Opening kickoff for the 2013 college football season is finally here, as two games are set to begin at 6:00 PM EST on Thursday. North Carolina will take on No. 6 South Carolina, while Kent State will take on Liberty in an unranked matchup. Neither represents one of the top projected games of opening weekend, though.
As is frequent throughout the college season, there are several games that are on blowout alert in Week 1. If you're a fan into lopsided victories, then No. 3 Ohio State and Buffalo could be an interesting matchup for you—as could No. 17 Michigan and Central Michigan.
There are a few ranked matchups to watch out for this week. It's not often that two highly ranked teams meet so early in the season, but it will be interesting to see how the games play out. Given the number of lopsided projections many have for this week, these ranked games could represent the best chance for upsets.
Week 1 should be an exciting week for college football fans, and it will be kicked off on the right foot with a few games that could be real headline-grabbers.
No. 5 Georgia at No. 8 Clemson - Saturday, August 31 at 8:00 PM EST
This opening-week contest pits two strong southern teams against each other to see who is deserving of the higher ranking. Georgia comes in at No. 5 in the nation, though Clemson will certainly have something to say about that.
Clemson will be looking to see how they can replace explosive offensive weapons like wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and running back Andre Ellington, while also trying to see how they stack up against a strong Georgia team.
Georgia's biggest problem could end up being their young defense. With so much youth on defense, an experienced quarterback like Clemson's Tajh Boyd could make them pay. Young defenders tend to be over aggressive, and Boyd will capitalize on those mistakes. His downfield passing ability will keep them honest and teach them to play within themselves.
Offensively, Georgia has talent everywhere. Quarterback Aaron Murray and running back Todd Gurley will look to get off to a good start right out of the gate. Gurley is coming off a season that saw him rush for 1,385 yards and 17 touchdowns, while Murray is coming off a 36 touchdown, 10 interception season.
Despite each team's strengths and weaknesses, this game will come down to the play of Boyd and Murray. The quarterback with the best game (in terms of both decision-making and statistics) will have the privilege of starting the season off with a "W."
Both quarterbacks figure to be legitimate NFL prospects and will finish high on draft boards come season's end, but their teams will be looking to take it one game at a time. In this one, look for both quarterbacks to shine.
Prediction: Clemson falls just short as Murray shines, 35-32.
No. 12 LSU vs. No. 20 TCU - Saturday, August 31 at 9:00 PM EST
This game pits two nationally ranked teams against each other, but this game is worth watching solely for the fact that it will be interesting to see how LSU can reach to losing 11 regulars to the NFL.
Of those 11, a record eight defensive players were drafted. As a result, LSU will sport a defensive line with four new starters. These new starters—Jermauria Rasco, Anthony Johnson, Ego Ferguson and Danielle Hunter—will have to do their best to learn on the fly and keep the LSU defense up amongst the top in the country.
Throw in their offense that ranked 94th in the country in passing and 59th in scoring, and it could end up being a long season if quarterback Zach Mettenberger doesn't progress in is second season as the starter.
For TCU, Week 1 could be quarterback Casey Pachall's time to win back the quarterback job. It's his to lose, but issues last season stemming from a drunken driving arrest limited him to just the first four games of the season. He tossed 10 touchdowns and one interception during that time.
His replacement, Trevone Boykin, was solid the rest of the way. He threw for 2,054 yards with 15 touchdowns. As both have succeeded in starting roles, it wouldn't be out of the question to see TCU head coach Gary Patterson work both into the offense.
Plus, it will be very interesting to watch the exchange between Patterson and LSU head coach Les Miles after Patterson ripped Miles for reinstating running back Jeremy Hill after he pleaded guilty to a simple battery charge. Via Dan Loumena of the Los Angeles Times, Patterson said, "My whole team would vote Devonte [Fields] to be back on the team because they all want to win. That doesn't teach life lessons
It's not often that highly ranked teams have so many issues on both offense and defense, but the issues at quarterback for both squads and along the defensive line for LSU make this a game worth watching. Hardcore college football fans who want to see how these two storied programs will fare in 2013 best watch this game.
Prediction: TCU's dual quarterbacks take down the young defensive line of LSU, 24-17
No. 1 Alabama at Virginia Tech - Saturday, August 31 at 5:30 PM EST
Alabama may be the far-and-away best team in the nation, but that doesn't mean they won't be up against a legitimate threat in Virginia Tech. If 'Bama isn't careful, the Hokies could come away with the upset victory to start their season.
Nick Saban and Co. will be forced to contain Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas, as his ability to run could cause difficulties on the defensive front for Alabama. Thomas played well last season passed for 2,976 yards and 18 touchdowns last season, but ran for 524 yards and another nine touchdowns.
If the Crimson Tide can keep Thomas in check, then there's no question that they'll win. If they can't, then Virginia Tech can upset them. With this being the case, the containment of Thomas is the single most important factor of this game.
Not only does Alabama need to fail at containing Thomas, as Thomas also needs to come out firing on all cylinders to lead his team to victory. Maybe the excitement of opening the season at home against the No. 1 team in the nation will get him in the zone for the game.
Aside from Thomas, though, the Hokies have some question marks. Starting running back J.C. Coleman is questionable for the game, and Trey Edmunds would start if he misses the game. The last thing Virginia Tech needs is to go against a powerhouse without all of their best weapons, but that could be the case if Coleman's health doesn't improve.
The game will be fun to watch because of Alabama's expectations and because of an explosive quarterback by Thomas, Alabama will have to really mess up (while Virginia Tech will have to be really lucky) for them to lose.
Predictions: Alabama is too much to handle, VA Tech loses 35-17