Saturday marks the first full day of action for the new season of college football. The addition of the College Football Playoff, which replaces the highly controversial BCS rankings, has created an extra layer of intrigue at the outset.
One notable result is already in the books, as Texas A&M, led by Kenny Hill, upset South Carolina on Thursday night. It's the first of several games likely to make a noticeable impact on the new rankings once the dust settles following Week 1.
Knowing that, let's take one more look at the preseason polls before Saturday's action starts to shake things up for teams around the nation. The chart is followed by a closer look at the top contests to keep an eye on throughout the day.
2014 Preseason Polls
|Rank||Associated Press||USA Today||Bleacher Report|
|1||Florida State||Florida State||Florida State|
|6||Auburn||Ohio State||Michigan State|
|8||Michigan State||Michigan State||Ohio State|
|9||South Carolina||South Carolina||South Carolina|
|17||Notre Dame||Notre Dame||Ole Miss|
|18||Ole Miss||Arizona State||Arizona State|
|19||Arizona State||Ole Miss||Notre Dame|
|20||Kansas State||Texas A&M||Kansas State|
|21||Texas A&M||Kansas State||Nebraska|
|23||North Carolina||North Carolina||Washington|
AP.org, USAToday.com and BleacherReport.com
Saturday's Top Games
Florida State vs. Oklahoma State
The reigning champion Seminoles don't have a gimme in their opener. Although the Cowboys aren't as highly touted as they have been in recent years, they feature a dangerous offensive scheme with a starting defensive group laden with upperclassmen.
Of course, all eyes will be on Jameis Winston. Last season's Heisman Trophy winner is going to face an immense amount of scrutiny on a weekly basis. As noted by Dan Wolken of USA Today, the Florida State star talks like he's ready for the challenge.
"I know I'm in the spotlight and I know I've got these guys depending on me, coach (Jimbo) Fisher depending on me and the most important thing I have my family depending on me," he said. "That comes from me maturing, seeing the real world, seeing how people have different perspectives about me as a person. I know I have to be able to live up to that hype everywhere I go. I have a certain standard I have to hold myself up to, and if I even go an inch below that standard it's going to be chaos."
One thing the Seminoles offense must do in order to reach the same heights as last season is figure out who's going to replace Kelvin Benjamin in the red zone. The current Carolina Panthers rookie was a key target for Winston, who doesn't have a comparable option with the same combination of size and athleticism.
For Oklahoma State to put the nation's top-ranked team on upset alert the defensive line must get a major push all game long. It starts with James Castleman and Ofa Hautau in the middle, who have the ability to make life difficult on Winston and the Florida State ground game.
Clemson vs. Georgia
This game features two players NFL scouts will be watching extremely closely over the next four months. For Clemson, it's edge-rusher Vic Beasley, who opted to return despite being a potential first-round pick. For Georgia, it's dual-threat running back Todd Gurley.
What will be Saturday's best Week 1 game?
More importantly, this is the type of contest the selection committee is likely going to weigh heavily at season's end. Beating up on a low-level opponent isn't going to carry much clout. But wins over top-25 opponents could very well be the difference in the end.
It's an immediate test for Tigers quarterback Cole Stoudt, who showed well (five touchdowns, no interceptions) in limited action behind Tajh Boyd last season. He can expect to see a lot of varied looks from a Georgia defense that's coming off a frustratingly inconsistent campaign.
Georgia is also going through a QB change, as Hutson Mason will be assuming the reins in place of Aaron Murray. Gurley's presence should make that transition a little smoother, though. It also helps that the new signal-caller gets to work with an experienced group of receivers, including top target Chris Conley.
Wisconsin vs. LSU
It's never ideal to enter a season without a definitive starting quarterback. The delicate balancing act of rotating them based on the hot hand usually backfires eventually. But that's the situation LSU needs to manage, at least until either Anthony Jennings or Brandon Harris locks down the job.
Wisconsin must take advantage of the situation by being in all-out attack mode on defense. It's a unit that returns several key pieces after finishing seventh in yards allowed last season. That's not enough to give the Badgers an edge, however, at least according to ESPN Stats & Info:
ESPN's Football Power Index gives LSU the edge in tomorrow's matchup with Wisconsin. pic.twitter.com/dE51xLPa22— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 29, 2014
With the questions under center, the Tigers' staples of running and defense must be even stronger. Jeremy Hill and Alfred Blue are gone, but Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard should provide a dangerous one-two punch on the ground.
If the Badgers defense lives up to expectations, the onus will be on Joel Stave to limit his mistakes. The junior quarterback threw 13 interceptions last season. In a game where one possession could make the difference, an untimely error could change the entire season outlook for Wisconsin.