It’s that time of year again! Time to preview and speculate on some of the most important games this first week of college football is providing us. Here’s a look at the four national games that I believe may have early college football playoff implications:
BYU vs. #13 LSU
The big thing to look for in this game is how BYU’s “warmup” game against Portland State last Saturday affects the way this game starts. If BYU can use their extra practice to their advantage early in the game, they may stand a chance. LSU returns starting quarterback Danny Etling, but he struggled against strong competition last season, as most LSU quarterbacks have in recent times. BYU’s best chance is to throw Etling off his rhythm early, load the box to stop early Heisman candidate Derrius Guice, and hope that their offense (specifically returning starting quarterback Tanner Mangum) can muster up some points against LSU’s feisty defense.
Prediction: BYU strikes first, but LSU finds it’s footing in the second quarter and begins to dominate by running the football.
- LSU 27 – BYU 10
Georgia Tech vs. #25 Tennessee
Can Butch Jones get off on the right foot this season with the Volunteers? A loss in this game could really land him on the hot seat. Georgia Tech went 9-4 last season under Paul Johnson and brings a unique option attack that Tennessee will have to be prepared for. Tennessee is looking to replace star quarterback Josh Dobbs after losing him to the NFL, and lists Quinten Dormady and Jarrett Guarantano as co-starters for the game. The important things to watch in this matchup are how the new Tennessee quarterbacks (both likely to play in the game) perform, and how the Tennessee defense responds to the option attack that Georgia Tech runs so well.
Prediction: Tennessee grabs an early 14-0 lead but lets it slip away late in the game, only to recapture it in the final seconds and come up with the victory in a Monday night thriller.
- Tennessee 28 – Georgia Tech 24
#22 West Virginia vs. #21 Virginia Tech
This game is really a battle to become nationally relevant to start the season. The winner of this game almost certainly jumps into the top 20, while the loser drops to being unranked with a 1 in the loss column. The big story is whether former Florida quarterback Will Grier will be able to make this a special season for West Virginia, starting in this game. It’s going to be tough to do against longtime Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster and company. The Hokie secondary is loaded with talent, so Grier should have some difficulty moving the ball through the air. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech has to break in a new quarterback to replace former star Jerod Evans, who left for the NFL. If Virginia Tech can neutralize the West Virginia passing attack, they should have a good shot to win this game.
Prediction: Virginia Tech’s defense stifles West Virginia for much of the game, and Josh Jackson does enough to help the Hokies secure the win.
- Virginia Tech 27 – West Virginia 17
#3 Florida State vs. #1 Alabama
This game is the biggest week 1 game ever. Two perennial college football playoff contenders kick off the season, and it should be a great game to say the least. To me, this game comes down to Alabama’s ability to run the ball on Florida State’s defense versus Florida State’s ability to throw the ball against Alabama’s defense. Whichever team is more successful in their own task will win the game. Florida State returns quarterback Deondre Francois, who is due for a breakout year after impressing in his freshman campaign. Alabama also returns their quarterback, sophomore Jalen Hurts, who should be more familiar with the offense this year. Watch for Florida State to come out with an aggressive passing attack on Alabama’s defense early on in the game.
Prediction: The game stays tight throughout, with neither team gaining more than a 7 point advantage. Late in the game, Deondre Francois shows that he is a star in the making and wins the game for the Seminoles against a vaunted Alabama defense.
- Florida State 24 – Alabama 23
What are your predictions for the biggest non-Michigan games of the opening week? Let us know in the comment section below!
Photo Credit: ESPN.com
- Four Things to Watch: Michigan vs. Michigan State Game Preview - Oct 5, 2017
- Four Things to Watch: Michigan vs. Cincinnati Game Preview - Sep 9, 2017
- Four Things to Watch: Michigan vs. Florida Game Preview - Sep 2, 2017