10 Under-The-Radar College Football Games In Week 1

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10 Under The Radar College Football Games In Week 1

10 Under The Radar College Football Games In Week 1
Spruce Derden - USATODAY Sports

Exactly one month from today, the 2013 college football season will finally get under way. It’s been a long wait over a hot summer, but fall is almost here, and soon it will be time to watch football all day every Saturday, and it can’t come soon enough.

Just as we’ve become accustomed to over the years, the opening weekend of the season offers some marquee matchups that will already have a huge impact on the national championship picture. The Georgia Bulldogs will visit the Clemson Tigers in a huge SEC vs. ACC matchup. As usual, the LSU Tigers will challenge themselves right off the bat with a neutral site game against the TCU Horned Frogs. We’ll also see the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide open up their season on neutral turf against the Virginia Tech Hokies. Just by glancing at the schedule, it’s not hard to pick out the biggest games and the top matchups that will be played the first week of the season.

But if you look beneath the surface, you’ll find several intriguing games and interesting matchups the first week of the season that are flying below the radar. They may not involve powerhouse programs or national championship contenders, but they’re certainly games worth checking on. Just because these games don’t involve top-10 teams doesn’t mean there aren’t interesting storylines or great players. Here are 10 under-the-radar games that you may not be aware of just yet, but that you should be excited to watch the first week of the college football season.

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Louisiana-Monroe at Oklahoma

Louisiana-Monroe at Oklahoma
Nelson Chenault - USATODAY Sports

On the surface, this may look like a cupcake for Oklahoma, but remember the ULM Warhawks beat the Arkansas Razorbacks last season when they were a top-10 team. The Oklahoma defense was vulnerable at times last season, and ULM quarterback Kolton Browning is the type of player that can take advantage of a defense like that. He’s not a conventional passer, but he can make plays, which could make him a dark horse for the Johnny Unitas Award. ULM is no pushover, and they have a real chance to challenge the Sooners.

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Northern Illinois at Iowa

Northern Illinois at Iowa
Mike DiNovo - USATODAY Sports

There will be a few more eyes on Northern Illinois this season as they attempt to break into the BCS for the second-straight year. A great way to keep the attention on them would be to upset a Big 10 team the opening week of the season. These two teams played each other to open the 2012 season, with Iowa scratching out an 18-17 win. Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch has come a long way since that game, and would love to make a statement to start the season. Iowa had a rough season last year, and should have their hands full with the Huskies, which should make this an intriguing week one matchup.

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Kentucky at Western Kentucky

Kentucky at Western Kentucky
Andrew Weber - USATODAY Sports

This game has quite a few interesting storylines. For starters, former Arkansas Razorbacks coach and avid motorcycle rider Bobby Petrino is the new head coach at Western Kentucky, as he’s getting a second chance after a year out of coaching. Kentucky also has a new head coach in Mark Stoops, who has created a lot of excitement around the program, but has his work cut out for him in Lexington. Finally, there’s the fact that Western Kentucky upset the Wildcats on the road last season. If Stoops expects to succeed at Kentucky, the first step is making sure his team isn’t the third best in their home state. The Hilltoppers winning last season made this a rivalry which will make this year’s game between the two Bluegrass state rivals more intense than ever.

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Northwestern at California

Northwestern at Cal
Rich Barnes - USATODAY Sports

As far as games between two BCS programs go, this one doesn’t seem all that appealing, but it is; these two schools are more than just great academic institutions. Sonny Dykes has taken over at Cal, and should bring a lot of excitement and a lot of offense to the program, especially with the team opening the season with three-straight home games. Meanwhile, Northwestern had one of the best seasons in school history last year, winning 10 games, including a bowl game against Mississippi State of the SEC. Quarterback Kain Colter and running back Venric Mark are both dynamic playmakers, and if Dykes’ offense is as good at Cal as it was with Louisiana Tech last year, this game could be as high scoring and entertaining as any game during the season’s opening weekend.

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Ohio at Louisville

Ohio at Louisville
Jamie Rhodes - USATODAY Sports

Teddy Bridgewater is a Heisman Trophy candidate and Louisville is a dark horse for the national championship, but for either of those to happen, the Cardinals must go 12-0. On their quest to go undefeated, the Cardinals will be challenged right off the bat. Ohio has their own hopes of going to a BCS bowl game, and they also have one of the better quarterbacks in the country in Tyler Tettleton. Most people don’t know much about Ohio, but they beat the Penn State Nittany Lions in the season opener last year, and they should be one of the top mid-majors in the country this season. These are two teams with high hopes for the season, and they should put on quite a show to open the year.

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Utah State at Utah

Utah State at Utah
Russ Isabella - USATODAY Sports

This rivalry isn’t as intense as the one the Utes have with the BYU Cougars, but the Utes are angry after being upset by the Aggies last season, which should add a little fuel to this rivalry. Utah is hoping that quarterback Travis Wilson is better as a sophomore, after starting the second half of last season, and they’ll not only need him to be better in this game, but all season in the Pac 12. As for Utah State, they finished 2012 as a top-25 team after going 11-2, losing two games by a combined five points. After last year’s success, Utah State will be looking to bust the BCS this season, and that journey begins with a matchup against their in-state rivals, which should be one of the best rivalry games in week one of the college football season.

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Tulsa at Bowling Green

Tulsa at Bowling Green
Beth Hall - USATODAY Sports

This is a Thursday night game, and a great opportunity to check out the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes, a team the nation should get to know. Tulsa won 11 games last season, they’re favorites in Conference USA and they have an offense that can put points on the board in a hurry, as they return not only starting quarterback Cody Green, but their top four offensive skill players as well. As for Bowling Green, they should be considered a dark horse in the MAC, and they have a tough defense that will challenge Tulsa’s high-flying offense, which should make this an interesting game between two teams fans should get to know.

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Ole Miss at Vanderbilt

Ole Miss at Vanderbilt
Don McPeak - USATODAY Sports

These two aren’t the elite teams in their conference, but in the first week of the season this is a huge statement game in the SEC. Ole Miss could be a bit of a dark horse in the SEC West after bringing in a great recruiting class, while Vandy is hoping to continue to make strides in the SEC East after two great seasons under James Franklin. Both teams are hoping to make some noise this season, and both will fight hard to win their season opener. Vanderbilt beat Ole Miss in Oxford by a single point last season, and the Rebels would certainly like some retribution. On Thursday night in primetime, this is definitely a game worth watching.

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Nevada at UCLA

Nevada at UCLA
Mark J. Rebilas - USATODAY Sports

He’s no Colin Kaepernick, but Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo is a player that’s worth checking out. Fajardo has no shortage of wide receivers to throw to, which should give Nevada a high-scoring offense that could pose a problem for UCLA. Meanwhile, the Bruins could be one of the favorites to win the Pac-12 this year, and this game against Nevada will be a great barometer to determine just how realistic those hopes are for UCLA in Jim Mora’s second season as head coach.

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Rutgers at Fresno State

Rutgers at Fresno State
Brian Losness - USATODAY Sports

Most are probably familiar with his older brother David, but now it’s time to get to know Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr as he kicks off his senior season. Carr threw 37 touchdown passes last year, and figures to be one of the top quarterbacks in the nation this season and a guy worth watching. Meanwhile, Rutgers is playing out its last season before taking off for the Big 10 next year, but they need to be weary of a 3,000-mile road trip to face Fresno State, who figures to be one of the top mid-majors in the country. This is an opening night game on Thursday, and figures to be an evenly matched and high-scoring game.

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