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Real Kato Blog: College Football 2012: Week 1 Preview
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College Football 2012: Week 1 Preview
Sunday, 2012 August 26 - 1:07 pm
FOOTBAWWWWWWWW.

#8 Michigan vs. #2 Alabama (in Dallas)

Obvious game of the week is obvious. Michigan's first opponent of the year is not the usual directional state school, but rather, the defending national champion. It's being played at a "neutral" site, which will probably be 75% Alabama fans... curse you, Dave Brandon, for not negotiating a home-and-home.

On defense, Michigan returns talented starters everywhere except on the defensive line, where someone will have to replace Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen. Michigan fans hope Will Campbell finally lives up to his five-star recruiting hype; interestingly, it seems he'll be playing at the 3-tech spot instead of the nose tackle. One key matchup in this game will be that rebuilt Michigan defensive line versus Alabama's talented offensive line. Alabama's running backs are banged up; if Michigan can control the ground game on defense, Alabama's young receivers will have to make plays against Michigan's deep and experienced secondary. (Geez, how many years has it been since I could say that?)

On the other side of the ball, Michigan returns almost its entire offense, though someone will have to step up as the new #1 receiver (and in a twist, that person may be second-string quarterback Devin Gardner), and someone will have to replace David Molk at center. But there's depth at almost every position, and I'm expecting a huge leap in efficiency in the second year under offensive coordinator Al Borges. By and large, Denard Robinson is being written off as a passer, but I think that's a mistake that opposing defenses will regret. And although Alabama boasts a lot of talented athletes on defense, they're not an experienced group; the sophistication of Michigan's offensive schemes may confuse them.

So, as a Michigan fan, there's reason to be hopeful. But the downsides: Alabama is still a Nick Saban SEC team with loads of speed and athleticism. Alabama will have what feels like a home crowd, and they frankly have more to prove in this game. So while I'm hoping Michigan will put up a good fight, I have to go with my gut and not my heart. Prediction: Michigan 13, Alabama 21.

N.C. State vs Tennessee (in Atlanta)

N.C. State's opening game on Friday night, in front of a national TV audience, has interesting parallels to Michigan's opener: a neutral-site game, high expectations, and a dangerous SEC opponent. Tennessee's program hasn't been stellar over the past few years, but this year almost every starter returns, including one of the best groups of receivers in the country.

Like Michigan, N.C. State returns a lot of talented starters on defense; where State has to rebuild this year is at linebacker. Fortunately, the new linebacking crew will have plenty of opportunities to wreak havoc on Tennessee's offensive line, which was woeful last year. Though that line has another year of experience under its belt, this game hinges on State's ability to blitz and to disrupt Vols quarterback Tyler Bray.

Mike Glennon is back at quarterback for the Wolfpack and we can expect to see more steady, if perhaps unexciting, play from him. Like Michigan, N.C. State is looking to find a new #1 receiver. What'll be more important in this game, though, is whether he'll get any help from the running back position. James Washington returns at tailback but he was inconsistent last year. It'll be important for State to run a balanced attack, as Tennessee's defensive strength is the secondary.

There's good reason to be optimistic about this year's Wolfpack team, and I think Tennessee will struggle to install their new 3-4 defense. And I think State will force a handful of turnovers, making the score more lopsided than the statistics. Prediction: N.C. State 33, Tennessee 13.

Games to Watch on TV

Thursday 7:00 PM: The only ranked team playing is #9 South Carolina, taking on Vanderbilt in an early conference game on ESPN. Probably won't be much of a contest, but it's Steve Spurrier and it's the start of the football season. Watch it.

Friday 7:30 PM: N.C. State vs. Tennessee will be on ESPNU. At 8:00, though, you'll want to keep an eye on ESPN, where #24 Boise State takes on #13 Michigan State in what should be an exciting game.

Saturday Noon: the slate of games is not exciting, but you'll probably want to take a peek at Urban Meyer's debut at Ohio State plays Miami (OH) on BTN.

Saturday 3:30 PM: the game to watch here is Miami (FL) vs. Boston College on ABC or ESPN2. It's a conference game with lots of history behind the matchup... should be fun.

Saturday 7:00 PM: for an hour you can watch Clemson play Auburn on ESPN, but obviously at 8:00 PM you'll want to switch over to ABC for the Game of the Week, Michigan vs. Alabama.

Sunday 3:30 PM: College football on Sunday? Yes, this weekend only, as the NFL has yet to get rolling. Kentucky plays #25 Louisville on ESPN.

Monday 8:00 PM: College football on MONDAY? Wow! Georgia Tech plays #16 Virginia Tech on ESPN.
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