The 2012 college football season finally begins on Thursday, Aug. 30, but it kicks off for real on Saturday, Sept. 1.
A number of top-25 teams will be facing off on that traditional collegiate football day, and there is even one marquee matchup that will most certainly shape the national championship picture.
Let’s take a look at three of the top Saturday contests during Week 1 of the college football season.
Notre Dame vs. Navy—9 a.m. ET—CBS
This historic game is taking place in Dublin, Ireland, and will feature two teams that had solid but unspectacular seasons in 2011.
Notre Dame needs to improve on its back-to-back 8-5 records in 2012 and practically has to get a tough win over Navy to start the season in order to ensure it does that.
It will be tough without incumbent starter Tommy Rees, who is suspended for this contest, but the Irish might have enough firepower to get this done while overseas against the Midshipmen.
Clemson vs. Auburn—7 p.m. ET—ESPN
The Chick-Fil-A College Kickoff game is always one of the most exciting of the year, and this Georgia Dome-based game should be no different.
Clemson is the favorite in this game, as the No. 14-ranked team in the preseason AP poll, while Auburn didn’t make it into the Top 25. The Clemson Tigers have a higher-powered offense but a suspect defense, while the Auburn Tigers offense is more of a complement to their powerful defensive unit.
Expect a back-and-forth battle between these two historic rivals.
Michigan vs. Alabama—8 p.m. ET—ABC
This is it. This is the marquee game of the week, and anyone who remotely cares about college football must be tuned into ABC at 8 p.m. ET.
Who Will Win?
Denard Robinson and the talented Wolverines offense will be facing off against Nick Saban’s beastly Crimson Tide defense.
Alabama is going into the game ranked No. 2 overall, just behind the USC Trojans and ahead of the team it destroyed in the national championship game last year, the No. 3 LSU Tigers.
Michigan heads into Cowboys Stadium as the No. 8-ranked team and hoping to make a splash by knocking out the BCS champs to start the year. The Wolverines could easily win it all in 2012 if they get by the Tide.
It’s going to be a toss-up on who actually emerges victorious, which is why you must see this game.