Football fans can finally start to breathe again.
NFL teams have been playing preseason games throughout August, but exhibition games mean little to most football fans.
The NFL is still more than a week away from getting started, but college football is here. The first full weekend of the season is upon us, and there are a slew of exciting matchups that should get the season off to a memorable start.
Let’s start with Alabama, the defending national champion and the No. 1 team in the country, according to the Associated Press’ preseason poll. The Crimson Tide are opening with a game against 20th-ranked USC at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The home of the Dallas Cowboys is supposed to be a neutral site, but the Southern venue is likely to draw a vast contingent of Tide fans.
Here’s a look at a complete schedule of this weekend’s action for teams in the Associated Press Top 25 along with the latest odds from Odds Shark. We will also take a detailed look at three of the more interesting matchups involving Top 25 teams.
USC at Alabama, Sept. 3, 8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN3
Alabama certainly knows how to perform in Week 1. The Tide have won 14 straight season openers, including a big win over Wisconsin last year that set the tone for a remarkable season.
The Tide have a lot of work to do to get back to national championship form, and that includes re-establishing their running game. Heisman Trophy-winning running back Derrick Henry was selected by the Tennessee Titans in the NFL draft this April, and it will be up to sophomore rusher Bo Scarbrough to take his place.
Expect Scarbrough to get off to a good start here, and look for wide receiver Calvin Ridley to complement his play by showing off his talent. On the other side of the ball, Alabama’s defense will assert itself as well.
The Trojans have also been dominant in Week 1 matchups. USC has won 18 straight season openers, although they rarely start against big-time opponents. The only team from a power conference they have played in an opener since 2008 was Minnesota in 2011.
USC has given the ball to quarterback Max Browne, a talented passer with a bright future. However, he is likely to be under immense pressure from Alabama’s swarming defense.
The Trojans appear to have a solid defense that should be able to hold up throughout the majority of the game. However, Alabama will eventually wear this unit down and come up with a closer-than-expected win.
Prediction: Alabama 28, USC 21
Notre Dame at Texas, Sept. 4, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN3
Notre Dame finds itself in a dangerous situation, as it will head to Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas, to take on the Longhorns.
Texas is likely turning over its offense to true freshman Shane Buechele, and if head coach Charlie Strong finalizes that decision, he will be the first true freshman to start for Texas since Bobby Layne did it in 1944.
Buechele has been competing for the starting job against senior Tyrone Swoopes, who has struggled in recent seasons. As a result, the public is behind the youngster.
Strong is not worried about public sentiment. “The fans, they’ll be fine,” Strong told the Sports Xchange. “Both of those guys are competing. It’s been a great matchup. Our team’s going to know who the starting quarterback is.”
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly is dividing the Irish’s signal-calling duties between DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire. Kelly likes what both quarterbacks bring to the offense.
“They have both have been outstanding, they both make plays,” Kelly said. “They both are playmakers. We would just continue to practice and continue to see both of these guys make plays. So we’re going to play both of them at Texas.”
Notre Dame is the deeper, more talented team, but the Longhorns should be fired up at home in the opener. Look for a tight game.
Prediction: Notre Dame 30, Texas 28
Ole Miss at Florida State, Sept. 5, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly has a plus arm and an NFL future. He is a fine athlete and a smart leader, and he is quite capable of stringing big plays together and putting big numbers up on the scoreboard.
However, against an opponent like Florida State, Kelly may have to eschew the big plays and go for short passes, as the Seminoles are loaded with big-play athletes on the defensive side of the ball.
The Florida State defense is going to get after Kelly, and the Rebels do not appear to have the strength up front to protect him for 60 minutes. Ole Miss lacks experience on its offensive line, and the Seminoles will turn their front seven loose.
Deondre Francois will take over at quarterback for Florida State, and the redshirt freshman has the talent to become a star. However, his development will come with growing pains, and he could make mistakes early this season.
Prediction: Florida State 27, Ole Miss 24
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
Source: Bleacher Report-CFB News