It’s finally football season! Thursday begins the so-called “best opening weekend ever” for college football. (In my opinion, every opening weekend is the best ever because that means it’s football season again.) There are four games that feature two top-25 teams facing off. All four are being played at a neutral site. The most competitive game will probably be the Labor Day matchup between Ole Miss and Florida State. Of course, there will probably be a couple of upsets and other notables as well. The only way to find out what is going to happen is to tune in for the 5 glorious nights of college football that we have this holiday weekend.
20USC vs 1Alabama (Cowboys Stadium) I’m not really sure if this will be much of a game, but USC has the potential to turn some heads. Just like with any other team, the first game of the season will tell us a lot about these two programs. Alabama is coming off a national title and looks like they will be just as strong even without Heisman winner Derrick Henry. JuJu Smith-Shuster is probably the biggest name on the roster for USC. It will be interesting to see if USC’s defense will be able to stop Bama’s loaded offense. I am picking Alabama.
2Clemson at Auburn Based on last season, this game should be a complete and total blowout. But if you forgot, South Carolina beat North Carolina at the beginning of last season. So, anything could happen. Auburn was not good last season. I expect them to be better, but Clemson should be too strong for Auburn to overcome. DeShaun Watson is back for Clemson and is, at least at the moment, the Heisman frontrunner. Auburn doesn’t need this win, but Clemson does. They can’t slip up in this game, even though it is against an SEC West team. I am picking Clemson.
3Oklahoma vs 15Houston (NRG Stadium) I’m really excited for this game. Houston had a strong year and has earned their spot in the top 15. Unfortunately, these rankings tend to reflect last season more than this season. The Cougars have a huge task ahead of them. Oklahoma should be strong again with Baker Mayfield still leading the Sooners. OU needs to be careful. I don’t know if it is really possible to overlook the 15th ranked team in the country, but since they are not a Power 5 school they might not get the same amount of respect. It is also a dangerous game for Oklahoma because they have much more to lose than Houston. An early loss to this team could put OU out of the playoff depending on how Houston does this season. This game has the potential to be a high scoring one. I am picking Oklahoma.
11Ole Miss vs 4Florida State (Orlando)(Monday) Honestly, I have no idea who is going to win this game. I went back and forth and I could make a good case for either team. Ole Miss returns QB Chad Kelly, who can score on pretty much anyone. Their defense has also been a strong point in recent seasons. Florida State will be without Sean Maguire for the beginning of the season because of a broken bone in his foot. They will have RB Dalvin Cook at their disposal and he is a major playmaker. I think this game will come down to the team that has the ball last. There should be a lot of points scored in this one. I am picking Ole Miss.
10Notre Dame at Texas (Sunday) A game that features my two least favorite teams! I want Texas to win to hurt Notre Dame’s playoff chances. Notre Dame was decimated by injuries last season so they their main goal in this first game will be staying healthy. Texas’ offense has been next to nonexistent over the last couple of seasons. If they can put together a consistent offense to go along with their tough defense they will be able to compete this season. I think Charlie Strong is a great coach but he needs to start showing results. Notre Dame is the only team that is 4-0 when playing at Texas. I think they will make it 5-0 but don’t count Texas out. I am picking Notre Dame.
16UCLA at Texas A&M I don’t expect too much defense in this game. These two offenses can light up the scoreboard. Texas A&M has had a dismal defense over the last couple of seasons. The QBs will be the focus of this one. For UCLA, Josh Rosen will begin his second season and will look to match last year’s brilliance. It will be hard to live up to the standard that he set last season, but with a year of experience under his belt he could be better. A&M lost their two QBs in the offseason and gained Trevor Knight as a transfer from Oklahoma. He is a proven QB and should do well for the Aggies. That being said, I think UCLA has the better team in this game. I am picking UCLA.
18Georgia vs 22North Carolina (Georgia Dome) This was another game that I had a hard time picking. North Carolina finished the season playing as good as anyone. A bad call in the ACC championship game could’ve cost them the ACC title. Georgia will get RB Nick Chubb back for the first time since the opening play of the Tennessee game. Sony Michel has a broken arm and might not play in the opener. It will be interesting to see if UNC can continue their offensive dominance without QB Marquise Williams. They return a lot of weapons on the offense. I think Kirby Smart will get his team off to great start in his first game as head coach. I am picking Georgia.
South Carolina at Vanderbilt (Thursday) I’m extremely excited for this game. I’m looking forward to seeing how both of these teams are going to be this season. Vanderbilt has had one of the best defenses in the SEC, but have been unable to find an offense. The ‘Dores are hoping Kyle Shurmur is the answer to their QB problems. South Carolina was bad last season. They somehow beat UNC in the first game of the season, but it was all downhill after that. They did compete in many of their games, but losing to The Citadel is not good. The Gamecocks brought in Will Muschamp to be their new head coach and he should make an immediate impact with the defense. This should be a low scoring game, but an interesting one nonetheless. I am picking Vanderbilt.
Louisiana Tech at Arkansas As a student at Arkansas, I cannot wait for this one. I am also worried that Louisiana Tech is being looked over. Though the Bulldogs did lose their two biggest names on offense after last season to graduation, this team is still good. Two of their seniors have been named to the Senior Bowl watchlist. Arkansas has a lot to replace as well. QB Brandon Allen, TE Hunter Henry and RBs Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins have all moved on to the NFL. Austin Allen will take over for his brother at QB and there are plenty of RBs in the wings. The WR core is also loaded for the Hogs. They were plagued by injuries last season and will hopefully stay healthy this season. The Hogs have struggled early in the last two seasons and have lost non-conference games they should’ve won. Between this game and next week’s big matchup at TCU, the Razorbacks can’t slip.
5LSU vs Wisconsin (Lambeau)
Bowling Green at 6Ohio State
Hawaii at 7Michigan
Kansas State at 8Stanford (Friday)
Appalachian State at 9Tennessee (Thursday)
Furman at 12Michigan State (Friday)
South Dakota State at 13TCU
Rutgers at 14Washington
Miami (OH) at 17Iowa
Charlotte at 19Louisville (Thurs)
Southeastern Louisiana at 21Oklahoma State
Northwestern State at 23Baylor (Friday)
UC Davis at 24Oregon
Massachusetts at 25Florida
Colorado State at Colorado (Friday)
Toledo at Arkansas State (Friday)
Missouri at West Virginia
Southern Miss at Kentucky
BYU at Arizona
Katie, we are Tennessee friends of Joe and Bonnie and love your articles. Hopefully Tennessee will give you something to write about this year