Where has the time gone? It seems like only yesterday that the city of Houston was abuzz with excitement over the Texans’ making their debut against the hated Dallas Cowboys. Well, that was two years ago and this Sunday, Dom Capers’ team begins its third season amid great expectations.
Fans are hoping the Texans will contend for a playoff spot this year and are looking to see how far quarterback David Carr has progressed after two years under center. Houston should be vastly improved this year, but a playoff spot may be asking a bit much. The AFC is loaded with quality teams and the Texans’ division, the AFC South, could be one of the toughest in the country what with the Colts, Titans and an improved Jacksonville team calling it home.
Still, the future looks bright for the team that calls Reliant Stadium home, but before we take a look at what the NFL has to offer in Week 1, let’s take a look at the high school and college schedule for this weekend.
Aldine vs. LaPorte: These two teams meet every year in non-district play and this should be another competitive outing. The Mustangs want to make sure they have the kinks worked out before they open District 18-5A play in two weeks. The offensive line is the key to the season, so look for head coach Bob Jones to play particular attention to that unit this week and in weeks to come. My pick, Aldine 23, LaPorte 18
MacArthur vs. Klein Collins: Jerry Drones’ Generals also got off to a rough start, dropping a 48-21 decision to a talented Galveston Ball team two weeks ago. Look for MacArthur to rebound this week against a Klein Collins team that finished 5-5 a year ago. This should be a good test for the Generals considering Collins returns a majority of its starters. My pick, MacArthur 24, Klein Collins 21
Now, let’s see what the college schedule has to offer this weekend.
Texas at Arkansas: It’s revenge time for the Longhorns as they hope to payback the Razorbacks for the 38-28 thumping they administered to the ‘Horns a year ago in Austin. Look for Mack Brown to give Arkansas a steady dose of Cedric Benson and Vincent Young as the two talented runners look to exploit a young and inexperienced Arkansas defense. This is a good road test in a hostile environment for Texas as they build momentum for their Oct. 9 showdown with Oklahoma. My pick, Texas 31, Arkansas 13
Houston at Oklahoma: Art Briles’ Cougars are between a rock and a hard place. This week they travel to Norman, OK to take on a team many consider to be the best in the nation in 12 days they host Miami in Reliant Stadium. Now, that’s what you call ambitious scheduling. The Cougars must come out of this game healthy if they have any hope to give the Hurricanes a game within two weeks (a game that will be on national TV, by the way!). Look for the Coogs to attack OU’s vaunted defense through the air. The key will be how well the UH defense contains the multi-talented Sooner offense. That could be a tall order for any team this year. My pick, Oklahoma 35, Houston 13
Michigan at Notre Dame: Revenge will also be on ND’s agenda when these two longtime rivals meet in South Bend on Saturday. A year ago, the Wolverines ran roughshod over a defenseless Notre Dame squad, 31-0. The score could have been much worse had Lloyd Carr not called off the dogs in the fourth quarter. This year, the Irish appear improved on the offensive and defensive lines and sophomore quarterback Brady Quinn appears more comfortable running the West Coast Offense. Michigan, on the other hand, has an untested signal caller in Matt Gutierrez, but there’s plenty of talent on hand to bail him out should he struggle. I think ND playing their home opener gives them the edge this time around. This should be a good one to watch. My pick, Notre Dame 26, Michigan 23
Now it’s on to the NFL, where a number of good matchups are set for Week
Indianapolis at New England: The NFL certainly knows how to kick off a season. The two teams that met in last year’s AFC title game hook up again for the league’s season opener on Thursday in New England. The Colts are poised to go after the Pats’ Super Bowl title, but they must first prove they can beat the defending champs on their home turf. Indy has the offense to get the job done what with the league’s best QB in Peyton Manning, a fully healthy Edgrin James running the ball and the magnificent Marvin Harrison and Co. catching Manning’s passing. But the key to the Colts’ success will be how well its defense contains NE QB Tom Brady and his plethora of receivers. Brady now has a running threat he can turn to in Cory Dillon, acquired in the off-season from Cincinnati. The Pats are tough to beat at home and that trend should continue Thursday night, but expect a close and exciting contest. My pick, New England 31, Indianapolis 28
San Diego at Houston: As stated earlier in this column, this could be an exciting year for the Texans and their fans. The front office has built this team the right way, through the draft, and it appears that prudent course will start paying dividends in year three. David Carr looks like he’s ready for a breakout season. He looked sharp in pre-season and the emergence of wide receiver Andre Johnson as his go-to guy should have Texan fans excited. The key to this team will be how well it plays on defense and how healthy it remains on that side of the ball. Injuries decimated that unit a year ago and they get a good test out of the blocks as they take on perhaps the league’s best running back in LaDanian Tomlinson. Look for Houston to make a strong stand.
The rest of Keeney’s picks can be found in the Sept. 7th issue of the Northeast News.