The first Saturday of college football kicks off at 6 PM CT on ESPN with the No.8 Florida Gators squaring off with the Miami Hurricanes. Arizona will face Hawaii at 9:30 PM CT on CBS Sports Network for the nightcap.
Several questions emerge as we enter another phenomenal season in college football. Can the Crimson Tide regain their perch on the top level of college football as they’ve done so 5 times under Nick Saban. Or will Dabo Swinney, Trevor Lawrence and the preseason No.1 Clemson Tigers repeat as national champions. The No.2 Crimson Tide faces the Duke Blue Devils in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta a week from Saturday in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic at 2:30 PM CT on ABC. Clemson opens its season at home against Georgia Tech at 7 PM CT on the newly launched ACC Network next Thursday Night at 7. The ACC Network can be found on Channel 336 on Charter Spectrum and Channel 612 on DirecTV.
No. 16 Auburn breaks in 5 star freshman quarterback Bo NIx against the No.11 Oregon Ducks. Nix beat out redshirt freshman Joey Gatewood for the job. Nix was Mr Football in the state of Alabama in 2018, but this isn’t Pinson Valley anymore. However, some of the Alabama high school defenses may be tougher than the Oregon defense. That’s a testament to the quality of football in Alabama and the substandard defense that the PAC-12 usually plays. But Oregon has a top flight quarterback in Justin Herbert, who came back for his senior season forgoing the draft, and he’s an excellent player, so we’ll see how the 2 square off. Auburn’s defense should be formidable this year, so Herbert and his offensive teammates have their work cut out. Auburn plays Oregon at 6:30 PM CT next Saturday on ABC.
Another story is can No.3 Georgia break through with Jake Fromm and win it all this season. They’ve been close but Kirby Smart and Fromm have come up short the last 2 years. The Dawgs have talent all over their roster with the recruiting that Smart has done landing the top classes in 2018 and, according to Rivals, the No.1 class in 2019. While they are lacking a lot of experience at wide receiver, the young talent is there to evolve and excel and they have a couple of veterans in Tyler Simmons and Demetrius Robinson who can lead both with their play and with vocal leadership to get the young players locked in. There is talent all ove the field in Athens. Georgia plays at Vanderbilt on Saturday, August 31st at 6:30 PM CT on the SEC Network. Could be a long night for the Commodores.
Can No.6 LSU challenge the Crimson Tide in the west is another question. O and Joe are back to try and overcome what has been their Achilles Heel, the Crimson Tide. LSU will be at Alabama on Saturday, November 9th, in what could be a colossal showdown if both teams play up to expectations. LSU opens the season versus Georgia Southern at Tiger Stadium next Saturday at 6:30 PM CT on ESPNU.
No.4 Oklahoma hosts Houston and new coach Dana Holgerson, who is trying to recreate the offensive explosiveness he employed at West Virginia. Jalen Hurts will take his first snap as a Sooner. Should make for an interesting season for the Sooners and one that could be special if Jalen can be as accurate as he was last year at Alabama. The Sooners play Houston on Sunday, Sept. 1st at 6:30 PM CT on ABC.
The No.5 Ohio State Buckeyes and first year coach Ryan Day will host Lane Kiffin and Florida Atlantic next Saturday at 11 AM CT on FOX. Justin Fields, the transfer quarterback rom Georgia, will lead the Buckeyes. Georgia was not happy that Fields transferred, but he wanted to play so I don’t much blame him. He has a chance to be a spectacular quarterback for Ohio State.
A lot to look forward to as college football kicks off on Saturday. I’ll have a lot more on the Crimson Tide, Clemson, Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Oklahoma and Ohio State next week in my Thursday column. Here’s a look at the 2 games most people are interested in this week. There are a couple of other games, but not worth talking about. Villanova and somebody. That should be a basketball game. Samford’s playing too. That’s a big yawn.
Reg, 229-72, 76%
Overall, 250-90, 74%
Miami vs. No. 8 Florida
Camping World Stadium, Orlando, 65,000
6 PM CT
Chris Fowler, Herbie, Maria Taylor
Gators by 7
Gators quarterback Feleipe Franks really came on in the last 4 games of the season. After an embarrassing 21 point home loss to Missouri, Dan Mullen challenged his team. He also had a discussion with the media after the Missouri game where he said, “You want to fight, come on up here. I’ll kick your XXX.” That’s real professional there, Dan. Picking a fight with the media. What up with that. While it sounded a little idiotic on the airwaves, it worked with his team and Franks as the Gators won their last 4 including a 41-15 blasting of Jim Harbaugh and his “vaunted” Michigan Wolverines. Franks accounted for 12 touchdowns, 8 passing 4 rushing, with 0 interceptions in that span. He finished the year completing 58% of his passes for 24 TDs against only 6 ints. He’s got numerous weapons around him this season with running back Lamical Perine (826 yards, 7 TDs), and wide receivers Van Jefferson (35-503, 6TDs), Trevon Grimes (26-364, 2), Freddie Swain (14-265, 5) and Tyrie Cleveland (18-217, 3). There is depth behind Perine at RB. The offensive line is lacking experience, so that’s an issue for the Gators. The only returning player with much experience s redshirt senior Nicholas Buchanan. A lot of youth up front for the Gators. The defense looks pretty solid led by linebacker David Reese (81 tackles in 2018) and cornerback C.J. Henderson.
Manny Diaz takes over at Miami from Mark Richt. He’s starting a redshirt freshman quarterback, Jarren Williams, who’s thrown 3 total passes in his college career. He’s also got a true freshman left tackle and a redshirt freshman right tackle. Miami’s defense is pretty good though, so that should keep them competitive for a while with the Gators.
But I like Florida to get their season started off on the right note with a victory in Orlando. I like Florida’s defense to pretty much handle Williams and his inexperienced tackles and I see Franks and the offense doing pretty well overall against the Miami defense.
Florida 28, Miami 10
Arizona at Hawaii
Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, 50,000
9:30 PM CT
CBS Sports Network
Carter Blackburn, Aaron Taylor, Rick Neuheisel, Jenny Dell
Zona by 11
Despite having 14 starters return, Kevin Sumlin had a below average first season last year for the Wildcats going 5-7 after being fired by A&M the year before.
Offense is the story in this game. Khalil Tate is a very good dual threat quarterback when he faces below average defenses. He threw for 2,530 yards and 26 TDs against 8 ints a year ago while rushing for 224 yards and 2 TDs in an injury plagued season. He did rush for 1,411 yards in 2017. JJ Taylor rushed for 1,485 yards last season, but they lost their 4 top receivers. But the Hawaii defense allowed 205 yards on the ground last year, so the Wildcats should have success running the football. Linebacker Colin Schooler leads an Arizona defense that allowed 32.6 points per game last year. Schooler posted 119 tackles including 18 for loss last year. Hawaii has 18 starters back from last season led by quarterback Cole McDonald who passed for 3,875 yards, 36 TDs and 10 ints last year. Hawaii finished 8-6 last season losing to LA Tech in the Hawaii Bowl, 31-14. McDonald has an excellent receiving corps led by Cedric Byrd and JoJo Ward who combined for 1,835 yards and 18 TDs last season. The defense gave up 35 points per game last year, but does return 9 starters, so they could be improved. Forty year old coach Nick Rolovich enters his 4th season with an 18-22 mark and 10-14 in the Mountain West. He did go 5-3 last season in the MWC.
This is a tough place to play. Hawaii will give Arizona everything they want. I’ll take the Wildcats barely.