Game day.

You can sniff it, feel it.

I could tell on Friday that college football had arrived when my neighbor had a DirecTV van at his house and a worker drilling a hole in his fireplace to bring in a cable to his new HD-TV. While my longtime friend made his case to his wife why they needed an upgrade to the TV in the kitchen, she wasn't biting.

The biggest game on the slate is Utah's venture into Big Ten country to the Big House at Michigan, one of the most storied programs in college football.

This game is a mystery, primarily because of the coaching change at Michigan, key losses to the Wolverines' offensive personnel and revamping that side of the ball by Rich Rodriguez to the modern-day spread he perfected at West Virginia.

Utah is catching Michigan exactly at the right time. Opening games are a crapshoot, and they are difficult to predict. Utah has a great chance to take an established offense, led by a fifth-year senior, into Ann Arbor and come out with a much-needed win for the disrespected Mountain West Conference.

But then, there's Michigan's defense. A year ago, this defense held opponents to about 46 yards rushing a game. It could give Brian Johnson and company fits.

If the Michigan offense can't move the ball and turns it over while trying to do something Rodriguez will need a few more games to perfect, the Utes will clinch a huge win.

This one is full of classic storylines, and if the Utes return victorious, there will be plenty to talk about in Salt Lake City and Ann Arbor.

I can see this as a huge defensive battle. In that case, I like Louie Sakoda to take over and win it with his leg, field position and some key field goals. That might be all it will take for the Utes if Michigan slips and slides around with its new offense.

The Cougars should beat Northern Iowa. The key for BYU is to get its defense some needed work against somebody else and see if Scott Johnson and Brandon Howard can really cover and tackle.

Northern Iowa's option power game should provide plenty of film to break down. The other key is for the Cougars to avoid major injuries heading into the Washington road trip.

It will be interesting to see how Max Hall Year 2 plays out, even against Northern Iowa, a team that's lost just once in two seasons. Hall was a rookie last year and it took him a third of the season to catch fire.

His sidekick, receiver Austin Collie, sees Hall as a significantly better quarterback from where he was at this stage last August.

"He's head and shoulders better," Collie said. "He's fantastic. He's a lot more relaxed back there in the pocket, and it is noticeable, and he's just that much smarter with the offense. He's always making the correct decisions, always making the right reads. And I think that's the key."

I've enlisted a panel of prognosticators to help guess the winners and losers each week.

Here's my picks:

Wyoming 24, Ohio 9: The Cowboys will play a series of home games and get off to a great start, but they've got to learn how to win on the road to be a contender.

Air Force 31, SUU 10: The Falcons are breaking in a new quarterback and need an answer for the departure of player of the year Chad Hall. They'll inch forward with those solutions today.

Michigan 7, Utah 6: I see this game as a toss-up and Louis Sakoda should be able to win it if it comes down to field goals. But as much as Michigan is a question mark on offense, its defense is one of the best in the country this year.

BYU 38, Northern Iowa 9: This is not the game the Cougars expected to have to open this season, but it will still be a sold-out home opener with plenty of fireworks.

TCU 24, New Mexico 21: The Lobos have to win this home game, but TCU might be on track to challenge for the title and it has enough firepower to leave Albuquerque with a win.

SDSU 17, Cal Poly 14: The Aztecs need to get something going and this should be the recipe for a good start for Chuck Long.

UNLV 21, Utah State 7: Frank Summers is not a guy the Aggies want to see crashing down on that defense play after play.

Colorado 27, CSU 10: The Rams have fought gallantly in this series, coming up with a lot of respect in the process, but the Buffs are operating at a different plane this year.

The rest of the panel:

Pat Kinahan, 1320 KFAN

Wyoming 28, Ohio 10

Air Force 35, SUU 7

Utah 17, Michigan 10

BYU 42, Northern Iowa 17

TCU 24, New Mexico 21

SDSU 24, Cal Poly 10

UNLV 20, Utah State 10

Colorado 35, CSU 17


Kevin Graham, 1280 KZNS

Wyoming 28, Ohio 14

Air Force 41, SUU 10

Michigan 17, Utah 14

BYU 45, Northern Iowa 10

New Mexico 24, TCU 21

SDSU 31, Cal Poly 13

UNLV 3, Utah State 0

Colorado 27, CSU 13


Hans Olsen, 1280 KZNS

Wyoming 28, Ohio 14

Air Force 17, SUU 14

Utah 28, Michigan 17

BYU 48, Northern Iowa 10

TCU 32, New Mexico 10

SDSU 21, Cal Poly 7

Utah State 21, UNLV 17

Colorado 32, CSU 3


Jeff Call, Deseret News

Air Force 45, SUU 10

Wyoming 27, Ohio 24

TCU 24, New Mexico 20

Utah 20, Michigan 16

Colorado 37, CSU 14

UNLV 24, Utah State 14

Cal Poly 28, San Diego State 21

BYU 38, Northern Iowa 17


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