Unlike most years, there won’t be a slow start to this year’s college football season. The first full weekend features a slew of significant conference and non-conference games that will start to sort out contenders and pretenders in the playoff chase and shape seasons for some of the sport’s biggest programs.
The five matchups between teams ranked in the USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll are more than any other in Week 1 this century. And the top five meeting between No. 2 Clemson and No. 5 Georgia in Charlotte, North Carolina, is just the third of its kind in that span. The renewal of their once-hot rivalry presents an opportunity for the Tigers and Bulldogs. The winner takes home a massive victory that could be vital when the College Football Playoff field is announced.
Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei
Not to be overlooked is an early test for No. 1 Alabama against No. 16 Miami (Fla.) in Atlanta. The Crimson Tide will have several new faces on offense, and the defense will need to slow Hurricanes quarterback D’Eriq King, who is hoping to lay down an early marker in the Heisman race by shocking the defending champions.
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The Big Ten season also gets a fast start with two big showdowns – No. 15 Wisconsin hosting No. 20 Penn State and No. 17 Indiana visiting No. 18 Iowa. The quartet is the biggest threat to Ohio State in the league race and two will start with a significant victory.
Finally, the Steve Sarkisian era at Texas gets off to a tricky start with the No. 19 Longhorns getting a visit from No. 23 Louisiana-Lafayette. Will Texas get off on the right foot or will the Ragin’ Cauns, who return most of the team that upset Iowa State in last year’s opener, pull off another surprise?