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Games to Watch Saturday - Week 1

Games to Watch Saturday - Week 1

Games to Watch Saturday - Week 1
By Chris David

Hawaii at Florida

The Gators and reigning Heisman-winning quarterback Tim Tebow open the season with a test against WAC powerhouse Hawaii. Florida's attack posted 42.5 PPG last season and is expected to be better. However, the defense should determine how far head coach Urban Meyer and company go. Week 1 will be a good test for the unit, especially against a pass-happy opponent. Unfortunately for the Warriors, gone are QB Colt Brennan, all of his sure-handed wide receivers and more importantly coach June Jones (SMU). Until the QB position is solidified, new head coach Greg McMackin should experience some growing pains.    

Gambling Notes
Based on the number (35, 70) in this matchup, the oddsmakers are expecting a Florida victory by a margin of 53-17. Last year, the Gators only won three of their nine victories by more than the current spread. Possible look-ahead spot for UF, with a battle on tap next week versus Miami, Fl. in the Swamp. Florida has faced WAC schools on five occasions, going 5-0 with a winning margin if 43 PPG. The Warriors are 3-7 all-time versus the SEC, including a humbling 41-10 loss to Georgia in last year's Sugar Bowl.

Southern California at Virginia

Third-ranked Southern California kicks off its season with a trip to the East Coast against Virginia. Once again, head coach Pete Carroll and the Trojans are reloading rather than rebuilding. On paper, the defense led by LBs Ray Maualuga and Brian Cushing is ahead of the offense, but that can all change if QB Mark Sanchez rises to the occasion. Virginia closed the 2007 season with a solid 9-4 mark, but six of the victories came by five points or less. UVA's lucky streak ran out in the Gator Bowl when they blew a 17-point lead in a 31-28 loss to Texas Tech. Those kind of setbacks could be a sign of things to come this year, especially when the Cavs can't match the talent level on the other sideline.    

Gambling Notes
This matchup is the first meeting between the two schools. Al Groh has gone 6-1 SU in his seven home openers at UVA. The Cavaliers have been solid as a home 'dog under Groh, posting a 14-4 ATS mark including 4-1 the past two seasons. USC isn't afraid to play on the road, evidenced by its schedule that has included six-road games the past four seasons. In the last three road openers under Carroll, USC has blasted Nebraska (49-31), Arkansas (50-14), Hawaii (63-17). The Trojans have seen the 'under' go 3-0 in their last three contests against ACC schools.

Illinois vs. Missouri

The "Arch Rivalry" continues in Week 1 from Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, MO where Illinois and Missouri meet in a battle of Top-25 teams. The Tigers' offense is led by QB Chase Daniel, WR Jeremy Maclin and TE Chase Coffman. The defense doesn't get much press in Columbia, but the team did hold Arkansas to 7 points in last season's Cotton Bowl and is arguably the best unit in head coach Gary Pinkel's tenure. Reports out of Champaign have said that Illinois quarterback Juice Williams has become a much better passer this offseason. If that's the case, then the Illini might not miss last year's best running back in the Big Ten Rashard Mendenhall. Illini head coach Ron Zook has been known to pull off big wins, similar to last year's upset against No. 1 Ohio State. Capturing this opener would certainly be in the same category.    

Gambling Notes
Missouri owns the all-time series (14-7) against Illinois, including a 40-34 victory last year. The Tigers held a 37-13 lead midway through the third quarter before the Illini ripped off 24 straight points. Daniel passed for 359 yards and 3 TDs in the victory. The 74 points easily jumped 'over' the closing total of 58 points. Illinois was 2-3 last year when listed as an underdog, with two of the losses coming on neutral fields.

Alabama vs. Clemson


The Georgia Dome welcomes a classic SEC-ACC showdown between the Crimson Tide and Tigers. Clemson comes in as the favorite to win the ACC, while hopes are high in Tuscaloosa as well behind head coach Nick Saban. Clemson returns a dangerous duo of running backs in James Davis and C.J. Spiller. Quarterback Cullen Harper has proven to be accurate (65%) and he returns all of his top wide receivers. The defense gave up 18.7 PPG last year and brings back eight starters. Alabama counters with a solid quarterback of its own in John Parker Wilson (2,846 yards, 18 TDS) plus a potential superstar in freshman wide out Julio Jones.    

Gambling Notes
This is the first meeting since 1975, when 'Bama blanked Clemson 56-0. Alabama has won 11 straight in the head-to-head series and owns an all-time mark of 11-3. Clemson is 4-0 both SU and ATS in its last four openers under Tommy Bowden. 'Bama is 0-3 ATS in its last three battles against ACC schools, including a 21-14 setback to Florida State last year. Clemson hasn't fared much better against the SEC, going 2-3 SU and 1-4 ATS in its last five meetings versus the powerhouse conference. Against similar foes (SEC), the Tigers have watched the 'under' 6-1 in the previous seven encounters.

Tennessee at UCLA


The Volunteers should be prepared for this West Coast trip, considering the team was blasted by Cal 45-31 last year in Week 1 from Berkley. Fortunately, UT won't be facing an explosive attack when they meet UCLA in this year's opener. The Volunteers boast a strong offensive line, which means they'll be handing the ball off a lot to running back Arian Foster (1,231 yards). The Bruins begin the Rick Neuheisel era and not only do they face a ranked team, but they're banged up as well. Junior QB Kevin Craft gets the start and news out of camp hasn't been good, yet he is being taught by offensive genius Norm Chow.    

Gambling Notes

Despite the loss last year to Cal, UT had won its three previous meetings against the Pac 10. The Vols are 12-2 in their last 14 season openers, but both losses came to Pac 10 opponents. UCLA has been a solid play in home openers, going 3-0 SU and ATS in its last three, plus all three came by double digits. The Bruins haven't faced a Pac 10 opponent since 2001, but are 3-1 ATS in the last four matchups. UCLA is 5-0 in its last five games as a home underdog over the past two seasons

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