Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The season has finally arrived, and while most teams dip their feet into the competitive waters, others jump in head-first, hoping not to drown.
While no one really needs to watch every snap in Gainesville this weekend to know what the result will be between defending national champion Florida and Charleston Southern, there will be some games that will capture the attention of college football fans around the country. With that in mind, here are five must-see games for the first week of the 2009 season.
(16) OREGON AT (14) BOISE STATE: The Broncos are one of those teams that have probably outgrown their natural surroundings. The WAC has been Boise State's playground for some time now and this year should be no different, as they are the favorite to win the conference again. Winners of 19 straight on their famed blue turf, the Broncos could gain some instant credibility on Thursday against a good Oregon team. The Ducks are coming off a 10-win season in 2008 and could be a real threat to end USC's incredible run of Pac-10 titles, despite breaking in a new head coach in Chip Kelly. Longtime coach Mike Bellotti made the move to athletic director this summer and who knows if his absence from the sideline will hinder Oregon's ascension to the top of the Pac-10 standings. These two teams met for the first time last season in Eugene and it was Boise State coming out on top in a spirited 37-32 affair. It remains to be seen if the Ducks can return the favor.
Dez Bryant is among a trio of All-Americans at OSU.
(13) GEORGIA at (9) OKLAHOMA STATE: The Bulldogs have not lost to the Cowboys in three previous meetings, but this could be the season that OSU breaks through with a win. The Cowboys are one of those teams that has created a buzz around the country. The team possesses a trio of All-Americans at the skill positions in QB Zac Robinson, RB Kendall Hunter and WR Dez Bryant and has the ability to score at will both on the ground and through the air, regardless of the defense. In Georgia, Oklahoma State will be facing a strong SEC foe with plenty to prove. The Bulldogs are usually considered a national title contender most seasons, but despite reaching double-digit victories in 2008 (10-3), they were never really in the hunt. That could change in the blink of an eye this weekend in Stillwater as knocking off a top-10 program on the road could very well be a springboard to a huge season in Athens.
(20) BYU VS. (3) OKLAHOMA: No team has more to prove in week one than BYU. The Mountain West has been clamoring for credibility for the last few seasons and although the conference may be deserving of respect, the Cougars find themselves with a tall task indeed, taking on the third-ranked Oklahoma Sooners. This is a neutral site affair in Arlington, but the Sooner Nation travels well and there is no doubt who will be the so-called "home team" in this one. BYU has a terrific quarterback in Max Hall and an explosive offense, but Oklahoma trumps that with their own superb gunslinger in Heisman-winner Sam Bradford. To make matters worse for the Cougars, Oklahoma is as dangerous a defensive squad as there is, with perhaps the nation's best defensive front. There will be some opportunities for Hall downfield, but will he be standing up when those opportunities present themselves? Respect is earned and BYU certainly has a golden opportunity to do just that this weekend.
(5) ALABAMA VS. (7) VIRGINIA TECH: The Crimson Tide ended the 2008 regular season as the top team in the country, but could not keep their lofty perch, losing to Florida in the SEC Title game and then to Utah in the Sugar Bowl. So, it is with a sense of unfinished business that Nick Saban and Alabama begin the 2009 campaign in Atlanta against seventh-ranked Virginia Tech. Frank Beamer's Hokies are poised for another big season in Blacksburg. The team won the ACC title in 2008 and is a favorite to win it again. Last season, the Crimson Tide embarrassed what was supposed to be the best the ACC had to offer in Clemson, catapulting the Tide to a truly remarkable campaign. Virginia Tech will try to avoid a similar fate, but is just 1-24 all-time against top-five foes. Still, with two of the nation's premier defenses on display, anything can happen.
MIAMI-FLORIDA AT (18) FLORIDA STATE: Week one will come to a close on Labor Day, when Florida State and Miami collide in Tallahassee. There is no need for further motivation when the Seminoles and Hurricanes get together on the gridiron. Bobby Bowden's squad is once again one of the favorites to win the ACC title and with good reason. The team has a veteran signal-caller in Chris Ponder and good balance with the run and the pass. The biggest key is the return of all five starters along the offensive line. It won't be easy for the Hurricanes in this one, but the team does possess a talented youngster under center in Jacory Harris and plenty of weapons at his disposal. While these two teams usually have stingy defenses, few people will forget last year's clash, a 41-39 shootout won by Florida State. This is the fourth time in the last six years that these two teams have opened up with one another and expecting the unexpected is usually a good rule of thumb in this series.