College Football

College Football is back! After months of Spring practices, position battles and fall practice we will finally play meaningful games today. The list of games isn’t anything spectacular, that will be next weekend, but there are some top-tier teams playing and in college football there is always that chance of a huge upset.

Oregon State at Colorado State

Date: Saturday, Aug. 26
Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
Location: Colorado State Stadium — Fort Collins, Colorado

TV: CBS Sports Network

It might seem a bit shocking at first to see a Mountain West team favored by 3.5 points over a Pac-12 team, but these Rams have earned it. Quarterback Nick Stevens earned the starting job last season when he threw 19 touchdowns and five picks. All 19 touchdowns came over the last seven games, during which time he only threw three interceptions. Dalyn Dawkins (919 yards, four touchdowns) and Izzy Matthews (734 yards, 13 touchdowns) provide a very solid 1-2 punch in the backfield. Defensively, the linebacking corps should be one of the strengths of the Rams in 2017.

Coach Gary Andersen kicks off his third season with the Beavers with junior college transfer quarterback Jake Luton — formerly of Idaho — taking the snaps. The big 6-foot-7, 234-pounder set Ventura College records with 3,551 yards and 40 passing touchdowns a year ago. Leading rusher Ryan Nall returns to help the transition to Luton in an offense that should resemble Andersen’s more traditional ground-and-pound offenses at Wisconsin in 2013 and 2014. Andersen challenged his defensive linemen to become more physical at the start of fall camp, and the Rams should provide a good test for a Beaver defense that gave up 429.2 yards per game last year.

Prediction: Colorado State 34 Oregon State 27

Portland State at BYU

Kickoff: Saturday, Aug. 26 at 3 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

This is a tune-up game for BYU in preparation for LSU in Houston the following week, and it’s needed. BYU hasn’t opened up a season against a FCS opponent since 2008, and it’s only the second time since the Cougars became an independent in 2011 that they are opening a season against a non-Power 5 opponent.

BYU won’t unload the playbook on the Vikings, but the defense should be able to force turnovers and plenty of three-and-outs to give Mangum and the offense short fields and the opportunity to build an early lead and coast in the second half.

Prediction: BYU 45 Portland State 17

Hawaii at UMass

Kickoff: Saturday, Aug. 26 at 6 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ELVN/NESN+ (623 and 628-1 on Direct TV)

Spread: UMass -2

Just like last year’s matchup (46-40 Hawaii won), expect plenty of offense. Both teams enter the opener with question marks on defense, especially when it comes to stopping the pass. The Rainbow Warriors are a team on the rise under Rolovich, and he should squeeze more production out of an offense on the verge of a breakout under Brown’s direction. The Minutemen will connect on their share of big plays, with Breneman likely to post huge numbers against the Hawaii pass defense. However, Brown and the Hawaii front seven on defense do just enough to leave Amherst with a victory and plenty of good vibes for the long flight back to Honolulu.

Prediction: Hawaii 49 UMass 44

South Florida at San Jose State

Date: Saturday, Aug. 26
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Spartan Stadium — San Jose, California

The Bulls are coming off a fantastic 2016 season but saw Willie Taggart leave to take over at Oregon. In his place is Charlie Strong, who struggled at Texas but was wonderful at Louisville. Strong inherits a team with lofty expectations heading into the season.

 Behind quarterback Quinton Flowers and receivers Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Tyre McCants and Ryeshene Bronson, the Bulls’ offense should once again prove to be potent. Strong’s biggest challenge will be improving a Bulls defense that allowed 31.6 points per game last season. Many people, including myself, are pegging USF as a legit contender for a New Year’s Six berth this winter, and if that’s going to happen, the Bulls need to get off to a good start in San Jose.

The Spartans had a down season in 2016, finishing the year with a 4-8 record overall and a 3-5 mark in the Mountain West. As is so often the case in college football, a down season led to the dismissal of Ron Caragher, and now Brent Brennan is running the show.

Brennan comes to the Spartans from Oregon State where he spent the previous six seasons as wide receivers coach. Before that, however, he spent six seasons as an assistant at San Jose State, so he’s familiar with the lay of the land. Brennan inherits a team that has skill and experience on offense. Tre Hartley and Rahshead Johnson provide two targets at receiver, and Malik Roberson and Zamore Zigler will run behind a veteran offensive line. The questions will come at quarterback and on defense.

Prediction: South Florida 35 San Jose State 14

Stanford at Rice

Kickoff: Saturday, Aug. 26 at 10 p.m. ET
TV: ESPN
Spread: Stanford -31

For the second consecutive season, a Pac-12 team opens with a unique date in Sydney. Cal beat Hawaii Down Under to kick off 2016. Coincidentally, Stanford closed its 2016 regular season against this same Rice team, blasting the Owls down on The Farm, 41-17.

Both teams feature some new faces in the rematch nearly 10 months later.

Expect a final score very much comparable to the one these two teams played in November, though reached differently. Last season, Stanford used a 21-point third quarter to slam the door.

This time around, a quick start behooves the Cardinal. Getting Bryce Love going early to establish the identity of an offense now sans Christian McCaffrey will put Stanford on course for the season to come.

Prediction: Stanford 41 Rice 21

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