The road to the College Football playoff begins for Florida State in the Cowboys Classic against Oklahoma State, while Alabama also play a neutral venue against West Virginia. Other national title hopefuls like Oregon (playing South Dakota) and Oklahoma (against Louisiana Tech) have set themselves up with easier starts to the 2014 season.
Some ranked teams have already started the season: South Carolina lost at home to Texas A&M, Ole Miss had no problem beating Boise State, Arizona State got a comfortable start against Weber State, Michigan State did the same against Jacksonville State. Baylor play against SMU on Sunday.
#1 Florida State vs Oklahoma State: The Cowboys Classic gets the defending national champions with Jameis Winston returning after his Heisman winning season. The Seminoles have lost two receivers, two running backs and a center to the NFL, including first-round receiver Kelvin Benjamin, fourth-round running back Devonta Freeman and fourth-round center Bryan Stork, but they still have their big offensive line which means we’ll probably see a lot more running from then than in last season. The Cowboys are heading into a rough year following a 10-3 campaign last season, bringing back just 10 starters on both sides of the ball.
West Virginia vs #2 Alabama: The Crimson Tide are huge favorites heading into the Chick-Fil-A kickoff game in Atlanta. A new quarterback in Alabama or maybe two, as Jake Coker and Blake Sims are competing for the job. Clint Trickett will be the quarterback for West Virginia, as their time in the Big 12 continues to be bumpy, which might put head coach Dana Holgorsen on the hot seat if things don’t go well early on, including getting demolished by Alabama, still quite loaded when it comes to offensive weapons.
South Dakota vs #3 Oregon: An FCS team against a points monster from Eugene? No chance, as Oregon are hoping that bringing back Marcus Mariota is part of a bigger whole that will finally not crumble in a game against Stanford down the line, meaning winning the Pac-12 and going to the playoffs.
Louisiana Tech vs #4 Oklahoma: The Sooners are still carried on the waves of success from beating Alabama in the Sugar Bowl last season, giving them very high expectations in 2014, supposedly the best team in the Big 12 as well considering what’s happening in Texas, Stillwater and for Baylor. Having inexperienced players at running back might be a problem.
#5 Ohio State vs Navy: Redshit freshman J.T. Barrett will have a lot of eyes on him in Baltimore, as he tries to prove that the loss of Braxton Miller doesn’t eliminate the Buckeyes from the discussion in the Big Ten or for the national title talk. With Urban Meyer at coach, a talented group of receivers and an improved defense (in theory), he might have a shot.
Arkansas vs #6 Auburn: Nick Marshall won’t start, but there’s a good chance he’ll be introduced at half time. The Tigers are no longer coming from nowhere, and they also have to replace some big losses at running back and the offensive line. For the Razorbacks, it’s about hoping that Brandon Allen has finally put his injury problems in the past.
#7 UCLA vs Virginia: The road to success begins in Charlottesville for the Bruins, who have a lot riding on Brett Hundley this season despite failing at almost every big conference game they’ve had under Mora. They’re older, haven’t lost a lot of talent and they have a Virginia team that won just two games last season as their first opponents, promising to be a good start to this season.
UC Davis vs #11 Stanford: Maybe it’s the loss to Michigan State in the Rose Bowl, maybe it’s the loss of 10 starters. Still, this program has been able to win 11 games or more in four straight seasons, and overcome some losses of major NFL talent.
#16 Clemson vs #12 Georgia: Last season this season-opener had us believe the Tigers were going all the way until crashing against Florida State. Both teams are replacing highly successful starting quarterbacks this season, but Georgia might have the best running back in the nation, and a slightly better defense than Clemson.
#14 Wisconsin vs #13 LSU: Played in Houston, LSU lose a huge advantage. Two very similar teams with questions at quarterback (Anthony Jennings or Brandon Harris at LSU? Tanner McEvoy or Joel Stave for Wisconsin?), a loaded front seven on defense and a great running game, although the Badgers, with Melvin Gordon, might have the edge in that department.
Fresno State vs #15 USC: It’s probably going to take time for the Trojans to get back on top, especially with the Pac-12 as loaded as it’s ever been. Still, starting the season against a team they beat in a bowl game last season with a new head coach should be a comfortable beginning.
Rice vs #17 Notre Dame: While it shouldn’t be a problem against the Owls, Notre Dame might be having a huge problem on defense going forward this season due to suspensions and young, inexperienced players.
SF Austin vs #20 Kansas State: The Wildcats have a much better situation at quarterback and on defense than last season with Jake Waters at the helm, which means that while a new-old threat has returned to the Big 12 after a year of retooling.
Florida Atlantic – #22 Nebraska: The Cornhuskers have a lot of faith in the returning Tommy Armstrong and senior running back Ameer Abdullah, although this doesn’t mean Bo Pellini can feel at ease about his job security, as expectations, despite certain shifts in CFB recruiting, remain high in Lincoln.
Liberty vs #23 North Carolina: Is this the year the Tar Heels put themselves back on the national map? It seems like there’s been an organizational rebuild in Chapel Hill going on forever, but this season Larry Fedora gets things right, although he needs to sort out his quarterback conundrum first.
South Dakota State vs #24 Missouri :The Tigers surprised many last season by winning the SEC East. A Maty Mauk era at quarterback begins, and once again Missouri will lean on a very strong defensive line to lead it to success, which shouldn’t be hard to come by against an FCS team.
#25 Washington vs Hawai’i: The Warriors are one of the more run down programs in college football in recent years, so Chris Petersen should have a soft landing as the new head coach of the Huskies, who have lost their workhorse leading rusher.