The ESPN College GameDay crew couldn't have picked a better matchup for its Week 1 showcase than No. 11 Oregon against No. 16 Auburn—literally and figuratively.
While College GameDay technically started the week prior during the so-called "Week 0" matchup between Florida and Miami, the Week 1 encounter between the Ducks and Tigers is the only game on the slate between ranked teams.
Even better, the massive conference implications will have season-long repercussions, which already started for the Pac-12 a week ago, as fans start to daydream about the next College Football Playoff.
College GameDay Week 1 Info
Date: Saturday, August 31
Time (ET): 9 a.m. to noon; game is at 7:30 p.m.
Location: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX
Live Stream: ESPN+
Oregon has so much more than a single game at stake.
The Pac-12 representative here in the national spotlight is tasked with reviving the image of the conference, which hasn't fielded a CFP participant nor finished above .500 in bowl games in each of the past two seasons.
Things already started rocky for the conference a week ago, too, when Arizona got dropped by Hawaii, 45-38.
Still, the conference has to love its chances with quarterback Justin Herbert stepping onto the stage.
The Heisman Trophy contender and likely early NFL draft pick put up 3,000-plus yards with 29 touchdowns against eight interceptions a year ago en route to nine wins during the program's first year under the guidance of Mario Cristobal.
NFL.com analyst Gil Brandt provided some reassuring numbers for those Pac-12 fans feeling a bit skittish:
None of this is to suggest all is right in SEC land for the Tigers. Auburn won just eight games a year ago, finishing fifth in the conference before getting a cupcake win over Purdue in 63-14 fashion in the Music City Bowl.
That, at least in part, would explain why head coach Gus Malzahn has had to field persistent questions about his status on the hot seat.
"You know, I've got a job that expects to win championships," he said at SEC Media Days, according to AL.com's Tom Green. "I knew that when I took this job. I love the fact that that's part of the job description here. In the years you don't win championships, you hear stuff like this."
Malzahn figures to have a strong SEC-branded defense behind him, so naturally most of the focus has centered on starting quarterback Bo Nix—a true freshman.
Nix's teammates, at least, are saying the right things ahead of the game, according to Tom Green of AL.com:
On paper, the quarterback advantage appears to swing toward Oregon, especially once factoring in things like the neutral site and pressure of a big national game.
But in a cross-conference matchup like this to start a season, anything seems possible. Even if it wasn't the only ranked game on the schedule, College GameDay would have had a hard time going with something else.
It's no wonder oddsmakers only favor Auburn by 3.5 points here, according to Caesars.
There is an allure to the SEC brand of football here, and the Pac-12 doesn't have a sterling reputation. But these Tigers are starting a true freshman under center in the biggest environment of his life and will have to keep the offense conservative, which should make life a little easier on Oregon.
That Ducks defense, by the way, returns multiple starters in a secondary that only allowed more than 300 passing yards twice last season. Keep in mind, too, not only the quarterback advantage, but also one of the most experienced offensive lines in college football and a running back in CJ Verdell who drummed up more than 1,300 yards from scrimmage last season.
If the Ducks capitalize on a few unexpected quarterback mistakes, Herbert has the talent around him to squeak out a late win.
Prediction: Oregon 24, Auburn 21