Now that we can finally move on from the Johnny Manziel autograph saga, lets break down the week 1 action.
North Carolina at No. 6 South Carolina- Thursday 6 p.m. ET on ESPN:
The season gets started on ESPN as North Carolina visits South Carolina at 6 p.m. ET on Thursday. The Gamecocks are favored by 13 points.
USC has the most dynamic defensive player in the county in Jadeveon Clowney, and a unit that allowed just 18.2 points per game a year ago will be strong again in 2013. Offensively Connor Shaw, who is USC’s leading returning rusher and passer, will lead the way again. He completed 67.5 percent of his passes a year ago.
UNC signal caller Bryn Renner is one of the more underrated passers in the country. Last year the Tar Heels were 8-4 as Renner completed 65.4 percent of his passes for 3,356 yards, 28 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Renner and Larry Fedora’s high octane offense should be able to move ball on USC, even without Hard Knocks star Giovani Bernard.
Pregame reading: South Carolina has won 13 straight openers, Steve Spurrier thinks UNC is good enough to end that streak.
Pick: I think USC will get it done, but I think the Tar Heels will cover. I’m going with USC over UNC 24-17.
No. 12 LSU vs. No. 20 TCU in the Cowboys Kickoff Classic- Saturday 9 p.m. ET ESPN
For an opening-weekend match-up between two top-20 teams, this game flown a bit under the radar. Perhaps that’s because UGA-Clemson has the makings of heavy-weight prize fight.
Still this is an intriguing match-up. LSU will be looking to replace eight players on the defensive side of the ball, including a whole new defensive line.
I think that Zack Mettenberger will thrive under new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. He’ll also benefit from the fact that the expectations have been lowered from the ridiculous levels they were a year ago, when Tigers’ fans referred to him as the Mettsiah. Les Miles hasn’t announced whether or not if running back Jeremy Hill will play in the opener after an off-season arrest.
TCU head coach Gary Patterson has also been coy with the media about his team. Patterson hasn’t announced whether Casey Pachall or Trevone Boykin will start at quarterback. Pachall started the year 4-0 last year before withdrawing from TCU to receive treatment for substance abuse following a DUI. Boykin filled in for Pachall the final 12 games and threw for 2,054 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Patterson hinted that TCU may actually find a way to get both quarterbacks on the field for the fist snap on Saturday, but I think that’s just a little bit of gamesmanship. The Horned Frogs will be without the reigning Big 12 defensive player of the year, defensive end Devonte Fields, as he serves a two-game suspension to start the year.
Pregame Reading: Nola.com: LSU vs. TCU 5 things to keep an eye on.
Pick: I think LSU comes in with a chip on it’s shoulder and handles TCU with ease. I’m taking the Tigers over the Horned Frogs 27-10.
No. 5 Georgia at No. 8 Clemson- Saturday 8.p.m. ET ABC
It doesn’t get any better than this for an opening-week match-up.
Two national-title contenders, with two potential Heisman finalists under center, will really set the tone for the final year of the BCS era. UGA’s title hopes could survive a loss in week one, while Clemson would likely be relegated to a best-case scenario of the Orange Bowl with a loss to the Bulldogs.
What makes this match-up so exciting is that both teams are going to put up points. In part because they’re very talented on offense, and also in part because both teams tend to struggle with not letting teams score lots of points. Clemson averaged 41 points per game last season, while allowing 24.8. UGA scored 37.8 points per game, and gave up 19.6 (but they gave up 20 points or more in eight of 14 games).
The Tigers should be better on defense in their second season under defensive coordinator Brent Venables. I’m not sold that the UGA squad will be better after losing so much talent to the NFL last year (seven defenders were drafted in 2013), and the fact that Josh Harvey-Clemons will be suspended for the opener.
Pregame reading: Cool story from David Ching on ESPN.com on the history of the Georgia-Clemson rivalry.
Pick: I think Clemson gets it done at home in a shootout. I think the Tigers take down Georgia 42-35.
Rutgers at Fresno State- Thursday 10:30 p.m. ET ESPNU- I think Fresno State has a chance to make some noise this year. They start off with a win over Rutgers.
No. 1 Alabama vs. Virgina Tech in the Chic-fil-A Kickoff- 5:30 p.m. ET ESPN: Let’s get real here, the Crimson Tide will roll by three touchdowns.
No. 19 Boise State at Washington- Saturday 10 p.m. ET Fox Sports 1: I like the Huskies’ QB Keith Price so I’m going with UW over Boise in an upset.
No. 11 Florida State at Pittsburgh- Monday 8 p.m ET ESPN: Pitt needs to run the ball to be successful, and I just think that FSU is just too big up front for that to happen. Even if Jameis Winston has some debut jitters, I like the Seminoles by two touchdowns.