It’s been a long time since there has been an anticipation of the college football season like there will be this week. It’s only Week 1 and the array of Top 25 games coming up this Labor Day weekend, which can help exponentially in the eyes of the CFP Committee to consider when evaluating resumes.
#3 Oklahoma vs #15 Houston
The highest ranked team out of the non-power five conferences Houston Cougars are looking to piggyback off their end of the year success when they defeated the Florida State Seminoles in the Peach Bowl to take into 2016 when they go up against #3 Oklahoma on Saturday.
Quarterback Greg Ward Jr. wants to show the nation that last season wasn’t a fluke. What a better way to do that than knocking off one of the playoff contenders from last season.
It’s highly unlikely that a non-power five conference team will get a bid for the CFP, but what an opportunity to make some big noise and put the nation on notice. The Cougars would have to run table for consideration and that starts this weekend against an inspired Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma who still carry a sore taste from last season’s semifinal loss to Clemson.
#5 LSU vs Wisconsin
The argument can be made that LSU had a down year last year. Starting out on fire at 7-0 behind running back Leonard Fournette ,the front-runner for the Heisman. Then came Alabama and the bottom seemed to fall out from under them. Losing three out of the last five games and Head Coach Les Miles on the hot seat.
They will have to start this process in the confines of Lambeau Field where they will play guest to the Wisconsin Badgers. It may not be literally a home game for the Badgers, but if there’s a football game in Wisconsin the whole state is behind the home team.
The Badgers are no stranger to the SEC West, playing Alabama in the season opener last year, but the Badgers are looking for a different result. Running back Dare Ogunbowale is hoping that his big offensive line can provide the way for a big day on the ground, but the defense has to seal up holes so Fournette can’t plow through.
#18 Georgia vs #22 North Carolina
There is new leadership on both sides for the contest. Former Alabama Defensive Coordinator Kirby Smart heads back to his alma mater, Georgia, as head coach taking over for Mark Richt who was let go. Smart is looking to bring that aggressive defense mind set to the Bulldogs. He will be able to see what they are made of right out of the gate against North Carolina, who lost quarterback Marquise Williams to the NFL, so redshirt junior Mitch Trubisky will be given the reigns to try lead the Tar Heels back to the conference championship game.
Battle at the running back position will be essential in this game. Nick Chub is coming back after missing most of last season with a knee injury, and is primed and ready to get to work, but Elijah Hood is looking to also make his stamp has a top running back in the country. Who’s line will help lead the charge on Saturday?
#20 USC vs #1 Alabama
A new sheriff is in town for the Trojans with Cody Kessler off to the NFL, junior quarterback Max Browne was named starter for USC by Head Coach Clay Helton. Browne has some weapons around him that should make him comfortable. Junior JuJu Smith-Schuster who has been a threat since freshman year leads a trio of receivers (Darreus Rogers and Steven Mitchell) at his disposal.
There’s’ noting different for Alabama when it comes to a quarterback search. Cooper Bateman was named the starter, but like last season he is on a short leash in Nick Saban’s eyes. New Defensive Coordinator Jeremy Pruitt has a slew of talent to play with and interchange throughout the season. His new reign as coordinator begins with USC. How will he attack? Will he keep the same Saban m.o.? Pin the ears back and go get the quarterback? Alabama will go right after Browne to make him unsettled.
#10 Notre Dame vs Texas
Head Coach Brian Kelly had to take action with some disciplinary actions on a few of his key players for some off the field issues that served as a distraction of the Fighting Irish. It was dealt with and pushed to the side. The effects of absence of the players won’t be noticed until they play Sunday against Texas, who is looking for payback after the Irish embarrassed the Longhorns in South Bend last season.
The quarterback controversy won’t be settled until game time Sunday. Neither coach has named a starter at this point, because a quarterback hasn’t stood out as a frontrunner. From an outsiders perspective that could be good or bad. For Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly that can be great due to the fact that you have two quarterbacks that you can depend on, and that are interchangeable for your offense. Texas Head Coach Charlie Strong, you don’t really know what to think. It could mean that senior Tyrone Swoopes has not progressed and is not as confident as you thought he would be, or Freshman Shane Buechele is not coming along like he projected he would.
A lot of balls in the air for these coaches to juggle.
#11 Ole Miss vs #4 Florida State
Headlining Monday Night Football is not the NFL, but the ACC-SEC; and the impact players are early Heisman hopefuls; Chad Kelly quarterback of Ole Miss and Dalvin Cook running back for Florida State.
Question marks in the air are, how will the offensive line of Ole Miss, who will be starting five new faces fair against the defensive line of Florida State? Who will be the go to guy for Chad Kelly now that Laquon Treadwell is gone? One option is Damore’ea Stringellow, who started in five games last season and played in 12, reeling in 503 yards and 5 touchdowns.
We know how Florida State will attack, leading on their 1,000-yard rusher Cook, but he can’t do it by himself. He can carry the bulk of the load, but other players will have to step up considering the ‘Noles will have to start freshman Deondre Francois since senior quarterback Sean Maguire hurt his foot during practice, and needed surgery.