Things actually get started tonight with a handful of games. The most interesting game on today's schedule is
- Oregon at Boise State.
You can watch this game on ESPN starting at 9:15 p.m. (Central). Oregon finished 10–3 last year, ranked in the top 10. The Ducks won the Holiday Bowl over Oklahoma State, 42–31. But one of the Ducks' losses was to Boise State, in the fourth game of the season.
That was the closest that Boise State came to losing all season — until the Broncos lost the Poinsettia Bowl to TCU, 17–16. Because of that one–point defeat, Boise State finished the season ranked 11th in the Associated Press poll, 13th in the coaches' poll.
I'm going to pick the Broncos to win, 24–23, simply because they're playing at home — and also because Oregon has a new coach. He may turn out to be the best coach Oregon has ever had, but I think the team will need a little time to adjust to his style.
There are a few noteworthy games on Saturday:
- Georgia at Oklahoma State, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ABC.
Georgia went 10–3 last season. The Bulldogs finished 13th in the AP poll, 10th in the coaches' poll after beating Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl.
OSU was 9–4 last year. The Cowboys lost their last two games — their regular–season finale to in–state rival Oklahoma and a Holiday Bowl date with Oregon — but they did have their moments during the regular season. They beat second–ranked and previously unbeaten Missouri and they narrowly lost on the road to top–ranked Texas.
Georgia and Oklahoma State did not play each other last year, but I'm going to pick Georgia by a score of 31–20. The Bulldogs are more accustomed to the spotlight than the Cowboys are.
- Brigham Young vs. Oklahoma at Dallas, 6 p.m. (Central) on ESPN.
Oklahoma finished fifth in the nation last season after losing the national championship game to Florida. The Sooners were 12–2.
BYU was 10–3 overall last year, finishing 25th in AP and 21st in the coaches' poll. The Cougars lost the Las Vegas Bowl to Arizona.
Most people expect the Sooners to contend for the Big 12 title again. Their opener will be played at a "neutral" site — the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. But that is considerably closer to the OU campus than to the BYU campus. I expect far more Sooner fans to be on hand than Cougar fans, and the Sooner football program is stronger, anyway. So I will pick Oklahoma to win, 35–17.
- Alabama vs. Virginia Tech, 7 p.m. (Central) on ABC.
Alabama is ranked fifth in ESPN's preseason power rankings, Virginia Tech is ranked seventh. Clearly, great things are expected from both teams. The Crimson Tide finished sixth in the nation with a 12–2 record last year, but both losses came in the postseason — in the SEC championship game to Florida and in the Sugar Bowl to Utah. The Hokies went 10–4 and beat Cincinnati in the Orange Bowl. They were ranked 15th in the AP poll, 14th in the coaches' poll.
Alabama has some holes to fill, but, being Alabama, my guess is that the Crimson Tide will find a way. And I predict they will find a way to win their primetime showdown with Virginia Tech, too. I predict Alabama 20, Virginia Tech 14.