Week One Lowe Down: SEC powers roll, Irish survive

Matt Lowe

August 31, 2018 at 4:12 pm.

Nov 25, 2017; Auburn, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide running back Josh Jacobs (8) is brought down by Auburn Tigers defensive lineman Dontavius Russell (95) and defensive lineman Nick Coe (91) during the second quarter at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Photo Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 25, 2017; Auburn, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide running back Josh Jacobs (8) is brought down by Auburn Tigers defensive lineman Dontavius Russell (95) and defensive lineman Nick Coe (91) during the second quarter at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Photo Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Week One of The Lowe Down.

Football is back. And we don’t like it, we downright flippin’ love it.

Right out of the gate, we see a number of great college football heavyweight matchups that could play a role in who makes the four-team playoff.

Pac-12 power Washington takes on defending SEC West champ Auburn in Hotlanta, Michigan and Notre Dame rekindle a longstanding rivalry in the Big House, top-ranked Alabama takes on Louisville in Orlando, The U takes on LSU in the Big Easy and Virginia Tech and FSU cap Labor Day weekend in Tallahassee.

In addition to those main events, there are a number of intriguing undercard bouts that could spurn an upset or two, most notably Texas at Maryland and Boise State at Troy.

Remember, the season isn’t over for a team after a tough loss to a quality opponent. So don’t get too upset if your team goes down 0-1 after Week One.

Have a great Labor Day weekend everyone.

To the games we go …

Friday, August 31

Utah State (0-0) at No. 11 Michigan State (0-0) 6:00 p.m. CT

Quarterback Brian Lewerke and tailback LJ Scott are two of the best at their positions in the Big Ten, but the offensive line needs to be more effective in big games and the receiving corps needs more chunk plays if the Spartans want go from good to great. Utah State, led by sophomore quarterback Jordan Love and big, athletic wideout Ron’Quavion Tarver, is a capable team offensively, but the MSU defense will be a significant challenge for the visiting Aggies.

The Lowe Down: Michigan State 43, Utah State 13

Western Kentucky (0-0) at No. 4 Wisconsin (0-0) 8:00 p.m. CT

Wisconsin was dealt of blow in the offseason with the departure of explosive wideout Quintez Cephus (off-field incident) and the two-game suspension for Danny Davis, who, like Cephus, also had an off-field incident. But the losses of those two key players won’t likely hurt the Badgers in the season-opener against Western Kentucky, who ended last season losing five out of its last six games due to a rash of injuries, most notably on defense. Look for Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor and arguably the best offensive line in America to be the story in a huge home win.

The Lowe Down: Wisconsin 48, Western Kentucky 10

San Diego State (0-0) at No. 13 Stanford (0-0) 8:00 p.m. CT

When you think of San Diego State, what do you think about? Great running backs right? I know I sure do. And now that 2,000-yard rusher Rashaad Penny is lining up in the backfield for the Seattle Seahawks, it will be interesting to see if Juwan Washington, a compact, powerful speedster, can continue the lineage of fantastic Aztec runners. If he can, San Diego State might give Stanford a game.  But the key word is might. And rest assured, whatever Washington can do, Cardinal running back Bryce Love can do better. And a big performance from the Heisman runner-up could be exactly what Stanford needs to avenge a 20-17 loss to SDSU a year ago.

The Lowe Down: Stanford 37, San Diego State 17

In other Friday games:

Syracuse 33

Western Michigan 23

Army 13

Duke 17

Saturday, September 1

Florida Atlantic (0-0) at No. 7 Oklahoma (0-0) 11:00 a.m.

FAU is a sexy upset pick this weekend, and for that exact reason I think Oklahoma will bring its A-game into its season opener. Yes, Baker Mayfield is gone, but the Sooners return some serious talent on both sides of the ball — in particular tailback Rodney Anderson, speedy wideout Marquise Brown and standout linemen Ben Powers and Dru Samia on offense and rangy end Amani Bledsoe and active linebackers Kenneth Murray and Caleb Kelly on defense — and it’s highly unlikely that Lincoln Riley’s team is overlooking Lane Kiffin’s FAU squad.  The Owls have a number of talented players of their own, including big-play running back Devin Singletary and tackling machine Azeez Al-Shaair, but I’m not buying the upset chatter.

The Lowe Down: Oklahoma 48, FAU 23

No. 17 West Virginia (0-0) vs Tennessee (0-0) (Charlotte) 2:30 p.m. CT

West Virginia’s offense is armed with Lindy’s top-ranked quarterback (Will Grier) and top-ranked wideout (David Sills V), but the Mountaineers will need to improve on their rushing numbers from a year ago (150.3 ypg, which ranked 83rd national) if they want to win the Big 12. In big games, and against talented defenses, good teams have to be able to run the ball. They also have to to play defense, which West Virginia did not do a lot of last season. And for that reason, Tennessee, under the direction of first-year head coach Jeremy Pruitt, who’s a really talented Xs and Os guy, could keep this game closer than expected. Problem is, the Vols don’t have enough dudes — at the moment — to execute the Xs and Os at a high level.

The Lowe Down: West Virginia 34, Tennessee 23

No. 6 Washington (0-0) vs No. 9 Auburn (0-0) (Atlanta) 2:30 p.m. CT

Washington is led by the quarterback-running back duo of Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin and talented tight end Drew Sample on offense, but the Huskies front wall will be under the microscope when they take on Auburn. The Tigers go eight-to-nine deep up front and have several NFL-caliber defenders (Marlon Davidson, Derrick Brown, Dontavius Russell and Nick Coe to name a few) that can play the run and rush the passer equally well due to their size and strength. If Washington can get a push on Auburn’s D-line, then it has a shot to win the game. The same could be said for the Tigers, who will be rolling out a new-look line against a talented Washington defense that enters the season with the nation’s best secondary. All signs point to a defensive struggle, but Auburn’s speed on offense and the passing of Jarrett Stidham will be difference in a hard-fought game.

The Lowe Down: Auburn 23, Washington 13

No. 22 Boise State (0-0) at Troy (0-0) 5:00 p.m. CT

Kaleb Barker and B.J. Smith aren’t Brandon Silvers and Jordan Chunn, but Troy’s new quarterback-running back combo have experience and will benefit tremendously from operating behind one of the best offensive lines in college football. And no, that’s not a typo.  Last season, the Trojans front wall, which is led by standout center Deontae Crumitie, allowed the fewest sacks nationally. Boise State is the preseason favorite to win the Mountain West behind the right arm of Brett Rypien, the running of Alexander Mattison and a potentially stout defense, but it will have its hands full on the road at Troy, which features a fast, hard-hitting defense of its own.

The Lowe Down: Troy 23, Boise State 20

No. 14 Michigan (0-0) at Notre Dame (0-0) 6:30 p.m. CT

Michigan’s offense was stuck in neutral last season due to inadequate play at quarterback and along the offensive line. But if the Wolverines can get improved play in those two areas, they’ll have the goods to win the Big Ten. Shea Patterson takes over as the team’s signal-caller and it will be interesting to see how he is used by head coach Jim Harbaugh and OC Pep Hamilton. Patterson is an intuitive player who can make plays in a variety of ways, which is the total opposite of the classic drop-back passer Harbaugh’s teams have had in the past. If Harbaugh and Hamilton can bring out Patterson’s natural talent, the Wolverines may take off. Regardless, beating Notre Dame on the road will be a tall task. Despite the loss of two All-American offensive linemen (Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey) and big-play tailback Josh Adams, the Irish should field a good offense yet again.  The O-line is still in good shape and quarterback Brandon Wimbush, a talented dual-threat, leads a talented collection of skill players. The Irish also play good defense and have one of the top kickers in the nation in Justin Yoon, which will help propel ND to a narrow victory.

The Lowe Down: Michigan 20, Notre Dame 22

Louisville (0-0) vs. No. 1 Alabama (0-0) (Orlando) 7:00 p.m. CT

Two words: Tua Tagovailoa. No controversy. No battle. No doubt. He’ll be the man behind center for Alabama Saturday night and after he torches Louisville’s secondary for about 400 yards and three or four scores, there will be no more talk about Alabama’s quarterback situation. Tagovailoa is a once in a lifetime-type player and he’ll prove that rather quickly. Louisville has some talented skill guys in quarterback Jawon Pass and wideouts Jaylen Smith, Seth Dawkins and Dez Fitzpatrick, but the Cardinals don’t have the horses on defense to stop what could turn out to be the best offense Nick Saban’s had at Alabama.

The Lowe Down: Alabama 54, Louisville 17

In other Saturday games:

No. 23 Texas 27 at Maryland 24

Oregon State 7 at No. 5 Ohio State 55

Furman 7 at No. 2 Clemson 52

Appalachian State 13 at No. 10 Penn State 35

Central Michigan 17 at Kentucky 38

Northern Illinois 17 at Iowa 24

North Carolina 23 at Cal 27

UNLV 27 at No. 15 USC 33

Cincinnati 17 at UCLA 34

SMU 28 at North Texas 34

Middle Tennessee 27 at Vanderbilt 31

Akron 16 at Nebraska 45

Bowling Green 14 at No. 24 Oregon 55

BYU 33 at Arizona 38

Navy 38 at Hawaii 23