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2011 College Football Predictions: Picking the Week 1 Winners

Chris Graythen/Getty Images Let’s start this one off with a bang: The best game of the week.There is no other team that is more excited for the season to start than the LSU Tigers. With all of the drama that has been going on with them, I’m sure they’re happy something will take their mind off of it for a few hours.LSU is missing their quarterback Jordan Jefferson and main receiver Russell Shepard. Even though Jarrett Lee may be an upgrade, it has to be difficult going from a backup to a starter in a little over a week while being expected to beat a top-five team.The Ducks return the majority of their offense, including the nucleus in Darron Thomas and Heisman candidate LaMichael James. This offense will score just because they are that good, despite the tough LSU defense.Prediction: You have to like the Ducks in this situation. There’s too much drama going on for the Tigers and Oregon have revenge on their minds after last season’s loss in the national championship game. It’s going to be close, but Oregon has too much firepower on offense for the Tigers to keep up.Ducks win 24-14. Christian Petersen/Getty Images I’d like to ask why the two best games of the week are played on the same day at the same time. I hope whoever made that happen is now out of a job.Anyway.If the Boise State Broncos win this game, it will pave the way for an unbeaten season. If the Georgia Bulldogs win, it will help save head coach Mark Richt’s job as he is on the hot seat after two disappointing seasons.Boise returns most of its team from last year, and it’s loaded with juniors and seniors. We all know about Kellen Moore and Doug Martin, but returning seven starters on the No. 2 defense from last season has to count for something. Three members of the defensive line return that led the nation and sacks, as does one of the country’s top safeties in George Iloka.Aaron Murray is one of the best quarterbacks the SEC has to offer, but the lack of weapons may hurt him. Georgia’s lack of receivers and a revamped offensive line may cause problems for Isaiah Crowell running the ball. It doesn’t get much better on defense either, as the defensive line had problems last season and only one of last year’s four starting linebackers are returning.Prediction: This game should be close, but Boise State is the overall better team. They have the experience, the more polished quarterback and the defense to go with the offense. Broncos win 37-28. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images .This game takes place on Friday night, and the whole college football world could be watching for an upset. Both of these Texas teams have been on the rise. TCU won the Rose Bowl with a perfect 13-0 record, and Baylor went 7-6 for its first winning season since joining the Big 12.This TCU team is different though, only returning seven total starters and only three of those are on offense. Most notably, quarterback Andy Dalton is gone, leaving sophomore Casey Pachall under center. The defense is what makes this Horned Frog team go and has been the reason for much of their success, as they have finished the last three seasons ranked No. 1.This Baylor team pretty much goes as far as quarterback Robert Griffin is going to take them. Griffin is a very fun player to watch and had over 4,000 total yards last season and 30 total touchdowns. The problem is that the defense gave up an average of 46 points per game in the Bears’ six losses.Prediction: TCU has dominated the season series, but with the horned Frogs only returning eight starters and having a new quarterback, the door is wide open for the Bears to shock the world.Friday night home game, on national television with the whole college football world watching. Call me crazy, but I like Baylor in this spot.Bears win 29-27. Chris Graythen/Getty Images I didn’t think this needed a slide, but provided it to remind Ohio State fans that the season is almost here and you can get back to having happy thoughts.Prediction: Akron went 1-11 last season and could very well be the worst team in the country. it’s too bad they have to be the first team for Ohio State to take their frustration out on. Buckeyes win, 64-10. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images With a schedule that has Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU and Mississippi State, Ole Miss can’t afford to lose this game.Unfortunately for them, they play a BYU team that looked pretty good at the end of last season in winning six of their last eight games. They should be able to pick up where they left off with Jake Heaps leading the way and nine starters returning on offense.Ole Miss had one of the worst defenses in the nation last season, giving up 246 passing yards and 35 points per game. The coaching staff changes on both sides of the ball, and the Rebels look like they could be in for another season is the SEC cellar.Prediction: BYU looks like the pick here as Ole Miss is still going to struggle on defense.Cougars 34, Rebels 23. Joel Auerbach/Getty Images The Hurricanes are going to be without several players, including quarterback Jacory Harris. That means sophomore Stephen Morris will get the nod.Maryland is under a new coaching staff, led by head coach Randy Edsall. Quarterback Danny O’Brien looks like he could develop into a solid player, and Davin Meggett and D.J. Adams are a solid tandem at running back. Maryland is solid on defense as well, having finished 2010 ninth against the pass and 21st against the run.Other players missing for the Hurricanes include Sean Spence, JoJo Nicolas, Ray-Ray Armstrong and Travis Benjamin. There is still talent on this team and new head coach Al Golden should have his team focused on the task at hand.Prediction: Despite Miami missing several of it’s key players, I’m still sticking with the Hurricanes. It’s kind of fitting that this game is on a Monday night with the entire country watching. It’s really Miami against the world, and I would not bet against the players in this situation.Hurricanes win, 34-25. Stephen Dunn/Getty Images Expectations were high for this Houston team last season, but quarterback Case Keenum got hurt in the third game, which just happened to be against the UCLA Bruins. Keenum is back from injury and ready to make this the special season after he threw for over 5,000 yards and 44 touchdowns in 2009. Houston’s defense is just Charles Barkley terrible, giving up 432 yards a game. But when your offense can score 40 plus points any given week, does it really matter?Really the only positive thing with the UCLA offense is Jonathan Franklin, who rushed for over 1,000 yards last season. Other than that, there is nothing. Quarterback Richard Brehaut threw more interceptions than touchdowns and no receiver had over 32 receptions. The defense was just as bad, giving up at least 31 points in five of their eight losses.Prediction: Houston has a horrible defense, but the offense can match any team score for score. UCLA has a bad defense and doesn’t have the firepower to match the Cougars on offense.Houston starts 1-0, with a high-scoring 53-32 victory. Stephen Dunn/Getty Images The Golden Flashes return 10 offensive starters from a season ago, but who cares when they only scored 21 points a game. They’ll be lucky to score that on an Alabama defense that gave up less than 14 points per game last season. They return eight starters on that side of the ball.The Crimson Tide won’t need Greg McElroy or Mark Ingram in this one. Just let A.J. McCarron throw a couple touchdowns and Trent Richardson get his 100 yards and two touchdowns, and the game is over.Prediction: This really doesn’t need an explanation. Alabama is one of the top teams in the country while Kent State is the complete opposite. Crimson Tide roll, 58-7. Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images This is the first game of the season that includes a ranked team. This game starts on Thursday and tells college football fans everywhere that the game is back.UNLV is one of the worst teams in the country, and there are no signs of them being any better this season.There are only two reasons we are going to watch this game. The first is obvious: It’s football, and we all love this wonderful game. The second is to see quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson is a dual-threat quarterback that transferred from North Carolina State. where he threw for over 8,000 yards and 76 touchdowns in his career. This offense was already very good, averaging 245 rushing yards and 200 passing yards a game. Wilson is just another weapon to add to this offense and can help lead them to a BCS bowl and possibly a national championship.Prediction: Kim Kardashian has a better chance to stay married forever than UNLV has of beating the Badgers.Wisconsin wins, 45-10.

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