FootballScoop ranks the top 10 opening weekend games
The 2015 FBS schedule became officially official on Monday, and this Thursday marks exactly 26 weeks until the season begins. With that in mind, it’s time to look (far, far) ahead and apprise you of the top 10 games of opening weekend.
1. Arizona State vs. Texas A&M (Reliant Stadium, Houston): As far as programs that have zero previous meetings go, there’s plenty of familiarity here. Arizona State offered Kevin Sumlin its head job before the then-Houston coach chose Texas A&M. The coach Arizona State did hire, Todd Graham, is a former Texas high school coach that would love to score a victory over a major program from its home state. The Aggies have turned Scottsdale into a key recruiting territory, snagging starting quarterback Kyle Allen and five-star wide receiver Christian Kirk. For a pair of teams among the horde looking to make the jump from good to great, a victory over the other would be a nice launching pad.
2. Alabama vs. Wisconsin (AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas): Alabama owns the opening weekend kickoff game like no other program in college football. The Tide are 5-0 in Atlanta and Dallas since 2008, beating Clemson, Virginia Tech (twice), Michigan and West Virginia by an average of 19 points. Wisconsin has its own history in kickoff games, turning a 24-7 statement into a 28-24 stunner against LSU in Houston to open last season. With Melvin Gordon gone and a new coaching staff in at Wisconsin, the Tide should be heavy favorites here.
3. Washington at Boise State: Chris Petersen was 3-0 at home against Pac-12 opponents as Boise State’s head coach. Now he brings one to the blue turf. “It’s always hard when you’re playing your friends,” Petersen said last week. “We’ve done that over the years where you play some guys you’re very close to, and then certainly some of those kids we recruited over there. You don’t like to do that. But then when the game happens, the game happens.”
4. Louisville vs. Auburn (Georgia Dome, Atlanta): While we’re on the subject of awkward reunions, anyone up for Bobby Petrino and meeting up with Auburn in the Georgia Dome? With new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp and the talented Jeremy Johnson under center, Auburn has been bestowed as the people’s SEC favorite.
5. Michigan at Utah: Let’s see. Utah made changes at both coordinator spots, looking to build on last season’s 9-4 finish and keep pace with the perpetually brutal Pac-12 South. Michigan will debut a new starting quarterback. The Wolverines will look for their first road win over a Power Five program since 2010 and snap a two-game losing streak to Utah. Oh, and it’s Jim Harbaugh’s first game as Michigan’s head coach. Can’t decide which is the most intriguing story line.
6. Texas at Notre Dame: The Irish are expected to compete for a New Year’s Day bowl, the Longhorns are still a major work in progress. But any time the second and third-winningest programs in college football meet – for just the third time since 1978 – it’s appointment viewing.
7. Ohio State at Virginia Tech: Ohio State opens its season with a shot at avenging its only loss of the 2014 season in a prime-time, exclusive Labor Day broadcast. Over/under number of Buckeyes throwing a touchdown pass is set at 2.5.
8. South Carolina vs. North Carolina (Bank of America, Charlotte): South Carolina’s disappointing season began with a stink bomb of a 52-28 opening night loss to Texas A&M, the Gamecocks’ only kickoff Thursday loss since the tradition began a decade ago. For its part, North Carolina was equally disappointing in 2014, turning a preseason top 25 ranking into a 6-7 finish. Each team made changes at the defensive coordinator spot (UNC hired Gene Chizik; South Carolina brought in Jon Hoke), which means each head coach will hold his breath that his unit can hold the other guy under 30.
9. Eastern Washington at Oregon: Wrapping up our theme of awkward reunions, how about former Eastern Washington quarterback possibly starting his first game as Oregon’s new quarterback against Eastern Washington. At least the two sides parted ways on good terms.
10. Youngstown State at Pittsburgh: Two programs debuting new head coaches – one coaches his first game as a head man, the other brings in a 67-27 career record at a Power Five program. Make sure you watch this game with your Twitter feed open.
Also receiving votes: BYU at Nebraska, SMU at Baylor, Michigan State at Western Michigan, Stanford at Northwestern, TCU at Minnesota,
Video: Two Temple assistants enter the ring, only one leaves victorious
To determine the Team Olympic Champions, Temple sent two assistant coaches (receivers coach Frisman Jackson and corners coach Francis Brown) into the ring.
Only one team (and coach) could come out victorious.
This one went all three rounds before being decided. Place your bets and then press play.
Gotta love the energy the players bring to this one. Pitting two coaches against each other in the ring with the stakes high has a tendency to do that.
Inside Scoop: First time head coach Mitch Stewart shares it all
New Murray State head coach Mitch Stewart joins Scott today on the Inside Scoop…and the result is “must watch” TV.
In the first few minutes Stewart explains how he found out Chris Hatcher was leaving for Samford, and how he was offered the head coaching position at Murray within hours. Quite a story and something we can all learn from.
Stewart talks about how he built his staff, the role family plays in his life and his role as a coach, and how he uses social media.
Towards the end Stewart weighs in on Steve Spurrier joining twitter (!!!) and gives a great impersonation of Hatch.
The entire interview is loaded with great information for coaches nationwide to learn from.
Video: Northwestern chronicles spring ball with “The Foundation”
Quarterback derbys at the most intriguing subplot to any football team’s pre-season preparations. It’s a game within a game, a decision that shapes a team and the players involved jockeying to lead that team.
This spring, Zack Oliver, Matt Alviti and Clayton Thorson will vie this off-season to replace Trevor Siemian and, as part of its new series “The Foundation”, Northwestern will chronicle that battle. This week’s episode focuses on offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Mick McCall and his philosophy toward handling the three-man race, which he says is the first he’s had in now eight seasons in Evanston. “They all believe that they’re the guy, which is great,” McCall says, “because if they don’t they’re not even in the competition. They’re not even in the conversation.”
“The Foundation” will run throughout the spring, centering on McCall and defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz.
Defensive coordinators “have to find a way to survive” in football today
If you had to guess which defensive coordinator led a unit to a top ten ranking in turnovers the past two consecutive seasons, names like Pat Narduzzi or Jeremy Pruitt would likely come to mind.
You’d be wrong.
While leading the defense at Houston, David Gibbs is the only coach who can say his units ranked in the top ten in turnovers in both 2013 (when they led the country with 43) and 2014 (30 total turnovers). His coaching journey has afforded him the opportunity to learn under some quality head coaches, from Herm Edwards to Mike Shanahan and Gary Kubiak, and Gibbs took something from each of them.
Now in charge of the defense at Texas Tech, Gibbs sat down with Lubbock Online to talk about his defensive system and coaching philosophy.
“I have a system. We have a system in place. We have a scheme and I’m a big believer in, if you just coach your kids to do what they’re supposed to do, that seven out of 10 times they’re going to be fine. No matter how good the other team is, you’re going to be OK.” Gibbs explained.
“The problem is, you try to force things … You cannot dictate, in my mind, on defense anymore, unless you’re better than the offense.”
That’s a big part of why Gibbs has decided to put so much emphasis on turnovers.
“Therefore you better learn how to survive and you better learn how to take the ball away. The old bend-but-don’t-break philosophy, it’s more alive now in college football than ever, but when I watch defensive schemes, I don’t see that mindset. I see them being aggressive and I see them playing bump man all the time even though there’s no way in the world in college football now the corners are as good as the wide receivers.”
He also provides some advice for defensive coaches in today’s landscape of explosive offenses by saying simply, “you better find a way to survive” regardless of how your football IQ stacks up, or the talent you have on the field.
“Whether or not you’ve got good enough players, whether or not you’re as smart a defensive guy as they are an offensive guy, you better find a way to survive.”
“You’ve got to change up your looks. You’ve got to change up your fronts. And it’s easy to say, but when you talk about doing it, going from a 3-4 to a 4-3, that all sounds good sitting in here, but you’ve got to teach these 18-year-olds to understand it and to do it.”