College Football 2014: 5 Big Questions for Week 1
We have survived another long off-season, and college football is once again upon us in all its glory. Here are five burning questions as we enter Week 1:
How Will Texas A&M and South Carolina Reload?
The last couple of years in the Aggies-Gamecocks game, all eyes were on Johnny Manziel and Jadeveon Clowney. This year, expectations are still high for No. 9 South Carolina and the No. 21 Aggies, but they both enter the season with question marks.
Both teams will be breaking in new starting quarterbacks, with most of the attention going to A&M sophomore Kenny Hill, who steps in for Manziel. Running with the third team last season, Hill threw for just 183 yards and one touchdown in four games. He’ll face a South Carolina defense that should again be solid (top 20 in total defense, pass defense and scoring defense a year ago), but must replace two All-Americans on the defensive line.
With the Gamecocks also breaking in a new quarterback, look for tailback Mike Davis (1,183 yards last season) and some talented backups to get plenty of carries as South Carolina begins its quest for its fourth-consecutive 11-win season.
How Does Ohio State Adjust After Losing Braxton Miller?
Just days ago, Ohio State was tabbed as the No. 5 team in the nation and quarterback Braxton Miller was a heavy favorite to be named a Heisman finalist. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, those high hopes may come crashing down, as Miller was lost for the season with a shoulder injury. Miller actually first injured the shoulder in last year’s Orange Bowl loss to Clemson. But after several months of rehab, Miller was back and expected to have a monster season for Ohio State before suffering his second injury last week.
Without Miller, the Buckeyes will fall back on redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett and four new offensive linemen. Barrett will likely need to have a Heisman-caliber season of his own to keep Ohio State in the playoff mix.
Will the LSU-Wisconsin Game Match the Tailgate Parties?
This is one of those rare early-season games between equally matched non-conference opponents that will fire up two fan bases who really now how to tailgate. This is the fourth time in the last five years that LSU will open the season against a ranked, non-conference opponent at a neutral site. Les Miles has never lost a season opener and is undefeated against non-conference opponents in the regular season.
For Wisconsin to come out on top, they’ll likely have to break a streak of bad luck from last season that saw the Badgers go 0-3 in games decided by seven or fewer points. Both teams will be breaking in new quarterbacks, but all eyes will be in the backfield. The Badgers’ Melvin Gordon rushed for 1,609 yards last year and has already gotten some Heisman talk this season. The Tigers, meanwhile, will finally showcase the nation’s top recruit from last year, freshman tailback Leonard Fournette.
Will Florida State Pick Up Where They Left Off?
The top-ranked Seminoles hope to end the season in Dallas’s AT&T Stadium, the site of the 2015 national championship game. But first they’ll have to start the season there, with a neutral-site matchup against Oklahoma State. Florida State should be solid favorites in every game this season, as they return Heisman Trophy-winner Jameis Winston along with seven starters from a defensive unit that led the nation in scoring defense last year.
While Mike Gundy’s Oklahoma State squad has certainly had success in recent years, this will be his most inexperienced team ever, with fewer returning lettermen than any other FBS team. Oklahoma State may end up being good this year, but asking that many new faces to knock off the defending champs might a tall order.
Will a Volcano Damper James Franklin’s Penn State Debut?
We’ve seen games delayed by rain, snow, lightning and any manner of electrical and mechanical malfunctions in the past, but this could be the first time we’ve actually had a game delayed by a volcano. Penn State is set to take on Central Florida in Dublin, Ireland, on Saturday night. But scientists say that increased volcanic activity in Iceland could fill the air with so much ash that air travel across the north Atlantic would be halted. Officials from both schools have said that, if they can’t safely make the trip, the game will be played this week at a yet-to-be-announced site here in the United States. Central Florida is technically the home team and their stadium would be available that weekend, making it the likely backup site.