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DESSERT FIRST - CUPCAKE WEEK RETURNS
September 3, 2009

SCS.com College football does not have a preseason in the form that the pros do, but the first week of every season might as well be the preseason since the 12th game was added a few years ago. Of the 65 BCS conference teams, six have conference game openers but only 23 of the remaining 59 have opening games against FBS competition. That's less than 39% of major conference teams playing legitimate competition. So in the spirit of enjoying giving big paychecks to small-school athletic programs and getting a nice tune-up victory, we shall now call this "Cupcake Week." I'll expect full royalty payments from the major media networks just when they catch on to this nifty moniker. However, there are certainly things to be excited about in this first week when our beloved teams hit the field again.

Everybody begins on Thursday night undefeated. Although some teams probably have no chance at a national championship, anybody can go undefeated and end up in the BCS if nothing else. There's always surprises on a national scale when you least expect it, and everyone seems to believe it's all about Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, and USC in 2009. However, don't sleep on the likes of Virginia Tech, Penn State, West Virginia, Oregon, and TCU. There will be plenty of superstar power on the top teams, but former Heisman trophies and national championship trophies mean nothing now, as everyone starts anew. This is a great time for everyone, even if the season sours in just a few days or weeks.

Perhaps the biggest news to come out of lead-up to Week 1 is a load of allegations against the Michigan football program for breaking NCAA rules limiting offseason coaching and hours per week spent in practice or working out during the season. Although nobody would deny these rules are not broken all over the college football landscape, you know things must be turning very sour if Michigan players are coming out and turning against their coach. Rich Rodriguez already alienated the fans with a worse-than-expected 3-9 first campaign, and this is not the way to start redeeming yourself among the Big Blue elite. The last thing Michigan needs is for the program to fall into complete disarray or risk NCAA sanctions at a crucial turning point. Make no mistake about it, Rodriguez has started to recruit his kind of talent and will take Michigan back to the summit, if he can last long enough to do it.

Again, it's not the fact that Michigan is likely breaking these NCAA rules, but that players are the ones breaking and confirming the story. This begins to call more into question why good players like Justin Boren and Ryan Mallett left a program they could've easily led while Rodriguez transitioned. Perhaps it was not sour grapes on the players' part as originally assumed but instead there are serious problems that need to be addressed before Rodriguez can be respected as the leader of the program. It may seem silly, but a win over Ohio State may be the only thing that can turn everything around before the Wolverines go somewhere else. Definitely a top storyline heading into 2009.

Speaking of the Buckeyes, Ohio State has one of the better FBS games by starting at home against Navy. What makes the game even more interesting is that Ohio State's athletic and public relations departments have gone all-out with a Navy week showing off the service academy around the state. This hoopla will be punctuated by OSU fans cheering for the navy team in a similar fashion to how they cheer for the Buckeyes when they take the field on Saturday. Now if this can be pulled off it will be a nice gesture, but there's really no purpose to treating these football teams differently. Don't get me wrong, I believe the service these young men will offer to our country deserves the highest praise, but not necessarily before giving that service. Sportsmanship is honorable, but I canno thelp but think this will come off as false patriotism instead of what the OSU public relations department thinks it will be.

Here's a lock-solid predication for the 2009 season: not only will Colt McCoy win the Heisman trophy finally, but Texas will get another chance in the BCS Championship. You see, Heisman voters are obscenely hesitant to crown someone a second time, so don't expect Sam Bradford or Tim Tebow to get any breaks. Texas will also get the benefit of the doubt over anybody in the country except for maybe Florida after getting jobbed out of a chance last year. However, the bad news is that the Heisman curse will continue and Texas will lose the championship this time. It's too early to say who that mysterious opponent will be, but you better believe the Heisman winner will continue to lose this game.

The first game of the week is Georgia at Oklahoma State. While most of the SEC and Big XII tunes up against lesser foes in Cupcake Week, you have to give credit to these programs for scheduling a solid opponent in Week 1. Oklahoma State's star has been rising in the past few years under coach Mike Gundy, and this looks to be the year where the Cowboys could break the OU-UT stranglehold on the Big XII. Meanwhile, Georgia will be a dangerous team flying somewhat under the radar thanks to Florida's dominant position. Georgia will struggle in replacing Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno, but fifth-year senior Joe Cox has game experience before Stafford arrived on the scene and he also has some highly talented receivers to throw to, including WR A.J. Green. The real battle of this game will be the prolific Cowboy offense against the strong Bulldog defense, but look for a statement game from all the Cowboy stars QB Zac Robonson, RB Kendall Hunter, and WR Dez Bryant while the national attention is turned on Stillwater. Georgia has been here before, but the Cowboys have too much this year for the Bulldogs to steal a road win in the opener. Cowboys win by 14.

The second game of the week is Oregon at Boise State on Thursday night on the blue turf. This is a rematch of last year's 37-32 classic at Autzen Stadium, which the Broncos won after nearly blowing a 24 point lead. One deciding factor of that game was Oregon losing QB Jeremiah Masoli early in the game to injury, but Masoli has a score to settle with the Broncos and has made it clear publicly that this game means a lot to him. Oregon will again feature a prolific offense led by RB LaGarrette Blount, and the Boise State defense will be sorely tested in this first outing of the year. Look for the Bronco offense to be improved behind second-year starting quarterback Kellen Moore, and the Oregon defense will need to improve dramatically from last season in order to slow the Bronco attack. This game is definitely poised to be another shootout, which normally would favor the Ducks. However, Boise has not lost on the blue turf in the regular season since 2001 and has a slightly better defense than the Ducks, which will be the difference. Broncos win by 7.

The top game of the week is a top-ten battle between Alabama and Virginia Tech in Atlanta. Just like last season's Clemson-Alabama showdown, this game will likely drop one team out of the national spotlight while making an instant darkhorse national title contender. This game has everything you could possibly hope for in two top-ten teams, two great coaches in Nick Saban and Frank Beamer, and two bruising defenses. Unlike the previous two games discussed, the winner of this battle will be lucky to score more than 21 points with all the questions for both offenses going into the season. QB Greg McElroy takes the reins for the Crimson Tide and will need his offensive line to really shine for him to succeed against the likes of the Hokies. On the other side of the ball, look for hokie QB Tyrod Taylor to continue to be a dual-threat but a better passer than in previous years. Unlike last year's Kickoff Classic blowout against Clemson, Alabama knows they will be in for a true battle in this game. Especially in early-season games, one turnover could make all the difference and Beamerball will not let the Hokies down in this regard. Virginia Tech escapes with a 3 point win.

2008 GOTW Record: 25-20
Last Week: 0-0

Fitz Top 10 - Preseason
1. Florida
2. Oklahoma
3. Virginia Tech
4. USC
5. Ohio State
6. Texas
7. Penn State
8. Alabama
9. Oklahoma State
10. Mississippi

Just Missed: California, Boise State, Georgia Tech, Oregon, LSU

I don't know about you, but I think this is the best part of the year. Not only does the weather turn perfect for the next two months or more, but you can relax with college football throughout the week and a ton on Saturdays. Every season has its surprises and 2009 will be no different. Although there may be some more high-profile games this weekend, I will be checking out Kentucky and Miami (OH) playing in downtown Cincinnati at the stadium of the Bengals. Having never seen a pro football game or a college game in such a stadium, I'll be interested to report on the tailgating and atmosphere inside the big stadium. Whether you are headed to your local stadium or hanging out in front of the television, enjoy your first weekend and get ready for some great football in the coming weeks of September.

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