Weekend Ball Preview
Anyway, this weekend offers up an interesting set of games in both college and pro ball, so I'll give my 5 games to watch in each, starting with Saturday:
5. Tulsa/Oklahoma - Normally, this wouldn't be anywhere near any top 5 list, and in fact I am pretty sure that Oklahoma will end up winning this game. However, after TCU's victory in Norman last weekend, Oklahoma is in a very desperate position; they need to prove that last week was a fluke. Anything less than a complete annihilation of Tulsa tommorow, and Oklahoma is in serious trouble heading into their conference schedule.
4. South Carolina/Georgia - this is another game where the outcome is fairly certain in advance, but will be interesting to watch, anyway. Steve Spurrier is making his grand return to the SEC, and his first assignment is to head into Athens, where his name is an anathema, with a team that will be, physically, outclassed by the Bulldogs. The Georgia boosters will be demanding that coach Richt run it up on the Ol' Ball Coach, and if Georgia does go all out, this will provide a good benchmark to see exactly how far Spurrier has to go to establish his new school among the SEC's elite.
3. Louisiana State/Arizona State - this is a big step up from the first two games listed. The Tigers come into this one with a lot on their minds, obviously. But with 20 returning starters they figure to be the team to beat in the SEC West. We'll learn a lot about them on Saturday, against a very decent Arizona State team on the road (originally, this was supposed to be played in Baton Rouge). If the Tigers dominate this game, with everything that has happened the last 10 days, they will be a favorite to play in Pasadena in January.
2. Notre Dame/Michigan - the status of this game shot through the roof when Notre Dame demolished Pittsburgh in their own building last week. Now they head to the Big House to take on #3 Michigan. With new head coach Charlie Weis and a new pro-style offense, Notre Dame can (obviously, thanks to last week) put up some points. Michigan's offense is loaded with talent, and both defenses are suspect, so this should be a shootout, which means it would be entertaining even if there were not potential National Championship implications for both teams.
1. Texas/Ohio State - Ohio State and Texas have never played. Ohio State is #5, Texas is #2. Whoever wins this game has the inside track to Pasadena. That's some pretty high stakes this early in the season...
And now for the top 5 pro games:
5. Packers/Lions - The early lead in the NFC North will be up for grabs when the Packers head to Ford Field. If Detroit is going to win the division like I predicted, they'll need to start by taking care of business at home against a divisional foe.
4. Saints/Panthers - The New Orleans Saints carry the hopes and dreams of a devestated city on their shoulders as they start their campaign off in Charlotte. Will that be a burden or a galvanizing force? I'd love to say it'll be the latter. We'll begin to find out on Sunday...
3. Jets/Chiefs - Well, well, well. For years it's been the same story in Kansas City, they can score points with anyone, but they coan't stop anyone. Well, now the defense has been revamped with several personnel acquistions. Will it be enough? And even if it is, has thier offense grown too old in the meanwhile? On the other side, the Jets expect to make the leap into the NFL's elite this season, and this is the kind of game that elite teams win. Both of these teams have something to prove.
2. Colts/Ravens - The Colts return to Baltimore. It's a prime time game. It's kickoff weekend. Think M&T might be hopping? I'd say it's a fair bet. Indy has an upgraded defense that it wants to show off and, coincidentally, Baltimore has upgraded it's offense in the offseason. But the real show will be the Ravens defense against the Colts offense. This should be a barn-burner (whatever that means...).
1. Eagles/Falcons - It's a NFC title game rematch, only at the Georgia Dome rather than the Linc. Both teams walked away from last year's postseason with a bad taste in their mouths, and each recognizes that they'll probably have to get past the other if they want to go to Super Bowl XL. Home field advantage in the playoffs could be critical, and so this is an important game in many respects.
Should be a hell of a weekend.
My projected winners: Oklahoma, Georgia, Louisiana State, Michigan, Ohio State, Detroit, New Orleans, Kansas City, Baltimore, Philadelphia.