Counting down to kickoff
Eleven days away.
Come Thursday, Aug. 29, college football will get under way with 17 games taking place, including an early season showdown between North Carolina and South Carolina.
None of “our” teams will get underway until two days later, when, as often happens, Ohio State and West Virginia will play at the same time -noon. That’s when the Buckeyes open against Buffalo and WVU takes on William & Mary as college football celebrates its annual Don’t Be Afraid To Play Somebody opening week.
By this time, we have a pretty good idea of the talent level of the teams of local interest as well as their regular season opponents, which is about all we need to know to make a somewhat educated preseason prediction on how the 2013 season will turn out.
So, without further adieu, here we go:
WVU: I can’t remember the last time, if ever, I picked my alma mater to have a losing season. While I don’t want to see that happen, it is a distinct possibility given West Virginia’s huge graduation losses.
Plus, even with the massively talented offensive players who no longer are with the Mountaineers, WVU managed just a 7-5 regular season mark in its first year in the Big 12, then lost in the Pinstripe Bowl to Syracuse to finish a disappointing 7-6.
This year, it’s quite possible WVU’s 11-year run of bowl games will come to end.
There are just two many question marks – to quote head coach Dana Holgorsen “on all three sides of the ball” -to get wildly optimistic about this team. Plus, there’s a good possibility the opening-day starting quarterback and feature running back will be transfers. Imagine if they hadn’t taken their talents to WVU.
Obviously, the Mountaineers should pound Georgia State and win comfortably against William & Mary. The other non-conference game, against Maryland in Baltimore, is a flat-out tossup.
As far as the Big 12 is concerned, WVU consistently is listed in the bottom half of the league, with many feeling either WVU or Kansas will finish in the conference basement.
But before we get down in the dumps, remember how far off last year’s preseason expectations were. That would be a good thing to have happen again this season.
Look for the Mountaineers to go 5-7.
Ohio State: Urban Meyer’s first team in Columbus finished undefeated but due to past sins that took place before Meyer arrived, was ineligible for the postseason.
This year, the Buckeyes are bowl eligible and might well be competing in the final BCS national championship game before the new four-team playoff is implemented in 2014.
No team is more likely to run the table than OSU. A road trip to California, who gave the Buckeyes fits last year in Columbus, is the only potential non-Big 10 pitfall. The rest of the non-conference schedule is Buffalo, San Diego State and Florida A&M.
Once conference play starts on Saturday, Sept. 28 – when Wisconsin visits for a night game – OSU simply must avoid an upset. The most likely game that could cause OSU to cancel its reservations to the championship game is a trip to Michigan. Plus, by having to play a conference championship game, that’s another opportunity for an upset loss.
It’s difficult to pick any team to run the table. The Buckeyes will go 12-1.
Marshall: Herd fans are pumped. They believe this is the year Doc Holliday’s solid recruiting finally will show up in the won-loss record.
After opening at home with Miami of Ohio and Gardner-Webb, the Herd faces a pair of back-to-back road trips that will test Marshall’s mettle. After visiting Ohio University on Sept. 14, MU travels to Virginia Tech the following Saturday.
The good news once those games are over, Marshall begins play in a watered-down Conference USA, where the Herd appears to be the best team in the East Division and possibly the entire league.
Quarterback Rakeem Cato is a major talent, but he must stay healthy for Marshall to live up to the lofty expectations of its fans.
Let’s call the Herd 10-2.
Ohio University: There isn’t much not to like in Athens. Coach Frank Solich is back. Quarterback Tyler Tettleton still is under center. And running back Beau Blankenship returns for his senior year after emerging as a standout runner last season.
After never having won a bowl game in school history, Ohio has won two straight.
There’s little doubt another postseason game is in Ohio’s future.
Ohio couldn’t have picked a more rugged opener. The Cats will travel to Louisville on Sunday, Sept. 31 for a high-profile opener that will pit Tettleton against Louisville signal-caller Teddy Bridgewater, one of the top candidates for the Heisman Trophy.
The Cardinals are the overwhelming favorite to win the Big East and are talking about an undefeated season.
But Ohio shocked Penn State last year at State College in week one, so perhaps history will repeat itself.
The Cats also will have a fight on their hands when Marshall comes to Athens on Sept. 14. Last year, Ohio got out of Huntington with a 3-point win.
Once Mid-American Conference play starts, OU should be favored in every game, with its toughest contest a Nov. 19 game in Athens against Kent State.
The Cats will go 10-2.
The good news is the countdown to kickoff is almost down to a single digit number. I can’t wait for the football to go in the air. Then, we’ll have something to talk about besides preseason predictions.
Contact Dave Poe at email@example.com