No. 21 Texas A&M at No. 9 South Carolina
Thursday, Aug. 28 – 6 p.m. ET (Columbia, South Carolina) – SEC Network
Johnny Manziel is gone. So is Jadeveon Clowney. Last year, these teams were led by the two most polarizing players in college football, so it's kind of fitting for them to start the season against one another. It's the dawn of a new era on both sides.
The SEC at large should revert to its defensive roots this season, but expect this game to be an exception. According to the F/+ offensive ratings at Football Outsiders, Texas A&M was the No. 1 offense in college football last year, and South Carolina was not far behind at No. 5. They were the two best offenses in the conference.
Manziel and Shaw are gone, but Hill and Dylan are explosive quarterbacks in their own right, and both teams have good offensive lines and a bevy of talented skill-position players (in addition to young, rebuilding defenses).
There's a reason the over/under here is 58 points.
No. 16 Clemson at No. 12 Georgia
Saturday, Aug. 30 – 5:30 p.m. ET (Athens, Georgia) – ESPN
This is part two of a home-and-home that started last season, when Clemson beat Georgia, 38-35, in Week 1 at Memorial Stadium.
Like the Texas A&M-South Carolina game, the story here should be a new pair of quarterbacks, as Mason and Cole Stoudt are set to replace Murray and Tajh Boyd, respectively. Both players are seniors, though, and both have only played for one offensive coordinator. They know their systems like the back of their hands.
The real story of this game might actually be the defenses. Questions pervade in both secondaries, but you'd have a hard time finding two better front sevens than Clemson's and Georgia's. On my list of the best position groups in college football, the Tigers defensive line ranked No. 10 and the Bulldogs linebackers came in at No. 5.
Whichever team wins the line of scrimmage should win the game.
No. 14 Wisconsin at No. 13 LSU
Saturday, Aug. 30 – 9 p.m. ET (Houston, Texas) – ESPN
Another Week 1 game between two ranked teams…another Week 1 game between two new starting quarterbacks.
Unlike the others, though, Wisconsin chose to bench a 19-game starter (Joel Stave) in favor of 6'6" athletic specimen Tanner McEvoy, whose legs open up a new dimension for the offense. As for LSU, head coach Les Miles said sophomore Anthony Jennings and true freshman Brandon Harris will both be taking snaps, per ESPN.
But the quarterbacks, in all likelihood, will not be the ones deciding the outcome. Wisconsin and LSU are, in many ways, mirrors of one another: strongest along the offensive line, committed to running the football and completely rebuilding the defensive front seven.
Like Clemson-Georgia, this game should come down to the trenches.
Three More to Watch
- Boise State at No. 18 Ole Miss
Thursday, Aug. 28 – 8 p.m. ET (Atlanta, Georgia) – ESPN
- No. 1 Florida State at Oklahoma State
Saturday, Aug. 30 – 8 p.m. ET (Arlington, Texas) – ABC
Monday, Sept. 1 – 8 p.m. ET (Louisville, Kentucky) – ESPN