Thursday 8:00 pm Central Oklahoma at North Alabama

North Alabama's championship quest begins against an interesting MIAA opponent. Central Oklahoma is coming off of a 2-9 campaign but return their leading rusher and passer from a year ago. Unfortunately that won't be enough on their opening weekend.
UNA is a monster. Get used to me talking trash about their opponents all year. This team's destiny is a ring this year and possibly next year as they exit D II athletics. There is too much talent and continuity for that locker room to accept anything less. The Lions are great at making statements and unfortunately for UCO, they announce their presence with authority.
Lee Chapple's uniform will barely be dirty. In a recession and utility bills going through the roof, someone make sure th UNA equipment manager does not wash his uniform. It's a waste of money and time. Chapple will be better protected in week one than the pope sitting in a car waving through Times Square.
The Lion's defensively will hit UCO with something they've never seen before. The fastest transfers on earth. Throughout this Lion defense are Division I talents who flock to the football and make big-time plays.
I hate to be so vague but this is a battle of the elite vs. the transitional. UCO is trying to regain order in their program and get back to winning the way they did in the 1990's. North Alabama is looking to pop champagne and win championship rings.

Prediction: North Alabama over Central Oklahoma 42-17

Saturday 1:00 pm West Georgia at Tusculum

West Georgia opens up their third season under Darryl Dickey on the road against an angry Tusculum team. The Pioneers were subject to some bad luck in 2010 losing five times by seven points or less. While UWG is heading in the right direction, this test to open 2011 could be too much.
It all depends on who is playing quarterback for the Wolves. If new starter Emmanuel Taylor can be the difference maker people think he can be, this will be a ballgame. While he has a great rushing duo to turn to in James Kennebrew and Yusuf Holloway, unlike UWA, I see UWG letting Taylor hold the fate of the game in his hands from the get-go. They have less to lose being on the rise and all indications are he is an immediate difference maker.
The Wolves need Taylor to pick up large chunks of yards at a time if they're going to hang around. Tusculum is one of the more underrated teams in D II, but they are always involved in close games against quality opponents. UWG is on it's way to becoming quality but they aren't there yet.
Bo Cordell will have his way with a Wolf secondary that is still evolving. Cordell led all classifications of NCAA football in total offensive yards per game (425.45), passing yards per game (423.36) and completions per game (35.82), and points responsible for per game (26.00) last season.
A positive for West Georgia would be keeping Tusculum until 30 points. But I don't think they will. We'll get an idea for how much this team has improved this week. They're taking on a quality team, from a quality conference. Let's see if UWG is taking the next step.

Prediction: Tusculum 38-24

Saturday 1:30 pm Valdosta State at Wingate

Another year, another quarterback for Valdosta State. The Blazers will likely have Oklahoma transfer Cayden Cochran leading them under center. Since Willie Copeland's graduation in 2007, Cochran is the seventh player to start at quarterback for VSU.
Cochran has a bevy of weapons and a massive, veteran offensive line to protect him. But his battle against the Wingate defense isn't the match up to watch.
Bulldog quarterback Cody Haffly is a preseason All American that completed 61 percent of his passes in 2010 for nearly 4,000 yards. As a junior, Haffly recorded 44 touchdowns through the air to just 13 interceptions. What is the biggest difference in this game? It's that one team has a proven stud quarterback and the other does not.
The Valdosta State defense is short on leadership compared to last year. In their previous meeting to open last season, the Blazers barely edged out the visiting Bulldogs. This time around Wingate is looking for revenge. They felt some home cooking by the refs played into last year's loss on a close play along the sidelines.
VSU is a year away from something special. With a quarterback like Haffly, Wingate could be on it's way to a special season now. What will make this game intriguing is VSU's secondary, experienced and ball-flocking, trying to shut down one of the best quarterbacks in the game. They will slow him down, but will it be enough?

Prediction: Wingate over Valdosta State 21-14