Paul Myerberg, George Schroeder and Jason McIntyre breaking down three of this weekend’s biggest games.
USA TODAY Sports
The USA TODAY Sports college football staff — Paul Myerberg, George Schroeder, Erick Smith, Eddie Timanus and Dan Wolken — weighs in with some bold predictions for Week 1 of the college football season:
Stanford will upset the apple cart and knock off Southern California on the road. Think of the ramifications. It would (or should) immediately leap the Cardinal into the top five of the Amway Coaches Poll.
It would knock USC down a peg and cause many to question whether the Trojans have been overestimated as a result of the long winning streak to end last season — don’t forget how the team struggled for most of a 49-31 win last Saturday against Western Michigan. David Shaw really likes his team. I do, too.
The bulk of the offseason discussion about the Pac-12 was about USC and Washington. There’s good reason for it; both teams are very good. But Stanford is, too. The Cardinal didn’t get much attention. That will change when Stanford wins an early Pac-12 showdown at the Coliseum, throwing a wrench into plans to fast-forward USC into the Playoff.
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It’s wise to not read too much into Week 1. Yet, the struggles in the first three quarters by Ohio State and Southern California raise some questions as both head into huge matchups in Week 2. Their respective opponents, Oklahoma and Stanford, cruised in openers against inferior competition.
So what happens Saturday night in Columbus and Los Angeles? One of the road teams is going to win. Maybe both. The Sooners have a dynamic offense with an offensive line to match up with Buckeyes front. The Cardinal offense and RB Bryce Love should be licking their chops after seeing Western Michigan roll up 263 yards on the ground. Bodes well for the underdogs.
This year’s version of Oklahoma-Ohio State isn’t going to disappoint. Last year in Norman, you’ll recall, the Buckeyes jumped out to an early 14-0 lead, extended the margin to 28-10 at intermission and were never really threatened in the second half in a 45-24 win.
Even though this rematch is in Columbus, it won’t be quite so easy for Ohio State. While J.T. Barrett won’t make mistakes, last week’s opener when the Buckeyes didn’t put away Indiana until the fourth quarter had many observers questioning his arm strength. Sure, the Buckeyes eventually imposed their will in the trenches, but the Sooners are better equipped to answer points with points.
Baker Mayfield was nearly perfect in the opener of his senior campaign. Granted that came against UTEP, and it goes without saying that the Buckeyes’ defense represents a significant upgrade. But he appears more ready to handle the big stage.
So will the Sooners ride into the Horseshoe and turn the tables? Maybe, but even if they can’t and the Buckeyes prevail, it should be a lot more interesting.
Stanford will become the new Pac 12 favorite after dominating USC in the Coliseum. Despite all the Trojan hype, I have a sneaking suspicion this might be the best overall Stanford team David Shaw has had and could be the one that finally takes a leap into the College Football Playoff.
The Cardinal didn’t get much of a challenge from Rice in the opener, but they did everything right in that game and certainly looked the part physically. I still have some questions about USC and whether they’re really an elite team at the line of scrimmage. I have no such questions about Stanford, and I suspect on Saturday the entire narrative of the Pac 12 will change.