Since January 6, there has been a void in the hearts of college football fans across the country. While a few notable teams like Texas A&M and Michigan State have already gotten off to a great start, a full slate awaits on the first Saturday of the season.
Most matchups include a ranked team that is looking to overpower a lower program. Of those, Ohio State will get a chance to see frosh quarterback J.T. Barrett against Navy, while Alabama will take on West Virginia with two quarterbacks likely under center.
Jeremy Fowler of CBS Sports notes the current signal-caller situation for the team:
Alabama QB Blake Sims will start vs. WVU but Jacob Coker will be worked in and competition ongoing. http://t.co/HWVYaHrFRQ— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerCBS) August 29, 2014
As for the more intriguing matchups, two games include ranked teams facing off for supremacy. No. 16 Clemson vs. No. 12 Georgia, along with No. 14 Wisconsin vs. No. 13 LSU, all have new quarterbacks. Much like Kenny Hill for the Aggies, all four teams hope to have a breakout star.
Along with those contests, top programs like Florida State and the Crimson Tide will look to start off the season on the right note. With 60 games on tap for the opening Saturday, here's a look at predictions for each game and a breakdown of some of the most pivotal matchups.
|8:30 a.m||Penn State vs. UCF*||ESPN2||Penn State|
|Noon||No. 5 Ohio State at Navy||CBS Sports Network||Ohio State|
|Noon||No. 7 UCLA at Virginia||ESPN||UCLA|
|Noon||Delaware at Pittsburgh||ESPN 3||Pittsburgh|
|Noon||Appalachian State at Michigan||ESPN2||Michigan|
|Noon||North Dakota State at Iowa State||Fox Sports 1||Iowa State|
|Noon||Indiana State at Indiana||N/A||Indiana|
|Noon||Northern Iowa at Iowa||BTN||Iowa|
|Noon||Western Michigan at Purdue||ESPNU||Purdue|
|Noon||Troy at UAB||N/A||Troy|
|Noon||Tennessee-Martin at Kentucky||N/A||Kentucky|
|12:05 p.m.||Youngstown State at Illinois||BTN||Illinois|
|12:30 p.m.||Wofford at Georgia Tech||ESPN 3||Georgia Tech|
|12:30 p.m.||Georgia Southern at N.C. State||ESPN 3||N.C. State|
|2:00 p.m.||Colgate at Ball State||ESPN 3||Ball State|
|2:00 p.m.||Nicholls State at Air Force||ESPN 3||Air Force|
|3:00 p.m.||Southern Utah at Nevada||N/A||Nevada|
|3:00 p.m.||Boston College at Massachusetts||ESPN 3||Boston College|
|3:30 p.m.||West Virginia vs. No. 2 Alabama*||ABC/ESPN2||Alabama|
|3:30 p.m.||Rice at No. 17 Notre Dame||NBC||Notre Dame|
|3:30 p.m.||Florida Atlantic at No. 22 Nebraska||BTN||Nebraska|
|3:30 p.m.||South Dakota State at No. 24 Missouri||ESPNU||Missouri|
|3:30 p.m.||James Madison at Maryland||BTN||Maryland|
|3:30 p.m.||California at Northwestern||ABC/ESPN2||California|
|3:30 p.m.||Duquesne at Buffalo||ESPN 3||Buffalo|
|3:30 p.m.||Hampton at Old Dominion||N/A||Old Dominion|
|3:30 p.m.||Marshall at Miami (OH)||ESPN 3||Marshall|
|4:00 p.m.||Arkansas at No. 6 Auburn||N/A||Auburn|
|4:00 p.m.||UC Davis at No. 11 Stanford||Pac-12 Network||Stanford|
|4:00 p.m.||Montana at Wyoming||N/A||Wyoming|
|4:00 p.m.||Portland State at Oregon State||Pac-12 Network||Oregon State|
|4:00 p.m.||William & Mary at Virginia Tech||N/A||Virginia Tech|
|5:30 p.m.||No. 16 Clemson at No. 12 Georgia||ESPN||Georgia|
|6:00 p.m.||Liberty at No. 23 North Carolina||ESPN 3||North Carolina|
|6:00 p.m.||Elon at Duke||ESPN 3||Duke|
|6:00 p.m.||Ohio at Kent State||ESPN 3||Ohio|
|6:00 p.m.||Morgan State at Eastern Michigan||ESPN 3||Eastern Michigan|
|7:00 p.m.||Louisiana Tech at No. 4 Oklahoma||N/A||Oklahoma|
|7:00 p.m.||New Hampshire at Toledo||ESPN 3||Toledo|
|7:00 p.m.||Savannah State at Middle Tennessee||N/A||Middle Tennessee|
|7:00 p.m.||Bethune-Cookman at Florida International||N/A||Bethune-Cookman|
|7:00 p.m.||Northern Arizona at San Diego State||CBS Sports Network||San Diego State|
|7:00 p.m.||Idaho at Florida||ESPNU||Florida|
|7:00 p.m.||Austin Peay at Memphis||ESPN 3||Memphis|
|7:00 p.m.||Western Carolina at South Florida||ESPN 3||South Florida|
|7:00 p.m.||Samford at TCU||N/A||TCU|
|7:00 p.m.||Central Arkansas at Texas Tech||N/A||Texas Tech|
|7:00 p.m.||Montana State at Arkansas State||ESPN 3||Arkansas State|
|7:00 p.m.||Southern University at Louisiana-Lafayette||ESPN 3||Louisiana-Lafayette|
|7:00 p.m.||Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Texas State||ESPN 3||Texas State|
|7:10 p.m.||Stephen F. Austin at No. 20 Kansas State||N/A||Kansas State|
|7:30 p.m.||Fresno State at No. 15 USC||Fox||USC|
|7:30 p.m.||Southern Miss at Mississippi State||N/A||Mississippi State|
|8:00 p.m.||No. 1 Florida State vs. Oklahoma State*||ABC||Florida State|
|8:00 p.m.||UTEP at New Mexico||N/A||New Mexico|
|8:00 p.m.||North Texas at Texas||Longhorn Network||Texas|
|8:00 p.m.||NC Central at East Carolina||N/A||East Carolina|
|9:00 p.m.||No. 14 Wisconsin vs. No. 13 LSU*||ESPN||LSU|
|10:30 p.m.||South Dakota at No. 3 Oregon||Pac-12 Network||Oregon|
|10:30 p.m.||No. 25 Washington at Hawaii||CBS Sports Network||Washington|
ESPN.com (*Neutral Site)
|Team||Predicted Regular-Season Record|
R. Cory Smith's Predictions
Breakdown of Top Matchups
West Virginia vs. No. 2 Alabama
With Fowler reporting that Bama will start Blake Sims, the quarterback now holds the reins to the No. 2 program. Along with that, he'll be following in the footsteps of A.J. McCarron, who started two national championship games in Tuscaloosa.
Sims may be the starter, but both quarterbacks will see the field. Coach Nick Saban spoke about the situation earlier in the week, per ESPN.com: "We're going to continue to rep both guys. We feel like both guys have done a good job. Obviously, someone has to start the game, so we'll make that decision sometime this week. Whatever pitcher starts the game isn't necessarily going to pitch nine innings."
Needless to say, fans can expect to see a heavy dose of Jacob Coker as well.
The Florida State transfer is another huge storyline to watch, but the team around him will need to be great to remain near the top of the rankings. Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus offers his take on another young player who is looking to emerge:
From the little I saw last season, Alabama soph ILB Reuben Foster has a chance to become a Brandon Spikes-like thumper in a 3-4.— Steve Palazzolo (@PFF_Steve) August 28, 2014
As for West Virginia, the team faces a tall task in taking down Saban and the Bama program. Since 2008, Saban has dropped just one game following seasons with multiple losses and never lost a season opener with Alabama.
No. 1 Florida State vs. Oklahoma State
Following an undefeated season for Florida State, the team retains many of the top players for another run to a national championship.
Jameis Winston is still at the helm and looking for a second consecutive Heisman Trophy. Along with all the hype surrounding him, Winston is also one of the top quarterbacks heading into the 2015 NFL draft.
SportsCenter provides a look at the early big board from draft expert Mel Kiper Jr.:
Coming in as the No. 1 team and favorites to win the national championship, per OddsShark.com, much will be expected of the Seminoles. Oklahoma State is a worthy adversary, and the Big 12 team will be looking to pull off the biggest upset of the year on Week 1.
But the Cowboys won't be the only team the Noles are battling this weekend. Paul Myerberg of USA Today gives some insight on the pressure for FSU this season:
FSU is playing against history ... That's the barometer: Florida State is competing not against Clemson, Notre Dame and others – they are, but only in here and now – but rather against all the other great teams to come before, from the West Coast, the East Coast, the South, the Midwest and all points in between.
Looking to measure up to great programs of the past, Jimbo Fisher and Co. are tasked with a massive undertaking. While the likes of either Alabama or Oregon could be awaiting them in the first College Football Playoff later this season, taking care of Oklahoma State will be priority No. 1 on Saturday night.
No. 14 Wisconsin vs. No. 13 LSU
As is the case with several programs across the country, LSU will be trotting out at a new starting quarterback. For Wisconsin, the job is still up in the air even though Joel Stave enjoyed success last season.
Heading into the opener, Jeff Potrykus of the Journal Sentinel reports the Badgers will be starting Tanner McEvoy under center. Despite the report, McEvoy remained modest about the situation, per Jesse Temple of Fox Sports:
We're not sure who's playing upcoming this weekend. I hope I'm in. That's a coach Lud answer. Whatever he wants us to do. I've got to be ready for if my number's called. I know if it's not called, Joel will be ready, too. He's been doing it for a while. He's a great quarterback, so whatever they ask.
Regardless of who's at quarterback, there is a true star in the backfield in Melvin Gordon. The running back compiled 1,609 rushing yards, a 7.8 yards-per-carry average and 12 touchdowns during the 2013 season.
But even with his dynamic ability, Tigers linebacker Lamar Louis isn't worried about limiting his production. Louis spoke about facing Gordon earlier this week, per Jim Kleinpeter of NOLA.com:
He's a good back, speedy back. He makes good cuts, good decisions. I think he's up for the Heisman Trophy.
But I'm going to say what Chief said, tells us all the time, he's not someone we haven't faced in these past years. He's not someone we don't practice against (like) Terrence Magge, Leonard Fournette, Jeremy Hill.
LSU comes into the season with hopes of a national title and plenty of reasons for those aspirations. While the LSU quarterback situation is still undecided, the young talent coming in means the program will be competitive in the SEC.
If college football fans need another reason to watch, getting to see Leonard Fournette is all the more reason to tune in. As the No. 1 player in the 2014 247Sports' composite rankings gets his career started, the college football world will be watching.
No. 5 Ohio State at Navy
Which matchup will be the most intriguing on Saturday?
This early matchup doesn't bring a lot of intrigue, but getting a look at Barrett makes it worth watching.
The freshman quarterback is taking over after shoulder surgery ended the season for Braxton Miller. Barrett's learning curve will have to be short with Virginia Tech coming to Columbus in Week 2 of the season.
Facing a disciplined team like Navy, Barrett will need to be on top of his game. The No. 3 dual-threat quarterback in the 2013 247Sports' composite rankings, Barrett will need to flourish to keep the Buckeyes ranked.
As he gets his career started in the noon contest, look for Barrett and Ohio State to make a splash against the Midshipmen.
Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.