By Aaron Hyden
PSDC College Football Contributor
With the 2015 college football season already underway, and the first Saturday slate of games kicking off, it’s time to preview the big games from Week 1. Teams from all over the country are beginning their journeys towards a possible National Championship, but it all begins with the season’s first game. I’ll be back when the week is over to review the goings-on and see how close my predictions were. Let’s not waste any more time, though.
No. 15 Arizona State vs Texas A&M: Arizona State is quickly becoming a chic selection as a National Championship dark horse contender, and that discussion starts because of their offense. QB Mike Bercovici stepped in for injured starter Taylor Kelly last season, throwing for 1,445 yards and 14 touchdowns in what was essentially three-and-a-half games. Last season’s leading rusher, DJ Foster, has been switched to WR to replace Jaelen Strong, while Demario Richard takes Foster’s place at RB.
A&M needs to improve on a defense that ranked 103rd in the nation, out of 128 teams, last season, including being No. 114 in rushing yards allowed per game. Former LSU Defensive Coordinator John Chavis joins the team in that same role this season, and that gives Aggies fans lots of hope, as Chavis led one of the country’s top defensive units every season in Baton Rouge.
This game is being held at a “neutral” site in Houston, but with the city less than 100 miles from A&M’s campus, expect it to be a seriously pro-Aggies crowd. That should allow A&M to play up, but in the end, I think Arizona State’s tempo and skill players will eventually wear the Aggie defense down and out. Prediction: Arizona State, 48-31
No. 20 Wisconsin vs No. 3 Alabama: You might as well call this the Question Mark Game. Who will start at QB for Alabama? Will Derrick Henry and Corey Clement be able to handle being “the man” at RB for the first time for Alabama and Wisconsin, respectively? Will the three new starters on the offensive line be able to gel quickly for the Crimson Tide? Will Wisconsin QB Joel Stave be able to take advantage of an inexperienced Alabama secondary? Will Stave even get the chance to deal with Alabama’s secondary after having to deal with Bama’s defensive front seven, which is one of the best in the country? The questions go on and on.
It’s another neutral site game in Texas, this one being in Arlington at “Jerry World,” but Alabama is closer, so you have to assume they’ll have the slight edge in fan support. With so many questions surrounding just about every aspect of the game, it’s difficult to make a bunch of predictions. However, Alabama remains confident and extremely talented, albeit maybe not to the level of some of their recent squads. With more explosive players on both sides of the ball, the edge is to the Crimson Tide, but the game will probably be closer than many think. Prediction: Alabama, 24-20
No. 1 Ohio State at Virginia Tech: There is no more talented roster in the country than what the Buckeyes have. That isn’t even up for debate, really. They’ll need that roster depth more than ever here, with four players not suiting up, including DE Joey Bosa, who many feel is the best player in all of college football.
Tech pulled the upset last season, handing the Buckeyes their only loss and nearly ending their title hopes right out of the gate. The Hokies sacked JT Barrett seven times, as well as picking him off three times, forcing him into a miserable 9-29 day. They’ll need a similar performance this year to stick around, as the OSU line has improved greatly since that game. They have playmakers to make it happen, but it’s a tough task to ask them to repeat their success against such a loaded squad.
We could see both Barrett and Cardale Jones at QB for Ohio State, which keeps things interesting. RB Ezekiel Elliott is also a much different player than the one who carried the ball eight times against Tech last season. Their weapons are scary, and this isn’t even counting Braxton Miller at WR, even though he might be the team’s best athlete, with some saying he’s still their best QB.
I think Tech’s defense will keep them around for a bit, but I just don’t see QB Michael Brewer being able to keep the team’s offense going long enough to get another win. Last year’s win was in Columbus, while this year’s game will be in Blacksburg, which should help Brewer, who often has lapses in concentration and decision-making. It’s just asking for too much out of them to do it again, especially to a Buckeye squad that will be angry and looking for revenge. Prediction: Ohio State, 48-20
I’ll see all of you again mid-week for a look back at these three games and the rest of the major happenings from college football’s first week. Enjoy the games!