Record so far: 3-2
Rutgers at North Carolina
The Scarlet Knights seek to build on their first bowl season since 1978 while the Tar Heels hope to rebound from a 5-6 season. Although Rutgers participated in postseason play last year, while North Carolina stayed at home, the Heels may have been the better team. In 9 of their 11 games last season, North Carolina faced a team with a winning record. 5 of those teams had 9 wins or more (Miami, Louisville, Wisconsin, Virginia Tech, and Boston College). They lost all but one of those games (Boston College). Rutgers on the other hand played only 4 teams with winning records (Arizona State, Louisville, Navy, and West Virginia). Navy was the only team of the four they defeated. These teams seem pretty evenly matched with the conference determination being the deciding factor in the divergent fortunes of these teams. The Heels will take this one thanks to the homefield advantage.
Winner: North Carolina
Stanford at Oregon
Oregon rebounded from a disappointing 5-6 2004 with a 10-win BCS bowl caliber season. Now Stanford looks to emulate the Ducks in Walt Harris' second season. If Stanford had not blown an early season home game against non-Division I UC Davis they would have gone bowling last year. Oregon must replace quarterback Kellen Clemens, but they should be used to that as he missed the last 5 games of the 2005 season. While Oregon was certainly not as dominant in the 5 games Clemens missed, they still finished 4-1. That experience should benefit both Dennis Dixon and Brady Leaf in their quest to replace him.
California at Tennessee
The Golden Bears have designs on a Pac 10 title, and while this game won't have any impact on that race, it will give us fans and observers a little insight into their quest to dethrone Southern Cal. While Tennessee is certainly not the class of the SEC, winning in Rocky Top is never an easy task. David Cutcliffe returns to coordinate the offense for the Vols who averaged under 20 points per game last season. Cutcliffe should have an impact in improving the offense, but simple regression (or progression) to the mean should also aid Tennessee in returning to the postseason. Tennessee is good enough to get back to bowl game, but not good enough to knock off a top-10 team even at home.
Utah at UCLA
If Utah wants back into the BCS they have to win this game over a middling Pac 10 program. UCLA did manage to knock off Oklahoma last season, but they were also one of the luckiest teams in the country with an amazing 4-0 record in close games. With the departure of the core of their offense (quarterback Drew Olson and running back Maurice Drew), expect Drew-CLA to struggle to qualify for a bowl game this season. The Utes may not make it back to the BCS (the Mountain West is tough), but they will knock off UCLA.
Virginia at Pittsburgh
Wasn't Al Groh, a former NFL coach, supposed to turn Virginia into an ACC power? Dave Wannstedt, another former NFL coach, should take note. Remember the South Park episode 'My Future Self and Me'? Mr. Groh could be Wannstedt's future self depending on the choices he makes. Both coaches suffered through disappointing 5 win seasons in their first year. Groh has rebounded since then posting four consecutive winning season, but never finishing with a better record than 9-5. If the same fate befalls Wannstedt, well the program will be in the same position it was under Walt Harris. Much like the Virginia program is in the same basic position it was in George Welsh's later years. Pittsburgh certainly benefits from an easier conference and has the schedule to conceivably win 10 games. They be 10% of the way there after this game.
Notre Dame at Georgia Tech
The Jackets have had a pretty good defense for the last 6 seasons. Unfortunately, they have been cursed with a subpar offense led by Reggie Ball for the past 3 seasons. The Notre Dame hype machine is in full effect and the Jackets would like nothing more than to derail it in game one. The Jackets defense will keep them in the game as long as Reggie Ball does not make too many mistakes. If he plays adequately, the Jackets will have a chance, and if he plays well they will win.
Winner: Georgia Tech
Southern Cal at Arkansas
After shooting 2 under par and dropping 70 on the Hogs last season, the Trojans seek to reload and win their 3rd (or 2nd) national title in 4 years. Arkansas has endured two consecutive losing seasons, and needs a strong showing to take the heat off head coach Houston Nutt. Thanks to some strong recruting classes, the pieces are in place for a special season in Fayetteville. If this game was later in the year, Arkansas would have a better shot, but in the opener, Southern Cal will begin their journey towards Tempe.
Winner: Southern Cal
BYU at Arizona
The Mountain West has another opportunity to take out a Pac 10 school this weekend. In his thrid year at the helm, Mike Stoops seeks to lead the Wildcats back to a bowl game for the first time since 1998. BYU should contend for the Mountain West title, and a win here would also improve their chances at snagging an at-large BCS berth. Sophomore quarterback Willie Tuitama will be the difference maker in a Wildcats win.
Florida State at Miami
After last season's prime time affair that set offensive football back several decades, these two powers get together and try to score more than two combined offensive touchdowns. The games in Miami, so if history is any indicator it will come down to a missed field goal and more heartbreak for Bobby Bowden. Even with several players suspended for this one, Miami will play hard seeking to erase all memories of their disatrous bowl game drubbing at the hands of LSU. The U takes it in a squaker.