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May 17, 2009

Roundtable: Looking ahead to opening day

At the College Football Roundtable, we ask each member of the coverage staff for their opinion about a topic in the sport.

Today's question: We're 109 days from the start of the season (Sept. 3), which means we're close enough to the beginning of the season to ask this: Which opening-week game intrigues you the most?

Olin Buchanan's answer:
Alabama vs. Virginia Tech in Atlanta on Sept. 5. A matchup of top-10 teams at a neutral site has to get your attention. Plus, both teams have national championship aspirations that may or may not be realistic depending largely on how their offenses play. Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy will be in his first season as a starter and the offensive line is rebuilt. The Tide's running game could have trouble against Virginia Tech's always-strong defense. On the other side, can Virginia Tech's Tyrod Taylor and Darren Evans make any headway against Alabama's defense, which could be the best in the country? It figures to be a close, hard-fought game, the kind often decided by special teams. Both teams usually are good in the kicking game. The winner immediately becomes a bona-fide national championship contender.

Tom Dienhart's answer:
If Boise State dumps visiting Oregon on Sept. 3, pencil in the Broncos for a BCS bowl. The game vs. the Ducks looks like the Broncos' most difficult test. Pass it, and Boise State which should be ranked in the top 15 in the preseason looks like a mortal lock to run the table. Boise beat Oregon 37-32 last season in Eugene, so there is no intimidation factor. The rest of the Broncos' schedule? Piece of cake. A trip to Fresno State on Sept. 18, a visit to Tulsa on Oct. 14 and a home game vs. Nevada on Nov. 27 may be tricky, but Boise is a veteran team with 14 starters back, headed by standout quarterback Kellen Moore. And Broncos coach Chris Petersen is 35-4 in three seasons, including 23-1 in the WAC.

David Fox's answer:
The most fascinating game of the first week is Georgia's trip to Oklahoma State. The Cowboys can be this season's version of Texas Tech a potential spoiler for Oklahoma's and Texas' title hopes in the Big 12 South. If Oklahoma State is to be a sleeper for the national title, it needs to win this game. Oklahoma and Texas Tech struggled against Florida's and Ole Miss' defenses, respectively, in bowl games after last season. Will that continue in Stillwater? As for Georgia, I don't think losing Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno is the end for the Bulldogs. They should compete in the SEC East. This game will show how much of a competitor they will be.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
There are three to consider: Oregon at Boise State on Sept. 3 and Alabama vs. Virginia Tech in Atlanta and Georgia at Oklahoma State on Sept. 5. If Boise wins, the Broncos are on their way to a 12-0 season. But I still will pick Alabama-Virginia Tech. It'll match two top-10 teams and one of the SEC's elite teams against the ACC's elite team. In a way, Virginia Tech is carrying the banner for the ACC as a whole; if the Hokies lose, the ACC will be downgraded. That won't be the case for the SEC if Alabama falls. It won't be an easy first game for new Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy.

Steve Megargee's answer:
I'll go with the Alabama-Virginia Tech showdown at the Georgia Dome because of the ramifications for both teams and the entire ACC. Clemson entered last season with a top-10 ranking and a tidal wave of momentum, which disappeared when Alabama waxed the Tigers at the Georgia Dome. By midseason, Alabama was the team contending for a national title while Clemson was enduring a coaching change. Though we'd soon learn Alabama's victory wasn't an upset at all, that a team picked to finish third in the SEC West beat the overwhelming preseason ACC favorite gave the ACC a negative perception that didn't really disappear even after the league sent 10 teams to bowl games. Both teams figure to enter ranked in the top 10. And even though Virginia Tech has the more experienced team, Alabama could emerge as the slight favorite because of the SEC's superior reputation. If Virginia Tech wins this game, it could give the ACC a shot of adrenaline and the legitimate national title contender the league has lacked since Florida State's fall from grace.



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