Game of the week
Alabama-Southern California in Arlington, Texas
Before Nick Saban arrived at Alabama, the Trojans under Pete Carroll were college football bullies. USC has playmakers on offense but not enough defensively to keep the Crimson Tide from pulling away in the second half. Alabama has mastered the neutral site opening game and wins another one as quarterback Cooper Bateman (probably) makes his starting debut.
Upset of the week
UCLA over Texas A&M
Bruins quarterback Josh Rosen dismissed Texas A&M’s 12th Man when he said “after 50,000 people, it all sounds the same.” There will be more than double in the stands Saturday but Rosen is talented enough to pull off the upset. The big question: Can he avoid college football’s top pass rushing specialist, the Aggies’ Myles Garrett?
Others to watch
LSU-Wisconsin in Green Bay, Wis.
Tigers Coach Les Miles said he forbids any Lambeau Leaps from his players. Under college rules, such a celebration would bring a penalty. The setting will be cool, but Louisiana State should grab a fourth-quarter victory. Wisconsin fifth-year senior quarterback Bart Houston starts for the first time. The Tigers return 18 starters including stud running back Leonard Fournette.
Oklahoma at Houston
The game isn’t on Houston’s campus but at NRG Stadium, home of the Texans. This is a major test for an Oklahoma team that has designs on returning to the College Football Playoff. Many contenders are breaking in new quarterbacks this season. Not these opponents as the Sooners’ Baker Mayfield confronts the Cougars’ Greg Ward Jr. Some added incentive for Houston: Speculation has Houston a top contender for Big 12 expansion. A victory could be persuasive.
Georgia vs. North Carolina in Atlanta
Experience won the day as new Georgia Coach Kirby Smart named fifth-year senior Grayson Lambert as the starting quarterback. He went 10-2 as a starter last season but faced intense competition from freshman Jason Eason for the starting job. The game marks the return of Bulldogs running back Nick Chubb, who suffered a knee injury midway through his sophomore year in 2014. In 19 games, Chubb had rushed for 2,294 yards and averaged 7.4 yards per carry.
Notre Dame at Texas (Sunday)
The Longhorns won’t soon forget last year’s 38-3 beat down by the Irish in South Bend. The story here are the quarterbacks. Irish coach Brian Kelly said he’ll play DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire. Texas coach Charlie Strong hasn’t publicly made the call between veteran Tyrone Swoopes and freshman Shane Buschele. The heat is on Strong if he can’t win this high profile game.
Florida State-Mississippi in Orlando (Monday)
Chad Kelly gives the Rebels the edge at quarterback. Florida State running back Dalvin Cook is an off-the-pace Heisman hopeful. The Seminoles are thinking College Football Playoff and can’t afford a slip here. Mississippi will try to make Florida State and quarterback Deondre Francois one-dimensional. It will work, for a while, but the Seminoles avoid the upset.