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Fearless Rick's 2011-12 College Football Week 1 - Early Games

Rick Gagliano | September 1-5, 2011

All times Eastern - Click here for late games.

Thursday, September 1

8:00 pm UNLV at Wisconsin (-35, 56) - Opening weeks of college football are exciting and fun, but usually filled with a lot of blowout games by big conference teams against cream puff opposition. This looks like one of those games, considering that the Badgers were 11-2 last season, are 9-1 in September recently and are 10-0 on turf. The Rebels, 2-11 last season, are just 4-6 in September, 2-8 on turf and 2-6 ATS in their last 8 games.

Wisconsin is 6-1 in head-to-head matchups with UNLV, beating them in last season's opener, 41-21.

Wisconsin averaged 43.3 ppg in 2010 against a team that ranked at or near the bottom of the NCAA field in rushing defense. The Badgers may run the ball 50 times or more and win this one going away.

Prediction: Badgers 49 Rebels 10

8:00 pm Mississippi State (-29, 50) at Memphis - These two have met nine times since 1996, with the Bulldogs winning every game. Last year's season opener resulted in a 49-7 romp by Mississippi St. on their way to a 9-4 season and this one looks to be more of the same.

Memphis won just one game last season, their defense allowing 39.8 points per outing. While the Bulldogs weren't exactly efficient on offense last year, scoring 27 ppg, they did much of that against tough SEC defenses and should roll the Tigers here.

Prediction: Bulldogs 42 Memphis 6

8:00 pm Wake Forest at Syracuse (-6 1/2, 49) - Get used to seeing the Orange favored this season, as QB Ryan Nassib and tailback Antwon Bailey return to wreak havoc in the Big East and beyond. Not only is the SU offense experienced and talented, but the defense was one of the most improved in all of college football last year.

The Orange were 8-5 last season and held seven of eight opponents under 14 points in their wins.

Wake Forest struggled to a 3-9 record in 2010, losing nine straight at one point before righting themselves with a 31-13 win over Vanderbilt to end the season. One of the most porus defenses in the ACC, the Dekes will have trouble keeping up with Syracuse's grinding pro-style offense.

Prediction: Orange 31 Demon Deacons 17

Friday, September 2

7:30 pm Youngstown State at Michigan State (-34, 52) - The Spartans lost just once during the 2010 regular season before losing 49-7 to Alabama on New Year's Day and begin the new campaign against a non-bowl eligible 2010 Penguin team that went 3-8, losing their last seven straight.

Michigan State not only has home field advantage, but is aiming for a Big Ten title and a BCS bowl game.

Think that big line is too much to overcome? Youngstown State, in five road losses to ranked opponents has been outscored 190-26.

Prediction: Spartans 49 Penguins 6

8:00 pm TCU (-6, 56) at Baylor - One of the more intriguing games of the weekend comes from the heat of Texas, where temperatures are expected to be in the high 80s or 90s by the time this one kicks off. Both teams are used to the extreme heat, but Baylor was one of the bright spots in the Big 12, though the Bears were just 1-4 ATS in their last five home games, even though they won three of them. The two losses were the final two games of the 2010 regular season, losing 42-30 to Texas A&M and 53-24 to Oklahoma.

The Horned Frogs will be without QB Andy Dalton, who rewrote the record book before graduating. Sophomore Casey Pachall will direct the offense, which features junior RB Ed Wesley and senior wideout Antoine Hicks. As usual, the defense is stacked.

Naturally, TCU will be looking to go undefeated in hopes of making another BCS bowl appearance, so a loss here would be a monumental upset.

Baylor made some strides in 2010, and will probably be better in 2011, but they're still a bit short of competing with one of the best in the country.

Prediction: Horned Frogs 31 Bears 14

Saturday, September 3

12:00 pm Utah State at Auburn (-21 1/2, 57) - The reigning national champs return to the field at home with a pretty good football team facing them in their season opener. The Aggies were just 4-7 in 2010, but did upset Brigham Young, 31-16 and almost won their season opener at Oklahoma, losing by a 31-24 score.

Utah State features a potent offense, which is nothing new for the Tigers to face, but they go to the post without QB Cam Newton, who was largely responsible for their breakout season. Auburn will go with junior Barrett Trotter at QB, who will try to replicate Newton's success with an offense that returns many veterans, including RB Onterio McCalebb and wideouts Emory Blake and Quindarius Carr.

Auburn was suspect on defense last season and will be again this year. Look for plenty of scoring and a game much closer than the line indicates.

Prediction: Tigers 42 Aggies 31

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12:00 pm Akron at Ohio State (-34, 47 1/2) - With all the turmoil at Ohio State from the player scandals to the ouster of head coach Jim Tressel, the Buckeye faithful must be salivating for this season opener against an Akron team that lost their first 11 games in 2010, finally breaking through with a 22-14 win over Buffalo to end their season.

Akron had notable blowout losses to Syracuse (29-3), Kentucky (47-10), Northern Illinois (50-14) and Western Michigan (56-10), so it's difficult to see how the Zips can possibly keep this game close, though the record shows that they have lost twice to Ohio State, 20-2 and 28-14, though those games were back in 2007 and 2001, respectively.

The Buckeyes went 12-1 last season, return a bunch on defense while losing QB Pryor and a host of other offensive players. Still, they won three of their first four games last year by scores of 45-7, 43-7 and 73-20, so, even not at their best, Ohio State should dominate.

Prediction: Buckeyes 45 Zips 0 (as in Zip)

3:30 pm UCLA at Houston (-3, 61 1/2) - One of the better games on the schedule this week matches the high-energy offense of Case Keenum against the aggressive defense of the Bruins. These two met early last season, with the Bruins coming away with a 31-13 decision and putting Keenum out for the year.

Before he was knocked out, Keenum was 10-18 for 83 yards, but threw two picks, so the senior QB will be looking to make amends. Additionally, the game was at UCLA, whereas this years contest will be down in the heat of Houston.

UCLA is 3-0 against the Cougars, but Houston's overall team speed and special teams players Patrick Edwards and Tyron Carter, returning punts and kickoffs, should carry the day.

Prediction: Cougars 38 Bruins 27

3:30 pm Minnesota at USC (-21, 51 1/2) - Matt Barkley returns for his third year as the Trojan QB, and that spells trouble for the Golden Gopher defense, which allowed 33 points per game in 2010. Minnesota also struggled offensively, going 3-9 and scoring just 23.2 ppg,

While the Gopher program may be on the upswing and USC is ineligible for bowl games, the Trojans will be looking to make a statement in their season opener and against a team like Minnesota, it could be a loud one.

Prediction: Trojans 45 Golden Gophers 14

3:30 pm South Florida at Notre Dame (-10 , 47) - Coming off three straight 8-5 seasons, the South Florida squad is looking to get off to a fast start against one of the potential top 10 teams in the nation. Led by versatile B.J. Daniels, the Bulls are a young squad with not much experience, returning only four offensive and six defensive starters.

Notre Dame is seeking a return to their glory days under head coach Brian Kelly, now in his second season with the Irish. QB Dayne Crist (and possibly Tommy Rees) have a wealth of receivers in Michael Floyd, TJ Jones and Theo Riddick, but the Irish defense is the strength of this squad.

The Irish have too much firepower and too good a defense to be challenged here.

Prediction: Fighting Irish 31 Bulls 13

All times Eastern - Click here for late games

Copyright 2011, 2012, Rick Gagliano, Downtown Magazine. All rights reserved. Downtown Magazine is located in the Uinted States of America and is not affiliated with the National Football League or the NCAA. For more information, contact us here. Use of this site is for entertainment purposes only.


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