Thursday, Aug. 28
North Carolina State at South Carolina
Neither team went bowling last year, and they finished with similar records: NCST at 5-7, and SC at 6-6. South Carolina played in the tough SEC East, and while the ACC Atlantic is fairly competitive, it really doesn’t compare very well. Many expect South Carolina to compete for the SEC East this year, but there aren’t a lot of expectations for NC State.
Wake Forest at Baylor
New Baylor head coach Art Briles had high-scoring teams at Houston, finishing fourth in total offense and 23rd in scoring nationally. The problem is, this isn’t Houston. Wake Forest, on the other hand, had the 27th-best total defense and could be even better this year.
Oregon State at Stanford
Oregon State looks to build on a nine-win season that included a bowl win. Stanford looks to build on a season that was highlighted by beating eventual Pac-10 champion USC and rival Cal.
Friday, Aug. 29
SMU at Rice
June Jones debuts at SMU and in Conference USA play. Rice returns a solid unit on both sides of the ball, with eight starters back on offense and seven on defense.
Saturday, Aug. 30
Virginia Tech at East Carolina
East Carolina seems to be a lot of people’s pick to upset the defending ACC champions. Virginia Tech is still expected to play for the ACC title, while many also pick East Carolina to play for the CUSA title.
Syracuse at Northwestern
I like this one for my BCS pillow fight of the week. Syracuse is again picked to finish last in the Big East, while Northwestern is a bottom third pick for the Big Ten.
Ohio at Wyoming
These are two teams that appear to be set to finish in the middle of their respective conferences. In last year's game at Ohio, Wyoming won 34-33.
USC at Virginia
Southern Cal is again picked in the top five in the country and is a popular pick to play for the National Title. First they have to go across the country to take on what appears to be a rebuilding Virginia team with quite a few question marks.
Utah at Michigan
Utah is another trendy upset pick, and they are also a popular pick for a BCS bid. The Utes are led by a senior QB, RB, WRs, and a fairly experienced O-line. Michigan is going through a transition with a new coach and new system, and they lost a number of leaders to graduation and the draft. Don’t forget what happened to Michigan last season in the opener.
Oklahoma State at Washington State (in Seattle)
Washington State has had decent success while playing “home” games in Seattle, having won four of their last five there. This year they have a new coach, new system, and new starting QB. Oklahoma State has a solid program that has the unfortunate luck of playing in the Big 12 South.
Appalachian State at LSU
This is the only FCS team I will probably include all season. You all already know the storylines here. Appalachian State beat No. 5 Michigan last year as the first FCS to beat a ranked FBS team. Now it is the defending FCS champion vs. the defending FBS champion.
Alabama vs. Clemson (in Atlanta)
This one seems to be everyone’s must see game. Alabama is coming off a 7-6 season and a No. 1 recruiting class. Clemson always seems to underachieve and is the popular pick to win the ACC this season.
Michigan State at Cal
Cal suffered one of the worst meltdowns in recent memory last season, going 5-0 before winning only one more game in the regular season. Michigan State appears to be making strides toward competing for upper tier bowls and Big Ten titles. The Spartans finished off last season with conference wins over Purdue and Penn State before losing their bowl game to Boston College.
Illinois at Missouri (in St. Louis)
Missouri won last season by seven. This year the Tigers are a legit national title contender. Illinois is ranked but is not getting the same hype. They are a pick to possibly contend for the Big Ten title and challenge Ohio State, since they were the only Big Ten team to beat the Buckeyes last season.
Washington at Oregon
Washington will rely on sophomore do-everything QB Jake Locker and a group of young skill players. Last year's defense gave up 400-plus yards to Oregon on the ground and only appears marginally better. Then again, Oregon had Dennis Dixon and Jonathan Stewart last year. Oregon will uncharacteristically rely on the defense but will again try to control the clock by running.
Sunday, Aug. 31
Kentucky at Louisville
Louisville has owned this series lately, having won four of the last five. Last year's win by Kentucky was the one loss. It's a good rivalry game for a lazy Sunday.
Colorado vs. Colorado State (in Denver)
This series is actually tied at four wins each since moving to Denver. Colorado is in its third year under Dan Hawkins, while Colorado State is starting its time under Steve Fairchild.
Monday, Sep. 1
Fresno State at Rutgers
Anyone, anytime, anywhere: Fresno State is going to a Big East contender on a Monday to play on their home field. The motto isn’t just talk. Fresno State is another BCS buster favorite but has a heavy nonconference schedule that starts here.
Tennessee at UCLA
UCLA starts the Rick Neuheisel era in no easy terms by taking on the defending SEC Eastern Division champs. Tennessee didn’t fare well in last year's trip out west, losing to Cal.