Kirby Smart among 4 high-profile coaches who can seize control with Week 1 win

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It’s Week 1 of the college football season and while no single game is going to truly make or break a team or coach, that doesn’t mean some programs could use a victory more than others.

On the "College Football Enquirer" podcast we discuss which schools/coaches are in most need of a Week 1 win — not to mention the drama/comedy of Bishop Sycamore “High School,” South Carolina starting a former assistant coach at QB, Jimbo Fisher getting paid (even more) and picking six games in the Race of the Case.

Here are some of the selections for must-win — or nearly must-win — in Week 1.

AUSTIN, TEXAS - APRIL 24: Head coach Steve Sarkisian of the Texas Longhorns reacts during the Texas Football Orange-White Spring Game at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on April 24, 2021 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian reacts during the Orange-White spring game in April. On Saturday, the game is for real. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

Texas' Steve Sarkisian  

Obviously Sarkisian’s job status is not in doubt considering this is his first game as the Longhorns' coach.

It’s that Texas spent the summer leading a future defection (along with Oklahoma) out of the Big 12 and into the SEC. The move knee-capped its old league, rocked the sport in general and will probably delay the College Football Playoff from expanding.

As such, a loss to a very good Louisiana team (4:30 p.m. ET Saturday) would be particularly embarrassing, even if UL is nationally ranked 23rd and are +240 on the money line. BetMGM oddsmakers made the Longhorns -8 favorites

Most suspect that UT’s desire to get to the SEC was rooted in its failures of late. It has produced just a single 10-win season since 2009. Had the Horns taken care of business, all would be good. Instead it is seeking excuses, which leaves eight Big 12 schools in the lurch and ruining things for everyone.

There will be plenty of Ragin’ Cajuns fans on Saturday.

[It’s winning season: Create or join a Yahoo Fantasy Football league today]

Georgia's Kirby Smart 

The Bulldogs coach is 10-6 against top-10 opponents and three of those losses have come against mighty Alabama. The idea that he can’t win a big game doesn’t hold up. Still, the clash against Clemson (7:30 p.m. ET Saturday) in Charlotte, N.C., comes with significant pressure as +3-point underdogs, according to BetMGM. 

This Georgia team is loaded with talent. Smart has elevated the Bulldogs' already strong recruiting game to elite levels. With veteran quarterback J.T. Daniels and a ferocious defensive front, there isn’t much left for Georgia to do but win its first national championship since 1980.

A loss to Clemson won’t knock the Bulldogs out of the playoff chase, but a victory would set the tone for a dream season. The schedule is favorable (no Alabama, no Texas A&M) and the Bulldogs could conceivably climb to No. 1 and stay there for a few months. If nothing else, it would make a fan base that is skittish about the expectations feel pretty good that this, finally, might be the year.

UCLA's Chip Kelly

Now in his fourth season in Westwood, Kelly is just 11-21 overall. He has pleaded for patience in building the Bruin program and the school has provided it. At some point there has to be results, and with LSU visiting the Rose Bowl (8:30 p.m. ET) there is no time like the present.

Kelly arrived with great fanfare after going 46-7 at Oregon and then spending four seasons in the NFL. UCLA beat out Florida and Tennessee for his services and dreams of Pac-12 titles and playoff appearances danced through fans' heads. Instead it has been a disappointment.

This looks like his best team, however (UCLA is actually 1-0 already). LSU is talented, but isn’t this the kind of game a Kelly-led team should be able to win as 3-point underdogs?

FILE - In this Nov. 30, 2019, file photo, Penn State head coach James Franklin leads his team onto the field for an NCAA college football game against Rutgers in State College, Pa. Penn State faces Wisconsin on Saturday as they open their college football season. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger, File)
James Franklin and Penn State enter Saturday's game as 5.5-point underdogs against Wisconsin. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger, File)

Penn State's James Franklin

Franklin has done good work in Happy Valley, including three 11-win seasons over a four-year stretch from 2016-2019. Penn State hasn’t won the league or supplanted Ohio State, but recruiting remains strong.

Then came last year’s 4-5 season of struggles.

An opening week victory would be a sign that this was a one-year blip into mediocrity and not a trend. The challenge? The Nittany Lions open on the road against Wisconsin (3:30 p.m. ET Saturday) in a Big Ten heavyweight matchup. There will be no shame in losing a game to a very strong Badger program. But a win sure would be nice …

There’s more, of course, including Virginia Tech, LSU, Jim Harbaugh and others. Give the College Football Enquirer a listen to hear all of the discussion.

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