You’d be hard pressed to turn back the pages, and subsequently recall a more intriguing docket of games on a college football opening Saturday. For starters, there are an unprecedented three contests that pit ranked teams against one another. Furthermore, there are three more non-conference encounters involving football programs with a rich history, and those include one ranked team in each game.
#22 North Carolina vs. #18 Georgia 5:30 PM ET
This contest will take place at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Technically it will be considered a neutral site venue. Nonetheless, Georgia Bulldog fans travel well to begin with, and the short trip from Athens to Atlanta means they’ll be there in abundance.
Unfortunately for the loser, it will be an uphill climb if they consider themselves as legitimate contenders for a national title. It wouldn’t be a stretch to consider this an elimination game in that regard. Saturday will be the much anticipated debuts of new Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, and highly touted true freshmen quarterback Jacob Eason.
At the time of this writing, Georgia is a small 2.5-point favorite. However, don’t underestimate North Carolina who returns plenty of experience, and is coming off an outstanding 11-3 season.
#3 Oklahoma vs. #15 Houston 12:00 PM ET
This game will be played on Saturday at NRG Stadium in Houston, ant that’s home the NFL Texans. The University of Houston’s TDECU Stadium seats approximately 30,000 less people, and quite simply put, money talks.
Houston showed last season they can play with the big boys. The Cougars thrashed Florida State 38-24 in a New Year’s Day bowl game, and that culminated a tremendous 13-1 season. They’re currently a sizable 12.0-point underdog. Houston quarterback Greg Ward is a Heisman Trophy candidate, and it’s imperative he has an outstanding performance if Houston is to spring an upset.
Oklahoma returns 13 starters from a team that reached the College Football semifinals a season ago, and it ultimately fell to Clemson. A return trip to the College Football 4-Team Playoff is certainly realistic, and a better outcome may be in store if they indeed get there. Speaking of Heisman candidates, Oklahoma has one of their own in quarterback Baker Mayfield.
The early sharp money has gone on Oklahoma, evidenced by the number moving form an opener of 10.0 to its current state of 12.0, despite a higher volume of bets going on Houston.
#20 USC vs. #1 Alabama 8:00 PM ET
Talk about a couple of storied football programs. Nonetheless, USC will have their hands full at AT&T Stadium in Dallas. Three year starting quarterback Cody Kessler is gone, and he now dons a Cleveland Browns uniform. That doesn’t mean the cupboard is completely bare. The Trojans return 14 starters from last year’s 8-6 team, and have a wealth of young talent on their depth charter. Clay Helton had the interim tag removed, and he commences on his first full year as head coach at USC.
The defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide is AP Preseason Poll top ranked team once again. Similar to USC, they’ll have a new quarterback since last year’s starter Jake Coker graduated. Unlike other programs, Nick Saban and Alabama reloads better than any other school in the country. Besides their 11 returning starters, Alabama has annually brought in top ten recruiting classes during the 10-year tenure of Saban in Tuscaloosa.
Alabama opened as a 10.0-point favorite, and according to college football betting odds at BoDog.com, moved to 12.0. Alabama has won all nine of its season openers under the watchful eye of Nick Saban, and that includes covering 7 of the previous 8.
Best of the Rest
- #16 UCLA @ Texas A&M 3:30 PM ET
- #5 LSU vs. Wisconsin 3:30 PM ET (Lambeau Field/Green Bay, Wisconsin)
- #2 Clemson @ Auburn 9:00 PM ET