The biggest game of the opening weekend in College Football will be the Michigan Wolverines (#8 preseason) travelling to Cowboys Stadium to face the national champions, the Alabama Crimson Tide, #2 in the nation according to the preseason polls, while the favorites for the national title, the USC Trojans, being the road at home, hosting the Hawai’i Warriors.
South Carolina (9) at Vanderbilt (Thursday, 7 PM ET)
The Gamecocks are ranked in the preseason top 10 for the first time in school history, following their 11-2 season which set a new record for wins in a season for the program. Steve Spurrier feels this year it’s time to take the next step – Not just win the division (SEC East) but maybe even the conference, despite the frightening SEC West teams. Having Marcus Lattimore back and healthy, ready to carry the load isn’t a bad thing to build on. USC have beaten the Commodores in their last three meetings.
Hawai’i at USC (1) (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)
The Trojans are back were they used to be during a long period in the mid 2000’s, with the postseason ban being lifted and having the most stacked offense in College Football. Matt Barkley opted to stay for his senior year and is the leading Heisman candidate while Lane Kiffin added Silas Redd, who ran for 1241 yards last season from Penn State to join Curtis McNeal, who ran for 1005 at running back. The Trojans have never lost to the Warriors (0-7) who went 6-7 last year and will be starting a new quarterback, Sean Schroeder, a transfer from Duke.
Michigan (8) at Alabama (2) (Saturday, 8:00 PM ET)
THE game of the weekend as the national champions begin their title defense against the Michigan Wolverines under Brady Hoke, hoping not just to return and cement the program back into national prominance, but maybe steal some pride for the Big Ten, which usually doesn’t do too well against SEC teams. Two of the greatest programs in the sports history have met only three times in the past, all in January bowl-games, with the last of them being in 2000 – Michigan winning 35-34 in the Orange Bowl.
The interesting match up will be seeing Denard Robinson, another Heisman hopeful, play against the Tide defense that destroyed LSU in the national championship game and seem like legit contenders to win the SEC and the national title once again, and are 14 point favorites heading into the game.
North Texas at LSU (3) (Saturday, 7PM ET)
What should be an easy home starter to put the fact that they’ve lost Tyrann Mathieu behind them is also a chance for LSU to hone that defensive line, maybe the best in the nation, before the real big games begin. Les Miles has problems – The Storm coming in to the Bayou, 2011 leading rusher Michael Ford and projected starting linebacker Tahj Jones possibly missing the game for academic reasons and a new quarterback, Zach Mettenberger, instead of the two-qb system that exploded in his face (a lot because of Miles’ behavior and ego) against Alabama.
Oklahoma (4) at UTEP (Saturday, 10:30 PM ET)
Landry Jones is back for a final season as the Sooners hope to rebound from a disappointing season (10-3 and a bowl win is disappointing for Bob Stoops) by starting against a team they’ve met twice in the past. Once beating them 55-14 in what started a 13-0 season and the 2000 national title and again in Norman, back in 2002, with Oklahoma winning 68-0. Oklahoma are 31 points favorites, and has won its last eight regular-season non-conference games by an average of 18.0 points. UTEP is 4-47 against ranked opponents, with its last win coming 58-41 over then-No. 12 Houston on Oct. 3, 2009.
Arkansas State at Oregon (5) (Saturday, 10:30 PM ET)
The Ducks are entering the season after winning the Pac-12 for the last three years and the Rose Bowl last season, beating Wisconsin in a great game. Chip Kelly has the same, if not more, expectations for his team this year, hoping to improve on that 12-2 record. Marcus Mariota will the school’s first freshman starting quarterback in 21 years, aided by what is projected to be the best defense in the nation and a RB duo of Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas, possibly the best in the nation.
Buffalo at Georgia (6) (Saturday, 12:00 PM ET)
All-American linebacker Jarvis Jones is back for the Bulldogs, labeled as the favorites to win the SEC East once again and return to the conference title game, this time with a bit more of a chance than last year. Mark Richt has plenty of talent on both sides of the ball and hopes to go better than 10-4 from last year, which began in two losses and ended with two losses, ending with the bowl game defeat to Michigan State. Buffalo has been outscored 121-38 in its three losses to current SEC members while Georgia has won by a combined 112-20 in its two games versus MAC schools. The Bulldogs are 38 point favorites heading into the game.
Murray State at Florida State (7) (Saturday, 6 PM ET)
Once again, the Seminoles are predicted early on in the season to be more than just the best in the ACC, but one of the best in the nation. They do open the season with four straight home games, and are also 18-0 against FCS opponents, which should help Jimbo Fisher get his inexperienced offensive line ready for the bigger challenges down the road. The Seminoles did beat Notre Dame in the bowl game last season to finish it 9-4 and have EJ Manuel back for a final season behind center. They haven’t won the ACC since 2005, but returning 17 starters shouldn’t hurt.
Jacksonville State at Arkansas (10) (Saturday, 7 PM ET)
If it wasn’t for the whole Bobby Petrino scandal in the off season, the Razorbacks, completing the nation’s best division (SEC West) might have been ranked a bit higher. John L. Smith is the new man in charge, and he has a returning Knile Davis after missing all of last season. Davis ran for 1322 yards in 2010, and with him at 100%, the Hogs should have one of the more devastating rushing attack in the nation. Quarterback Tyler Wilson, who threw for 3,638 yards and 24 touchdowns, helping Arkansas to lead the SEC in total offense and scoring last season, and it’s led the conference in passing offense in each of the last three seasons.
The rest of the games involving Top 25 Teams –
Boise State (24) at Michigan State (13), Friday, 8:00 PM ET
San Jose State at Stanford (21), Friday, 10:00 PM ET
Marshall at West Virginia (11), Saturday, 12:00 PM ET
Northern Iowa at Wisconsin (12), Saturday, 3:30 PM ET
Clemson (14) at Aubrun, Saturday, 7:00 PM ET
Wyoming at Texas (15), Saturday, 8:00 PM ET
Southern Miss at Nebraska (16), 3:30 PM ET
Miami (OH) at Ohio State (18), Saturday, 12:00 PM ET
Savannah State at Oklahoma State (19), Saturday, 7:00 PM ET
Missouri State at Kansas State (22), Saturday, 7:10 PM ET
Bowling Green at Florida (23), Saturday, 3:30 PM ET
Kentucky at Louisville (25), Sunday, 3:30 PM ET
Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech (16), Monday, 8:00 PM ET