Saturday’s early slate of games features one of the best quarterback clashes of the season. Oklahoma takes the field with star gunslinger Baker Mayfield, who led the Sooners to the College Football Playoff in 2015 as a redshirt sophomore. Houston will challenge Oklahoma with dual-threat senior quarterback Greg Ward, Jr., who posted a perfect 13-0 record for Houston in Tom Herman’s first season as head coach. If the Cougars can pull off the upset in Houston, their schedule could provide a favorable passageway for the first non-Power Five team to be represented in the playoff.
No. 18 Georgia vs. No. 22 North Carolina
Saturday – 4:30 p.m. – ESPN
After an 11-game win streak and ACC Championship appearance in 2015, the Tar Heels have emerged as one of college football’s top competitors. New redshirt junior starting quarterback Mitch Trubisky will inherit an offense that averaged over 40 points per game a season ago. Georgia counters with a relentless defense that yielded 17 points per game in 2015. Returning to the Bulldogs is junior running back Nick Chubb, who registered an FBS-best 8.1 yards per carry in 2015 before a season-ending knee injury. Expect Georgia’s offense to keep the ball on the ground to test the Tar Heel defense throughout.
No. 20 USC vs. No. 1 Alabama
Saturday – 7 p.m. – ABC
The loaded week one schedule showcases a matchup between the dynasty of the 2000s against the dynasty of the 2010s. While USC has yet to return to their glory days, they have consistently fielded top-flight recruiting classes in recent years. Both teams will utilize new quarterbacks, redshirt junior Max Browne for the Trojans and junior Cooper Bateman for defending national champion Alabama. Browne will be tested by an elite defense that led the nation in sacks last year. The burning question of when USC returns to contention could be answered depending on how they fare against the nation’s best.
No. 11 Ole Miss vs. No. 4 Florida State
Monday – 7 p.m. – ESPN
The Rebels have started 3-0 for three consecutive seasons, but that streak may be in jeopardy against the Seminoles in Orlando. Florida State returns ACC leading rusher junior Dalvin Cook and star senior pass rusher DeMarcus Walker, but the quarterback position remains questionable. Senior quarterback Sean Maguire’s status is unknown for the game, and redshirt freshman Deondre Francois will get the start. The Rebels are led by senior Chad Kelly, a 4,000 yard passer in 2015, but will have to adjust to life without receiver Laquon Treadwell and defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche. The key to the Seminoles winning this game is to take advantage of an inexperienced Ole Miss offensive line to pressure Kelly and the Rebels.