The 2015 season is finally here with kickoff less than 72 hours away. Never too soon for me, but these 95 degree+ days in the heartland are worrisome for the players, coaches, and fans in the stands. I know I’m an old timer, but I kind of miss the 1960’s when the first game of the season was not played until the last weekend of September. For the most part, the weather had already cooled enough by then that the stress level on the players bodies was not nearly as great. Heck, the Oklahoma/Texas game was always the third game of the season. Now the season is almost half over before the Red River Rivalry is played! But even I must admit, playing a 12 game schedule presents a ton of opportunities for great non conference games early in the season, and this year is no exception.
# 2 TCU at # 48 Minnesota – Thursday night ESPN starts out with a bang as TCU travels to Minnesota in what could be a very dangerous game for the Froggies. The Golden Gophers are a solid team under Jerry Kill with back to back winning seasons, both 8-5. Minnesota took Ohio State and Wisconsin both to the wire last season and although they lost a lot of key players on offense, the defense is solid. Expectations are very high in Fort Worth. TCU starts the season with the highest AP ranking in school history, and right here at the CFRC we’ve picked the Frogs to win it all. Those kind of predictions can spell doom for a team opening on the road against another good team. This will be a great test to see just how hungry and focused this TCU team is. TCU 31 Minnesota 17.
# 47 Washington at # 11 Boise State – The Broncos shot at an undefeated season and a berth in the CFP playoff gets off to a stiff challenge as Boise State hosts Washington. This is Chris Peterson’s second season in Seattle after leaving Boise State for Washington. The first season was greeted with high expectations but only moderate success (8-6). This is a better Husky team than 2014…..but it’s a better Broncos team as well. I think Peterson’s return has been circled on the Bronco calendar for awhile now. Boise State 35 Washington 24.
# 49 Brigham Young at # 20 Nebraska – This is a very hard game to analyze. I expect both teams to be very improved, and eventually have great season’s, but only one of them can come out on top in Lincoln. Playing at home is certainly an advantage for the Huskers, but with Taysom Hill back at QB for the Cougars, this team could really make some noise. I think it’s a pure tossup, but I’ll stick with the home team by the slightest of margins. Nebraska 35 BYU 34.
# 32 Texas at # 17 Notre Dame – If the Longhorns were not struggling this game would be getting National Top Billing….but Texas has fallen on hard times. Charlie Strong has the Horns headed in the right direction, and with some success at QB, this team is capable of surprising some Big 12 opponents. But I don’t think the Irish will be overlooking Texas. Putting a whipping on the Longhorns would be a great way to start what is expected to be a great season in South Bend. It may be close for a half, but I think the Irish will pull away…..maybe way away. Notre Dame 42 Texas 24.
# 40 Michigan at # 30 Utah – What a great story line is has been for Harbaugh to return to Michigan. The Wolverines desperately needed that kind of boost, and honestly, I think success at Michigan, as a program, is good for college football. But this is not the kind of scenario with which a coach would choose to open. Utah is very good, and even better at home. Another toss up game. Michigan could easily pull a mild upset here, but I think the Utes may be just a little more than the Wolverines can handle on the road in an opening game. Utah 31 Michigan 27.
# 5 Alabama vs # 13 Wisconsin in Arlington – These opening weekend neutral site games have become quite a joy for me. What a great way to start a season, well, at least if you are the winning team. It certainly can make or break a national championship year. The Crimson Tide is breaking in a new QB and must replace a ton of talent on offense with only two starters returning. Alabama appears to be some what vulnerable and Wisconsin is expected to contend for the Big 10 title…..but is Alabama ever really vulnerable? The amount of talent flowing through Tuscaloosa is almost unbelievable, and as long as Saban is leading the troops, the Tide will always be prepared. It may be a great game to watch, but in the end Alabama will prevail. Alabama 31 Wisconsin 24.
# 10 Arizona State vs # 23 Texas A&M in Houston – This is one of my most anticipated games. Basically a home game for the Aggies, Arizona State will be in a very hostile environment. A lot is expected out of the Sun Devils in 2015. In some circles Arizona State is predicted to win the Pac 12. But if there is any hope to rise beyond a conference championship and compete for a spot in the Four Team Playoff, it absolutely starts here. ASU needs this game desperately and the Aggies are a slight 3 point favorite. I believe the Sun Devils have what it takes. Arizona State 38 Texas A&M 31.
# 15 Auburn vs # 27 Louisville in Atlanta – Most prognosticators agree, if you’re good enough to win the SEC West, you’re good enough to win a national championship and for a time last season, the West Division looked more powerful than ever with the emergence of Ole Miss and Mississippi State, but the Bowl season was not kind to the SEC West. Granted, they were playing the best competition of the bowl season, but still, a dismal 2-5 record is not what was expected. But there is another way to look at those games. Texas A&M and Arkansas won their bowl games, Alabama lost to eventual National Champ Ohio State, and LSU and Auburn lost heart breakers to Notre Dame and Wisconsin. With only a slight reversal of fortune the SEC West would have been 5-2 which is more in line with what was expected. Only Ole Miss looked really bad, and that was against a TCU team hell bent to prove they deserved that 4th playoff spot. I’ve said all that to say this, Auburn is a very good team, certainly capable of contending for a National Championship. Louisville is good, and well coached, but probably a year away from contending for the ACC crown. I believe Auburn is hungry and focused, a great combination for a big win. Auburn 45 Louisville 21.
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