Looking back to last weekend, we saw a glimpse as to what will turn out to be a great year. The most anticipated game was Florida State vs. Texas A&M. Florida State won 23-14, but the Aggie defense contained the high-powered offense of FSU and gave them a scare late in the game. However, the lack of playmakers in the A&M offense was the difference in the outcome.
USC showcased its future with the right arm of Carson Palmer. Palmer, a true freshman, came in the second half and led the Trojans to its first victory of the year. Watch this guy for the next four years, he is something special.
The WAC also got some respect with Colorado State's convincing victory over Michigan State. Down 16 points, the Rams came back and scored 26 unanswered points and showed that they will be a threat for an Alliance Bowl bid.
With all of that excitement, the biggest story of the weekend was Louisiana Tech vs. Nebraska. The Cornhuskers beat the Bulldogs 56-27 and dominated every aspect of the game, save one. That one was the greatest performance by one receiver ever.
Troy Edwards caught 22 passes for a record 405 yards. The word Heisman is now being whispered in Ruston, even though we are only through four games of the young season.
Louisiana Tech will play a big-time game again this week as it faces Dante Culpepper and Central Florida. This will be the quarterback matchup of the year, at least those that no one has ever heard of.
Central Florida's Culpepper vs. Lousiana Tech's Tim Ratty will be an awesome game. Pass-happy offense vs. pass-happy offense. High powered offense vs. high-powered offense. If you enjoy slow, run-filled, low-scoring games, stay well away from north Louisiana this week.
The Key Games this Week
There are some really good matchups Sept. 5. The Notre Dame-Michigan is a classic. If the Irish are back, this is how they will prove it. Michigan will have a new backfield with Tom Brady as the starting quarterback, but prep star Drew Henson will be waiting to get in some action.
The Big Ten is involved in another key game this week. Ohio State will face West Virginia, and the Mountaineers will be a solid test to see just how good Ohio State can be this year. This game will also showcase two of the nation's best players in Andy Katenzmoyer and Amos Zereoue.
Tennessee and Syracuse will battle it out in upstate New York as Tee Martin takes over after the Peyton Manning era ended last year in Miami. Look for Jamal Lewis to have a breakout game against the Orangemen.
'The Potential Upset Games'
Even though we have great games like Michigan-Notre Dame, we also have the pleasure of watching games where the spread could be easily confused with Houston's heat index.
Nebraska will face off with perennial powerhouse UAB in Lincoln. Man oh man, did Nebraska pick the wrong team to open with. Even though the Huskers are favored by 45, never count out the boys from Birmingham. They have Nebraska right where they want it. UN's quarterback was injured last week and won't play Saturday. The Cornhusker secondary gave up 595 yards in the air to Louisiana Tech, and could do the same to ... to ... Lee Jolly. With a little confidence and God replacing Jolly at quarterback, UAB maybe, just maybe, could cover the spread.
Texas also plays a tough first opponent in '98, just like last year when Texas pulled off a squeaker in Austin to beat Rutgers 48-14. This year UT plays New Mexico State and is favored to win by 37. But don't fear tea sips, because UCLA is just around the corner.
Another super matchup involves nationally ranked Georgia vs. Kent, a team from the MAC. Oh yeah, Kent - man, what can I say? Actually, I really can't say anything about Kent because until now, I never knew that Kent had football. It turns out it won three games last year. Wow. Georgia is favored by 34 points.
The must-see game is clearly Florida vs. The Citadel. This is definitely a contrast in styles. Florida generally looks for speed, strength and talent in recruiting. The Citadel, meanwhile, looks only to pick up a paycheck for its conjugal visit to the Swamp. This one is going be ugly, and Florida could be scoring into the middle of next week.
Oh yeah, props to LSU. It starts its season next week with a big out-of-conference schedule. The season begins with Arkansas State, and two weeks later, LSU plays Idaho. LSU has really outdone itself this year. The Sporting News has the Tigers ranked 111th and 112th best team in Division I. This just in: There are only 112 teams in Division I.
I know our sports editor, an ex-Tiger, will be sweating over those two games. Rumors say the Bad News Bears are visiting Tiger Stadium next season.
ESPN Game of the Week:
Virginia at Auburn: This is good game to kick off the regular season. Virginia, who went 7-4 last year, brings back most of its starters, most notably QB Aaron Brooks and DB Anthony Pointdexter. This is a talented team with no severe weakness and also with good depth. It should be a stronger team this year than last year.
Auburn, who went 9-3 last year, lost QB Dameyune Craig, who generated 80 percent of the offensive production last year, and RB Fred Beasley to graduation. Also, All-American LB Takeo Spikes left early for the NFL.
Auburn QB Ben Leard will be starting, but don't expect him to be a performer like Craig was last year.
Auburn doesn't have much going for itself, but the Tigers still have one of the best coaches in the nation in Terry Bowden. In his first year as AU's coach, he led the Tigers to an undefeated season, diminished only by NCAA probation barring a bowl appearance.
They are also at home, which will be a big boost as 85,000 plus people will chant "War Eagle" all night long.
If this game were at Virginia, there would be no doubt that Virginia would be the favorite and should win. But because it's at Auburn, the spread is close to even and the Tigers will have a chance to win. The game is on ESPN today at 7 p.m.
News and Notes
ESPN has reported that Ohio State's LB Andy Katenzmoyer and G Rob Murphy will be academically eligible to play this season ... Penn State will play two quarterbacks in their season opener against Southern Miss ... Jesse Palmer will start in place of Doug Johnson in Florida's opener against The Citadel.