (1-AA) at Purdue
Alabama State (1-AA) at Troy

One has an interesting military connection:
The Citadel (1-AA) at Texas A&M

At least one such matchup came about via the head coach's history:
SE Louisiana (1-AA) at New Mexico State (Thursday) - New Mexico State head coach Hal Mumme resurrected his career as the man who guided SE Louisiana's football program back to life, then found a job in 1-A again with the Aggies. Mumme resigned from Kentucky in February 2001 amidst the revelations of significant NCAA rules violations. After a year-and-half off, Mumme was hired by SE Louisiana which had halted its football program in 1985 due to funding issues. Mumme's team went 5-7 in 2003 and 7-5 in 2004. This is his second season in Las Cruces and he's still looking for that first victory. New Mexico State enters the season with the nation's longest losing streak at 13 games. The Aggies play another 1-AA school on September 16 when they host Texas Southern.

Other 1-A vs. 1-AA games:

Sacramento State (1-AA) at Boise State
Villanova (1-AA) at Central Florida
Eastern Kentucky (1-AA) at Cincinnati
Montana State (1-AA) at Colorado
Weber State (1-AA) at Colorado State
Rhode Island (1-AA) at Connecticut (Thursday)
Richmond (1-AA) at Duke
Western Kentucky (1-AA) at Georgia
Montana (1-AA) at Iowa
NW State, La. (1-AA) at Kansas
Illinois State (1-AA) at Kansas State
Alcorn State (1-AA) at La.-Monroe
William & Mary (1-AA) at Maryland
Murray State (1-AA) at Missouri
Idaho State (1-AA) at Nevada-Las Vegas
Portland State (1-AA) at New Mexico
Tennessee-Martin (1-AA) at Ohio
Missouri State (1-AA) at Oklahoma State
Eastern Washington (1-AA) at Oregon State (Thursday)
McNeese State (1-AA) at South Florida
Stephen F. Austin (1-AA) at Tulsa (Thursday)
Northeastern (1-AA) at Virginia Tech

COMPUTER HITS AND MISSES

The computer's preseason forecast projected Texas and USC as the national title game participants. It also nailed the exact final regular season records of 13 teams, missed 46 teams by one game, and 22 other teams by just two games. That's a total of 81 teams that it forecasted within two wins or losses. Last year, it hit 82 teams within the same margin but it nailed the exact records of 18 teams.

This year's forecast came within 1 on all but three ACC teams and within 2 on every team in the conference. It correctly tabbed Virginia Tech as the ACC Coastal champ, Colorado and Texas as the Big 12 divisional champs, Texas as the Big 12 titlist, Notre Dame as the top independent, USC as the PAC-10 champ and LSU as the SEC west winner.

The computer's biggest miss was West Virginia. It forecasted the youthful Mountaineers to go 2-9 and land in the basement of the Big East. But they finished 10-1 and took home the Big East title, then beat Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.

STREAKS

The Trojans begin this season with a nation's-best streak of 27 home victories intact. USC also has won 23 straight games against conference foes. USC's streak of 34 straight wins came to an end in a 41-38 loss to Texas in the BCS title game at the Rose Bowl. The 34-game over-all winning streak stands as the longest in PAC-10 history, breaking their own record of 25 games set in 1931-1933.

Texas assumed the nation's longest winning streak at 20 with their national championship Rose Bowl win over USC.

TCU has won 10 in-a-row.

Boise State has won 30 consecutive regular season home games. They've never lost a home game to a WAC opponent (20-0).

New Mexico State has the nation's longest losing streak at 13 games.

Temple has lost 12 straight.

NEW COACHES

The 2006 season introduces 11 coaching changes. Two of the new coaches go head-to-head on opening weekend when Turner Gill and Buffalo host Al Golden and Temple. We'll track the progress of those teams throughout the season.

Boise State, 0-0 under Chris Petersen. Hosts 1-AA Sacramento St. on 9/2.
Buffalo, 0-0 under Turner Gill. Hosts Temple and new coach Al Golden 8/31.
Colorado, 0-0 under former Boise State coach Dan Hawkins. Hosts 1-AA Montana State 9/2.
Idaho, 0-0 under Dennis Erickson. Visits Michigan State 9/2.
Kansas State, 0-0 under Ron Prince. Hosts 1-AA Illinois State 9/2.
Middle Tennessee, 0-0 under Rick Stockstill. Hosts FIU 8/31.
Northwestern, 0-0 under Pat Fitzgerald. Visits Miami (Ohio) 8/31.
Rice, 0-0 under Todd Graham. Hosts Houston 9/2.
San Diego State, 0-0 under Chuck Long. Hosts UTEP 8/31.
Temple, 0-0 under Al Golden. Visits Buffalo and new coach Turner Gill 8/31.
Wisconsin, 0-0 under Bret Bielema. Plays Bowling Green in Cleveland 9/2.



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