It’s the best time of the year to be a college football fan. The summer has mostly passed, and it’s time to kick off the season. Here are five games that I will be paying close attention to this weekend.
5. Georgia at 8. Clemson (7:00 – ABC)
This one is undoubtedly the most intriguing matchup of the weekend. Georgia, coming off of a near miss against Alabama in the SEC Championship last year that would’ve put it in the BCS Championship Game, is going to be on a mission to once again reach Atlanta. The Bulldogs have great leadership on offense with senior quarterback Aaron Murray. But Clemson also has a great talent at that position in Tajh Boyd, and wide receiver Sammy Watkins is a tremendous asset for an offense to have. I think the fact that the game will take place in Death Valley is a factor. I think Clemson will hold their own, but Georgia will outlast Dabo Swinney’s squad and sneak out of South Carolina with a victory.
Prediction: Georgia 28 Clemson 24
13. LSU vs. 20. TCU [Arlington, Texas] (8:00 -ESPN)
I wrote recently that LSU is going to be a BCS contender this year. Saturday night in Arlington will be our first opportunity to gauge just how good the Tigers will be. The key to this game is LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger. His play will dictate the outcome. Yes, the Horned Frogs have a lot of talent and will challenge Les Miles’ team. However, if Mettenberger brings his best game, I don’t think TCU can win. I think he will play well, but I think it will remain close into the fourth quarter.
Prediction: LSU 26 TCU 17
Mississippi State vs. 14. Oklahoma State [Houston, Texas] (2:30 – ABC)
This game is not garnering the attention that several other opening weekend games are, but it will be a major game with far-reaching implications. The Big 12 media voted Oklahoma State as the predicted league champion. The Cowboys return eight on offense and seven on defense. The only potential problem for Mike Gundy’s team could be at quarterback. Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh will both play in the game as Gundy tries to nail down who will be the starter going forward. Still, I think the Pokes will be too much for Mississippi State.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 37 Mississippi State 24
Ole Miss at Vanderbilt (Thursday, 8:15 – ESPN)
Each of these two middle-to-lower end SEC programs needs to have a successful start to the year. Since Ole Miss was able to attract a top 10 recruiting class earlier this year, a lot of expectations will be placed on the Rebels. On the other hand, Vanderbilt has been on the upswing lately, and this would be an opportunity for James Franklin’s program to make a statement win with the eyes of the nation watching.
Prediction: Ole Miss 35 Vanderbilt 24
1. Alabama vs. Virginia Tech (4:30 – ESPN)
Will the Crimson Tide be tested? Most prognosticators think not. I think Alabama will win the game and probably not be challenged. However, the score could be much closer than many think. Alabama does not have the amount of experience in the secondary that it had last year, and the Tide lost a lot of talent from the 2012 offensive line. I think it will be a defensive game.
Prediction: Alabama 21 Virginia Tech 16