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College football preview: SEC teams on display in pivotal first week

The college football season begins in earnest on Thursday night with a couple special games on the docket. The SEC will be on center stage when they showcase their inaugural game on the SEC Network.

Nick Saban emotional in loss to Oklahoma
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Texas A&M vs. South Carolina
Thursday, Aug. 28, 6:00 p.m.
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium
TV: SEC Network

Texas A&M begins their season with a monumental match up against South Carolina on the road. They have a tough task, but they’ll look to shock the Gamecocks with a new quarterback and a revamped defense that must be improved.

Kenny Hill, the replacement for Johnny Manziel will be making his first career start. On the other side, Dylan Thompson has been a starter for the Gamecocks, as well as a capable fill in for a sometimes injured Connor Shaw.

Now Thompson is the full time guy, but he still has a dynamic running game to lean on with Mike Davis leading the way in the backfield.

Overall, the SEC really wants South Carolina to win. If that’s the case, the Gamecocks will bolster their Top 10 ranking and set the tone for the SEC East crown. If the favorite loses in the east before September, the SEC might have at least a two loss team vying for the SEC conference championship.

Boise State vs. Ole Miss
Thursday, Aug. 28, 8:00 p.m.
Where: Georgia Dome

The Ole Miss Rebels have a lot to play for this season. They return many of their skill position players, including quarterback Bo Wallace. After having a dynamic recruiting class in 2013, the young freshmen are now sophomores that should be ready to dominate.

Boise State lost their coach Chris Peterson to the Washington Huskies, so the Broncos’ program is starting anew. One thing they’ve been known for is coming into the backyard of a college football power a sneaking away with a victory. Let’s see if Boise State can get back their dominant ways.

It’s hard to equate how important a game is when it comes to Ole Miss’ history, but this is a must win for a team looking to cause havoc in the SEC.

Ohio State vs. Navy
When: Saturday, Aug. 30. 12:00 p.m.
Where: Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium
TV: CBS Sports Network

The Buckeyes were riding high until a week ago. Up until that point, Braxton Miller was on schedule to start the regular season after off season shoulder surgery. Now that Miller has had surgery again on his throwing arm, it will be up to a pair of young quarterbacks to continue the rise of the Buckeyes. Their names are J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones. You will get to know them up close and personal.

Ohio State’s defense will be tested against Navy’s run heavy offense. If the Midshipmen can keep it close, their experience at quarterback could be the difference in pulling of an improbable upset.

Arkansas vs. Auburn
Saturday Aug. 30. 4:00 p.m.
Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium
TV: SEC Network

The Auburn Tigers are heavy favorites over conference foe Arkansas on Saturday. The national runner up will be utilizing two quarterbacks as Nick Marshall serves his in game suspension. How effective will Marshall be once he enters the game will be anyone’s guess.

The Razaorbacks were looking forward to the season, after a dismal year offensively. However, Brandon Allen’s vehicle was found enflamed earlier this week, and Arkansas had to spend time dealing with that. That’s not the perfect way to get ready during game week.

Auburn is starting year two of the Gus Malzahn era. The Tigers will play faster and be even more efficient from the opening weekend.

West Virginia vs. Alabama
Saturday, Aug. 30. 3:30 p.m.
Where: Georgia Dome

The Alabama Crimson Tide are starting the year off with a two game losing streak. They are also breaking in a couple of new quarterbacks against West Virginia. Yet, the Crimson Tide are still 26 point favorites on Saturday. That may have to do with the plethora of running backs that Alabama can throw at opposing defenses.

The battle for the starting quarterback position between Blake Sims and Jacob Coker will be a hot button issue until one of the signal callers takes the reigns for good. Can it happen before September?

Clemson vs. Georgia
Saturday Aug. 30. 5:30 p.m.
Where: Sanford Stadium

The Clemson and Georgia game will boast new quarterbacks in Cole Stoudt and Hutson Mason for their respective teams. Both teams averaged over 300 yards passing last season, but with all of the new skill position players, the offenses may look a little different in week one.

This has become one of the better games of the opening week, and it should continue on Saturday. Todd Gurley is back and Georgia will rely on him and the rest of the running backs to exact revenge from last season’s loss.

It’s another ACC match up with and SEC foe.

Florida State vs. Oklahoma State
Saturday, Aug. 30. 8:00 p.m.
Where: AT&T Stadium

The Florida State Seminoles defend their crown against a viable and high scoring offensive juggernaut. The Seminoles boast Jameis Winston returning, but they have lost a couple of their explosive receivers from last season’s championship team. Pay attention to Rashad Greene becoming an even more dynamic receiver in 2014.

If Oklahoma State can pull of the upset, the Big 12 will be sitting pretty for a spot in the final four playoffs. However, a loss wouldn’t hurt the Cowboys as much as we would think.

Let’s see how many touchdowns Jameis Winston puts up in his first game since winning the National championship.

Wisconsin vs. LSU
Saturday, Aug. 30. 9:00 p.m.
Where: NRG Stadium

If the Big 10 wants to make a splash in college football this season. This is one of the places to do it. The Wisconsin Badgers have one of the best running attacks in football, and Melvin Gordon will finally be the showcase back.

LSU will be breaking in two new quarterbacks as well as a new receiving corps. However, the one to keep an eye on is Leonard Fournette. The nation’s best running back has been compared to Michael Jordan and Adrian Peterson. We will see if he lives up to the hype in his first college game.

SMU vs. Baylor
Sunday, August 31, 7:30 p.m.
Where: McLane Stadium
TV: Fox Sports 1

The Baylor Bears have become a national power and they are vying for consecutive Big 12 titles. Bryce Petty put up unbelievable numbers last season, so it’s hard to see him doing any better than in 2013. Still, the main goal is for Baylor to make the final four and their first step is taking on SMU. Let’s watch their offense and enjoy the show.

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