Saturday, it is finally here.
No, I am not talking about the ‘Super Fight’ between boxing great Floyd Mayweather and UFC Champion Connor McGregor, but about college football, as the season kicks off this weekend.
While the nation waits for the main course next weekend with #1 Alabama and #3 Florida State meeting in the biggest opening week game in collegiate football history, this Saturday serves as a tasty little appetizer to wet your pallet for what will be another exciting season in the NCAA.
#19 USF vs. San Jose State
In the early game of the big Saturday double-header, one of the country’s most exciting players takes center stage when University of South Florida’s Quinten Flowers lead’s his Bulls across the country to take on San Jose State.
While Flowers is not a household name in America, even though he should be, he is reason alone to watch this game. He is coming off a season in which he scored 43 times and was top ten in the country in total offense, racking up over 330 yards per game. He notched over 2,500 yards passing and just shy of 1,500 on the ground. Every snap where the Bulls are on offense, Flowers has the ball in his hands and with 4.4 speed on the ground, and a 63% completion rate, you can expect something spectacular on any play.
Flowers did lose his star running back Marlon Mack to graduation in the spring, but he also gained a new head coach in Charlie Strong. Yes, that Charlie Strong, the man who although touted as a defensive guru, led the Texas Longhorns into irrelevant football, but does brings with him his offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert and his pass-happy playbook.
The Bulls in my opinion are the favorite to win the American Athletic Conference, even with a sub-par defense that gave up over 480 yards per game last season, but with 16 starters returning, I expect the new coach to light it up in South Florida and it would not surprise me to see them in one of the bigger bowls at the end of the year. Keep your eyes on USF, if not for anything other than they are probably going to be glued to the television once you get your first sight of Quinten Flowers.
I don’t have a Heisman vote, but if I did, he would be getting serious attention.
Across the field, San Jose State brings in a new coordinator on both sides of the ball, and still have a quarterback race to see whether Josh Love or Montel Aaron will be the starter. The good news for one of them is that come Saturday night they will be the big man on campus as the lead signal-caller, the bad news, is that position comes with a role that was sacked a nation-worst 50 times last season. Good luck to whichever guy wins the battle, your reward is a helmet full of grass and bear hugs from 300-lb defensive linemen.
#14 Stanford vs Rice
Live from Sydney Australia!
Yes, live from Sydney Australia, the Stanford Cardinals and the Rice Owls head way out East to kick off their 2017 season across the globe. Last year, Cal and Hawaii met in this same Olympic Stadium to begin their seasons, and attracted over 61,000 to the game. There were so many people attending, that the venue ran out of beer. For Australians that were used to low scoring soccer games, Cal and Hawaii treated them to 82 total points on the scoreboard.
Now the Cardinals and Owls are set for the encore. Can they live up the high-paced, shoot-out style of football as their predecessors?
Well, poor Rice got their butts kicked 41-17 in their season finale last year to Stanford, in a game where the Cardinals racked up over 500 yards of total offense. Their defense is full of veterans, but if you can’t pressure the quarterback, it doesn’t matter if you return a full roster of starters if they can’t get it done. The secondary is the best part of this unit, so their best chance is to force third-and-longs and hope that Cardinals’ quarterback Keller Chryst still has some rust to shake following knee surgery this off-season.
Hey, Christian McCaffrey isn’t walking through that door, and that alone is reason enough for the Owls to have hope. The now Carolina Panther torched them last season for 271 all-purpose yards and a pair of touchdowns. The Cardinals do not have a playmaker to step into his role, so the game plan will be different for both sides.
So, it should be a blow out in favor of the Cardinals, right? Las Vegas is giving the Owls a 30-point head start, so why stay up late and watch some West Coast football, happening in the far East?
Well, chances are you will get a look at a player for Stanford that will turn out to be a future NFL star. While that name doesn’t stand out on their roster as of Week 1, the tradition and history of the past decade tells us that McCaffrey, Andrew Luck, Richard Sherman, Doug Baldwin, Zach Ertz, Coby Fleener and Ty Montgomery were no fluke. This system is set up for a NFL style, and those who rise above the pack of Cardinals is a player worth tuning in to see.
Also, it’s college football and anything can happen.
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