Ok, College Football Kickoff is 109 days away, but ESPN/ABC just released the schedule for their broadcast of the first weekend. While the first game is Cal v. Hawaii in Australia on August 26, I consider that a teaser for the real deal. I’ll break opening weekend down game by game for my own sanity.
Boston College v. Georgia Tech
Boston College “hosts” Georgia Tech in Ireland for their Ireland series they’ve started making a tradition. This not only is the first game of the season (7:30 AM EST), but is an ACC in-conference game. Boston College went 3-9 (0-8 conference) last year and Georgia Tech went 3-9 (1-7 conference), both finishing last in their respective divisions. You won’t find me waking up for this game, but I hope both fanbases enjoy waking up early to see their teams kick off. This is a 0/10 rated matchup for me on the West Coast.
#8 Houston v. #5 Oklahoma
A mere four hours later (12 PM ET), Houston and Oklahoma face off in a Top 20 matchup (2015 Final Rankings) at the Houston Texans NRG Stadium. Houston beat then #9 Florida State in the Peach Bowl (one of the Big Six bowls) as the Group-of-Five (minor conferences) delegate. Oklahoma ended up getting beat by then #1 Clemson in the College Football Semifinal 37-17. Signs point to Oklahoma easily walking away with this one, but Houston has been trending up over the past few years. I’m giving this a tentative 7/10 because I have hope for the underdog.
#12 Michigan v. Hawaii
I don’t have a fancy picture for this one because it doesn’t really deserve one. Hawaii has perennially ranked in the bottom 20 teams since the late 2000s. Michigan comes in with a brand new coach who has a reputation for making his new team near-instantly better (Jim Harbaugh, in case you have been sleeping under a rock for the last few months).This is most likely going to be a massive blowout, but I’m giving it a 3/10 just for Harbaugh’s sideline antics.
#21 Wisconsin v. #16 LSU
After two straight years of going to Jerry World in Dallas to play SEC powerhouses (LSu in 2014, Alabama in 2015), Wisconsin has lured one of those powers up to their backyard at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Wisconsin lost to LSU 28-24 after leading for most of the game when they met in 2014. I suspect LSU will win this one, but Wisconsin always has a solid power run offense and impressive defense. This gets further complicated with the fact that LSU hasn’t had a good quarterback in…well, a while. Heisman hopeful RB Leonard Fournette from LSU will have to carry the load here. I’m giving this another 7/10. Kickoff at 3:30 ET.
#15 North Carolina v. Georgia
Georgia just fired their head coach of fourteen years. During that span, he had a 75% win percentage. Many across the college football landscape, including conference foe Nick Saban of Alabama, called it a poor decision. That could have been the effect of Georgia hiring Saban’s coordinator Kirby Smart, but he certainly was in the majority in his statement. North Carolina and Georgia made waves in their conferences: Georgia finished second in the SEC East and UNC finished second in the ACC as a whole. This should be a great game featuring another RB Heisman hopeful in Nick Chubb from Georgia and the best UNC team in recent memory. 5:30 PM ET, 8/10.
#1 Alabama v. USC
I’m particularly excited for this one. Alabama won the championship last year. Moving on, USC had an above average year maligned by the dismissal of their head coach, Steve Sarkisian. They retained their interim head coach, Clay Helton. This is the first year USC is free of their rather harsh sanctions of the Reggie Bush scandal. ESPN has them ranked #10 in their Too Early Top 25, if that’s any indication of their expectations this year. If they were to march into the “neutral” site in Dallas (aka not neutral at all) and take Alabama down, they would surely vault themselves into a favorite status for the College Football Playoff. 8:30 ET, 9/10.
Auburn v. #2 Clemson
Clemson put up a monumental effort against Alabama last year in the national championship, but fell just short. Auburn had an off year (7-6 [2-6 conference]), but is only three years displaced from a National Championship runner-up themselves. Clemson has their Heisman hopeful QB Deshaun Watson returning whereas Auburn is hoping for a huge jump start to their season. I don’t think this will be a good game, but Auburn has a massive homefield advantage. 9 PM ET, 6/10.
Texas v. #11 Notre Dame
Notre Dame comes off a disappointing year, despite the #11 rank. They lost their starting quarterback in the second week of 2015 and were still able to have a great season. Texas came off a disappointing season as well but didn’t have any success to show for it. Charlie Strong is only in his second year as head coach of Texas, but is already on the warm seat having taken over for a coaching legend in Mack Brown. Texas is one of the blue bloods of college football and the program demands success of its coaches. If Strong were to snag a win here, he could probably lock his job in for another season. 6/10, I am not sure if this will be very close. 7:30 ET.
#10 Ole Miss v. #14 Florida State
The best matchup of the weekend, rankings wise, comes on Monday. As mentioned before, Florida State dropped one to Houston in the Peach Bowl. Meanwhile, Ole Miss flat out dominated Oklahoma State in the Sugar Bowl, 48-20. Both teams have experienced success in the last five years, but both are trying to stave off a decline in production. Both teams lost a lot of talent to the draft and graduation last year and want to prove that they are still relevant in the Playoff hunt. I anticipate this one being close, 9/10 ranking, 8PM ET.
Only 109 days to go…