Posted: September 01, 2007


1. The Eagles finished their exhibition games . . .

Now, the Nittany Lions have one. Sports Illustrated and Athlon both had Florida International, today's visitor to Happy Valley, ranked 119th of 119 Division 1-A teams.

2. Notre Dame's starting quarterback will be . . .

. . . unveiled today against Georgia Tech. Does the Jimmy Clausen era begin immediately? Or do the Irish use a different scheme with multidimensional Demetrius Jones?

. . . Does Charlie Weis have to take some serious early lumps? That's probably not the game plan, but the retooling Irish, with a new defensive coordinator, get no early breaks from the schedule, with three top-30 opponents out of the gate. (Georgia Tech, at Penn State, at Michigan).

3. Temple's opener last night.

In the first half, penalties stopped Temple's first two drives more than Navy did, while the Midshipmen scored on their first two. But Owls freshman Daryl Robinson was as good as advertised, immediately. His first touch was for a first down, but it was called back by a holding penalty on a Temple lineman. On his first official touch, Robinson caught a screen pass and went 18 yards untouched (or at least un-hit) for Temple's first touchdown.

4. A dud first week.

When the marquee national matchup of the season's first Saturday - shown on prime time on ABC - is between a team picked second in the Pac-10 (California) and a school picked third in the East Division of the Southeastern Conference (Tennessee), most fans can enjoy their Labor Day weekend and skip right to Week 2.

This weekend, no other ranked teams play each other, and UCLA is the only other ranked school to play on the road, at Stanford. Even the big Monday night matchup isn't much: Florida State at Clemson. All that will prove is which Bowden has the most heat on him early this season.

5. Other rankings from Athlon for today's opponents.

These aren't games so much as financial transactions.

USC plays Idaho, ranked 113th.

Nebraska hosts No. 84 Nevada.

Virginia Tech has 86th-ranked East Carolina.

Arkansas takes on No. 82 Troy.

Oklahoma pays off No. 114 North Texas.

Texas brings in No. 104 Arkansas State.

No. 6 Michigan has 1-AA Appalachian State. At least the Mountaineers are the two-time defending 1-AA champions.

7. On the other side of the coin, Villanova has a rough opener.

We know the 1-AA Wildcats got a lot of money from Maryland for tonight's game, and they'll earn it.

8. The Steve Slaton/Pat White show gets started.

West Virginia opens against Western Michigan. For Heisman favorites, these first games are about accumulating numbers (as Ray Rice of Rutgers did Thursday against Buffalo, rushing for 184 yards and three touchdowns) and maybe getting a SportsCenter highlight.

9. Best local performance.

Thursday night, Delaware running back Omar Cuff tied a 1-AA record by scoring seven times, six rushing and one receiving. Cuff ran for 244 yards in Delaware's 49-31 victory over William and Mary.

The Blue Hens are favored in the Colonial Athletic Association South.

10. The real top 10.

1. USC. 2. West Virginia. 3. Florida. 4. LSU. 5. Michigan. 6. Virginia Tech. 7. Wisconsin. 8. Texas. 9. Louisville. 10. Ohio State.

Games of the Week

East Carolina at No. 9 Virginia Tech, noon, ESPN: Last spring's massacre at Virginia Tech will overshadow the game itself.

Florida International at No. 17 Penn State, noon: All eyes will be on Nittany Lions senior quarterback Anthony Morelli. In its five years of existence, Florida International's program has never won a non-conference road game against a 1-A opponent.

Georgia Tech at Notre Dame, 3:30 p.m., NBC10: A new quarterback, new wide receivers, new starting tailback, and a new defensive look for the Irish, who gave up a combined 85 points in their last two games of 2006, to USC and LSU.

Villanova at Maryland, 6 p.m.: The Wildcats were picked to finish fifth in the six-team CAA South, although they won their last four games in 2006, finishing with one-point wins over James Madison and Delaware. Sophomore Antwon Young gets his first start at quarterback, taking over for Marvin Burroughs.

No. 15 Tennessee at No. 12 California, 7:45 p.m., 6ABC: Bears receiver DeSean Jackson, a preseason first-team all-American, is the attraction here.

Big Games This Season

Sept. 8

Notre Dame at Penn State: Can there be a bigger matchup in this state?

TCU at Texas: If the Horned Frogs want to be this year's Boise State, they need to pull off the upset in Austin.

Virginia Tech at LSU: This is an early title-contention face-off.

Oct. 6

Oklahoma at Texas: The loser's best hope might be to see a glamour team like Boise State in a bowl game.

Florida at LSU: The defending national champs will visit the Southeastern Conference favorites.

Oct. 20

USC at Notre Dame: It doesn't matter how the Irish are doing, USC will get its greatest Midwest and Eastern exposure here.

Oct. 27

West Virginia at Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights look to avenge last year's OT loss in Morgantown and derail West Virginia's national-title hopes.

Nov. 8

Louisville at West Virginia: Last year, the home team prevailed.

Nov. 10

USC at California: Could this be just a speed bump for the Trojans?

Michigan at Wisconsin: The preseason polls say this should be for the Big Ten title.

Nov. 17

Ohio State at Michigan: Whatever their records, the Wolverines will have the most on the line, since they have lost five of their last six to the Buckeyes.

Nov. 23

Boise State at Hawaii: Both schools have earned the right to call this a big one.

- Mike Jensen

Contact staff writer Mike Jensen at 215-854-4489 or mjensen@phillynews.com.

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