Technically, the collegiate football campaign started Thursday night (including a Top-25 matchup that saw No. 14 Boise State handle No. 16 Oregon, 19-8) but, for all intents and purposes, the real kickoff is this Saturday. A look at some of this weekend’s biggest matchups; all college football lines courtesy of Sports Interaction:
No 13. Georgia (+5) at No. 9 Oklahoma State (-5.0)
Nobody’s quite sure how the Bulldogs will cope with three huge parts of their dynamic offense – QB Matthew Stafford, RB Knowshon Moreno and WR Mohamed Massaquoi – now plying their trades in the National Football League. While the replacements are talented – new QB Joe Cox can throw to WR A.J. Green, one of the country’s most talented playmakers, or hand the ball to Richard Samuel, a bruising between-the-tackles runner – they don’t have a lot of big-game experience. And be sure, even though it’s only opening weekend, this is a big game. Okie State comes in with its highest preseason ranking in school history, led by the gifted offensive trio of QB Zac Robinson, RB Kendall Hunter and WR Dez Bryant. The Cowboys are expected to compete for a Big 12 title; a huge non-conference win over a SEC power like Georgia could put them in the National Title picture.
No. 20 Brigham Young (+22.0) vs. No 3 Oklahoma (-22.0)
This could be the most-watched game of the weekend – it’s the first college football game to ever be played at the new Cowboys Stadium. Fans in the Dallas area get themselves an intriguing matchup of star quarterbacks – BYU’s Max Hall threw for 35 TDs and averaged over 300 passing yards per game a year ago, while Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford threw for a staggering 50 touchdowns and compiled a 180.84 passer rating – but that battle might never come to fruition, because BYU’s offensive line is absolutely plagued by injuries. Starting left guard Jason Speredon is out for the year with a shoulder injury while left tackle Matt Reynolds is recovering from a fractured hand. If Oklahoma’s front three of Auston English, Gerald McCoy and Jeremy Beal can bust trough and put pressure on Hall, this could be a very long day for the Cougars.
No. 5 Alabama (-6.5) at No. 7 Virginia Tech (+6.5)
Another neutral-site game (this one at the Georgia Dome), the Crimson Tide and Hokies lock horns in Greg McElroy’s debut as Alabama’s starting QB. To ease himself into the role, it’s almost a given that McElroy will be constantly looking for star WR Julio Jones through the passing game; Tech will try to disrupt that through defensive coordinator Bud Foster’s complex blitzing scheme. When the Hokies have the ball, all eyes will be on QB Tyrod Taylor, the dual-threat dynamo who will likely need to run the ball more than expected this season; with RB Darren Evans out for the year with a knee injury, Taylor will likely be called upon to improvise with his feet more than usual. Sports betting enthusiasts will want to pay special attention to this game; rarely do two Top 10 teams meet up so early in the season.