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Eyes on the Nation: A Michigan watch guide for everything non-Michigan in Week 1

Week 1 sets the table. Who will start to look scary? Who gets upset? How good will Wilton Speight be without Harbaugh punching him before kickoff?

NCAA Football: Air Force at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The big wigs running sports television from their ivory towers always ensure Week 1 in college football has some extra oomph.

The West and the South will duke it out in a top 10 duel between Washington and Auburn. Tennessee and West Virginia visit Charlotte to decide which song is better: “Rocky Top” or “Country Roads.”

Also, Michigan’s defense looks poised to prove the Irish passing game more fraudulent than Rudy Ruettiger at a stock market.

Week 1 will set the table for several teams on Michigan’s schedule, as well as give fans a first glance at Wilton Speight at UCLA.

Who separates from the pack in the early going?

An annual tradition for Michigan football consumers is witnessing the stocks of future opponents dropping or rising in the first few weeks.

Last year in Week 1, Maryland suddenly seemed downright dangerous in dispatching Tom Herman and Texas 51-41 on the road. Purdue announced itself as feisty by pushing Lamar Jackson and Louisville to the brink.

On the flip side, teams sometimes flop right out of the gate, such as Penn State allowing 10 sacks to Temple in 2015, or Iowa dropping a 2016 home tilt to FCS powerhouse North Dakota State.

This year, can Northwestern build on their 10-win season a year ago, starting with a Thursday night tussle with Purdue (8 p.m., ESPN)? Can they deal with the new train tracks at Ross-Ade?

Michigan plays a “road” game in Evanston on Sep. 29.

Texas gets a chance at revenge when it visits Maryland in a neutral site game at Fedex Stadium. (noon, FS1). If the Terrapins can somehow push past the tragedy and drama surrounding Jordan McNair and the administrative leave of head coach D.J. Durkin, there’s tons of talent on offense.

Two quarterbacks in Tyrell “Piggy” Pigrome and Kasim Hill. Two backs in Lorenzo Harrison and Ty Johnson. An offensive line returning all five starters, including two future pro tackles in Damian Prince and Derwin Gray.

There’s tons of extracurricular activity to overcome, but there’s potential for danger on Oct. 6.

Lastly, will Nebraska look competent in Scott Frost’s first game against Akron (8 p.m., FOX)? As stated in the conference roundup, the ‘Huskers haven’t exactly dominated their lesser competition the last three years.

Akron reached the Mid-American Conference Championship Game in 2017, and returns some pieces. Can they serve Frost a loss before he visits Ann Arbor Sep. 22?

Most teams on the schedule will quietly take care of business. These three games may provide some intrigue.

Wilton Speight’s first time in baby blue and gold

Wilton Speight traded the punching motivation of Jim Harbaugh for the large sweatsuits of Chip Kelly, transferring to UCLA last April.

His Bruins host Adam Sandler lookalike Luke Fickell and the Cincinnati Bearcats Saturday night in the Rose Bowl (7 p.m., ESPN).

How will Speight perform outside the tutelage of Jim Harbaugh? A minor regression his junior year should not overshadow his promising debut in 2016. He completed 62 percent of his passes for 2,538 yards, 18 touchdowns and just seven picks. At nearly eight yards an attempt, he trailed only Trace McSorley for the conference lead.

He is currently battling former Michigan target Dorian Thompson-Robinson and Devon Modster for the starting gig. The other two fit the Chip Kelly spread of Oregon, while Speight would signal an attempt to replicate Nick Foles’ success for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Harbaugh turned Speight from another Al Borges dud into a competent Big Ten signal-caller. Will that competence continue with a whole new coach, scheme and location?

Maybe he does have the wheels that Chip Kelly needs.

Michigan rooting interest, Week 1

Should Michigan beat Notre Dame in South Bend for the first time since 2010, these games will loom large in terms of rankings.

No ridiculous ones, such as Austin Peay over No. 3 Georgia.

  • No. 6 Washington over No. 9 Auburn. Pac-12 > SEC. Michigan also sits closer to Auburn in the rankings.
  • No. 25 Louisiana State over No. 8 Miami (Fla.). The Wolverines would pass the Hurricanes. Also, who doesn’t love Cajun Hoke?
  • Florida Atlantic over No. 7 Oklahoma. After a 1-3 start in his first season in Boca Raton, Lane Kiffin and Owls ripped off nine in a row to seize the Conference USA title. With Bill Connelly calling them one of the best teams in the nation down the stretch in 2017, many eyes will look to Norman to see what Kiffin is brewing in south Florida. For Michigan, they would obviously pass the Sooners.
  • Utah State over No. 11 Michigan State. Lol.
  • Oregon State over No. 5 Ohio State. Teehee.