Kicking off the fourth year of “Fourth and inches…” here’s a quick rundown of the most intriguing games for the 2009 season’s opening weekend of Division 1 College Football:

No. 16 Oregon at No. 14 Boise State (Thursday night). This is the only difficult game that Boise State will play this year in the regular season and they get the Ducks at home on their atrociously ugly blue smurf turf for that extra dose of competitive advantage. Oregon has a serious revenge mentality working for them after last year’s BSU cheap shot knocked QB Jeremiah Masoli out of the game. If the Broncos win, pencil them in for a BCS bowl game.

Toledo at Purdue. Yes, this is a rather interesting game because it’s the Rockets first under new head coach Tim Beckman (former DC at Oklahoma State). Beckman inherits a hungry and experienced team led by senior QB Aaron Opelt and stellar senior safety Barry Church. The Purdue game provides a solid proving ground to see what Beckman has been able to do during the offseason to turn the Rockets program around. Toledo is not scared to load up their non-conference schedule with heavyweight games. Coming up on Sept 19: at Ohio State in Cleveland

Nevada at No. 23 Notre Dame. The Irish are loaded with experience and a soft schedule, so a BCS bowl game is certainly within reach this season. A team like Nevada doesn’t stand much of a chance in South Bend, but it will be fun to watch a nimble QB Colin Kaepernick scrambling around when his protection breaks down on nearly every play.

No. 13 Georgia at No. 9 Oklahoma State. Mark Richt is one of the few SEC coaches willing to take on the prominent non-conference opponents. If he’s looking for a win in Stillwater, he might have stretched too far on this one.

No. 5 Alabama at No. 7 Virginia Tech. Kudos to both programs for scheduling this series. This is an incredibly tough season opener, either way you look at it, and the outcome could actually have far-reaching national championship implications.

Miami at No. 18 Florida State. This used to be one of the most anticipated contests of the college football season. Ironically, that was back when the ‘Canes were in the Big East. Since becoming conference mates in the ACC, the rivalry has sputtered. It’s time to bring it back to life.

No. 20 BYU at No. 3 Oklahoma. Although this contest is being played in the new Dallas Cowboys’ stadium, it’s still a home game for the Sooners. The oddsmakers have OU as a 21-point favorite. I’d make it more like 30 points, at least. Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford should have a field day picking apart an inexperienced Cougar defensive backfield.

No. 11 LSU at Washington. I can’t wait to see what Steve Sarkisian’s Huskies play like in this home opener. Look for an upset in this one to end Washington’s losing streak and send a signal across the land that the Purple and Gold is back in business on the gridiron.

Charleston Southern at No. 1 Florida. The interest here is in how long will it take for viewers to hit the snooze button and how long before Tim Tebow gets yanked. Shame on the 70-point favorite Gators for even considering putting this game on the schedule.

Cincinnati at Rutgers. This is a key Big East tilt that will help establish a clear conference frontrunner right out of the chutes. It’s not the type of match-up coaches are usually looking for in a season opener.

So, let the games begin … Last weekend on a flight out of the Bay area, I sat next to Phil Vaesau, the father of a D-2 college football player, and couldn’t help but think about the fact that there’s already a lot of college football underway across the country. Phil’s pride for his son and the anticipation he had of seeing him play in the season opener against Texas A&M-Kingsville was infectious.

Peter Vaesau is a 6-foot 3-inch, 305-pound senior offensive lineman for No. 11 ranked Delta State University. Despite playing without the benefit of D-1 level television coverage and peripheral media exposure, Peter is one of those outstanding D-2 athletes who have a real shot at playing in the NFL. Best wishes to Peter and the Statesmen for a very successful season.

Are Michigan’s woes good for the Big Ten and college football? It all depends on your perspective. If you’re an Ohio State fan, you couldn’t be happier to see the Wolverine program in such disarray. I’m sure the Big Ten commish would argue that a struggling Michigan football team is bad for a number of reasons, including conference prestige and future TV contract negotiations. I would be very surprised to see Rich Rodriguez survive the chopping block this season if the Blue and Maize head into November struggling to become bowl-eligible. Think about it. This is a program that is the all-time victory leader in D-1 college football. Michigan brass don’t have the patience to watch their beloved gridiron program wallow in the distractions of RichRod’s non-football related legal entanglements, recruits busted for drug dealing, and the like.

A player who truly embodies the concept of team first … BYU senior quarterback Brendan Gaskins gets my nod for most unselfish college athlete of the year. For the past two seasons since they both joined the Cougar program as sophomores, Gaskins has faithfully served as Max Hall’s backup. Now, with both signal callers in the sunset season of their college career, Gaskins took head coach Bronco Mendenhall aside recently and volunteered to step down to third string so Riley Nelson, a sophomore transfer from Utah State recently off his mission, could get the benefit of the extra snaps that come with the backup role. Mendenhall said he’s never witnessed a player demonstrate such humility and concern for team over self.

Heisman Hype: Colt McCoy, Tim Tebow, and Sam Bradford have a collective lock on the Heisman this year. The chances of someone outside this trio winning the coveted award are similar to Charleston Southern’s odds of winning at Florida this weekend. If each of these QBs deliver statistical results close to last year’s performances, my bet is on McCoy to win.

Conference Pre-Season Power Meter: 1. Big XII. 2. SEC. 3. Pac-10. 4. Big Ten 5. ACC 6. MWC. 7. Big East. 8. C-USA. 9. WAC. 10. Sun Belt.