College football’s opening weekend is creeping closer and closer and, although a lot of bigger programs take on Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) teams to get warmed up, others hit the gauntlet right away.
Here are some of the key matchups to watch on opening weekend. (Rankings from USA TODAY Coaches Poll).
No. 22 Boise State at No. 13 Michigan State
8 p.m. EST, Friday, August 31, ESPN
Once again, Boise State is involved in a high-profile, season-opening matchup. The previous games haven’t disappointed and neither should this one. Both teams are replacing starting quarterbacks this year, Kellen Moore for BSU and Kirk Cousins for MSU, but are both expected to compete for their respective conference titles.
Ohio University at Penn State
12 p.m. ET, Saturday, Sept. 1, ESPN
This might not be much of a competitive game, but don’t count the Bobcats out. After all, they were picked to win the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Championship Game this year. But the real reason this game will generate so much interest is because it will be the first game at PSU since severe NCAA sanctions were struck down against them in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal. Many players, including star running back Silas Redd who transferred to USC, left to play elsewhere.
No. 14 Clemson vs. No. 25 Auburn at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta
7 p.m. ET, Saturday, Sept. 1, ESPN
This in-state matchup pits the 2011 national champion against the reigning Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Champions. Clemson boasts two Heisman Trophy hopefuls in wide receiver Sammy Watkins and quarterback Tajh Boyd, while Auburn is still trying to decide its starting quarterback as Clint Moseley and Kiehl Frazier battle for the spot in the preseason.
No. 8 Michigan vs. No. 2 Alabama at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas
8 p.m. ET, Saturday, Sept. 1, ABC
This looks to be the most promising game of the opening weekend, as the defending national champions take on Michigan and one of my early Heisman favorites, quarterback Denard Robinson. The biggest storyline, and maybe the deciding factor in the game, will perhaps be how well the Crimson Tide defense can contain Robinson, who has the ability to take it the distance on any given play.
Georgia Tech at No. 20 Virginia Tech
8 p.m. ET, Monday, Sept. 3, ESPN
The battle of the Techs features two teams expected to finish in the upper echelon of the ACC this season. The Hokies are led by quarterback Logan Thomas, who a lot of people are expecting to have a monster year. Although the Yellow Jackets lost standout wide receiver Stephen Hill, they do return a multitude of starters at other positions.
See how other teams stacked up in USA TODAY
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