Each week throughout the season check out the Games of the Week that are highlighted in the Rose Bowletin! Sign up for the Rose Bowletin, the Rose Bowl Game’s weekly football newsletter, by clicking here!

IOWA AT MICHIGAN

PENN STATE
AT WISCONSIN

The Badgers and Nittany Lions open the season in Madison in a clash of Big Ten teams with their sights set on a Big Ten Championship.

Penn State had a Jekyll and Hyde 2020 season. The Nittany Lions started 0-5, then rattled off four straight wins to finish the year. Despite the below .500 record, Penn State was second in the Big Ten in total offense. Quarterback Sean Clifford is back and is one of nine returning starters on offense. He’ll be throwing to his top three receivers from 2020 and Penn State has three preseason Doak Walker Award Watch List nominees in their backfield. Defensively, the Nittany Lions return their top five tacklers from 2020 and are led by senior safety Jaquan Brisker.

Wisconsin will look to rebound from a herky-jerky 2020 season that saw them stop and start play multiple times due to COVID outbreaks. The Badgers offensive line should be its usual strength but Wisconsin will need more from the rushing attack than they got last season. Junior Clemson transfer running back Chez Mellusi will anchor the Badgers backfield with freshman Jalen Berger playing second fiddle. Sophomore quarterback Graham Mertz will look to bounce back from his shaky freshman year and establish a strong passing attack. On defense, Wisconsin figures to be one of the top units in the conference, led by linebackers Jack Sanborn and Leo Chenal.

Penn State has won four straight matchups with Wisconsin, but the Badgers are favored this week. Both teams are ball-control oriented, so this could be a low-scoring battle.

CAL AT OREGON

LSU
AT UCLA

After a week zero tune-up against Hawai’i, the Bruins face a much tougher task when LSU heads to Pasadena.

Last year, LSU couldn’t, and shouldn’t have been expected to, match their historic 2019 season. But they certainly had the talent to be better than 5-5. This season, expectations were once again high heading into the year, however, those hopes were tempered a bit when starting quarterback Myles Brennan was lost to an arm injury. The Tigers will now turn to sophomore Max Johnson, who played in six games last year and threw eight touchdowns to just one interception. If LSU can improve it’s rushing attack from a season ago, it should take some pressure off the young signal caller. The Tigers also need to be drastically better on defense if they hope to compete for the SEC title. LSU ranked 124th in team defense in 2020, but feature one of the best players in the country, cornerback Derek Stingley Jr.

UCLA ran wild in their 44-10 win over Hawai’i in week zero. The Bruins were led by transfer running back Zach Charbonnet, who in his first game in the blue and gold ran for three touchdowns on just six carries. Charbonnet scored on runs of 21 yards, 47 yards and another 21-yard run. UCLA totaled 244 yards on the ground and averaged nearly six yards per carry. Defensively, the Bruins kept the Warriors in check by holding Hawai’i to 26 yards rushing and stifled the Warriors through the air with two interceptions and eight pass breakups.

Due to Hurricane Ida, LSU is spending the week preparing in Houston. This could impact Tigers’ preparation, but it is also LSU’s first trip to the Rose Bowl Stadium in school history. There should be plenty of purple and gold in the stands.

CAL AT OREGON

CLEMSON
AT GEORGIA

This is the premier matchup of the non-conference slate for the 2021 season and we get it in week one. Both teams are eyeing College Football Playoff berths and one will have a major win under their belt one week into the season.

Clemson is transitioning from the Trevor Lawrence era to the D.J. Uiagalelei era. We had a chance to see “Big Cinco,” as Uiagalelei is known, in two starts last season and the former five-star recruit wowed fans with his arm strength and calmness in the pocket. The Tigers are favorites to once again be in the top-four at season’s end and those odds were boosted with the return of potential All-American wide receiver Justyn Ross, who missed last season due to injury. Defensively, Clemson is the only team in the country to be ranked in the top-15 in total defense each of the last seven seasons and that doesn’t look to be changing this fall.

Georgia has sky-high expectations in 2021 due to the return of JT Daniels, the former USC quarterback, who led them to a 4-0 record and Peach Bowl win last season. Daniels has the benefit of the Bulldogs top-five running backs returning this season, plus his top three pass catchers from a year ago. The Georgia defense returns just four starters, but included in those four are linebacker Nakobe Dean and defensive back Lewis Cine, who were the Bulldogs top two tacklers in 2020. Preseason All-American Jordan Davis anchors the defensive line for Georgia.

A marquee matchup like this has the potential to be a game of the year candidate. When both teams are loaded with talent like this, it is truly a toss-up.