There's Trojans then the rest

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 6:56 AM ET

Questions, there's always a few when the gridiron game springs to life at campuses across America.

Except, in 2005 at least, the most obvious one.

Let's just say the phrase 'Who's No. 1?' has been rather absent from college football pre-season talk. Scan the preview magazines, websites ... the pundits are virtually unanimous about it.

It's the USC Trojans, and then everyone else. With Matty Heisman (QB Matt Leinart) and his right-hand man, the scintillating Reggie Bush, back in tow -- not to mention a breath-taking corps of receivers -- the men of Troy are a heavy betting favourite to become the first college squad to win three straight national titles (AP poll version, that is).

The more intriguing thought is this: Who'll fill the other berth in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 4, site and date of the BCS national championship game?

There are several prospects, all with rather significant landmines to navigate to get there. Texas tops the list -- if the Longhorns can break their Oklahoma jinx, and survive a Sept. 10 trip to Ohio State.

Some like Tennessee, but the Volunteers face back-to-back major roadies at Florida and LSU later this month. That's nasty.

Iowa, Virginia Tech, Michigan ... each a candidate to play for it all, too. Or how about an off-the-wall choice like Louisville?

One sure thing. It should be quite the ride getting there.

What will you find in this space each week? Predictions, of course, but with a twist.

We'll throw a bigger focus on the biggest matchups (because not all games are created equal), and a lesser light on the rest (some of which just shouldn't have been created).

Most of all, it's about fun.

Just like the college football experience itself.

So let's strike up the band, and get on with Week No. 1:

GAME OF THE WEEK

No. 9 Miami (Fla.) (-3) at No. 14 Florida State (Monday, 8 p.m., ABC) -- This bitter state rivalry is now a key Atlantic Coast Conference game. With both teams breaking in new quarterbacks, expect the defences to dominate. Seminoles will ride RB Leon Washington. The Hurricanes' wild card: Return man extraordinaire Devin Hester. He's a serious difference maker. Pick: MIAMI

NEXT BEST THINGS

No. 8 Virginia Tech (-4) at N.C. State (Sunday, 7:15 p.m., Rogers NCAA) -- The Hokies launch the Marcus Vick era in hostile territory in Raleigh. Michael's little brother will have his hands full with the Wolfpack's front four, which rates among the nation's best. N.C. State, which handed the Hokies their only ACC loss a year ago, still has questions on offence. Hokies by a field goal. Pick: N.C. STATE.

Notre Dame (+3) at No. 23 Pittsburgh (Saturday, 8 p.m., ABC) -- Splashy coaching debut for the Irish's Charlie Weis and the Panthers' Dave Wannstedt, two old NFL rivals. Between the stripes, keep an eye on QB Tyler Palko, the key to Pittsburgh's Big East title hopes. With Michigan on deck, Irish face an 0-2 start with a loss here. Pick: PITTSBURGH.

UPSET SPECIAL

No. 18 Boise State (+7) at No. 13 Georgia (Saturday, 5:30 p.m., Rogers NCAA) -- QB Jared Zabransky and the Broncos have been starving for a shot at butting heads with the big boys. Here's their chance, "between the hedges" in Athens. Bulldogs face life without two graduated four-year leaders, QB David Greene and LB David Pollack. Plenty of BCS powers want no part of scheduling Boise. They'll show why Saturday. PICK: BOISE STATE.

BLOWOUT OF THE WEEK

Ball State (+39) at No. 11 Iowa -- Top 10 reasons why David Letterman's alma mater is in way over its head in Iowa City ... Ah, who needs much more than one. The Hawkeyes' standout QB, Drew Tate, will carve up the Redbirds, one of the country's worst teams. Pick: IOWA.

QUICK PICKS

(straight-up selections in bold)

Tonight

No. 20 Arizona State (-31) over Temple

Saturday

No. 1 USC (-341/2) over Hawaii

No. 2 Texas (-391/2) over Louisiana-Lafayette

UAB (+231/2) over No. 3 Tennessee

No. 4 Michigan (-18) over Northern Illinois

No. 6 Ohio State (-141/2) over Miami (Ohio)

No. 7 Oklahoma (-261/2) over TCU

Wyoming (+23) over No. 10 Florida

Georgia Tech (+7) over No. 16 Auburn

No. 17 Texas A&M (-11/2) over Clemson

No. 19 California (NL) over Sacramento State

No. 22 Boston College (-21/2) over Brigham Young

No. 25 Virginia (-33) over Western Michigan

Sunday

No. 12 Louisville (-22) over Kentucky

Best bet -- Louisville.

Upset of the week -- Boise State.


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