The 2014 college football season opens this weekend, and it will start with a bang as a number of Top 25 schools will face off against elite competition.
For many powerhouse programs, Week 1 is a time to beat the snot out of a FCS team or simply schedule an overmatched opponent to ease into the season. But with strength of schedule playing a bigger role in the wake of the first College Football Playoff, some schools have opted to open up with bowl-season-like matchups.
While some of the nation's best teams will open up with an easy one, matchups like Wisconsin-LSU and Florida State-Oklahoma State mean that Week 1 will have serious championship implications.
Here's a look at all of the Top 25 matchups, with an emphasis on the games you simply cannot afford to miss.
Week 1 Schedule, Odds and Predictions
|Aug. 28||No. 21 Texas A&M vs. No. 9 South Carolina||6 p.m.||SC -13||SC 27-20|
|Aug. 28||Boise State vs. No. 18 Ole Miss||8 p.m.||UM -9.5||UM 35-18|
|Aug. 28||Weber State vs. No. 19 Arizona State||10:30 p.m.||n/a||ASU 41-7|
|Aug. 29||Jacksonville State vs. No. 8 Michigan State||7:30 p.m.||n/a||MSU 41-0|
|Aug. 30||No. 5 Ohio State vs. Navy||12 p.m.||OSU -19.5||OSU 45-10|
|Aug. 30||No. 7 UCLA vs. Virginia||12 p.m.||UCLA -24||UCLA 27-10|
|Aug. 30||West Virginia vs. No. 2 Alabama||3:30 p.m.||UA -25||UA 34-7|
|Aug. 30||Rice vs. No. 17 Notre Dame||3:30 p.m.||ND -24.5||ND 37-13|
|Aug. 30||Florida Atlantic vs. Nebraska||3:30 p.m.||NEB -24||NEB 55-14|
|Aug. 30||South Dakota State vs. No. 24 Missouri||3:30 p.m.||n/a||MIZ 45-0|
|Aug. 30||Arkansas vs. No. 6 Auburn||4 p.m.||AUB -21||AUB 45-27|
|Aug. 30||UC Davis vs. No. 11 Stanford||4 p.m.||n/a||STAN 45-7|
|Aug. 30||No. 16 Clemson vs. No. 12 Georgia||5:30 p.m.||UGA -9.5||UGA 27-24 (OT)|
|Aug. 30||Liberty vs. No. 23 North Carolina||6 p.m.||n/a||UNC 45-13|
|Aug. 30||Louisiana Tech vs. No. 4 Oklahoma||7 p.m.||OU -37.5||OU 63-10|
|Aug. 30||Stephen F. Austin vs. No. 20 Kansas State||7:10 p.m.||n/a||KSU 38-3|
|Aug. 30||Fresno State vs. No. 15 USC||7:30 p.m.||USC -21.5||USC 41-17|
|Aug. 30||No. 1 Florida State vs. Oklahoma State||8 p.m.||FSU -17.5||FSU 45-13|
|Aug. 30||No. 14 Wisconsin vs. No. 13 LSU||9 p.m.||LSU -6.5||LSU 16-13|
|Aug. 30||South Dakota vs. No. 3 Oregon||10:30 p.m.||n/a||ORE 48-14|
|Aug. 30||No. 25 Washington vs. Hawaii||10:30 p.m.||WAS -21.5||WAS 40-20|
|Aug. 31||SMU vs. No. 10 Baylor||7:30 p.m.||BU -30||BU 56-10|
Odds via OddsShark.com; Steven Cook's predictions
Note: Odds courtesy of Odds Shark. Multiple game lines are still to be determined.
No. 21 Texas A&M vs. No. 9 South Carolina
If any singular game this season will make your subscription to SEC Network worth it, chances are it's the first live contest the network will ever show.
The 21st-ranked Texas A&M Aggies will open up the post-Johnny Manziel era with a doozie on the road, traveling to face Steve Spurrier's No. 9 South Carolina squad. Williams-Brice Stadium is sure to be rocking for a Thursday night affair that seemingly kicks off the college football season.
The Gamecocks have a seasoned quarterback with big-game experience in Dylan Thompson, and three straight 11-win seasons have helped the media to select South Carolina as the favorite to make its second ever SEC title game appearance.
Kenny Hill takes over the offense for the Aggies, and a deep cupboard of talent around him along with stockpiled recruiting classes have gotten Texas A&M into the Top 25 entering the season. But Manziel had to be magnificent just to keep the Aggies afloat last season, as defensive woes became a big problem in 2013.
South Carolina might be without star rusher Mike Davis as he's questionable with a rib injury, according to The State (Columbia, South Carolina). But even if Davis can't go, Thompson's command of the offense and the ability of backup Brandon Wilds will be enough to grind out a win at home—though closer than the line suggests.
Prediction: South Carolina wins, 27-20
No. 16 Clemson vs. No. 12 Georgia
It doesn't pack quite the punch that last year's epic encounter did, but Georgia and Clemson enter 2014 with similar expectations that will alter dramatically based on Saturday night's outcome.
After last year's 38-35 victory at home, Dabo Swinney's No. 16 Tigers will head south to Sanford Stadium to try to repeat history in a hostile environment against one of the SEC's elite.
Although Mark Richt's squad enters on the cusp of the Top 10, the Bulldogs are coming off a season to forget. An unprecedented amount of injuries helped Georgia to stall to an 8-5 record, losing to Nebraska in the Gator Bowl after lofty preseason expectations.
Should Georgia's offense stay healthy, it should have no problem getting back to 10 or 11 wins. Hutson Mason is a future star if his play late last year and offseason growth are any indication. Todd Gurley is among the best running backs in the nation, and a number of other speedsters who missed time last year are healthy and ready to go.
Clemson's strong defense will make up for the loss of Tajh Boyd much of the season, but the Tigers won't be able to contain Georgia's offense at the end of this one.
Prediction: Georgia wins in OT, 27-24
No. 1 Florida State vs. Oklahoma State
The 2014 Florida State Seminoles have boasted a "Dallas to Dallas" motto entering this season, meant to signify their aspirations of playing in the CFP championship game in Dallas and defending their national title. It will start in Dallas on Saturday, when they take on Oklahoma State in a neutral-site clash.
Which Week 1 matchup are you most looking forward to?
Jameis Winston returns to Florida State coming off his Heisman Trophy campaign a year ago, and Jimbo Fisher has plenty of offensive weapons to negate the losses of Kelvin Benjamin, Rashad Greene and Devonta Freeman.
The top-ranked Seminoles only played three ranked foes in the regular season last year, and only two are on the slate entering 2014—Clemson and Notre Dame. Although it's not a ranked Cowboys team they will face, it could prove to be one of Florida State's toughest tests on the road to its title.
But even one of its toughest tests won't truly be that much of a test. Mike Gundy returns just 12 starters, two of which are kickers, and even Gundy's best repair job in 2014 won't make his Cowboys serious contenders against the champs in Week 1.
Prediction: Florida State wins, 45-13