Iowa State is on high alert.
Opening weekend brings a Football Championship Subdivision program to Ames on Saturday, and the Cyclones are well aware this is no lower-level pushover.
North Dakota State, bidding for its fourth straight FCS national championship, is the opponent.
“They can beat anybody in America on any day,” Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said.
This isn’t coach-speak. The Bison knocked off Kansas State in last year’s opener.
As if Iowa State needs more incentive, the Cyclones dropped their opener last year to FCS Northern Iowa, and went on to a 3-9 season. Rhoads believed the opening-week loss knocked the Cyclones off the rails.
“I would argue that the start of our season, beyond the opener, was affected by that opening-game loss,” Rhoads said.
Texas A&M at South Carolina, 5 p.m. Thursday, SEC Network: Kenny Football? Kenny Hill is the Aggies’ new quarterback, replacing Johnny Manziel. South Carolina also has a new voice barking signals, but Dylan Thompson has experience. He’s a fifth-year senior with three career starts. Plus, the Gamecocks have a big weapon in running back Mike Davis.
Boise State vs. Mississippi at Atlanta, 7 p.m. Thursday, ESPN: The common thread here? Both head coaches, Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze and Boise’s Bryan Harsin, started their head-coaching careers at Arkansas State. Although the Broncos aren’t seen as a powerhouse as in past years, they return senior quarterback Grant Hedrick, who completed 70 percent last season. Big things are expected from Rebels’ defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche.
Temple at Vanderbilt, 8:15 p.m. Thursday, SEC Network: Derek Mason, the former Stanford defensive coordinator, makes his head coaching debut for the Commodores. Patton Robinette has been named the starting quarterback. He got three starts last season and was instrumental in the comeback victory over Georgia.
Tennessee-Martin at Kentucky, 11 a.m. Saturday, SEC Network: Patrick Towles is the Wildcats’ starting quarterback. Over the past three seasons, no quarterback has started more than eight games.
South Dakota State at Missouri, 2:30 p.m. Saturday, ESPNU: The Maty Mauk era begins in full force. Look for him and his young wide receivers to work on improving the completion percentage. Mauk hit 51 percent last season.
West Virginia vs. Alabama at Atlanta, 2:30 p.m. Saturday, ABC (Ch. 9): Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said preseason All-SEC linebacker Trey DePriest won’t play this game because of an undisclosed NCAA infraction. DePriest should return for next week’s game against Florida Atlantic.
Arkansas at Auburn, 3 p.m. Saturday, SEC Network: They’re both going to run but with different tempos. Auburn is speed, Arkansas is power and pace. Jeremy Johnson starts at quarterback for the Tigers, but Nick Marshall, cited for marijuana possession in July, will play.
Clemson at Georgia, 4:30 p.m. Saturday, ESPN: The Tigers won a thriller last year, and now two new quarterbacks face off: Georgia’s Hutson Mason (replacing Aaron Murray) and Clemson’s Cole Stoudt (Tajh Boyd). But Todd Gurley is back for the Bulldogs, and he rushed for 154 yards and two touchdowns in this game last year.
Idaho at Florida, 6 p.m. Saturday, ESPNU: The Gators finally get to forget about last season’s 4-8 disaster, the program’s first losing record since 1979. “Every year is a pivotal year,” Florida Coach Will Muschamp said. Especially this one, for him.
Southern Mississippi at Mississippi State, 6:30 p.m. Saturday, SEC Network: The Bulldogs’ Dak Prescott is one of the nation’s best dual threat quarterbacks and should get off to a fast start in a state rivalry game against a Golden Eagles team coming off a 1-11 season.
Wisconsin vs. LSU at Houston, 8 p.m. Saturday, ESPN: The Tigers haven’t lost a regular-season non-conference game since 2002, a span of 45 games. The Badgers are 43-3 in non-league games since then, the nation’s second-best winning percentage.
Utah State at Tennessee, 6 p.m. Sunday, SEC Network: The Aggies have launched a Heisman Trophy campaign for quarterback Chuckie Keeton. In five games before getting injured last season he had thrown for 1,400 yards.
Big 12 games
North Dakota State at Iowa State, 11 a.m. Saturday, Fox Sports 1: The Bison have a new coach. Chris Klieman takes over for Craig Bohl, who has moved on to Wyoming. Kileman knows Iowa State well. He’s a Waterloo native who played and coached at Northern Iowa.
Stephen F. Austin at Kansas State, 6 p.m. Saturday, KStateHD.TV: Never a dull moment for the Lumberjacks, who averaged 38.5 points per game and led the Football Championship Subdivision in passing last season. But they surrendered 49.4 points.
Samford at TCU, 6 p.m. Saturday, No local TV: Coach Gary Patterson said the Horned Frogs will play two quarterbacks, Trevone Boykin and Texas A&M transfer Matt Joeckel. Whoever goes, they’ll play faster in the team’s new uptempo offense.
Central Arkansas at Texas Tech, 6 p.m. Saturday, Fox Sports KC plus: A big season is expected from Red Raiders quarterback Davis Webb and wide receiver Bradley Marquez, who made preparing for football his priority this summer after spending some of last summer playing in the New York Mets minor-league system.
Louisiana Tech at Oklahoma, 6 p.m. Saturday, Pay-per-view: Who gets the bulk of the carries for the Sooners, Keith Ford or Alex Ross? With freshman Joe Mixon suspended for the season, sophomores Ford and Ross are in the spotlight. They’ve combined for 26 carries for 153 yards in their careers.
North Texas at Texas, 7 p.m. Saturday, Longhorn Network: Good news for the Longhorns. Wide receiver Jaxon Shipley, who suffered a hamstring injury earlier this month, is expected to play in the Texas debut game of coach Charlie Strong.
Florida State vs. Oklahoma State at Arlington, Texas, 7 p.m. Saturday, ABC (Ch. 9): The Seminoles return a load of talent, starting with Heisman winning quarterback Jameis Winston, from last year’s national championship team. The Cowboys have the fewest returning starters of any power five conference team.
SMU at Baylor, 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Fox Sports 1: It should be quite a night in Waco as the school unveils McLane Stadium and a bronze statue of former quarterback Robert Griffin III. The pressure is on the Bears to not spoil the occasion with a loss.