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Don't Bet On It!: Week One College Football Forecasts for the National Games of Interest

To tell you the truth, I’ve been looking forward to college football season for so long that I started work on my week one forecasts back during the dog days of summer. Fortunately, I did such a fine job of predicting the outcomes of this weekend’s national games of interest back then that I see no need to change any of my prognostications now, although I may make a minor edit here or there. Don’t worry; you probably won’t even notice.

What you will notice, however, is that I am atrociously bad at picking college football games, even though I do it straight up rather than against the spread. Consequently, I will warn you prior to my national predictions as I warned you before my SEC forecasts: Don’t Bet On It!

The following games will be played on Saturday, September 4, unless otherwise noted:

Cincinnati Bearcats at Fresno St. Bulldogs: Who knew that "anyone, anytime, anywhere" meant in Fresno? The West Coast Bulldogs picked up the mantle of mid-major giant killer from Southern Miss in the mid-1990s and passed it off to Boise State following Fresno State’s gut-wrenching and season(s)-derailing loss to Southern California in 2005. Since then, Pat Hill’s crew has been a shadow of its former self, but few teams are as apt to be shadows of their former selves to a greater extent than Cincinnati, which lost ten starters (including quarterback Tony Pike) and the Bearcats’ head coach from a 2009 team that barely beat the Bulldogs at home and held the ball for barely over sixteen minutes against Fresno State. The Golden State Bulldogs have won three of their last four home openers against BCS conference competition, so I like Fresno State to make it four out of five.

Illinois Fighting Illini v. Missouri Tigers (at St. Louis, Mo.): This preview of a future Big Ten rivalry (oops; sorry---ed.) non-conference clash between the flagship universities of neighboring states in a major metropolis is generating buzz among . . . whoa, sorry, nearly nodded off there for a minute. My bad. Yeah, this game really ought to be a pretty big deal, but absolutely no one cares. For the six or eight of you who will bother to read the final score when it scrolls across the bottom of the ESPN feed, though, I’ll go ahead and tell you that Mizzou will win.

Washington Huskies at BYU Cougars: This preview of a future Pac-10 rivalry (oops; sorry---ed.) rematch of two teams who dueled to a controversial 28-27 finish in Seattle two years ago represents a huge test for both programs. The Huskies have lost twelve straight away games, dating back to the 2007 season, but three of their last four road defeats have come by a touchdown or less. Brigham Young recently was jilted by the West Coast BCS league, against which the Cougars have claimed three of the last four Las Vegas Bowls and three of the last four regular-season meetings over the last three years. Maybe BYU will come into this game with a determination to prove its fitness to play with the big boys, but I believe this is the Huskies’ year, so I expect the Cougars to bow down to mighty Washington.

Pittsburgh Panthers at Utah Utes (Thurs., Sept. 2): This preview of a possible future Rose Bowl pairing (oops; sorry---ed.) rematch of the 2005 Fiesta Bowl that caused viewers to wonder why exactly the Big East had a guaranteed BCS bid but the Mountain West didn’t promises to provide an exciting start to college football season for all the fans who can figure out what Versus is, whether it’s part of their cable package, and what channel it’s on if it is. I like a resurgent Pitt squad to exact revenge on the Utes.

Oregon St. Beavers v. TCU Horned Frogs (at Arlington, Tx.): For all the talk of the Ducks’ home field advantage in Eugene, the Beavers may be the ones who perform better in their own stadium, at least relative to how well Oregon State does outside of Corvallis. In the last five seasons, the Beavers have fallen in regular-season non-conference outings at Louisville in 2005, at Boise State in 2006, at Cincinnati in 2007, and at Penn State and at Utah in 2008, with only one of those losses coming by a margin of fewer than four touchdowns. Heck, Oregon State barely got by lowly UNLV on the road last year. Although this game is being played at a neutral site, Texas Christian will feel a good deal more at home in the Lone Star State than the Beavers will, and Mike Riley’s teams have shown little ability to hang tough with quality competition in out-of-conference contests played on the road. I like the Frogs and I don’t like it to be close.

Boise St. Broncos v. Virginia Tech Hokies (Mon., Sept. 6, at Landover, Md.): Labor Day night is "put up or shut up" time for both BSU and VPI, and, by extension, for both mid-majors and the ACC (particularly if North Carolina falls to Louisiana State on Saturday night). I was present in Sanford Stadium the last time the Broncos traveled to the East Coast for a season-opener, but this Boise State team is not that Boise State team; since that 2005 campaign, the Broncos have posted three undefeated regular seasons in four years, with wins over Oregon State, Utah, Oklahoma, Oregon (twice), and TCU. I’m going with Boise State to break through to the next level with a triumph over the Hokies.

As always, you should take my predictions with a grain of salt, as I am even less adept at forecasting games in other leagues and regions than I am at anticipating the outcomes of SEC contests. The only sensible course of action is to remember this one simple rule: Don’t Bet On It!

Coming Soon: National Game of Disinterest.

Go ‘Dawgs!