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College football: Week one preview and predictions

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Could a college playoff birth be on the line in the first week of the season?

NCAA Football: Orange Bowl-Michigan vs Florida State
Florida State Seminoles quarterback Deondre Francois (12) looks to throw the ball in the second quarter against the Michigan Wolverines at Hard Rock Stadium. 
Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 college football season has arrived with many storylines. History suggests, the more storylines, the more surprises in a season.

The No. 5 ranked Clemson Tigers will attempt to defend their national title without Deshaun Watson, their former star quarterback.

The Alabama Crimson Tide are an overwhelming favorite at No. 1 (52 out of 61 votes in the Associated Press poll), and will play the No. 3 Florida State Seminoles — a serious title contender — this Saturday.

No. 17 Florida have suspended seven players for its season opener against No. 11 Michigan -- including its top playmaker, wide receiver Antonio Callaway.

NCAA Football: Kentucky at Florida
Florida Gators wide receiver Antonio Callaway (81) works out prior to the game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Week one isn’t expected to have many exciting games, but there are a few worth watching — even if it’s only to watch this year’s star players. Let the hunt for bowl season, begin.

Appetizers

(10) Oklahoma State vs. Tulsa

Thursday, August 31st, 7:30 p.m.

Quarterback Mason Rudolph leads the Cowboys against the Golden Hurricane at Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater, OK. The Cowboys haven’t been picked by many to win the Big 12 conference, but they have the talent on paper to compete with Oklahoma. Tulsa has lost a lot of talent on offense, but the system has proven to give many teams fits. Expect lots of points and yards at a fast pace. This game has the potential to be a defensive coordinator’s nightmare. Tulsa will play well enough to hang around but the Cowboys will break it open once they get settled in at home.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma State at Oklahoma
Oklahoma State Cowboys quarterback Mason Rudolph (2) throws during the first quarter against the Oklahoma Sooners at Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

(2) Ohio State vs. Indiana

Thursday, August 31st, 8 p.m.

Quarterback J.T. Barrett enters a crucial year for his draft stock — which is very low — but still is a dual-threat that many teams fear. The Buckeyes are still licking their wounds after being bullied and shut out (31-0) by Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl. The unfamiliar territory for coach Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes have them hungry for redemption. Their path begins with a test against the Hoosiers at Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, IN. Despite some subtractions from Ohio State’s roster, they still have the same world class talent as they do every year. Indiana is unranked, but their roster is full of speed and talent, with nine starters returning on defense. With Ohio State’s determination, this game should be a blowout. But, Indiana could keep it close until late in the game. This has “trap” written all over it for Ohio State, but once maturity sets in, the Buckeyes will pull away.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Ohio State
Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) sends a pass upfield against the Michigan Wolverines at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State won the game 30-27 in double overtime.
Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

(23) Texas vs. Maryland

Saturday, Sept. 2nd, 12 p.m.

Coach Tom Herman makes his debut as the new Longhorns coach, and Maryland is far from an easy beginning. While Texas has a lot more talent than Maryland, the Terps have outstanding running backs that can give the Longhorn defense some trouble at Royal Texas Memorial Stadium, Austin, TX. There is a ton of pressure for Texas to play well in Herman’s first game, and no pressure for the Terps who come in as a road underdog. Texas’ offense is loaded with veterans, and should be successful in the passing game. Expect a slow start on offense from both teams, but Texas will win in a closer game than most fans would like to see.

NCAA Football: Big 12 Media Days
Texas Longhorns head coach Tom Herman poses for a photo with the mascot and cheerleaders during the Big 12 media days at Frisco Star Ford Center.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

(13) LSU vs. BYU

Saturday, Sept. 2nd, 9:30 p.m.

BYU had an underwhelming performance in their first game versus Portland State. The offense looked atrocious and sloppy all game, and BYU only managed to score 20 points in their victory. LSU’s star running back Derrius Guice will start the season with a bang, but the Tiger’s defense will have a field day at Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA. Many think this game will be close, but LSU should have the game in control from start to finish.

NCAA Football: Citrus Bowl-Louisiana State vs Louisville
LSU Tigers running back Derrius Guice (5) runs the ball against the Louisville Cardinals during the first half of the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl at Camping World Stadium.
Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

(25) Tennessee vs. Georgia Tech

Monday, Sept. 4th, 8 p.m.

This is a trap game for the Volunteers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA. They’re the more talented team who are nearly superior at every position. But, Georgia Tech has been known to show up in primetime games and shock superior teams. We all remember this in 2015:

The Vols will start the season without former QB Josh Dobbs who is now in the NFL, but new QB Quinten Dormady has plenty of promise. If the GT defensive front seven can hold its own against Tennessee RB John Kelly, the Yellow Jacket secondary could take over. It’s always tough to stop the triple-option offense, but Tennessee will find its groove in the second half. Kelly will have a great game, Dormady will be efficient enough to keep the offense moving, and Tennessee will win a hard-fought game.

NCAA Football: Tennessee-Practice
Tennessee Volunteers head coach Butch Jones yells to players during practice at the Anderson Training Facility.
Knoxville News Sentinel-USA TODAY Sports

Main Course

(11) Michigan vs. (17) Florida

Saturday, Sept. 2, 3:30 p.m.

As mentioned, Florida enters the game with seven players suspended, including Callaway. Prior to the suspensions, this game had the potential to be a treat for the fans. The suspensions won’t prevent it from being so, but Michigan is more favored than before and the gap between them and UF may have grew a bit wider. Michigan is the superior team, and will flex its muscles at AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX. UF always puts an elite defense on the field; but even with Callaway, the offense struggled. The passing game is a huge question, the running game isn’t efficient enough and the line isn't polished yet. Quarterback Malik Zaire will begin his second chance at UF with some upside, but don’t expect the offense to dazzle. Michigan also will struggle on offense, but will do enough to put the game away in the second half. The Gators should have a solid year, but the Wolverines are a potential top 10 team with a ton of talent. Michigan should win by more than one score.

NCAA Football: Michigan Spring Game
Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Jim Harbaugh watches during the Michigan Spring Game at Michigan Stadium.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

(21) Virginia Tech vs. (22) West Virginia

Sunday, Sept. 3rd, 7:30 p.m.

This game at FedEd Field, Landover, MD should be a wild one. The hype is growing off the charts for the former Florida passer Will Grier – who left after being punished for using PEDs – and will attempt to reboot his college career at WVU. The Mountaineers’ defense isn’t elite, but it’s good enough to frustrate Virginia Tech’s redshirt freshman quarterback Josh Jackson. Though despite WVU having an improved defense, Virginia Tech has a star-studded secondary. Grier will have to have the game of his life to pass all over VT, which seems like a daunting task in the opening game of the season. This game won’t be a shootout, but it’ll be close until the very end. Virginia Tech should prevail as the more complete team if their QB can handle the pressure.

NCAA Football: Belk Bowl-Arkansas vs Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech Hokies cornerback Adonis Alexander (36) celebrates on the sidelines in the second half against the Arkansas Razorbacks during the Belk Bowl at Bank of America Stadium.
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

UCLA vs. Texas A&M

Sunday, Sept. 3rd, 7:30 p.m.

UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen enters the year with an astronomical amount of hype and pressure. UCLA isn't expected to have a huge season, but Rosen is. That road starts with Texas A&M at the Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA. The widely regarded top five pick is facing a mediocre Aggies secondary that was thrown on all last year. Expect Rosen to have a huge day. The 1-2 rushing punch of running backs Trayveon Williams and Keith Ford could give UCLA some problems, but the passing game for the Aggies is a huge question without a clear answer. If the game is played later in the year, it could be a shootout the fans would all want to see. Since it’s week one, the Aggies could play well and score a lot of points, but the execution may not be as crisp as the fans would like. The Bruins should win this game and Rosen should be special.

NCAA Football: UCLA at Arizona State
UCLA Bruins quarterback Josh Rosen (3) against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Dessert

(1) Alabama vs. (3) Florida State

Saturday, Sept. 2, 8 p.m.

Lights, camera, action! Alabama comes into the season as the heavy favorite to win the championship (shocker), and Florida State has championship aspirations of their own. Head coach Nick Saban does not take losing lightly, and Alabama will come out hungry and disciplined. Florida State should not be taken lightly either, as their roster consists of talent that can arguably match Alabama at every position. Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts will enter the year with more experience, and the defense will look fantastic all season. But, QB Deondre Francois enters the year as a dark-horse Heisman candidate, and is a more talented passer than Hurts. Deshaun Watson was special, but we saw what happens to Alabama when they face a team who has the clearly superior QB. Don’t expect the Crimson Tide defense to get worn out, but expect FSU to apply pressure for at least three quarters. FSU’s defense will be the x-factor to the game: limit Alabama on offense, and the game is up for grabs. But, if the Seminoles turn the ball over, Alabama will make them pay — give them an inch, and they’ll take a mile. It’s going to be close, but expect Alabama to open the game up in the fourth and win by two scores. Whoever loses this game, risks a chance at the college playoffs.

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Clemson vs Alabama
Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts (2) throws the ball against the Clemson Tigers during the second quarter in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports