Boise State coach Chris Petersen has earned a reputation for salty season openers. He now wishes he could break that streak this year.
"I don't know why we keep scheduling them," Petersen joked this week. "It just kind of keeps happening. My preference this year wouldn't be to open with a team like Michigan State. But we got what we got. All this scheduling is done so far in advance. ... We've got them, and we're ready to go."
After knocking off future Pac-10 champ Oregon to kick off 2009, future ACC champ Virginia Tech to kick off 2010 and future SEC East champ Georgia to kick off 2011, Boise State may finally have scheduled an opener it can't win. This isn't necessarily Petersen's fault. Quarterback Kellen Moore and a nucleus of players who went 50-3 over four seasons had to graduate sometime. Eventually, every program must reload. What's interesting about Boise State's trip to East Lansing is that this Michigan State team would have provided a tough test for the Broncos when they had Moore, tailback Doug Martin and five defensive linemen who moved on to the NFL. "One of the best teams I've seen in a while," Petersen said. "I think their defense is as good as anybody this year."
Indeed, Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi returns eight starters, including freak defensive end Will Gholston, playmaking linebacker Denicos Allen and standout corners Johnny Adams and Darqueze Dennard. "Look at the bright side," Michigan State quarterback Andrew Maxwell said at Big Ten media days. "I don't know if we're going to face another corner duo that's as good as they are." Meanwhile, Boise State defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski will break in nine new starters against an offense that returns four starting linemen and features a tailback in Le'Veon Bell who showed so much potential in 2011 that he essentially chased last year's starter, Edwin Baker, to the NFL a year early.
The teams face similar situations at quarterback. For each, an older first-time starter will take over for a program icon. Maxwell is a fourth-year junior who served as Kirk Cousins' understudy the past two seasons. Spartans coach Mark Dantonio loves Maxwell, and Maxwell certainly seems poised to fill Cousins' shoes on the all-interview team. But until Maxwell takes the field, we won't know if he can lead the Spartans as well as Cousins did. For the Broncos, fourth-year junior Joe Southwick has even bigger cleats to fill. Moore won 50 games as a starter, and he always seemed to know what to do. "Mentally, we can do as much with Joe as anybody that we've had at this point," Petersen said. "It's just a matter of him going out and getting up to game speed and going through those things that all starting quarterbacks have to go through."
Fortunately for Southwick and the rest of Boise State's new starters, Moore and company engineered so many blowouts that most of them have gotten plenty of playing time the past few seasons. Unfortunately for Southwick and the rest of Boise State's new starters, Moore and company engineered so many blowouts that most of their tendencies are readily available on tape. The element of surprise is gone. "When you look deep into their film, those guys that are now starting, you see them playing," Dantonio said. "So we've got film on them."
Despite the relative inexperience of Boise State's offensive starters, Dantonio believes his defense will have to play a near-perfect mental game despite its obvious physical superiority. "It's not just all the gadgetry or the formations," Dantonio said. "It's how they do their jobs. They play extremely hard, and they play with a lot of aggression. I can appreciate that, because I hope that's how we play as well."
• NC State vs. Tennessee in Atlanta: NC State was one of the hottest teams in the nation at the end of last season, so it shouldn't be shocking if the Wolfpack beat the improving Volunteers. That doesn't mean a Vols loss won't raise the threat level in Knoxville to Dooley-con 1.
• San Jose State at Stanford: Don't write off the Cardinal just because Andrew Luck moved on to the NFL. They're going to run for a bunch of yards, and their defense should be better than last year's.
• Notre Dame vs. Navy in Dublin: Yes, what Allen Pinkett said was stupid. The responses by our own Michael Rosenberg and Yahoo's Pat Forde are entirely correct. But consider this question: If this season doesn't go Notre Dame's way, will Notre Dame fans remember all of that stuff and accept that the Fighting Irish are trying to do the virtuous thing in a less-than-virtuous age, or will they call for the firing of yet another coach?
• Miami (Ohio) at Ohio State: Urban Meyer's honeymoon in Columbus will reach pure bliss status as the Buckeyes shell an inferior opponent.
• Ohio at Penn State: After getting hit with some of the worst sanctions in NCAA history while attempting to bring Penn State's program into the current century, Nittany Lions coach Bill O'Brien gets to make his head-coaching debut against a MAC program. Unfortunately, it's a MAC program that went 10-4 last year and could be even better this season. Should Frank Solich's Bobcats beat Penn State, put them on non-AQ undefeated watch for the remainder of the season.
• Iowa vs. Northern Illinois in Chicago: I wrote this in my Big Ten preview, but it bears repeating: Now that South Carolina has survived a season-opener at Vanderbilt, this game becomes this week's Admiral Ackbar Special.
• Jacksonville State at Arkansas: Twenty years ago, Jacksonville State's Jack Crowe coached at Arkansas. In the 1992 season opener, Crowe's Razorbacks lost to The Citadel. We'll let Crowe explain what happened after a meeting with Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles the following day. "It ended with me saying, 'Frank, I'm going home to have lunch. If you want me to be your football coach, call me,'" Crowe told The Associated Press. "And he didn't call me." While Crowe has plenty of motivation to ruin John L. Smith's debut as the Razorbacks' coach, he doesn't have the defense to pull off the upset.
• Wyoming at Texas: Make your own Longhorn Network/cable company carriage joke. I'm fresh out.
• Hawaii at USC: Hawaii coach Norm Chow is out of the Pac-12 after three seasons with UCLA and one with Utah, but he'll get drubbed by his former employer one more time.
• Clemson vs. Auburn in Atlanta: On the surface, Clemson wins -- or loses, depending on your point of view -- the suspension competition between these two teams. Receiver Sammy Watkins was the ACC's best offensive player as a freshman, and his suspension for an arrest on marijuana possession charges should hurt the Tigers' offense. But Clemson coaches have known for a long time that Watkins would be suspended and have adjusted accordingly. Plus, Watkins' absence means more touches for speedster DeAndre "Nuke" Hopkins, who caught 72 passes for 978 yards in 2011. Auburn's suspension of center Reese Dismukes following his arrest last weekend on public intoxication charges could prove more problematic. Auburn coaches went through all of camp assuming Dismukes would be ready to play. Instead, they'll be starting sophomore Tunde Fariyike. Neither of Auburn's starting tackles has played in a college game, so the line was already green. Prior to last weekend, Auburn could at least take some solace in the fact that the guy responsible for getting the new starting quarterback the ball played quite well as a freshman starter last season. Now, the offense has yet another question mark.
• Alabama vs. Michigan in Arlington, Texas: As I'm typing this, I'm sitting in a Qdoba in Nashville following the South Carolina-Vanderbilt game. Mike Martin, who plays defensive tackle for the Tennessee Titans, just walked past me. Mike Martin doesn't play for Michigan anymore. That's going to be a problem against Alabama's offensive line.
"They don't have any slow dudes like they used to."
-- South Carolina's Steve Spurrier, capping a 17-13 win at Vandy by summing up James Franklin's recruiting more succinctly than anyone has before.
Receiver Da'Rick Rogers landed at Tennessee Tech after his dismissal from Tennessee. For those keeping score, the SEC's leading returning receiver (Rogers), leading returning rusher (Michael Dyer) and returning Heisman finalist (Tyrann Mathieu) will not be playing in the SEC this year. Rogers, who caught three passes for 75 yards and one touchdown Thursday in the Golden Eagles' season opener against Hampton, is the only one of the three who will play football this season.
Bruins stun OregonFancy uniforms can't beatAP dummy text
The top five stadium entrances in college football:
5. Leaping to touch the M Club banner at Michigan.
4. Running with Ralphie at Colorado, because a live buffalo on a football field is never not fun.
3. Dotting the i at Ohio State.
2. The flight of the War Eagle at Auburn. See Colorado above, and replace "live buffalo" with "live bird of prey."
1. Exit light. Enter Hokies. Virginia Tech takes the field at Lane Stadium to the strains of early-'90s pop-metal.*
*Even better on a weeknight. Fortunately for us, Virginia Tech opens its season at home against Georgia Tech on Monday.
Friday and Saturday will feature ACC-SEC clashes at the Georgia Dome. Those headed to the games should stop just inside Atlanta's perimeter, hunt for a parking spot outside a former liquor store and bask in the glory of the Korean pulled pork sandwich at Heirloom Market BBQ.