Forty names, games, teams, and minutiae that make college football news (outrage over South Carolina chickening out by calling their mascot Cock Commander sold separately):
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A MONSTER WEEK ONE
Quarter Three was long, as conferences themselves are long these days, but The Dash isn’t skimping on Quarter Four content. We’re putting in overtime to get everyone ready for what should be a great Labor Day game weekend. Let’s break down the most interesting:
Notre Dame in Ohio State (34). How big: It’s big now, they’re both in the preseason top 10, and in historical terms. Two of the five all-time winningest programs in sports are meeting for the fifth time on campus, and the first time since 1996.
What’s new: Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman got a bowling game under his belt last season, but this is the first time we’ll see a team that has spent a lot of time molded into the 36-year-old’s vision. Also, Ohio State’s defensive coordinator: The Buckeyes threw a lot of cash at Jim Knowles to sign him away from Oklahoma State and revamp a unit that suffered more cuts than he should have last year.
Key matchup: Battling the Irish offense with a new starting quarterback (Tyler Buchner) and a deteriorating offensive line leader (Jarrett Patterson) against the noise of The Horseshoe at night. Can Notre Dame make calls on the line, get snaps on time, and perform in a deafening atmosphere?
Spread: State of Ohio favored by 15.
Dash pick: Ohio State 31, Notre Dame 14.
Oregon vs. Georgia (35). How great: The Bulldogs begin their national championship defense against a top-15 opponent and a coach who knows his staff and his tendencies. Both teams could be favored in every game from now on, meaning an undefeated regular season isn’t a far-fetched goal for the winner.
What’s new: Dan Lanning went from Georgia defensive coordinator to Ducks head coach. He brings in someone more familiar with the Bulldogs like his (alleged) starting quarterback on transfer from Auburn, Bo Nix. He hasn’t had much success against Kirby Smart, with a combined 72-of-128 passes for 639 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions in three losses. For Georgia, a lauded defense gets a bit of a makeover.
Key matchup: Can Georgia’s meowing offensive line neutralize a talented Oregon front seven? Linebacker Noah Sewell and end Brandon Dorlus are struggling. And if linebacker Justin Flowe can stay healthy, he could have a long-awaited breakout season.
Spread: Georgia favored by 17.
Quick Pick: Georgia 24, Oregon 10.
Utah at Florida (36). How big: With college football playoff dreams dancing in their heads, the people of Utah are calling this the biggest opening game in school history, with some justification. (Beating Texas A&M in 2004 to start an undefeated season and launch Urban Meyer’s career would also qualify.) Gainesville Sun.
What’s new: Florida head coach Billy Napier arrives from Louisiana and inherits a roster that doesn’t measure up to the talent of the past 30 years. He will do what Gators fans begged Dan Mullen to do last year and start the physical specimen Anthony Richardson at quarterback.
Key matchup: Utah’s running game against Florida’s massive defensive linemen. The Utes are the Pac-12’s smashmouth team, leading that league in both rushing yards per game last year and rushing yards allowed. Can 238-pound back Tavion Thomas be ready again to be the hammer in the running game, or will he be swallowed up by 415-pound nose tackle (not a misprint) Desmond Watson and 313-pound Gerson Dexter?
Spread: Utah favored by two.
Quick Pick: Utah 28, Florida 24.
Cincinnati in Arkansas (37). How great: After years of building, the No. 19 Bearcats are now in the business of staying after collapsing the CFP in 2021. Win this and they could return to the top 10. The Razorbacks are still on the building stage in Year Three with Sam Pittman, but they think they could have the team to beat any SEC West opponent not named Alabama.
What’s new: Cincy will wait until before the game before banking on a new starting quarterback, whether it’s veteran Ben Bryant (who transferred to eastern Michigan last year and then returned) or the dual-threat sophomore Evan Prater. Each of the two teams will field a gargantuan transfer receiver: Hawaii’s 6’6″ Nick Mardner in Cincinnati and Toledo’s 6’5″ Matt Landers in Arkansas. Mardner averaged 19.9 yards per catch last year, and Landers (a former Georgia Bulldog) averaged 25.7.
Key matchup: Cincinnati’s rebuilt defense against the arm and legs of Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson. Putting the 245-pound Jefferson on the ground will be a key task for the Bearcats, both through pass rush and when Jefferson breaks out as a running back.
Spread: Arkansas favored by seven.
Quick pick: Cincinnati 24, Arkansas 23.
Florida State vs. LSU (38). How great: This Sunday night in New Orleans is the dawn of a new era for the Tigers, and the opportunity for a We are back Declaration of victory for the Seminoles.
What’s New: Lots of big things are new at LSU, from the coach to the coach’s accent to the quarterback. It’s quite a change to go from stormy Cajun son Ed Orgeron to New England savant Brian Kelly. Against the outmatched Duquesne on Saturday, the Seminoles brought in a new offensive coordinator (Alex Adkins) and some eye-catching transfers: receivers Johnny Wilson and Mycah Pittman, and running back Jared Verse.
Key matchup: Florida State’s three 100-yard rushers from Week Zero (Treshaun Ward, Trey Benson and Lawrence Toafili) vs. an LSU rushing defense that occasionally set up in 2021. The Tigers have some huge interior talent, though , in 2021 five stars recruit Maason Smith and Jaquelin Roy, who could be a top pick in the 2023 draft. And final BJ Ojulari is a star.
Spread: LSU favored by three.
Script Pick: LSU 34, Florida State 28.
TRAINER WHO WON HIS COMP CAR THIS WEEK
Pat Fitzgerald (39), Northwest. What his Wildcats did to Nebraska to end the game in Ireland on Saturday was a smashball masterpiece. Northwestern ran his final 17 offensive plays, hitting on the go-ahead touchdown and then protecting the lead with methodical toughness of ball control. It was a Ferentzian performance from Fitz, who won this game as he has won many in his career at Northwestern: weather a storm or two, let the other team make mistakes, capitalize on them, walk away with a win.
COACH WHO MUST TAKE THE BUS TO WORK
Scott Frost (40), Snowfall. Win by a landslide. And this is the only thing Frost has won in a long time.
When you’re thirsty in the underrated city of Fort Worth, The Dash recommends a drink at Thompson Bookstore (41)—which is not a bookstore. It is a lounge in a library-like setting, with a speakeasy on the ground floor. An excellent vibe. order a Easy Pea IPA (42) from Deep Ellum Brewing Company and thanks to The Dash later.
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