Here’s a rundown of the top games as the college football season begins in earnest this weekend.
No. 1 Alabama (-19½) vs. No. 14 Miami at Atlanta, Saturday at 3:30 p.m., 6ABC
Sophomore quarterback Bryce Young makes his much-anticipated first start for the Crimson Tide, piloting an offense that is talented but mostly inexperienced with wide receiver DeVonta Smith, quarterback Mac Jones, and running back Najee Harris among those who have left. In all, the Tide have eight new faces on offense.
Hurricanes quarterback D’Eriq King enters the season having accumulated 9,570 yards in total offense, second among active players with at least 1,000 career rushing yards. He is protected by an offensive line that has combined for 159 career starts.
The Alabama defense was overshadowed all last season by the offense, ranking 13th in points allowed and 32nd in total defense, but might have to step forward until the youngsters on the other side of the ball find their legs.
Prediction: Alabama 45, Miami 27
No. 5 Georgia (+3) vs. No. 3 Clemson at Charlotte, N.C., Saturday at 7:30 p.m., 6ABC
The name is pronounced “oo-ee-AHN-gah-luh-lay,” and D.J. Uiagalelei is the Tigers’ new starting quarterback now that Trevor Lawrence has moved on to the NFL. The 6-foot-4, 250-pound sophomore made two starts last season after Lawrence tested positive for the coronavirus, passing for 914 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions.
The Bulldogs’ quarterback is J.T. Daniels, a former high school rival of Uiagalelei’s, who led his team to four straight wins last season and rallied them to a Peach Bowl victory over Cincinnati. The Georgia defense, led by tackle Jordan Davis, a second-team All-SEC selection, could make matters tough for the Tigers.
While it’s difficult to call this a must-win for either side considering it’s only Week 1, the losing team has a thin margin for error to make the College Football Playoff.
Prediction: Georgia 34, Clemson 31
No. 17 Indiana (+3½) at No. 18 Iowa, Saturday at 3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
The Hoosiers’ program came to life in their 36-35 overtime victory over Penn State in last year’s season opener, and they went on to a 6-2 record and a berth in the Outback Bowl. Their bid to challenge Ohio State’s supremacy in the Big Ten East depends on how well quarterback Michael Penix has recovered from the torn ACL he suffered last Nov. 28.
The Hawkeyes ended last season on a six-game winning streak behind quarterback Spencer Petras. Defensively, they return their entire secondary and look to continue their run of 22 straight games without giving up more than 24 points, the longest streak in the Power Five.
Prediction: Iowa 27, Indiana 17
No. 16 LSU (-3) at UCLA, Saturday at 8:30 p.m., Fox29
The Tigers had to leave their Baton Rouge campus because of Hurricane Ida and have practiced in Houston this week. Max Johnson, who won both of his starts last season and threw for eight touchdowns, is the 18th different starting quarterback for an LSU season opener in the last 24 years.
The Bruins of Chip Kelly broke an eight-game losing streak against nonconference teams with a 44-10 win last week over Hawaii. Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson threw his 41st career touchdown pass, tying him with Troy Aikman for seventh on the school’s all-time list, but went only 10 of 20 for 130 yards.
Prediction: UCLA 30, LSU 28
No. 9 Notre Dame (-7 ½) at Florida State, Sunday at 7:30 p.m., 6ABC
The Fighting Irish return to life as an independent with a new quarterback, Wisconsin transfer Jack Coan, and the same running back, Kyren Williams, who rushed for 1,125 yards and 13 touchdowns last season and caught 35 passes.
The Seminoles could be starting McKenzie Milton at quarterback. Milton rolled up 8,683 passing yards and 72 touchdown passes for Central Florida before suffering a gruesome leg injury in 2018.
Prediction: Notre Dame 24, Florida State 21