Sunday, May 27, 2018

Green's five games to watch for in Week 1

Photo Credit: Melina Myers- USA Today Sports

The first week of September seems like an eternity (not counting Week Zero), but here are five games that can make an impact to start the 2018 college football season.

Washington vs Auburn (Chick Fil-A Kickoff in Atlanta), Sept. 1 

In a rare feat, the Auburn Tigers will play their third straight game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium with the last result coming up short in the Peach Bowl as the Central Florida Knights completed an undefeated season at 13-0.

The Tigers get another team from last season’s New Year’s Six in the Washington Huskies, who fell to the Penn State Nittany Lions in the Fiesta Bowl, 35-28.

With the schools’ first ever meeting, expect fireworks on the field and the winner of this game to become an early contender in the Final Four of the College Football Playoff.

Michigan at Notre Dame, Sept. 1

The two winningest teams in the FBS rekindle a rivalry that has been dormant since 2014 when the Fighting Irish walloped the Wolverines, 31-0.

Both teams’ quarterback situations will likely be up in the air throughout the summer as Michigan has options in Brandon Peters, Dylan McCaffrey and Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson, while Brandon Wimbush appears to be frontrunner for Notre Dame, but Ian Book’s performance in the Citrus Bowl makes things a tad complicated.

A win on the primetime stage could set the tone for both as they face tough schedules in 2018 with Michigan playing defending Big Ten champion Ohio State, Michigan State, Penn State and Wisconsin, while Notre Dame gets Stanford, USC, Virginia Tech and Florida State.

Alabama vs Louisville (Camping World Kickoff in Orlando), Sept. 1

Nick Saban vs Bobby Petrino under the lights in Orlando could make for great theater. Going back to his days in Arkansas, Petrino’s lack of success against Saban makes for the ultimate David vs Goliath matchup.

Petrino will need to find a replacement for quarterback Lamar Jackson, who left early for the NFL Draft and was picked by the Baltimore Ravens in the first round.

Alabama’s quarterback situation could be dicey as the offseason churns as Jalen Hurts was relieved in favor of Tua Tagovailoa in the National Championship game and led the way to victory over Georgia, 26-23 in overtime.

Even with all of the uncertainty, 5Dimes Sportsbook does not see Louisville as a credible challenge with Alabama as the 26-point favorite as of this piece. Regardless of the spread, expect this one to be a lot closer than expected.

LSU vs Miami (FL) (Advocare Classic in Arlington, TX), Sept. 2

Jerryworld on a Sunday night? Yup, but it is not the Dallas Cowboys playing on Sunday Night Football, but an SEC/ACC showdown between LSU and Miami (FL).

Expect this one to be a defensive battle as the Hurricanes finished third in the FBS last season in takeaways, which spawned the turnover chain with defensive coordinator Manny Diaz as the brainchild behind the idea.

LSU finished in the top 20 on defense in 2017 behind defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s peso package and will get a good test out the gate against Miami’s spread offense.

Virginia Tech at Florida State, Sept. 3

The Seminoles have plenty to prove as injuries derailed any playoff hopes as they finished 7-6, but have Deandre Francois returning at quarterback after a torn patella injury in last season’s opener against Alabama, which cost him the rest of 2017.

Exit Jimbo Fisher, enter Willie Taggart. The young and hungry coach who was at Oregon last season will have plenty of tools at his disposal and gets a test early with a feisty Virginia Tech team on Labor Day in Tallahassee. The new Gulf Coast offense installed by Taggart will give receivers such as Nyqwan Murray and D.J. Matthews opportunities to make big plays.

Virginia Tech’s cream of the crop has been its defense, but will need to replenish with several players moving on, highlighted by brothers Tremaine and Terrell Edmunds. On the other side of the ball, coach Justin Fuente returns redshirt sophomore quarterback Josh Jackson after coming off a near 3,000-yard effort in 2017.