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Rutgers Travels to Fresno State, Vandy Begins Season Against Ole Miss

Welcome back NCAA football! You have been missed.

Yes, today is the kick off and there’s a number of great games to get us started. From the east, we have Rutgers at Fresno State and while stretching it a bit to embrace today’s geographical region, the East, Ole Miss at Vanderbilt.

None of these teams are in the Top 25 preseason polls but they all received some sort of vote–even one vote counts.

For Rutgers, it will spend 2013 in the American Athletic Conference before heading to its permanent home in 2014, the Big Ten. In 2012 they finished 9-4 (5-2) to take a share of the Big East title. Coach Kyle Flood is entering his sophomore season and his team will have a new identity now that talented running back Jawan Jamison has moved on to the NFL.

It’s now quarterback Gary Nova’s offense to lead and last season his 22 touchdowns was at the top in the Big East. But he’s a bit of a bipolar player and the team will look for Good Nova in 2013. He’ll rely on running back Savon Huggins to help with the ground game and wide receiver Brandon Coleman to continue his conference-leading passing touchdown ability.

On defense, there’s lots of new faces and the team will need to rebuild after losing two conference defensive leaders.

Derek Carr

Derek Carr

For Fresno State, also coming off a 9-4 2012 season, veteran quarterback Derek Carr (yep, David Carr’s little bro) is the face of this team; he was NFL-ready last season (a Mountain West record 4,104 yards and 37 touchdowns) and should be even better this season. Lucky for him, his two top targets will be back with him, wide receivers Devante Adams and Isaiah Bruce.

Factor in tight end Marcel Jensen and Rutgers’ secondary will stay busy on Thursday.

As for its 3-4 defense, Fresno State has a lot of new faces and is a shadow of its 2012 group. Its defensive line is on the small side and going up against Rutgers offensive line should be interesting. Will its backfield stop Rutgers’ running game?

This should be a good game with Fresno State getting the first win of its season (-11, 54.5 o/u).

Ole Miss vs. Vanderbilt

After both teams had dismal seasons in 2011 they started to turn the corner last season–especially with Vanderbilt’s end-of-season seven-game win streak–and now look for brighter futures in 2013.

Lucky for them, most of their starters are returning with Vanderbilt believing they have a slight advantage. For the second straight year, the team will kick off its season hosting a prime time, nationally televised game. In 2012, they lost to No. 9 South Carolina 17-13 with around 75 percent of the team seeing playing time.

For Thursday’s game, 13 seniors will start. Wide receiver Jordan Matthews said via the Associated Press, “We’re a veteran group, a senior-laden team, so that’s really going to help us tremendously.”

Vandy will have a new quarterback after Jordan Rodgers left and is trying to land a NFL spot. Austyn Carta-Samuels will take over and in 2012, he had one start. This followed his 21 starts from his days at Wyoming.

Samuels’ offensive weapons will include All-SEC receiver Matthews but he’ll be without junior receiver Chris Boyd on Thursday.

Bo Wallace

Bo Wallace

Ole Miss has returning quarterback Bo Wallace; he threw for 2,994 yards and ran for eight touchdowns last season. He’ll have wide receiver Donte Moncrief along with two freshmen, receiver Laquon Treadwell and tight end Evan Engram to help him.

As for a defensive battle, in 2012 Vandy was No. 6 nationally for its pass efficiency and plans to run an uptempo defense in 2013. Ole Miss ranked at the top for tackles.

Both teams enter with a lot of confidence but Ole Miss gets a tight win (-3, 53 o/u).

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