College football’s opening weekend slate

Photo courtesy of Sporting News

We’ve made it through the dog days of summer and fall is approaching. The weather is beginning to change, somewhat, and school is back in session, which means college football season here. It’s a time when Saturdays are spent on the couch and work-week productivity is squandered searching for injury news and betting lines. A small word of advice: Don’t bet more than you’re willing to lose, no matter the line.

One of the best things about college football is that there are no sure things. In their 2015 season opener in Lincoln, Neb., the BYU Cougars seemed doomed with the ball near midfield and time ready to expire. However, quarterback Tanner Mangum, who had come in as an injury replacement for starter Taysom Hill, heaved a Hail Mary as time expired and wide out Mitch Mathews reeled it in for the game-winning touchdown. Never forget the routine punt attempt by the Michigan Wolverines with the ball on the Michigan State 47-yard line. Punter Blake O’Neill fumbled the snap and chaos ensued. Spartans swarmed from all directions and O’Neill flipped the ball directly into the open arms of Jalen Watts-Jackson, who scrambled the remaining 38 yards to pay dirt as time expired for the win.

With the new season beginning, sit back and relax while the stories unfold and chaos reigns. Be sure to keep an eye on the scoreboard, though, because you never know who will pull off a spectacular upset.

Here are some of the games to watch this weekend:

#3 Oklahoma Sooners vs. #15 Houston Cougars

The Sooners and Cougars face off at NRG Stadium in Houston. Oklahoma looks to rebound from a disappointing showing in last season’s College Football Playoff with a 37-17 loss to the Clemson Tigers. Quarterback Baker Mayfield, who threw for 36 touchdowns in 2015, looks to prove that he can lead the Sooners to victory on the big stage.

A legitimate threat to crack the playoff last season, the Cougars look to carry momentum into 2016 and start the season with a statement win over the Sooners. Stout defensively in 2015, Houston finished the season plus-21 in the turnover column.

#20 USC Trojans vs. #1 Alabama Crimson Tide

The Trojans will attempt to take down the Crimson Tide in Arlington, Texas. Despite a brutal 3-3 start, USC finished the 2015 by winning five of its final six regular season games and found itself in the Pac-12 Championship Game. The Trojans will be out to prove that winning football is back in Pasadena, Calif. with a chance to knock off the reigning champs.

In typical fashion, Alabama enters the season as heavy favorites with a strong Nick Saban defense. Keep an eye on the Tide’s offense without last year’s Heisman Trophy winning running back Derrick Henry.

#5 LSU Tigers vs. Wisconsin Badgers

The Tigers and Badgers will clash at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisc. Saturday. Perennial contenders, LSU boasts its usual strong defense. The Tigers will continue to rely heavily on running back Leonard Fournette, but preseason ankle injuries may hamper the workhorse back.

Despite a 10-3 record in 2015, the Badgers failed to beat a ranked opponent. After allowing just 13 rushing touchdowns last season, Wisconsin’s defense should be a solid test for Fournette.

BYU Cougars vs. Arizona Wildcats

The Cougars and Wildcats kick off their seasons with a match up at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. BYU enters the season with a fresh coaching staff with sixth-year senior quarterback Taysom Hill. Ranked 15th in schedule strength by Athlon Sports, the Cougars will play their toughest slate yet as an Independent program.

After a 3-0 start, the Wildcats dropped five of their next seven contests, including 56-30 and 55-17 blowouts at the hands of UCLA and Stanford, respectively. Arizona’s high-powered offense looks to announce its presence with authority against a strong BYU defense.

#10 Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Texas Longhorns

The Fighting Irish travel to Austin, Texas to take on the Longhorns Sunday. Notre Dame looks to repeat last year’s performance, which was a 38-3 beat down in South Bend, Ind. The Irish are set under-center as quarterback DeShone Kizer stepped in and seamlessly powered Notre Dame to a 9-3 record after starter Malik Zaire was injured against Virginia.

Texas is coming off its second seven-loss season in a row, but completed the 2015 campaign with a 23-17 win over a depleted Baylor squad. With an 11-14 record in his first two seasons at the helm, head coach Mack Brown looks to right the ship in Austin.

#11 Ole Miss Rebels vs. #4 Florida State Seminoles

The Rebels and Seminoles punctuate the weekend with a heavyweight bout Monday night in Orlando, Fla. Ole Miss looks to improve on a roller-coaster season, which consisted of a quality win over No. 2 Alabama and a loss to unranked Arkansas. Quarterback Chad Kelly returns and aims to lead the Rebels to the promised land of the Southeastern Conference Championship Game.

The Seminoles look to buck the stigma of a weak schedule by leading off against a quality SEC opponent. Florida State returns leading rusher Dalvin Cook, who averaged 7.4 yards per carry in 2015.

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