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College Football 2015: Week 1 Preview
Saturday, 2015 August 29 - 3:00 pm
FOOTBAWW. Yes, I'm back at it. Hope has returned to Michigan with the arrival of Jim Harbaugh as head coach. He's proven nothing yet, but it's hard to imagine it could be worse than the debacle of the last couple of years.

Michigan at Utah

A wonderful parting gift to us from former AD Dave Brandon: Michigan has an away game at Utah to open the season. This is no pushover opponent, and the hostile crowd and high elevation will work against us. If we manage to win this, it'll be a real accomplishment and a reason to be hopeful for the season.

Michigan hasn't announced its starting quarterback yet, but by all accounts it'll be Iowa transfer Jake Rudock, who has looked steadier and more accurate than Shane Morris in practice. He'll lead a passing attack that will be looking to establish a go-to receiver.

Michigan has a stable of highly-recruited but still unproven running backs. They'll be running behind what should be a greatly improved offensive line. The performance of the rushing attack in the spring game left a lot to be desired. Hopefully fall practice has given the line and the back some cohesion.

With the offense unproven and likely to be conservative in this first outing, Michigan will rely on its defense, which should be solid. The cornerbacks lack experience, especially after losing Blake Countess to a transfer, but Jabril Peppers at nickel and safety will be a difference-maker. The defensive line and linebacking corps are deep and experienced, and should be a strength.

On Utah's side, a lot of starters return from a squad that was 9-4 last year in a difficult conference. Michigan may have trouble containing running back Devontae Booker. However, the receiving corps looks suspect, and quarterback play has been inconsistent. Utah's defense last year was sound, but they lost top linebacker Nate Orchard to the NFL.

I expect a conservative game. If either team opens up its passing attack, interceptions seem likely. Michigan's kicking game may struggle, but I think Harbaugh will have a good enough game plan to sneak away with a victory.

The game is Thursday at 8:30 PM on Fox Sports 1.

Prediction: Michigan 21, Utah 19.

North Carolina State vs. Troy

The Wolfpack also have reason to be optimistic this season. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett looked sharp last year and expectations are high again this year. Shadrach Thornton and Matt Dayes return at tailback. I'm very high on Thornton's ability, but he's been suspended for the first two games due to what's reported to be a drug issue. Ugh.

NCSU will be breaking in new receivers and two new offensive tackles, which might limit offensive output early. But the defense returns the entire secondary, and while a number a starters are gone from the line and linebackers, the players this year all have playing experience and the drop-off should not be steep.

The opener is a yawner. NCSU has never been much for scheduling quality opposition, unfortunately. Troy is at least a 1-A opponent, but they went 3-9 last year and don't look much better this year.

The game is Saturday at 6:00 PM. It's online on ESPN3; I don't see any local broadcast information.

Prediction: NCSU 52, Troy 10.

Games to Watch on TV

Aside from the Michigan game, the Thursday games of interest are UNC at South Carolina at 6:00 PM on ESPN, and #2 TCU at Minnesota at 9:00 PM on ESPN.

On Friday night, Michigan State plays Western Michigan at 7:00 PM on ESPNU.

Saturday at noon, #21 Stanford plays Northwestern on ESPN. At 3:30 BYU plays Nebraska on ABC. #15 Arizona State plays Texas A&M at 7:00 PM on ESPN.

The obvious Game of the Week is #20 Wisconsin at #3 Alabama on ABC at 8:00 PM. Alabama might not be quite as dominant as in previous years, and Wisconsin should be able to hang around.
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