College football season is finally upon us.
The Hawaii Rainbow Warriors and California Golden Bears kicked the year off in Australia last week, giving us a quick taste of what’s to come.
In anticipation of what should be one of the most exciting opening weekends in college football history, here’s a look at the preseason polls, followed by a breakdown and predictions for a few of the best matchups:
No. 3 Oklahoma (-10) vs. No. 15 Houston
This could be the biggest game in school history for Houston, which hopes to become the first Group of Five school to crash the College Football Playoff party.
Led by Heisman Trophy candidate Baker Mayfield at quarterback, Oklahoma is the clear favorite in this game, but that shouldn’t faze Houston. Over the past two seasons, the Cougars are 6-0 against the spread as underdogs, according to ScoresandOdds.com.
For Oklahoma to avoid an upset Saturday, it will need to find a way to contain Houston’s dual-threat quarterback, Greg Ward.
The Sooners struggled with the top dual-threat quarterbacks they faced a season ago, notably Clemson’s Deshaun Watson in the first round of the playoffs. Watson ran for 145 yards and a touchdown against Oklahoma.
If Ward can keep the Sooners defense off balance, he’ll have a chance to keep the Cougars’ playoff hopes alive.
Prediction: Houston 45, Oklahoma 42
No. 5 LSU (-10) vs. Wisconsin
LSU and Wisconsin’s contest at Lambeau Field is sure to be decided on the ground, as both teams feature dominant rushing attacks.
The key for Wisconsin will be its ability to limit LSU running back Leonard Fournette and prevent him from breaking off any long runs. Wisconsin should put a heavy emphasis on stacking the box in an effort to make quarterback Brandon Harris beat the defense with his arm.
Harris struggled for much of 2015, but he does have two future NFL wide receivers, Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre, to help him out.
The biggest question mark for Wisconsin is at quarterback, where fifth-year senior Bart Houston is taking over this season.
For Wisconsin to pull off the upset, Houston will need to make at least a few big throws against a tough LSU secondary led by cornerback Tre’Davious White.
Prediction: LSU 27, Wisconsin 10
No. 20 USC vs. No. 1 Alabama (-10.5)
Asking a quarterback to make his first career start against Alabama head coach Nick Saban‘s defense is a tough task. But that’s what Southern California quarterback Max Browne will face in Arlington, Texas, on Saturday.
Fortunately for Browne, he’s equipped with JuJu Smith-Schuster, arguably the nation’s most dangerous wide receiver. Smith-Schuster will have an opportunity to go up against a young Alabama secondary that struggled at times in 2015.
If Alabama can slow Browne and the USC passing attack, however, it could be smooth sailing for the Crimson Tide. USC will likely struggle to move the ball on the ground against an Alabama defensive line that is returning multiple future NFL prospects, including potential first-round pick Jonathan Allen.
Prediction: Alabama 31, USC 20
All spreads are from Odds Shark.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
Source: Bleacher Report-CFB News