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College football ’18: Week 1 top 25 previews

Top 25

Each week, The Game Haus will preview every college football game featuring teams in The Associated Press Top 25. We’ll also give an expanded look at three Top 25 matchups especially worth watching.

Here we go with Week 1 (all times Eastern):

Key Games

No. 6 Washington vs. No. 9 Auburn, 3:30 p.m., Saturday

Scouting the Huskies: Jake Browning is one of the top quarterbacks in the country and Washington boasts perhaps the best secondary in the nation. Whether or not the Huskies can recapture the magic of 2016’s run to the College Football Playoff remains to be the seen, but a victory in this one would obviously be a good start.

Top 25
Jake Browning (Photo by onthebanks.com)

Scouting the Tigers: Quarterback Jarrett Stidham will be given more control of the offense, but he won’t have an easy time against the Washington defense. The Tigers front seven should be their strength and they must find a way to get to Browning and disrupt his flow. Playing this game in Atlanta should help Auburn’s cause.

Winner: Washington

 

No. 14 Michigan at No. 12 Notre Dame, 7:30 p.m., Saturday

Scouting the Wolverines: Shea Patterson’s Michigan debut at quarterback comes amid one of the biggest rivalries in college football. This is the teams’ first meeting since 2014, and the Wolverines should feel good about the matchup with 16 starters back from last season’s 8-5 team.

Scouting the Fighting Irish: Brandon Wimbush gets the start for Notre Dame, and the versatile quarterback will look to make life tough for the Michigan defense. The Irish have one of the top defensive lines in the country and will need to keep the pressure on Patterson. Notre Dame has won two straight and six of eight at home in the series.

Winner: Michigan

No. 8 Miami, (Fla.) vs. No. 25 LSU, 7:30 p.m., Sunday

Scouting the Hurricanes: There are some questions revolving around whether quarterback Malik Rosier is capable of taking Miami to greater heights. This will be a good early test in Arlington, Texas against an LSU defense led by stars Devin White at linebacker and cornerback Greedy Williams.

Top 25
Greedy Williams (Photo by gridironnow.com)

Scouting the Tigers: Former Ohio State signal caller Joe Burrow gets thrown into the fire for his first start at LSU. The Tigers running back situation also is somewhat unknown as they try to replace Derrius Guice. Uncertainties at both those positions is why it might be hard to figure out Ed Orgeron’s group to start.

Winner: Miami

 

The Rest

No. 21 UCF at Connecticut, 7 p.m., Thursday

The Skinny: It might be too much to ask the Knights to run the table for a second consecutive season, but they should at least be in great shape to claim their 14th straight win in this one. McKenzie Milton and Co. will likely prove too much for UConn to handle, even at home where the Huskies are 5-8 over the last two seasons.

Winner: UCF

Utah State at No. 11 Michigan State, 7 p.m., Friday

The Skinny: The Spartans’ success this season will likely depend on how well they are defensively. They were a bit inconsistent on that side of the ball in 2017, but did allow just 31 total points in their last three games. Utah State has dropped 20 of its last 21 road games against ranked opponents.

Winner: Michigan State

San Diego State at No. 13 Stanford, 9 p.m., Friday

The Skinny: After losing 20-17 at San Diego State last season, the Cardinal should have revenge on their mind this year. But it won’t be easy again, even if Bryce Love enjoys another big night running the ball. The key could come down to how well Stanford quarterback K.J. Costello runs the offense.

Winner: Stanford

Western Kentucky at No. 4 Wisconsin, 9 p.m., Friday

The Skinny: With running back Jonathan Taylor (1,977 rushing yards in 2017) anchoring the offense and the linebacker combo of Ryan Connelly and T.J. Edwards leading the defense, the Badgers have the makeup of a Big Ten champion. That quest begins with a favorable matchup against a WKU squad that’s dropped 11 of their last 12 games against teams in the Top 25.

Winner: Wisconsin

No. 23 Texas vs. Maryland, Noon, Saturday

The Skinny: The Longhorns believe they can be a serious contender in the Big 12 this season, and feel Sam Ehlinger is the quarterback to help them do that. These teams played a classic opener last season with Maryland winning 51-41. However, after all the Terps have endured this offseason, it will be interesting to see if they really are ready for the season to begin outside our nation’s capital.

Winner: Texas

Oregon State at No. 5 Ohio State, Noon, Saturday
Top 25
Urban Meyer (Photo by usatoday.com)

The Skinny: At least for one game, Urban Meyer’s absence shouldn’t play a factor in the outcome. The Buckeyes believe they are strong enough to shun the distractions surrounding the program. They certainly have more than enough talent to handle the Beavers, who went 1-11 last season and may only be slightly better this year.

Winner: Ohio State

 

Florida Atlantic at No. 7 Oklahoma, Noon, Saturday

The Skinny: Baker Mayfield is gone, two-sport standout Kyler Murray is now the man at quarterback for the Sooners. Oklahoma’s opening task will not be an easy one against Lane Kiffin’s Owls, who went 11-3 last season and are thinking upset. Two of the country’s top running backs – Oklahoma’s Rodney Anderson and Florida Atlantic’s Devin Singletary – will be on display.

Winner: Oklahoma

Southern at No. 16 TCU, Noon, Saturday

The Skinny: Even with new starting quarterback Shawn Robinson, TCU should have little trouble prevailing in its opener. The Horned Frogs defense, led by defensive end Ben Banogu, are just too strong for Southern to even have a chance at being competitive throughout this contest.

Winner: TCU

Furman at No. 2 Clemson, 12:20 p.m., Saturday

The Skinny: Kelly Bryant will start, but stud freshman Trevor Lawrence is waiting in the wings and likely will see time in this contest. The Tigers have won 21 consecutive games against unranked, nonconference opponents – and that streak should continue.

Winner: Clemson

Austin Peay at No. 3 Georgia, 3:30 p.m., Saturday

The Skinny: The Bulldogs should be eager to start the season following the debacle in last season’s College Football Playoff championship game, and actually may be in for a challenge to start. Austin Peay was the surprise of the FCS in 2017 with an eight-win campaign that followed four seasons totaling one victory. The quarterback situation is a little sticky in Athens, but that likely won’t matter much in this contest.

Winner: Georgia

Appalachian State at No. 10 Penn State, 3:30 p.m., Saturday

The Skinny: Quarterback Trace McSorley and a confident defense have the Nittany Lions thinking big this season. Considering the situation at Ohio State, Penn State has the potential for a Big Ten title and more. Appalachian State is one of the Sun Belt’s top teams, but that won’t make a difference in his matchup.

Winner: Penn State

No. 17 West Virginia vs. Tennessee, 3:30 p.m., Saturday

The Skinny: The Mountaineers have a high-powered offense led by quarterback Will Grier, which could give the Tennessee defense fits. On a neutral field in Charlotte, Tennessee should have a fighting chance, but the Vols will need to be on top of their game to make Jeremy Pruitt’s debut as coach a successful one.

Winner: West Virginia

UNLV at No. 15 USC, 4 p.m., Saturday
Top 25
JT Daniels (Photo by chicagotribune.com)

The Skinny: USC coach Clay Helton has tabbed true freshman JT Daniels to start the opener, and the rookie has a good opportunity for some success right out of the gate. UNLV allowed 41 or more points four times last season and it remains to be seen if it will be any better on that side of the ball in 2018.

Winner: USC

 

No. 22 Boise State at Troy, 6 p.m., Saturday

The Skinny: The Broncos didn’t have an easy time beating Troy 24-13 on the blue turf to open last season, and this year’s rematch in Alabama could be even tighter. The Trojans’ strength is their defense, which if they can force some turnovers and Boise State into making a few other mistakes, they could avenge last season’s defeat.

Winner: Troy

Stephen F. Austin at Mississippi State, 7:30 p.m., Saturday

The Skinny: Bulldogs quarterback Nick Fitzgerald is suspended for this game, but that should not make a difference. Stephen F. Austin, from the FCS, will get a nice paycheck for this game, but that’s about all that will make the trip to Starkville worth it as Mississippi State possess too much talent to make an upset a reality.

Winner: Mississippi State

Louisville vs. No. 1 Alabama, 8 p.m., Saturday

The Skinny: Who starts at quarterback for Alabama remains the most asked question in college football, but both Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa could both play in Orlando. Louisville, meanwhile, begins life after Lamar Jackson, handing the keys to the offense over to Jawon Pass, who will have his work cut out for him against the Crimson Tide’s perennially stellar defense.

Winner: Alabama

Bowling Green at No. 24 Oregon, 8 p.m., Saturday

The Skinny: The Mario Cristobal era is about to begin in Eugene, and all signs suggest it should be a successful start. The Ducks will count on quarterback Justin Herbert and running back Tony Brooks-James to lead the way against a Bowling Green team that can throw the ball, but likely will have trouble defending it.

Winner: Oregon

No. 20 Virginia Tech at No. 19 Florida State, 8 p.m., Monday

The Skinny: Deondre Francois is back under center for the Seminoles, who will face the Hokies for the first time since 2012. Willie Taggart makes his debut as Florida State coach, but it won’t be an easy one against a Virginia Tech squad that is primed to build on last season’s 9-4 campaign.

Winner: Florida State

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