Rodgers brothers, Brian Kelly’s debut among five things to watch for on opening weekend

Dec 22, 2009; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Oregon State Beavers running back Jacquizz Rodgers (1) heads up field against the BYU Cougars in the 2009 Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium. BYU defeated Oregon State 44-20. Photo via Newscom

I’m assuming you’re excited today.

I know I am. As nice as Thursday was for college football lovers, there’s nothing quite like the first full Saturday of college football. I could barely sleep last night, as thoughts of TCU’s defense, Brian Kelly’s debut in South Bend and Erin Andrews — on the set of Gameday … pervs — danced through my head.

Before I get into the five things you should look out for today, a brief introduction: My name is Paul Costanzo and I’ll be guiding you through your college football Saturdays this season. I’m not a college football expert, by any means. I’m just a huge fan who happens to have a journalism degree. I’m also a good friend of Anthony’s, so if I suck at this, you can direct all your hate mail to him. You can read me daily in the Times Herald newspaper out of Port Huron, Mich.

But enough about me, let’s get to the games.

It’s the first weekend, so I’d advise you to take all that you can in. But here are five things to focus on:

1. Brian Kelly’s debut at Notre Dame: Whether you love or hate the Irish, this is one to watch. Kelly has had nothing but success in his previous stops, and Notre Dame fans are hopeful that he’s the next Lou/Ara/Devine/Rockne. Because if he isn’t, well, let’s just say that’s not good for Notre Dame. His fast-break offense, led this year by first-year starter Dayne Crist, should have an opportunity to show itself off today against Purdue. But with the Irish, the question is defense, and it will be tested by Miami transfer Robert Marve and the Boilermakers’ own wide-open style.

2. Can Rich-Rod avoid the super hot seat?: Some would argue that Rich Rodriguez is already squarely on the super hot seat, but I don’t think there would be any argument if Michigan loses at home today to Connecticut. Don’t get me wrong, UConn is a good team. A very good team, in fact. But Michigan fans don’t want to hear excuses about losing to basketball schools, especially after going 8-16 over the past two seasons. If Michigan wins today, the pitch forks will go away for at least another week. If it loses, however, (which is a definite possibility) Rodriguez might want to pack at least one bag, just to be prepared.

3. Can Jacquizz Rodgers and Oregon State solve TCU’s defense?: The Horned Frogs lost some significant pieces on defense — defensive end Jerry Hughes foremost among them — but I imagine that Gary Patterson is going to be sending another strong unit out onto the field this year. That unit will get a strong test today with Oregon State, led by the Rodgers brothers, Jacquizz and James. This game is also interesting for the fact that we have a Pac-10 team going on the road and trying to pull off an upset against a Mountain West team.

4. Can North Carolina field a full team?: If you’re headed to Atlanta today, make sure to bring your spikes, because the Tar Heels are running a special “First 50 in the door get a jersey … and a scholarship” promotion. North Carolina has been decimated by suspensions, and will be without most of its defense, including stud defensive tackle Marvin Austin, and its biggest playmakers on offense. That was enough for Vegas to move the betting line by a touchdown, and all the action is still moving toward LSU. If this were in North Carolina, I’d almost go with the “team rallies around adversity” angle. But deep in the heart of SEC country, I have a tough team seeing the Heels rallying for anything today.

5. Can Boise State capitalize on its best chance to make the title game?: You’ll have to wait for Monday to watch for this, but you should definitely be watching. Boise State travels to Fed Ex Field to take on Virginia Tech in the weekend’s showcase game. The Hokies have high hopes coming into the season, as they’re the favorite in the ACC and a dark horse in national title talks. But don’t be fooled, this one is all about the Broncos. With a preseason top-five ranking attached to them this year, this is the Broncos’ best shot at truly busting the BCS and playing for the national title. A win against Virginia Tech puts them on course to do just that. And with nearly the entire team returning from a year ago — including stud quarterback Kellen Moore — Boise State is a legitimate national title contender.

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