Welcome to THE THUNDERBLOG’s newest weekly feature, The Funvee Tailgate! With College Football starting tomorrow, we here at El Thunderblg decided to scratch our yearly conference previews in favor of a weekly preview series that may include wrap-ups midweek as well (that’s TBD at this moment). As I’m spearheading this new venture, I’m going to aim to have these written on Fridays and have the focus be on games to be played Saturday. So Thursday night games will be recapped and some Friday games will be included. As for the name of this series, friends of the Thundercrew may remember my 2004 Chevy Tahoe, “The Funvee,” in which we hosted many a tailgate out of in college as well as in the Philadelphia Sports Complex. The series pays tribute to that magnificent beast that is now scrap metal. Anyway, let’s get to it. This is a work in progress so any and all criticism is welcome.
Big Games This Week:
Last night featured the opening game for #9 Tennessee Volunteers as they narrowly escaped Appalachian State 20-13 in overtime. Everyone is picking the Vols to make a run in the SEC East so this game has raised some eyebrows. While QB Josh Dobbs had an alright game, RB Jalen Hurd rushed for over 100 yards (1 TD) and WR Josh Malone had 80 yards on two catches (1 TD)–he had 405 yards and 2 TDs in all of 2015. Nothing to seriously worry about yet, especially considering they have nine days to prepare for Virginia Tech.
Busy Friday Night:
The opening Friday features a trio of Top 25 Teams racing into the season. I use racing here because #12 Michigan State and #23 Baylor play opponents they should blow out–Furman a 38.5 pt underdog to MSU and Northwestern State a 48.5 pt underdog. #10 Stanford is only a 10 pt favorite as they host Kansas State (9pm on Fox Sports 1) but Christian McCaffrey’s Heisman Campaign will off and running strongly after tonight.
A Saturday For The Ages:
Labor Day Weekend Saturdays are for the boys, the beers, the barbecue (looking at you Dr. Dan), and the college showdowns. This weekend is being regarding as the best Opening Weekend in College Football History.
We’ve got #7 Michigan (-40) vs. Hawaii (noon on ESPN). We’ve got Hawaii claiming that Jim Harbaugh is refusing to let Hawaii have practice tape to give the Rainbow Warriors a break–a cruel, but very Harbaugh-esque move. But Hawaii coach Nick Rolovich was joking! Michigan might cover the spread just because of that. Although I’d love to see Rolo vs. Harbaugh in that QB battle (see the above attached article).
Against that game at noon is the first battle of Top 25 teams: #3 Oklahoma vs #15 Houston (noon on ABC) in NRG Stadium, home of the NFL’s Texans. Baker Mayfield and the Sooners are 11.5 point favorites, might be a little generous for the defending Big XII Champs but the Sooners will walk away victorious.
We have a few expected blowouts from Top 25 teams: #6 Ohio State vs. Bowling Green (noon on Big Ten Network), #14 Washington vs. Rutgers (2pm), #21 Oklahoma State vs. SE Louisiana (3:30pm), #17 Iowa vs. Miami (OH) (3:30 on ESPNU), #24 Oregon vs. UC Davis (5pm), #25 Florida vs. UMass (7:30), and #13 TCU vs. South Dakota State, but we’ve also got so many fantastic games scheduled.
#16 UCLA @ Texas A&M (3:30 on CBS) — A&M returns their entire receiving core that combined for almost 2,500 yards which will help transfer QB Trevor Knight get acclimated quickly while UCLA QB Josh Rosen begins his sophomore campaign with only almost an entirely new set of starters on offense. The Bruins’ D returns 9 starters but Kyle Field doesn’t have the 12th for nothing – A&M
#5 LSU vs. Wisconsin (at Lambeau Field, 3:30 on ABC) —LSU is winning this game. It deserves some spotlight because a) Leonard Fournette and b) Lambeau Field.
#18 Georgia vs. #22 UNC (at the Georgia Dome, 5:30 on ESPN) — Nick Chubb returning from injury is the toss up. UNC is a solid squad looking to prove there’s more to the ACC than Clemson and FSU. Frankly given the rest of UNC’s schedule, this will show FSU and Miami (both of whom UNC travels to) whether not to be worried. UNC’s receivers and UGA’s secondary may offset each other, but Elijah Hood will carry the Tar Heels to victory – UNC
#20 USC vs. #1 Alabama (at AT&T Stadium in Dallas, 8pm on ABC) — similarly to last year’s opener against Wisconsin, this game may appear a lot closer on paper but could get out of hand fast – Bama
#2 Clemson @ Auburn (9pm on ESPN) — Similarly to McCaffrey tonight, Deshaun Watson begins his march towards the Heisman — Clemson
A quick shoutout to the Mountain Hawks of Lehigh who kick off their season at home tomorrow against Monmouth. Looks like it should be a good game but the Mountain Hawks will still pull it out. If QB Nick Shafnisky can stay healthy all year, it should be a fun season to watch!
No NFL? Don’t Worry There’s Still Football on Sunday and Monday
Sunday night #10 Notre Dame travels down to Austin to face Texas. Surprisingly the line is only Notre Dame (-3.5). I guess the state of Texas is pulling the line back from the Notre Dame legion. (ND wins). Monday night features another ACC/SEC showdown between #11 Ole Miss and #4 Florida State. RB Dalvin Cook will make this game look a lot different than just a 5.5 point spread — FSU wins.
Everyone is doing so I’m succumbing to peer pressure: Clemson, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Ohio State. That last one hurt but I think Michigan is a year or two away from overthrowing OSU in the Big Ten although I think they finally put little brother MSU back in their place. Ohio State runs a tough away schedule so this isn’t as big of a slam dunk as you might think initially. At Oklahoma Week 3 might be a national championship preview but three of their four Big Ten games are at some of toughest places to play in the Big Ten: Wisconsin, Penn State, and Michigan State. Clemson also faces the issue of another playoff favorite not only residing in their division, but Clemson must travel to Florida State at the end of October. And who knows, maybe their final showdown against in-state rival South Carolina is what holds them out? Oklahoma only really has TCU to worry about in the Big XII, they’re the best lock I have. Tennessee is the wild card. While last night may not instill confidence in the minds of everyone, a win is a win. Virginia Tech next week will be a tough neutral site game and traveling to Georgia is never easy. But if the Vols enter their matchup with Bama undefeated and win the next against South Carolina, they should make the SEC Championship game regardless if they beat Alabama or not. The SEC Championship Game is practically a play-in game to the CFP and given all the returners and the numbers they can put up, Tennessee has a great shot at the playoff that I think they’ll capture.
The SEC West and Pac 12 to me are, ironically, too talented for their own good. It’s more likely in the Pac 12 this year but those teams can easily beat each other up at which point we once again see a two-loss team left out. I think if that two-loss team is an SEC Champion Alabama or LSU, it’s more likely they get in than a two-loss Pac 12 Champ given the credit the SEC has built in the last decade, but I think the SEC has more gimmes in 2016.
Sorry this one ran a little long for how I’d like but there was a lot to talk about! Let me know what you think about the format in the comments below and who you’ve got in the College Football Playoff. Couldn’t be more excited for Football to be back!Follow @geordo9