Previews, predictions for Week 1 college games
Malik Rosier’s No. 8 Miami (Fla.) is one of several Top 10 teams facing an immediate test.
What to watch in Week 1 of the college football season:
No. 6 Washington vs. No. 10 Auburn in Atlanta
Sept. 1, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC Danny Sheridan’s line: Auburn by 11⁄2
The first top-10 showdown of the season has huge implications, not just for the teams involved but for their conferences, too. This is particularly true of Washington, which seeks a marquee victory on behalf of the College Football Playoff-challenged Pac-12. It should regardless prove to be a schedule booster for both squads, assuming their respective on-field talent delivers for the remainder of the campaign.
The Huskies bring an accomplished attack into Southeastern Conference country, directed by QB Jake Browning and featuring senior RB Myles Gaskin. They’ll try to solve an Auburn defense that has the potential to be quite disruptive at the line of scrimmage. The Tigers have a veteran signal caller of their own in QB Jarrett Stidham, but he needs a dependable ground threat to emerge.
Prediction: The Huskies will mount a few successful drives, but the Tigers’ depth of talent on both sides of the ball will eventually make the difference.
No. 14 Michigan at No. 11 Notre Dame
Sept. 1, 7:30 p.m. ET, NBC Danny Sheridan’s line: Notre Dame by 1
For the Fighting Irish, who don’t have the benefit of competing for a conference championship, every game is important. This one, though, is clearly the biggest on the opening third of the slate. It matters as well for the Wolverines, who look to take advantage of this early opportunity to overcome their recent futility against highly rated opposition.
Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson takes the QB reins for Michigan, and Wolverines fans are hopeful he can ignite a passing game that has been surprisingly pedestrian on coach Jim Harbaugh’s watch. Notre Dame has an incumbent under center in Brandon Wimbush, but he must improve on his 49.5% completion rate.
Prediction: The home crowd will help the Irish to a quick start, but Patterson will hit some big throws and the Wolverines defense will settle in.
No. 1 Alabama vs. Louisville in Orlando, Fla.
Sept. 1, 8 p.m. ET, ABC Danny Sheridan’s line: Alabama by 24
The Crimson Tide begin their quest for a fifth consecutive Playoff appearance. Like last year, they open against an Atlantic Coast Conference challenger. The Cardinals face a formidable task as they get on with life after QB Lamar Jackson.
Even with Jawon Pass now at the controls for Louisville, the Alabama defense with many new faces in the starting lineup figures to get a good test. The bigger question for Tide fans, the same one they’ve pondered since the conclusion of the national championship game, is whether Tua Tagovailoa or Jalen Hurts will direct the offense. The matter might not be completely settled even on the day of the game, and coach Nick Saban has indicated it is possible that both quarterbacks could play.
Prediction: Louisville’s flash will be good for a few big plays, but not nearly enough. The Crimson Tide will be in charge throughout. Alabama, 38-17
No. 8 Miami (Fla.) vs. No. 24 LSU in Arlington, Texas
Sept. 2, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Danny Sheridan’s line: by 3
It’s another ACC-SEC showdown, and again it could carry value down the line. LSU is a long shot in the crowded SEC West, but a quality win to kick off their extremely difficult schedule would be most welcome. The Hurricanes, seeking to repeat as ACC Coastal champs, could also use a solid non-conference victory.
Finding the right formula on offense has been a struggle in Baton Rouge of late. Ohio State transfer Joe Burrow might have to be the difference-maker the Tigers need at quarterback, as a transfer exodus has left Myles Brennan the only other scholarship signal-caller on the roster.
If things are chaotic in the early going, you might see the Miami turnover chain displayed more than it would like. Hurricanes QB Malik Rosier returns, but he, too, needs to cut down on mistakes. The Tigers defense will be more than capable of generating some takeaways themselves.
Prediction: LSU wants it to Miami be a defensive slog. It might be early on, but the Hurricanes will grab a lead the Tigers won’t be able to overcome. Miami, 24-10
No. 17 Virginia Tech at No. 19 Florida State
Sept. 3, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN Danny Sheridan’s line: Florida State by 71⁄2
The Monday night conclusion to the opening weekend features arguably the most important contest on the slate, a conference clash in one of the power leagues. Neither the Seminoles nor the Hokies were picked to win their respective divisions in the ACC. Both should contend, however, and the opening-day loser would be in an even more disadvantageous position the rest of the way trying to chase down division favorites Clemson and Miami.
FSU’s season got off to a catastrophic start in 2017, and the Seminoles barely recovered enough just to get to a bowl. QB Deondre Francois injured his knee in the opener against Alabama. Now a junior, he won the starting job after he wasn’t able to fully practice in the spring but he impressed coaches running the offense in camp. He threw for 3,350 yards and 20 TDs against seven interceptions in 2016. Francois will see a Hokies defense that lost a lot of seniors from a year ago, but DB Reggie Floyd’s presence will help. Virginia Tech QB Josh Jackson must find a new primary target with Cam Phillips off to the next level, and he also needs to improve his ball security after some rough patches as a freshman starter.
The Seminoles defense will have plenty of athleticism but not much game experience. In short, it figures to be a wild affair no matter who has the ball.
Prediction: This is a difficult first assignment for the Seminoles given all of the offseason changes. Being at home will help, but the Hokies will make fewer mistakes. Virginia Tech, 23-16
Deondre Francois, handing the ball off to Khalan Laborn during practice, has won the starting quarterback job for Florida State.