College Football Picks: Week 1 Predictions for Every Game

Brian Pedersen@realBJPFeatured ColumnistAugust 27, 2014

College Football Picks: Week 1 Predictions for Every Game

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    Week 1 of the 2014 college football season is here. Who ya got?

    After months of looking ahead to these games, they're finally upon us. Beginning Wednesday night and going all the way through Labor Day Monday, a total of 85 games featuring 123 of the 128 FBS schools are spread out for our viewing pleasure.

    It's a six-day weekend welcoming us back to campus and the gridiron, marking the start of a 139-day journey before the first-ever FBS national champion is crowned through an actual playoff tournament.

    Between now and the College Football Playoff's title game on Jan. 12, 2015, there will be nearly 1,000 games contested all over the country—and even in Ireland and the Bahamas!—and we'll be picking the winner of each and every one.

    Our predictions are based on analysis of the matchup, the venue it's being played in and the circumstances surrounding each game, taking into account the uncertainty of this game that both infuriates and endears us to it. I took on this responsibility prior to Week 8 of the 2013 season, and from there through the bowls my picks were 69 percent accurate.

    Take a look at the predictions for Week 1, a hodgepodge lineup that features three matchups between preseason Associated Press Top 25 teams but also 47 contests pitting FBS schools against FCS opponents. If you disagree with the picks, don't hesitate to speak out in the comments section, and check back each night (and several times Saturday) as we update this story with the final results of every game.

Abilene Christian at Georgia State

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    When: Wednesday, Aug. 27; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Abilene Christian is entering its second year of FCS play after a successful run at the Division II level. The Wildcats were 6-5 last season and nearly beat New Mexico State in their lone clash against an FBS program.

    Georgia State went winless in 2013, its first season of FBS competition, but the year wasn't without some success. The Panthers had four games decided by seven points or fewer, including against Arkansas State, but they also lost three times at home to FCS teams.

    GSU gets the 2014 season officially underway with its first-ever win as an FBS program.

    Prediction: Georgia State 27, Abilene Christian 23

    Final: Georgia State 38, Abilene Christian 37

No. 21 Texas A&M at No. 9 South Carolina

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    When: Thursday, Aug. 28; 6 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    The first game of the 2014 season involving two FBS teams is a doozy of an opener, as it's not only one of three games pitting Top 25 teams but is also a cross-divisional SEC contest that will provide the winner an early boost and put the loser behind the eight ball right away.

    It's also the first football game shown on ESPN's new SEC Network.

    Texas A&M is heading into a very important season for its program, the first under coach Kevin Sumlin without mercurial quarterback Johnny Manziel. Kenny Hill has been tabbed as his successor, and the sophomore has a lot of young, untested weapons to work with.

    Where the Aggies are even more raw, though, is on defense.

    South Carolina also enters 2014 without major stars from a year ago, most notably defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and quarterback Connor Shaw. But the Gamecocks have a veteran taking over the QB job in senior Dylan Thompson, who, combined with running back Mike Davis (who will play despite rib and hamstring injuries, according to Josh Kendall of The State), will make for a distinct experience advantage.

    Throw in an 18-game home win streak, and South Carolina has the clear edge.

    Prediction: South Carolina 33, Texas A&M 21

    Final: Texas A&M 52, South Carolina 28

Wake Forest at Louisiana-Monroe

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    When: Thursday, Aug. 28; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Louisiana-Monroe earned its first-ever win over an ACC opponent, using 315 yards and three touchdown passes from senior Kolton Browning to down Wake Forest 21-19 on the road last September.

    What to watch for

    Wake Forest makes its debut under new coach Dave Clawson, who comes to Winston-Salem a year after winning the Mid-American title with Bowling Green. Clawson inherits a team that went 4-8 in 2013, and he's starting a youth movement right away by tabbing true freshman John Wolford as his quarterback.

    Louisiana-Monroe will also have a new quarterback after four-year starter Browning graduated. Todd Berry is going with Pete Thomas, a North Carolina State transfer who started six games for the Wolf Pack in 2013 before graduating and coming to ULM.

    The Warhawks went 6-6 last year, including a win at Wake, and now playing at home will make it a clean sweep of the Demon Deacons.

    Prediction: Louisiana-Monroe 27, Wake Forest 20

    Final: Louisiana-Monroe 17, Wake Forest 10

Eastern Illinois at Minnesota

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    When: Thursday, Aug. 28; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Eastern Illinois went 12-2 and reached the FCS quarterfinals last season behind an electrifying offense that featured a quarterback (Jimmy Garoppolo) who was taken in the second round of the NFL draft and could be Tom Brady's heir apparent in New England. The Panthers crushed San Diego State and narrowly lost to Northern Illinois in 2013, but along with Garoppolo, they also lost coach Dino Babers to Bowling Green.

    Minnesota is coming off its first winning season since 2008 and features a talented backfield in running back David Cobb and quarterback Mitch Leidner. The Golden Gophers began 8-2 last year before dropping three straight when their offense fell apart and scored just 27 points in those final three contests.

    Minnesota most recently lost to an FCS team in 2011, one of many to lose at home to North Dakota State. This won't be easy, but the Gophers come out on top.

    Prediction: Minnesota 34, Eastern Illinois 24

    Final: Minnesota 42, Eastern Illinois 20

Howard at Akron

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    When: Thursday, Aug. 28; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Akron crushed the Bison 65-7 in September 2003.

    What to watch for

    Howard, a historically black college in Washington, D.C., is an FCS team that is 0-9 all time against FBS opponents. That includes a 10-point loss at Eastern Michigan last season, and the Bison face two more this year, including next week at Rutgers.

    Akron quintupled its win total from the year before by going 5-7 last season, matching the number of victories the Zips had in their four previous seasons of play. Former Auburn coach Terry Bowden enters his third year with the program with an experienced group led by junior quarterback Kyle Pohl and senior running back Jawon Chisholm.

    The Zips, who nearly won at Michigan last season, will win their season opener for the first time since 2007.

    Prediction: Akron 41, Howard 14

    Final: Akron 41, Howard 0

Presbyterian at Northern Illinois

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    When: Thursday, Aug. 28; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    The Presbyterian Blue Hose are an FCS program that has never won against an FBS team, going 0-6 all time with a 24-point loss at Wake Forest last season. They're probably best known for executing an awesome trick-play touchdown on a bounce pass against the Demon Deacons in 2010.

    Northern Illinois has been one of the most successful mid-major programs of the last few seasons, going 46-10 since 2010. The last two years saw the Huskies reach a BCS bowl game and then flirt with another trip in 2013 under dual-threat quarterback Jordan Lynch, but he's graduated.

    NIU hasn't lost at home since 2009, a streak of 26 games. Make that 27.

    Prediction: Northern Illinois 30, Presbyterian 17

    Final: Northern Illinois 55, Presbyterian 3

Chattanooga at Central Michigan

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    When: Thursday, Aug. 28; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Chattanooga went 8-4 last season, a run that featured a win at Georgia State but also a 49-0 loss to Alabama. The Mocs finished in a three-way tie for the Southern Conference title in 2013 but was the only one of the three not to qualify for the FCS playoffs.

    Central Michigan went 6-6 in 2013 but was kept out of the bowl picture because of the Mid-American's lack of automatic bids. The Chippewas have a good pass-catching combo in sophomore quarterback Cooper Rush and senior receiver Titus Davis, two of 10 returning offensive starters.

    CMU had a near-miss win over New Hampshire last season but hasn't lost to an FCS team since 2007.

    Prediction: Central Michigan 28, Chattanooga 21

    Final: Central Michigan 20, Chattanooga 16

Idaho State at Utah

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    When: Thursday, Aug. 28; 7:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Idaho State is an FCS program that went 3-9 last season, with two of those wins coming against Division II teams. The Bengals also got crushed by two FBS programs, losing at Washington and BYU by a combined score of 115-13, and they haven't pulled off an upset since knocking off Utah State in 2000.

    Utah went 5-7 a year ago, posting back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1989-90. The Utes offense fell apart in the second half of 2013 after quarterback Travis Wilson was lost to a head injury, one that seemed to have ended his career before he was medically cleared to return in the offseason.

    "There are some parts of me that believed that I wouldn't play again," Wilson told Anne M. Peterson of The Associated Press, referring to a damaged artery that doctors found in his brain. "The first couple of meetings with the doctors, it was mostly bad news and they mostly told me to stop playing."

    Instead, the junior is ready to pick up where he left off last season, when he threw for 1,827 yards and 16 touchdowns.

    Prediction: Utah 47, Idaho State 14

    Final: Utah 56, Idaho State 14

Cal Poly at New Mexico State

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    When: Thursday, Aug. 28; 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Cal Poly went 6-6 last season as an FCS team, losing at Mountain West teams Fresno State and Colorado State in back-to-back weeks in September. The Mustangs do have a history of knocking off bigger schools, though, winning at Wyoming in 2012.

    But with five players suspended indefinitely after being connected to a fraternity robbery, they will be opening with a thinner roster.

    New Mexico State, which went 2-10 a year ago, hasn't had a winning season since 2002. The Aggies' season-ending win over Idaho last November was their first against an FBS team since November 2011.

    This is one of a handful of prime candidates for an FCS upset of an FBS team, but it almost wouldn't be one because of the past histories of the programs. Give a slight edge to NMSU, which nearly lost at home to Abilene Christian last year.

    Prediction: New Mexico State 34, Cal Poly 31

    Final: New Mexico State 28, Cal Poly 10

Boise State vs. No. 18 Ole Miss (in Atlanta)

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    When: Thursday, Aug. 28; 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Boise State makes another foray into the South to try to pick off a major program, something it last did in 2011 when it opened with a win over Georgia in Atlanta. But the Broncos are coming off their "worst" season since 1998 at 8-5, and longtime coach Chris Petersen left for Washington and was replaced by former assistant (and one-year Arkansas State head coach) Bryan Harsin.

    Ole Miss went 8-5 as well in 2013, but that was considered a good season for the Rebels, who reached a bowl game for the second straight year under coach Hugh Freeze. Senior quarterback Bo Wallace is the most experienced passer in the SEC, and he and sophomore wideout Laquon Treadwell make for one of the best air duos in the nation.

    This neutral-site clash is a toss-up in most areas, but Ole Miss gets the nod because of a stronger foundation of consistency heading into this season.

    Prediction: Ole Miss 28, Boise State 24

    Final: Ole Miss 35, Boise State 13

Tulane at Tulsa

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    When: Thursday, Aug. 28; 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Tulane ended an eight-game losing streak to the Golden Hurricane, beating Tulsa 14-7 last October for its first win in the series since 1968.

    What to watch for

    A pair of teams that have moved together from Conference USA into the American Athletic Conference get to open 2014 with an early league matchup, one that should be considered huge for both since it could help them reach bowl eligibility.

    Tulane went 7-6 last season, its first winning campaign and first with a bowl appearance since 2002. The Green Wave rode defense and a few big plays to that success, but top rusher Orleans Darkwa graduated, and they could struggle to move the ball early.

    Tulsa went 3-9 in 2013, its worst record in 11 years. The Golden Hurricane were woeful on offense, even with a 1,300-yard rusher in Trey Watts, who graduated. The defense has a big playmaker in junior safety Michael Mudoh and could be the unit to carry this squad.

    This may be the lowest-scoring game of the opening weekend.

    Prediction: Tulsa 17, Tulane 10

    Final: Tulsa 38, Tulane 31 (2 OT)

Temple at Vanderbilt

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    When: Thursday, Aug. 28; 9:15 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Vanderbilt cruised to a 43-14 win over Temple in September 2006.

    What to watch for

    Temple is coming off a 2-10 season, its second straight losing year after a three-season run when it went 26-12. The Owls lost to an FCS team a year ago but have a strong nucleus returning that includes sophomore quarterback P.J. Walker and tackle-magnet linebacker Tyler Matakevich.

    Vanderbilt opens the Derek Mason era hoping to carry some of the momentum over from James Franklin's three great seasons at the helm. Patton Robinette, who split snaps with Austyn Carta-Samuels at quarterback last season, takes over the job full time for the Commodores.

    Vandy has arguably the easiest nonconference schedule of any power-conference team and should maximize each of those win opportunities, starting here.

    Prediction: Vanderbilt 33, Temple 16

    Final: Temple 37, Vanderbilt 7

Rutgers vs. Washington State (in Seattle)

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    When: Thursday, Aug. 28; 10 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Before Rutgers gets into its first season of Big Ten games, it must make a cross-country trek to the Pacific Northwest to face a passing attack that will be unlike anything it sees during conference play. The Scarlet Knights opened out west last year as well, losing in overtime at Fresno State. After a 6-7 season in 2013, coach Kyle Flood has overhauled his staff but still has ageless Gary Nova starting at quarterback.

    Washington State also went 6-7 last season, collapsing at the end of a New Mexico Bowl loss to Colorado State that tarnished what was the Cougars' best year in more than a decade. Mike Leach's pass-happy offense will be flying once again this fall, with rubber-armed senior quarterback Connor Halliday poised to challenge various Pac-12 and FBS records for passing completions and attempts.

    Defense will be mostly optional with this one, though WSU's unit is slightly more polished than what Rutgers will put on the field.

    Prediction: Washington State 44, Rutgers 36

    Final: Rutgers 41, Washington State 38

North Dakota at San Jose State

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    When: Thursday, Aug. 28; 10 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    North Dakota is a former Division II power that's had moderate success since moving to FCS in 2008, but that hasn't included any wins over FBS programs. The Fighting Sioux are 0-6 all time against the upper level, most recently a 49-41 loss at San Diego State in 2012.

    San Jose State went 6-6 last season but didn't make a bowl game. Interestingly, the Spartans' sixth win to reach bowl eligibility prevented the Mountain West Conference from picking up an additional bowl bid, as they beat Fresno State and kept the Bulldogs from squeaking into the BCS.

    SJSU has had to replace prolific offensive stars at quarterback and receiver, and it could be in jeopardy of getting picked off.

    Prediction: San Jose State 27, North Dakota 21

    Final: San Jose State 42, North Dakota 10

Weber State at No. 19 Arizona State

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    When: Thursday, Aug. 28; 10:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Weber State was one of the worst teams in college football last season, going 2-10 at the FCS level with a 10-game losing streak that also included losses to Utah and Utah State by a combined score of 140-13 in September. The Wildcats are 3-45 all time against FBS teams, last beating one 21 years ago.

    Arizona State is the reigning Pac-12 South champion, but the Sun Devils also bring a two-game losing streak into this season after falling to Stanford in the conference final and then Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl.

    ASU must replace some notables on defense, but true freshman D.J. Calhoun looks to be a star right away at linebacker, and the Devils offense should click well again behind senior quarterback Taylor Kelly and junior receiver Jaelen Strong.

    One of the biggest laughers of the opening week, no doubt.

    Prediction: Arizona State 61, Weber State 14

    Final: Arizona State 45, Weber State 14

BYU at Connecticut

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    When: Friday, Aug. 29; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    BYU makes the long trip to New England for its season opener, one of the many burdens the Cougars face as an independent team. After an 8-5 season that featured a big win over Texas early on, BYU heads into this year hoping to be in contention for the College Football Playoff's at-large spot thanks to a schedule featuring games against Texas, Virginia, UCF and Boise State.

    Connecticut is under the guidance of a new coach, Bob Diaco, who brings his defensive-minded approach from Notre Dame in hopes of turning around a program that has won 13 games over three years after winning eight or more in the previous four seasons. The Huskies ended last season at 3-9 but won their final three contests.

    UConn should be much improved in 2014, but BYU dual-threat quarterback Taysom Hill is the X-factor in this game and will have a big outing.

    Prediction: BYU 27, Connecticut 24

    Final: BYU 35, Connecticut 10

Villanova at Syracuse

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    When: Friday, Aug. 29; 7:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Villanova went 6-5 last season, opening with a loss at Boston College that it led 14-7 at the half. The Wildcats won the 2009 FCS national title, which is also the last year they beat an FBS team (Temple).

    Syracuse went 7-6 in 2013 in its first year in the ACC, ending on a high note with a win over Minnesota in the Texas Bowl. The Orange were hot and cold all year, either having a strong defensive game and no offense or vice versa. Toward the end, though, quarterback Terrel Hunt became more consistent, and he heads into his senior year on the verge of a big season.

    If this were a basketball game, it would be a much more enticing matchup. Instead, it should be a fairly easy win for the Orange.

    Prediction: Syracuse 34, Villanova 17

    Final: Syracuse 27, Villanova 26 (2 OT)

Jacksonville State at No. 8 Michigan State

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    When: Friday, Aug. 29; 7:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Jacksonville State was an FCS semifinalist last season, going 11-4 with a win over FBS newcomer Georgia State. But the Gamecocks have their third coach in as many seasons after Bill Clark jumped to UAB following just one year at the helm.

    Michigan State is coming off arguably the best season in school history, a 13-1 campaign that featured a Big Ten title (beating Ohio State in the conference final) and then a win over Stanford in the Rose Bowl. Many notables return from that team, including quarterback Connor Cook and running back Jeremy Langford on offense as well as defensive stars Shilique Calhoun at end and Kurtis Drummond at safety.

    This will be a glorified scrimmage for MSU in preparation for next week's much bigger game at Oregon.

    Prediction: Michigan State 41, Jacksonville State 14

    Final: Michigan State 45, Jacksonville State 7

Bowling Green at Western Kentucky

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    When: Friday, Aug. 29; 7:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Bowling Green rolled to a 41-21 win in September 2007.

    What to watch for

    Bowling Green won the Mid-American title last season, upsetting Northern Illinois in the conference final behind a balanced offense and lockdown defense. Most of the Falcons' best players return, notably quarterback Matt Johnson and running back Travis Greene, but coach Dave Clawson left for Wake Forest and was replaced by Eastern Illinois' Dino Babers.

    Western Kentucky went 8-4 in 2013, its final season in the Sun Belt before joining Conference USA, yet the Hilltoppers weren't invited to a bowl game. They lost workhorse running back Antonio Andrews to graduation and one-year coach Bobby Petrino to Louisville, but they could be even better this season depending on how new coach Jeff Brohm (a former Petrino quarterback) and QB Brandon Doughty fare.

    If you love points, keep track of this game.

    Prediction: Western Kentucky 40, Bowling Green 38

    Final: Western Kentucky 59, Bowling Green 31

Colorado State vs. Colorado (in Denver)

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    When: Friday, Aug. 29; 9 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Connor Wood threw for 400 yards and three touchdowns, hooking up with Paul Richardson for 208 yards and two scores, in Colorado's 41-27 win over Colorado State to open the 2013 season.

    What to watch for

    A great rivalry game gets a Friday night slot in the opening week, with the Rocky Mountain Showdown taking over the Denver Broncos' Sports Authority Field to determine the winner of the Centennial Cup.

    Colorado State went 8-6 last year, its best record since 2002, which included a massive late comeback to beat Washington State in the New Mexico Bowl. Touchdown-generating running back Kapri Bibbs went pro early, but the Rams bring back veteran quarterback Garrett Grayson and a solid defense.

    Colorado improved from 1-11 to 4-8 in Mike MacIntyre's first year, but it has to replace its best offensive weapon after Richardson turned pro. The Buffaloes have a decent amount of young talent, including sophomore quarterback Sefo Liufau and sophomore linebacker Addison Gillam.

    Colorado has won three of four and holds a 62-21-2 edge in the all-time series, but this one will go to CSU.

    Prediction: Colorado State 36, Colorado 33

    Final: Colorado State 31, Colorado 17

UTSA at Houston

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    When: Friday, Aug. 29; 9 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Houston rolled to a 59-28 win over UTSA last September in San Antonio, the first meeting between the in-state foes. A blocked field goal returned 78 yards by the Cougars' Brandon Wilson for a touchdown broke open what was a 24-21 Houston lead late in the third quarter.

    What to watch for

    UTSA enters its third season of FBS football poised to break through and become a power. The Roadrunners were 7-5 a year ago but because of their transition process didn't get a bowl bid. That should change this year with an abundance of experience thanks to 37 seniors on the roster, including 19 that are projected to start. An ambitious schedule includes games against Arizona and Oklahoma State.

    Houston debuts its new on-campus home, TDECU Stadium, after spending last year playing in the Houston Texans' cavernous retractable dome. The Cougars were 8-5 a year ago, losing to Vanderbilt in the BBVA Compass Bowl, and bring back a pair of young stars in sophomore quarterback John O'Korn and junior receiver Deontay Greenberry.

    This could be a great rivalry moving forward, but like last season, it will tilt in Houston's favor for the time being.

    Prediction: Houston 37, UTSA 27

    Final: UTSA 27, Houston 7

UNLV at Arizona

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    When: Friday, Aug. 29; 10:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Ka'Deem Carey rushed for 171 yards and two touchdowns, including a 58-yard score on his first touch of the game, as Arizona cruised to a 58-13 road win last September.

    What to watch for

    UNLV is coming off its first winning record in more than a decade and first bowl appearance since 2000, but the Runnin' Rebels lost a great deal of the notables from that 7-6 team.

    Aside from prolific receiver Devante Davis, who had 1,290 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2013, UNLV will start a quarterback (junior college transfer Blake Decker) and running back (Keith Whitely) who have 10 career touches at the FBS level, per Jason Scheer of

    Arizona also has big offensive holes to fill from last year's 8-5 team, with record-breaking running back Ka'Deem Carey now with the Chicago Bears and dual-threat quarterback B.J. Denker also gone.

    Coach Rich Rodriguez picked redshirt freshman Anu Solomon as his passer over three transfers from other FBS programs, while a handful of rushers could replace Carey. Arizona still has the talent advantage and should win handily.

    Prediction: Arizona 38, UNLV 17

    Final: Arizona 58, UNLV 13

Penn State vs. UCF (in Dublin, Ireland)

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    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 8:30 a.m. ET

    Last meeting: Blake Bortles made his first foray into the national spotlight by throwing for 288 yards and three touchdowns to help UCF pull off a 34-31 upset win at Penn State last September.

    What to watch for

    Make sure to have your whiskey available for this early-morning tilt from the Emerald Isle, assuming an Icelandic volcano doesn't erupt and ash out the game.

    Penn State welcomes new coach James Franklin and his grand plans for a program that's still in the middle of NCAA sanctions that include a postseason ban for this season and 2015. The Nittany Lions have a lot of young talent, especially with sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg.

    UCF was one of the biggest surprises of 2013, going 12-1 to win the American (thanks to an upset at Louisville in October) and then running past Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl. Major players Blake Bortles and Storm Johnson have moved on, but the Knights are still strong and should again contend for the American crown.

    PSU will give Franklin a win in his debut.

    Prediction: Penn State 27, UCF 22

    Final: Penn State 26, UCF 24

No. 7 UCLA at Virginia

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    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; noon ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    UCLA is one of five ranked teams opening on the road, but none travel as far as the Bruins have to in order to play this game that will kick off at 9 a.m. Pacific time. That might be the biggest test for UCLA to deal with, as it has a major talent advantage thanks to players like junior quarterback Brett Hundley and sophomore linebacker Myles Jack.

    Virginia was 2-10 last season and winless in the ACC, the first time the Cavaliers haven't won a game in league play since 1981. To improve this year it will start on the defensive end, where last year's standout defensive back Anthony Harris is joined by 5-star recruits Quin Blanding at safety and Andrew Brown at defensive tackle.

    The Cavs pulled an early shocker at home last year against BYU, but not again. Not versus the Bruins.

    Prediction: UCLA 30, Virginia 14

    Final: UCLA 28, Virginia 20

Delaware at Pittsburgh

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    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; noon ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Delaware's football is most famous for producing Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, but the Blue Hens are also one of the more consistent FCS programs in the country. They were 7-5 a year ago and have 15 wins all time against the FBS ranks, but none since 2007.

    Pittsburgh went 7-6 in its first season in the ACC, beating Bowling Green in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl to finish above .500 for the first time since 2010. Chad Voytik moves into the starting role at quarterback and has a pair of nice young weapons to work with in sophomore receiver Tyler Boyd and second-year running back James Conner.

    Pitt is 11-1 all time against FCS teams, but its last venture in 2012 resulted in a loss to Youngstown State.

    Prediction: Pittsburgh 31, Delaware 21

    Final: Pittsburgh 62, Delaware 0

Appalachian State at Michigan

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    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; noon ET

    Last meeting: Appalachian State pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the past decade, blocking a Michigan field goal in the final seconds of a 34-32 road win to open the 2007 season. The Mountaineers were an FCS program at the time, albeit one that was coming off back-to-back national championships.

    What to watch for

    Appalachian State makes its debut as an FBS program after a long stretch as one of the best FCS teams in the country. The Mountaineers will be in the Sun Belt this season and, though ineligible for postseason play, will have some exciting players to watch, led by sophomore running back Marcus Cox.

    Michigan has backslid since Brady Hoke's first season at the helm in 2011, going from 11-2 to 8-5 and then 7-6 last season. The Wolverines offense disappeared during stretches last year, prompting Hoke to bring in Doug Nussmeier as his new coordinator from Alabama. There's plenty of talent on the roster, including 5-star freshman Jabrill Peppers, who will start in the secondary but could end up playing all over.

    A loss to ASU spelled the beginning of the end for one Michigan coach. Hoke would do well to avoid repeating history.

    Prediction: Michigan 38, Appalachian State 20

    Final: Michigan 52, Appalachian State 14

North Dakota State at Iowa State

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    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; noon ET

    Last meeting: Iowa State opened the 2009 season with a 34-17 win over FCS North Dakota State, the last team from the FBS ranks to beat the Bison.

    What to watch for

    The three-time defending FCS champions make their annual foray into an FBS stadium, looking to knock off an upper-level team for the fifth straight year. But the Bison will try to do so under new leadership, as longtime coach Craig Bohl left to coach Wyoming and has been replaced by Chris Klieman.

    Iowa State bottomed out at 3-9 last season, its worst record since 2008, which included a home loss to FCS Northern Iowa to start the campaign. The Cyclones have brought in former Kansas coach Mark Mangino to run the offense, but there's still not much for him to work with.

    NDSU makes it five in a row.

    Prediction: North Dakota State 23, Iowa State 20

    Final: North Dakota State 34, Iowa State 14

Indiana State at Indiana

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    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; noon ET

    Last meeting: Indiana opened the 2013 season by scoring the second-most points in school history, racking up 632 yards in a 73-35 victory over Indiana State last August.

    What to watch for

    Indiana State was a woeful 1-11 last season at the FCS level, yet it nearly won at Purdue in September (falling 20-14) a week after getting crushed by Indiana. The Sycamores have beaten FBS teams in recent years, the last being Western Kentucky in 2011.

    Indiana went 5-7 last season, tied for its best record since going 7-6 in 2007. The Hoosiers have plenty of offensive talent, especially in the form of running back Tevin Coleman, but last year they allowed just short of 39 points per game.

    A similar result to last year's meeting is likely.

    Prediction: Indiana 48, Indiana State 31

    Final: Indiana 28, Indiana State 10

Northern Iowa at Iowa

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    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; noon ET

    Last meeting: Iowa earned a 27-16 home win over the Panthers in September 2012.

    What to watch for

    Northern Iowa opened last year with an upset win at Iowa State, its 10th win against an FBS team, but a five-game midseason losing streak kept the Panthers from reaching the FCS playoffs.

    Iowa won eight games in 2013, doubling the output from the season before, and this year's team looks to be built the same way. That means a lot of methodical offense, some great offensive line play anchored by senior left tackle Brandon Scherff and a defense that won't give up a lot of yards or points.

    The Hawkeyes lost to Northern Illinois to start last season, its first season-opening loss since 2000. Don't expect another, but also don't look for a walkover win. 

    Prediction: Iowa 24, Northern Iowa 16

    Final: Iowa 31, Northern Iowa 23

No. 5 Ohio State vs. Navy (in Baltimore)

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; noon ET

    Last meeting: Ohio State's Brian Rolle returned an interception on a two-point conversion attempt for two points in the final minutes, helping the Buckeyes hold off Navy 31-27 at home in September 2009.

    What to watch for

    Ohio State was already going to face a tough test in this pseudo-road game for an opener, but once senior quarterback Braxton Miller re-injured his shoulder and was lost for the season, the potential for an upset became much bigger.

    Miller's loss is a big one but shouldn't derail the season. The Buckeyes are still stacked in talent, but they will now likely have to be more reliant on a defense that features the country's best front line.

    Navy sports arguably the best running quarterback in the country, at least in the red zone, in junior Keenan Reynolds. As the pilot of the Midshipmen's option attack last season, he scored 31 touchdowns (including seven against San Jose State, an FBS record for a quarterback). The rest of Navy's team is the typical hard-working mix, but Reynolds transforms it into a potential powerhouse.

    The first Top 10 team to fall this season will go down in Baltimore.

    Prediction: Navy 30, Ohio State 28

    Final: Ohio State 34, navy 17

Western Michigan at Purdue

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; noon ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Western Michigan went 1-11 in P.J. Fleck's first season as coach, a throwaway season where the Broncos' only win came against another 1-11 team in Massachusetts. This is going to be one of the youngest teams in the country in 2014, with David Drew of noting the Broncos have only 20 returning upperclassmen and 40 newcomers on the roster.

    Purdue was just as bad, if not worse, as it also went 1-11 with only a six-point win over FCS Indiana State (which also went 1-11) to its credit in 2013. The Boilermakers allowed 38 points and scored fewer than 15 per game a year ago, hardly ever being in contention for a win.

    One of these teams is going to get off to a great start, comparatively speaking, and we're going with the more promising (and less heralded) group.

    Prediction: Western Michigan 34, Purdue 29

    Final: Purdue 43, Western Michigan 34

Troy at UAB

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; noon ET

    Last meeting: Troy senior quarterback Corey Robinson set an FBS record for passing accuracy in a single game, completing 30 of 32 passes in a 34-31 overtime win over visiting UAB to open the 2013 season.

    What to watch for

    Troy enters relatively uncharted territory this season, as it will be the first time since 2010 that it starts a quarterback not named Corey Robinson. Robinson threw for 13,344 yards and 80 touchdowns in his career, but now longtime Trojans coach Larry Blakeney has to basically start over with his offense.

    UAB is also starting over, but that begins with a new coach in Bill Clark. Clark won 11 games at FCS Jacksonville State last season before taking over the Blazers after Garrick McGee left to be Louisville's offensive coordinator. UAB went 2-10 last year, its ninth straight losing season.

    UAB hasn't won its opener since 2009 and has fallen to Troy to start the last two seasons. But all things change at some point.

    Prediction: UAB 27, Troy 21

    Final: UAB 48, Troy 10

Tennessee-Martin at Kentucky

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    Garry Jones/Associated Press

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; noon ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Tennessee-Martin has one FBS win to its ledger, in 2012 against Memphis. Last year the Skyhawks lost by 49 points at Boise State and 15 at Memphis, winning seven of their other 10 games outside of the FBS matchups.

    Kentucky's 2-10 record in Mark Stoops' first season didn't look great on paper, but it also didn't stop the Wildcats from hauling in a solid recruiting class that is expected to provide several contributors this fall. That includes massive defensive tackle Matt Elam, a 4-star prospect who chose Kentucky over Alabama and who should make a splash in his first college game.

    Kentucky opens at 1-0 for the first time since 2011.

    Prediction: Kentucky 37, Tennessee-Martin 17

    Final: Kentucky 59, Tennessee-Martin 14

Youngstown State at Illinois

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 12:05 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Youngstown State went 8-4 last season, starting 8-1 (with its only loss coming at Michigan State) before dropping three in a row to miss out on the FCS playoffs. The Penguins are a frequent player in the FCS-over-FBS upsets, most recently in 2012 when they won at Pittsburgh.

    Illinois is 5-3 in nonconference games and 1-15 in Big Ten contests in Tim Beckman's two seasons, and now the Fighting Illini are faced with replacing standout quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase.

    The job has been given to Wes Lunt, an Oklahoma State transfer who started a few games for the Cowboys as a freshman in 2012, but the biggest offensive weapon this fall will be pass-catching running back Josh Ferguson.

    The Illini win, but not very convincingly.

    Prediction: Illinois 30, Youngstown State 20

    Final: Illinois 28, Youngstown State 17

Wofford at Georgia Tech

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 12:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Wofford is the stereotypical FCS team from the South that plays a sacrificial lamb to power-conference FBS programs, as can be seen by its 69-3 loss at Baylor to open last season. The Terriers are 1-17 all time against the FBS level, their only win coming in Louisiana-Monroe in 2000.

    Georgia Tech had an uneven 7-6 season in 2013, with two three-game win streaks and a three-game skid as well as losses in three of four down the stretch. Quarterback Vad Lee transferred in January, leaving the job to sophomore Justin Thomas to run the Yellow Jackets' triple option.

    Don't expect any surprises here.

    Prediction: Georgia Tech 45, Wofford 13

    Final: Georgia Tech 38, Wofford 19

Georgia Southern at North Carolina State

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 12:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Georgia Southern has won multiple national championships at the FCS level, but now it moves into the FBS ranks as a member of the Sun Belt Conference and will do so under a new coach. Jeff Monken parlayed last year's 7-4 record, which included a shocking win at Florida, into the Army job. Former Sam Houston State coach Willie Fritz replaced him.

    North Carolina State went 3-9 in Dave Doeren's first season, including 0-8 in the ACC. The Wolfpack were lethargic on offense a year ago, but with Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett installed at quarterback, there are high hopes for a big turnaround in Raleigh.

    "I'm not saying we're going to win every game, but we have a great opportunity to do something special," Brissett told Joe Giglio of The News & Observer. "A lot of people don't think it's possible, especially coming from 3-9, but Auburn did it. It's possible. You just have to believe."

    We're not ready to put NC State in the national championship game, but it will win its opener and look good doing so.

    Prediction: North Carolina State 34, Georgia Southern 20

    Final: North Carolina State 24, Georgia Southern 23

Colgate at Ball State

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 2 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Colgate is an FCS team that went 4-8 a year ago, including a loss at Air Force. The Raiders haven't won against an FBS team since 2003.

    Ball State won 10 games in 2013, but veteran quarterback Keith Wenning and other major players from that team have moved on. The Cardinals managed to hold on to coach Pete Lembo but are facing a potential rebuilding year with other Mid-American teams projected to improve from last season.

    BSU has several losses to FCS teams over the years, most recently to Liberty in 2010.

    Prediction: Ball State 34, Colgate 14

    Final: Ball State 30, Colgate 10

Nicholls State at Air Force

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    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 2 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Air Force opened the 2009 season with a 72-0 win over Nicholls State.

    What to watch for

    Nicholls State has been one of the most popular FCS whipping boys in the past decade. The Colonels are 3-36 all time against FBS teams, losing last year at Oregon (66-3) and Louisiana-Lafayette (70-7) but managing a 27-23 win at Western Michigan.

    Air Force went 2-10 a year ago, its worst season in school history and one that included only one victory over an FBS team. The Falcons were 9-4 as recently as 2010 but have dropped off significantly since then.

    This should be a major upset alert, and we're calling it for the little guys.

    Prediction: Nicholls State 27, Air Force 21

    Final: Air Force 44, Nicholls State 16

Southern Utah at Nevada

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 3 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Nevada squeaked out a 24-23 win over Southern Utah to open the 2003 season.

    What to watch for

    Southern Utah went 8-5 and reached the FCS playoffs last season, a successful year that started with a win at South Alabama and also featured a blowout loss at Washington State. The Thunderbirds have three all-time wins over FBS teams, including in 2011 against UNLV.

    Nevada finished 4-8 in 2013, its first losing record since 2007. The Wolf Pack had numerous injuries that derailed the campaign, but with senior quarterback Cody Fajardo back at full strength, a bounce-back year is very possible.

    That starts with a solid opening victory.

    Prediction: Nevada 34, Southern Utah 20

    Final: Nevada 28, Southern Utah 19

Boston College at Massachusetts

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 3 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Boston College used a pair of fumble-recovery touchdowns to pace a 45-17 win over Massachusetts in September 2011, its seventh straight win in the series.

    What to watch for

    Boston College went 7-6 last year but graduated a ton of key players from that team, including 2,000-yard rusher Andre Williams and dependable receiver Alex Amidon. Florida transfer Tyler Murphy replaces the graduated Chase Rettig at quarterback.

    Massachusetts hasn't had a great start to its entrance into FBS football, logging back-to-back 1-11 seasons. The Minutemen brought back former coach Mark Whipple (who won an FCS title with them in the 1990s) to try to right the ship.

    UMass won't be much better this year, but we will give it this one thanks to the atmosphere of hosting an in-state rival.

    Prediction: Massachusetts 23, Boston College 20

    Final: Boston College 30, Massachusetts 7

James Madison at Maryland

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Maryland rallied late to force overtime and then got a 26-yard field goal from Nick Ferrara to earn a 38-35 win over James Madison in September 2009.

    What to watch for

    James Madison was 6-6 a year ago, with one of its losses being a narrow 35-33 decision at Akron. That would have been the Dukes' sixth win over an FBS team and first since upsetting Virginia Tech in 2010.

    Maryland moves from the ACC to the Big Ten this season and hopes to avoid the injury issues that plagued last season's 7-6 team. Stellar wide receiver Stefon Diggs and others are back and healthy, at least for now.

    The Terrapins have never lost to an FCS team, but the last time out (against William & Mary in 2012) they came very close and won by just a 7-6 score.

    Prediction: Maryland 38, James Madison 28

    Final: Maryland 52, James Madison 7

Florida Atlantic at No. 22 Nebraska

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Nebraska cruised to a 49-3 win over Florida Atlantic in September 2009, getting 152 rushing yards and three touchdowns from Roy Helu.

    What to watch for

    Florida Atlantic was 2-6 when it fired coach Carl Pelini midway through last season, and then the Owls rang off four straight wins but didn't get selected for a bowl game. New coach Charlie Partridge has brought some fire back to this program, and with a new bowl game being played in FAU's stadium, there's even more incentive to win this year.

    Nebraska has won nine or 10 games (and lost four) in each of Bo Pelini's six seasons as coach. The Cornhuskers could be in for more of the same this year, but they could do better if an offense that will be heavy on running back Ameer Abdullah can overcome a defense that lost a handful of projected starters during training camp.

    Had Carl Pelini not been canned last fall, this would have been dubbed the Brother Bowl. Instead it should be just another run-of-the-mill nonconference win for Nebraska against an inferior opponent.

    Prediction: Nebraska 40, Florida Atlantic 22

    Final: Nebraska 55, Florida Atlantic 7

California at Northwestern

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: A pair of interception returns by Collin Ellis helped Northwestern overcome 450 passing yards from California freshman Jared Goff, with the Wildcats winning 44-30 in Berkeley to open the 2013 season.

    What to watch for

    California regressed in Sonny Dykes' first season at the helm, going 1-11 with only a win over an FCS team (Portland State) to its credit. The Golden Bears were young and will be again this fall, with Goff at quarterback and lots of underclassmen starring on both sides of the ball. Offense will remain the focal point.

    Northwestern had one of the most Jekyll-and-Hyde seasons possible in 2013, opening 4-0 before dropping seven straight in seemingly more unimaginable ways each week, then ending with a win over rival Illinois. The Wildcats have already dealt with hardship in the preseason, seeing running back Venric Mark transfer and top receiver Christian Jones go down with a season-ending injury.

    Northwestern won at Cal last year, and the Bears will find a way to return the favor in Evanston.

    Prediction: California 36, Northwestern 30

    Final: California 31, Northwestern 24

West Virginia vs. No. 2 Alabama (in Atlanta)

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    West Virginia went 4-8 last season, its worst record since 2003 and a continued regression since a 10-3 mark and an Orange Bowl win in Dana Holgorsen's first season in 2011. The Mountaineers have tabbed Clint Trickett, a Florida State transfer, as its quarterback, but will also need to make sure to have a defense that can hold up against the Big 12's powers.

    Alabama opens the season in Atlanta for the second straight year, beating Virginia Tech at the Georgia Dome last August. The Crimson Tide went 11-2 in 2013, losing their final two after starting 11-0 in an attempt to win a third straight national title. The roster is stacked with talent, but the quarterback job is still undecided between senior Blake Sims and Florida State transfer Jake Coker.

    When this game was scheduled two years ago, it looked really good. Not so much in the present.

    Prediction: Alabama 34, West Virginia 13

    final: Alabama 33, West Virginia 23

Duquesne at Buffalo

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    Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Buffalo beat Duquesne 49-0 in 1991, when both teams were in the FCS ranks.

    What to watch for

    Duquesne is making its first foray into a matchup with an FBS opponent in modern times. The Dukes were 7-4 last season but failed to make the playoffs.

    Buffalo won eight games last season but faces a major falloff due to the departure of stars like linebacker Khalil Mack (a first-round NFL draft pick) and 1,500-yard rusher Branden Oliver. The Bulls do bring back junior quarterback Joe Licata for some stability.

    Buffalo needed overtime to beat FCS Stony Brook last year, and this could be another tight one.

    Prediction: Buffalo 27, Duquesne 21

    Final: Buffalo 38, Duquesne 28

Hampton at Old Dominion

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Old Dominion crushed Hampton 45-7 in September 2012, its last season as an FCS program before moving up to the FBS level.

    What to watch for

    Hampton has only once before faced an FBS team, opening the 2010 season with a 33-0 loss at Central Michigan. The Pirates were 4-8 last year.

    Old Dominion continues its transition into FBS by playing a full-scale schedule, which includes eight games in Conference USA. Last year the Monarchs went 8-4, but that included a 7-0 mark against FCS teams and a 1-4 record against FBS opponents. ODU features one of the best quarterbacks in the country in senior Taylor Heinicke.

    ODU plays upper-division opponents for the rest of its schedule, so expect it to romp when it can.

    Prediction: Old Dominion 45, Hampton 20

    Final: Old Dominion 41, Hampton 28

Rice at No. 17 Notre Dame

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Notre Dame rolled past Rice 54-11 in November 1988, improving to 4-0 all time against the Owls.

    What to watch for

    Rice won the Conference USA title last season, its first league championship since 1957, and finished the year with 10 victories. The Owls should be solid again this year, but several key players have moved on, and they might struggle to win the West Division this time around.

    Notre Dame was 9-4 a year ago, finishing with a win over Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl. The Fighting Irish had to replace both of their coordinators and also had big holes to fill on defense, but one place where the team got stronger was at quarterback with the return of Everett Golson. Golson, the team's starter in 2012 when Notre Dame reached the national title game, missed all of 2013 with academic issues.

    Notre Dame's schedule gets increasingly tougher as the season goes along, and this is one of the few games that isn't dangerous.

    Prediction: Notre Dame 31, Rice 17

    Final: Notre Dame 48, Rice 17

Marshall at Miami (Ohio)

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato threw five touchdown passes in a 52-14 season-opening win over visiting Miami (Ohio) last August.

    What to watch for

    Marshall reached the Conference USA final in 2013 but lost to Rice, and it went on to crush Maryland in the Military Bowl. The Thundering Herd are the prohibitive favorite to win C-USA this season behind Cato, a dark-horse Heisman candidate. Though the schedule is weak, the chance to go 12-0 is there, and Marshall could get consideration for the at-large spot in the College Football Playoff

    Miami (Ohio) went 0-12 last season, firing its coach midway through the year. The RedHawks could be much better this season, if only because of a talent influx that included the hiring of Chuck Martin as its coach, as well as some of Martin's former players from Notre Dame. The RedHawks, riding an FBS-worst 16-game losing streak, were outscored by an average of 36-10 in 2013.

    The streak should end this year, but not against a team that might go unbeaten.

    Prediction: Marshall 37, Miami 17

    Final: Marshall 42, Miami 27

South Dakota State at No. 24 Missouri

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    South Dakota State went 9-5 and reached the FCS quarterfinals last season, but its 59-20 loss at Nebraska in September made the Jackrabbits 0-6 all time against FBS opponents.

    Missouri had a breakout year in 2013, winning 12 games and claiming the SEC East title in its second year in the league. The Tigers had significant losses in the offseason, most due to graduation or early NFL entry, but also from off-field issues when prolific wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham was dismissed from the team. Mizzou can still contend for the division behind quarterback Maty Mauk and a good defense.

    This won't be a cakewalk, but the Tigers will take it.

    Prediction: Missouri 31, South Dakota State 20

    Final: Missouri 38, South Dakota State 18

Montana at Wyoming

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 4 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Wyoming downed Montana 28-13 in October 1997.

    What to watch for

    Montana is perennially one of the better FCS programs, but the Grizzlies haven't had much success knocking off FBS teams in recent years. They went 10-3 last season, reaching the FCS playoffs, and are searching for their first upset of an FBS team since knocking off Idaho in 2003.

    Wyoming went 5-7 in 2013 and fired coach Dave Christensen, replacing him with Craig Bohl. Bohl won the last three FCS titles at North Dakota State but has an uphill battle with the Cowboys, who saw their best player (dual-threat quarterback Brett Smith) turn pro early only to go undrafted.

    Wyoming lost to an FCS team in 2012, falling to Cal Poly, and will be pressed in this one.

    Prediction: Wyoming 28, Montana 23

    Final: Wyoming 17, Montana 12

Portland State at Oregon State

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 4 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Oregon State opened the 2009 season with a 34-7 win over Portland State.

    What to watch for

    Portland State was 6-6 a year ago, a record that included a 37-30 loss at California. The Vikings last beat an FBS team in 2006 when they won at New Mexico.

    Oregon State went 7-6 in 2013, dropping its opener to FCS Eastern Washington and then running off six straight wins before dropping the last five regular-season games. The Beavers won their bowl game, which was the swan song for Biletnikoff winner Brandin Cooks at wide receiver. It's a big loss, but OSU still has one more season of big-armed quarterback Sean Mannion to look forward to.

    OSU has lost several times to FCS teams, including in 2011 to Sacramento State, so don't expect the Beavers to overlook another one.

    Prediction: Oregon State 44, Portland State 26

    Final: Oregon State 29, Portland State 14

UC Davis at No. 11 Stanford

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 4 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Stanford lost 20-17 at home to UC Davis in September 2005, marking the visitors' first-ever win over an FBS team in its first season moving up from Division II.

    What to watch for

    UC Davis went 5-7 in 2013 and lost by 29 points at Nevada. The Aggies have been able to knock off a few FBS teams over the past decade, though, including Stanford in 2005 and San Jose State in 2010.

    Stanford has won the last two Pac-12 titles, and it has 46 wins and four BCS appearances in the last four seasons. The Cardinal have become a standard for greatness out west, doing so despite having to replace significant contributors each year.

    This season the Cardinal start without workhorse running back Tyler Gaffney and defensive stars Shayne Skov and Trent Murphy, but they still have seniors Kevin Hogan (quarterback), Ty Montgomery (receiver/returner) and Jordan Richards (defensive back).

    With a game against Pac-12 rival USC looming the following week, look for Stanford to use this game as a last-second scrimmage to get everything in order.

    Prediction: Stanford 34, UC Davis 13

    Final: Stanford 45, UC Davis 0

Arkansas at No. 6 Auburn

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 4 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Tre Mason ran for 168 yards and scored four touchdowns to pace Auburn to a 35-17 home win over Arkansas last November.

    What to watch for

    Arkansas was 3-9 a year ago, notching a winless record in SEC play for the first time since joining the conference in the early 1990s. The Razorbacks have dedicated themselves to the run, and Bret Bielema has three strong rushers at his disposal who should all get a lot of touches.

    Auburn went from 3-9 in 2012 to the national title game last season, falling to Florida State in the final minute. The Tigers are now expected to match or exceed those results this fall. However, senior quarterback Nick Marshall will not start (but will play in) the opener as punishment for a marijuana possession citation in July.

    The amount of time Marshall sits will only affect how much Auburn wins by, not the outcome itself.

    Prediction: Auburn 37, Arkansas 17

    Final: Auburn 45, Arkansas 21

William & Mary at Virginia Tech

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 4 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Virginia Tech crushed William & Mary 44-3 in September 2007.

    What to watch for

    William & Mary was 7-5 last season, a year that began with a 24-17 loss at West Virginia after leading 17-7 at halftime. The Tribe beat Virginia in 2009 and have had other narrow defeats to FBS teams since then.

    Virgina Tech went 8-5 but struggled with consistency for most of 2013. The Hokies defense remained strong and will be again this year, but their offense couldn't put points up in critical times. That is expected to change if Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer, named the starter in place of the graduated Logan Thomas, can produce.

    Virginia Tech began the 2010 season ranked 13th in the AP poll when it lost at home to FCS school James Madison, something coach Frank Beamer has probably brought up dozens of times leading up to this game.

    Prediction: Virginia Tech 27, William & Mary 17

    Final: Virginia Tech 34, William & Mary 9

No. 16 Clemson at No. 12 Georgia

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 5:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Clemson got five total touchdowns from quarterback Tajh Boyd, including two on the ground, to pace the Tigers to a 38-35 win over visiting Georgia to open last season in a matchup of Top 10 teams.

    What to watch for

    Clemson won 11 games last season, including the Orange Bowl over Ohio State, but all of the big names on offense who generated that result have moved on. The Tigers will be very inexperienced on offense but have a defense led by fierce edge rusher Vic Beasley that will help soften the blow of those losses.

    Georgia struggled to an 8-5 mark in 2013 after opening the season ranked fifth in the country. The Bulldogs had injury issues, defensive breakdowns and bad luck, but even with dismissals and graduation leading to more turnover, the hopes are high for a rebound season. Senior quarterback Hutson Mason and junior running back Todd Gurley could be one of the most exciting pairs in the nation.

    One of the few must-win games of the opening week will go to the home team, avenging last year's defeat.

    Prediction: Georgia 33, Clemson 24

    Final: Georgia 45, Clemson 21

Elon at Duke

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    Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 6 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Duke opened the 2010 season with a 41-27 win over Elon, getting 350 yards and two touchdowns from quarterback Sean Renfree.

    What to watch for

    Elon was 2-10 a year ago and opened the season with a 70-0 loss at Georgia Tech. The Phoenix are 0-6 all time against FBS opponents.

    Duke won 10 games in 2013, its best season in school history, which included a division title and a spot in the ACC title game. The Blue Devils lost offensive coordinator Kurt Roper to Florida and had a pair of returning starters tear knee ligaments during the offseason, but quarterback Anthony Boone and receiver Jamison Crowder and a crop of solid defensive backs should make another bowl bid happen.

    Duke has lost three times to FCS teams since 2006, most recently in 2011. Not this year, though.

    Prediction: Duke 41, Elon 16

    Final: Duke 52, Elon 13

Liberty at No. 23 North Carolina

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 6 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Liberty was 8-4 last season, with losses at Kent State and Old Dominion. The Flames have ambitions to join the FBS ranks, hoping a conference will invite them in one day, but for now have to make do with trying to knock off a big boy for the first time since beating Ball State in 2010.

    North Carolina rallied from a 1-5 start to go 7-6 in 2013, capped by a dominant victory over Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl. The Tar Heels are among the favorites to win the ACC's Coastal Division but face a very tough schedule both within the league and in nonconference play.

    This is UNC's easiest non-league game, and look for it to play that way.

    Prediction: North Carolina 39, Liberty 17

    Final: North Carolina 56, Liberty 29

Ohio at Kent State

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 6 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Kent State got 138 rushing yards and three touchdowns from Dri Archer in a dominating 44-13 win at Ohio last November in a Tuesday night #MACtion game.

    What to watch for

    An oddly placed season-opening Mid-American Conference game features a pair of teams that might be going in opposite directions.

    Ohio has made bowl games in each of the past five seasons under coach Frank Solich, but now the Bobcats head into the season without longtime starting quarterback Tyler Tettleton under center. They struggled down the stretch in 2013, losing four of five after a 6-2 start.

    Kent State went from 11-3 in 2012 to 4-8 a year ago, but toward the end of the season the Golden Flashes were playing much better. They won the last two games, including at Ohio in the finale.

    The Flashes get the unusual distinction of ending one year and beginning the next with wins over the same conference rival.

    Prediction: Kent State 25, Ohio 22

    Final: Ohio 17, Kent State 14

Morgan State at Eastern Michigan

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 6 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Morgan State was 5-7 a year ago, losing to both Army and Western Kentucky. The Bears are 0-9 all time against the FBS ranks.

    Eastern Michigan won only two games last season, one of which was against an FCS team. Chris Creighton takes over the program, which gained some attention in the summer by installing gray turf.

    The Eagles have lost 13 times to FCS teams, most recently in 2012, something that no color of field surface can help with. Still, Creighton wins his opener.

    Prediction: Eastern Michigan 27, Morgan State 20

    Final: Eastern Michigan 31, Morgan State 28

New Hampshire at Toledo

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Toledo opened the 2011 season with a 58-22 win over New Hampshire, racking up 591 yards and forcing five turnovers.

    What to watch for

    New Hampshire went 10-5 last season, reaching the FCS semifinals before falling 52-14 to eventual champion North Dakota State. The Wildcats opened the year with a 24-21 loss at Central Michigan, the closest they've come to beating an FBS team since downing Ball State in 2009.

    Toledo won seven games but wasn't selected for a bowl game in 2013, likely because the Rockets lost their last two contests. They should get a lot of mileage out of sophomore running back Kareem Hunt, who ran for nearly 900 yards as a backup last season.

    Toledo has lost four times to FCS teams, but the last time was more than a quarter-century ago. New Hampshire brings back 16 starters, according to Al Pike of Foster's Daily Democrat, and will crash the party at the Glass Bowl.

    Prediction: New Hampshire 30, Toledo 27

    Final: Toledo 54, New Hampshire 20

Savannah State at Middle Tennessee

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Savannah State was 1-11 a year ago, its only win coming against a Division II team. The Tigers were pummeled by two FBS teams, losing 66-3 at Troy and 77-7 at Miami (Fla.). They are 0-4 all time against the big schools, including an 84-0 setback to Oklahoma State in 2012.

    Middle Tennessee has won eight games in back-to-back seasons, with last year's performance earning the Blue Raiders a bowl bid. MTSU should contend for a division title in Conference USA thanks to a defense that includes a ball-hawking cornerback in Kevin Byard.

    This might be the closest game Savannah State plays against an FBS team, but that's not saying much.

    Prediction: Middle Tennessee 44, Savannah State 16

    Final: Middle Tennessee 61, Savannah State 7

Bethune-Cookman at Florida International

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Bethune-Cookman shocked host Florida International 34-13 last September, its third win in as many tries against the Golden Panthers.

    What to watch for

    Bethune-Cookman went 10-3 last season, reaching the FCS playoffs in the same year it split games against FBS teams. There was the above-mentioned win over FIU and a loss at Florida State.

    Florida International was 1-11 a year ago, its only victory a one-point win at Southern Mississippi. The Golden Panthers have won four games the past two seasons after reaching bowls in 2010 and 2011.

    There's nothing that says this year's game shouldn't go exactly like the 2013 edition, but we're still going to give FIU the benefit of the doubt.

    Prediction: Florida International 27, Bethune-Cookman 20

    Final: Bethune-Cookman 14, Florida International 12

Northern Arizona at San Diego State

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Northern Arizona went 9-3 last season, opening the year with a shutout loss at Arizona but reaching the FCS playoffs. The Lumberjacks are 2-31 all time against FBS teams, including a 2012 victory at UNLV.

    San Diego State overcame an 0-3 start (which included a 21-point home loss to FCS Eastern Illinois) to finish 8-5 and win the Potato Bowl over Buffalo. The Aztecs have averaged 8.5 wins over the last four seasons, their best stretch in program history.

    NAU is a good low-division team but not as good as the one that beat SDSU in 2013.

    Prediction: San Diego State 31, Northern Arizona 21

    Final: San Diego State 38, Arizona State 7

Idaho at Florida

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Idaho was 1-11 last season, a year in which it was forced to be an independent after the Western Athletic Conference folded. The Vandals' only win was over Temple. Over the summer, while preparing for the move to the Sun Belt, they had to deal with the dismissal of leading receiver Dezmon Epps because of off-field trouble.

    Florida is coming off its worst year in more than three decades, going 4-8 with seven straight losses to end the year, including an embarrassing home defeat to FCS Georgia Southern in November.

    The Gators brought in a new offensive coordinator, Kurt Roper, to help that unit match the strong defense. Avoiding injuries that plagued last season will be a key to bouncing back.

    The seven-game losing streak will end in dominant fashion.

    Prediction: Florida 44, Idaho 13

    Update: The game was canceled because of inclement weather.

Austin Peay at Memphis

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Memphis beat Austin Peay 27-6 in September 2011, paced by Taylor Reed's 332 passing yards and three touchdowns.

    What to watch for

    Austin Peay was 0-12 last season, which included early losses at Tennessee (45-0), Vanderbilt (38-3) and Ohio (38-0). The Governors, who haven't beaten an FCS team since 1987, averaged just 7.5 points per game in 2013.

    Memphis went 3-9 a year ago, its sixth straight losing season. The Tigers only won one game in the American after moving from Conference USA, but a strong defense and some young talent on offense could make for improvement in 2014.

    Getting to thump on a bad FCS team to start can also help with confidence.

    Prediction: Memphis 37, Austin Peay 14

    Final: Memphis 63, Austin Peay 0

Western Carolina at South Florida

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Western Carolina was 2-10 last season, a record that included three losses to FBS opponents by an average score of 51-10. The Catamounts are 0-46 all time against FBS foes.

    South Florida was also 2-10, opening with a humbling home loss to FCS McNeese State to post its worst record since moving into FBS in 2001. The Bulls head into this season on a six-game losing streak.

    This was a much better choice for an opening opponent.

    Prediction: South Florida 41, Western Carolina 16

    Final: South Florida 36, Western Carolina 31

Louisiana Tech at No. 4 Oklahoma

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Louisiana Tech fell to 4-8 last season after winning nine games in 2012, also going from having one of the nation's top offenses under coach Sonny Dykes to one of the most lethargic under new coach Skip Holtz. The Bulldogs figure to move more to the middle of those two records this fall, and if that happens, it will have a lot to do with how running back Kenneth Dixon fares.

    Oklahoma went 11-2 in 2013, ending on a major high note with a rousing victory over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. The Sooners are the Big 12 favorites and a prime contender for a College Football Playoff semifinal spot. They will look to sophomore quarterback Trevor Knight to play all season like he did in the Sugar Bowl. A solid defense will also be a major player in how Oklahoma fares.

    Sooners win big.

    Prediction: Oklahoma 40, Louisiana Tech 14

    Final: Oklahoma 48, Louisiana Tech 16

Samford at TCU

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Samford went 8-5 last season and reached the FCS playoffs. The Bulldogs split a pair of games against FBS teams in 2013, beating Georgia State and losing to Arkansas. The win over GSU was their first against an FBS team after 17 previous losses.

    TCU fell to 4-8 in 2013, its worst record since 1997. The Horned Frogs were uneven on offense all season, preventing a solid defense from being able to contribute effectively.

    New offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie plan to open up the attack, while on defense some of the best secondary players in the country will be fun to watch against the Big 12's many good passing teams.

    TCU cruises without much resistance.

    Prediction: TCU 45, Samford 17

    Final: TCU 48, Samford 14

Central Arkansas at Texas Tech

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Central Arkansas was 7-5 last season, losing at Colorado during nonconference play. The Bears have one win in nine tries against FBS teams, beating Western Kentucky in 2009.

    Texas Tech went 8-5 in 2013, but the record is misleading. The Red Raiders started out on fire under first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury with a 7-0 mark, only to drop their last five regular-season games. Then freshman quarterback Davis Webb erupted in the Holiday Bowl win over Arizona State.

    Tech hasn't lost to an FCS team since 1988, and that's not going to change this year.

    Prediction: Texas Tech 55, Central Arkansas 24

    Final: Texas Tech 42, Central Arkansas 35

Montana State at Arkansas State

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Montana State posted a 7-5 record last season, which included a 31-30 loss at SMU that would have been the Bobcats' fifth win over an FBS team. The last came in 2006 against Colorado.

    Arkansas State heads into its fifth consecutive year with a new head coach, as Blake Anderson comes over from North Carolina's staff to take over for Bryan Harsin (now at Boise State). The Red Wolves were 8-5 a year ago and will look to make it 25 seasons since their last loss to an FCS team.

    ASU gives its latest new coach a victorious debut.

    Prediction: Arkansas State 30, Montana State 20

    Final: Arkansas State 37, Montana State 10

Southern at Louisiana-Lafayette

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Louisiana-Lafayette opened the 2009 season with a 42-19 win over Southern behind 283 passing yards and two touchdowns from Chris Masson.

    What to watch for

    Southern was 9-4 last season and won the Southwestern Athletic Conference, but it started the year with a 62-13 loss at Houston. The Tigers are 0-9 all-time against the FBS ranks.

    Louisiana-Lafayette also won nine games in 2013, its third straight year with that total, to become one of the most consistent mid-major teams in the country. The Ragin' Cajuns won the Sun Belt title last year and behind a veteran corps of players could finally get to 10 victories.

    The first one comes Saturday.

    Prediction: Louisiana-Lafayette 44, Southern 20

    Final: Louisiana-Lafayette 45, Southern 6

Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Texas State

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Arkansas-Pine Bluff was 2-9 last season, beginning with a 62-11 loss at Arkansas State. The Golden Lions have only played three games against FBS teams and are winless in those forays.

    Texas State was 6-6 in its second season of FBS play but didn't get picked for a bowl game out of the Sun Belt. The Bobcats were only able to win four games against the upper division when in FCS, but since moving up they've gone 2-0 in such clashes.

    Texas State has plenty of winnable games on its schedule this fall, starting here.

    Prediction: Texas State 35, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 13

    Final: Texas State 65, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 0

Stephen F. Austin at No. 20 Kansas State

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 7:10 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Stephen F. Austin was 3-9 last season, which included a 48-point loss at Texas Tech. The Lumberjacks are 2-16 all time against FBS opponents.

    Kansas State was 2-4 at the midway point of 2013 before winning six of seven down the stretch to finish the year as one of the best teams in the country. But the Wildcats' season began with a harrowing loss to North Dakota State, their seventh loss to an FCS team but first since the late 1980s.

    K-State is much better at this point than it was a year ago, and with senior receiver Tyler Lockett playing like the best wideout in the country, another such upset isn't likely.

    Look for K-State to go in for the kill early and then cruise.

    Prediction: Kansas State 42, Stephen F. Austin 16

    Final: Kansas State 55, Stephen F. Austin 16

Fresno State at No. 15 USC

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    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 7:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: USC routed Fresno State 45-20 in last December's Las Vegas Bowl, getting 345 yards and four passing touchdowns from quarterback Cody Kessler.

    What to watch for

    Fresno State went 11-2 last year, winning its first 10 games and setting itself up to be a BCS buster before losing to San Jose State in its regular-season finale. Then the Bulldogs lost to USC in the Las Vegas Bowl, ending Derek Carr's prolific career on a low note. Duke transfer Brandon Connette moves into the quarterback role.

    USC fired its coach in September, had injuries pop up all year long and still managed to win 10 games. New coach Steve Sarkisian inherits a very talented lineup, led by Kessler and plenty of offensive weapons, plus big names on defense like tackle Leonard Williams and safety Su'a Cravens.

    USC is better than it was last December, while Fresno State is worse. You do the math.

    Prediction: USC 38, Fresno State 17

    Final: USC 52, Fresno State 13

Southern Mississippi at Mississippi State

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 7:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Mississippi State edged Southern Mississippi 13-10 in September 1990, the last time these programs played after facing off for 16 consecutive seasons from 1975 to 1990.

    What to watch for

    Southern Mississippi is coming off the second-worst season in school history, a 1-11 mark that followed the worst record the Golden Eagles ever posted (0-12) in 2012. USM lost 23 consecutive games before blowing out UAB to end last season, a minor piece of momentum for this program to try to build on in Todd Monken's second season on the job.

    Mississippi State won its final three games to finish 7-6 in 2013, knocking off Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl and then crushing Rice in a bowl game. Dual-threat quarterback Dak Prescott could be the biggest single offensive X-factor in the SEC this fall.

    This old rivalry has been renewed, and the series dominance will be shifted back to the Bulldogs like it was prior to 1977.

    Prediction: Mississippi State 38, Southern Mississippi 21

    Final: Mississippi State 49, Southern Mississippi 0

UTEP at New Mexico

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Kasey Carrier ran for 291 yards and four touchdowns, including a score in overtime to give New Mexico a 42-35 win at UTEP last September. It was the first meeting between the schools since 2010 but the 77th all time.

    What to watch for

    UTEP was 2-10 last season, its worst record in a decade and eighth straight losing mark. The Miners haven't won consecutive games since October 2011.

    New Mexico was 3-9 a year ago, with all of its wins coming against teams with two or fewer victories themselves. The Lobos had an efficient run game that averaged 309 yards per contest, but they couldn't throw effectively and were even worse playing defense.

    This is a hold-nothing-back game for both teams, as it's one of the few either has a chance to win this season.

    Prediction: New Mexico 41, UTEP 31

    Final: UTEP 31, New Mexico 24

North Texas at Texas

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Texas crushed North Texas 56-7 in 2006, improving to 9-0 all time against the Mean Green.

    What to watch for

    North Texas reached its first bowl game since 2004 last season, handling UNLV in the Heart of Dallas Bowl to finish 9-4. The Mean Green lost a significant number of contributors from that team but should still be looking at another bowl bid this winter.

    Texas ushers in the Charlie Strong era after 16 seasons being led by Mack Brown. The program has been on a downswing since reaching the BCS title game after the 2009 season and finished 8-5 last year after a 1-2 start.

    The Longhorns have a healthy David Ash back at quarterback and some nice running backs, while their defense has the potential to be good for the first time in a while.

    Texas gets things started on a high note for Strong.

    Prediction: Texas 41, North Texas 17

    Final: Texas 38, North Texas 7

North Carolina Central at East Carolina

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    North Carolina Central was 5-7 last season, starting with a 45-0 loss at Duke. The Eagles are winless in five tries all time against FBS teams.

    East Carolina won 10 games in 2013 and heads from Conference USA into the American with a senior QB-WR tandem that rivals any in the country. Quarterback Shane Carden has thrown for more than 7,200 yards with 56 touchdowns the past two seasons, while receiver Justin Hardy has 266 catches for 3,047 yards and 25 TDs in three years with the Pirates.

    Expect big offensive numbers from ECU as it works on timing ahead of big games against South Carolina, Virginia Tech and North Carolina.

    Prediction: East Carolina 58, North Carolina Central 13

    Final: East Carolina 52, North Carolina Central 7

No. 1 Florida State vs. Oklahoma State (in Arlington, Texas)

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Florida State beat Oklahoma State 34-23 to take the 1985 Gator Bowl.

    What to watch for

    Florida State is the defending national champions, heading into the fall off a 14-0 season capped with a 34-31 win over Auburn in the title game. The Seminoles have a great shot to repeat thanks to the return of sophomore quarterback Jameis Winston, the reigning Heisman winner, as well as a stellar mixture of veterans, key reserves and high-value newcomers.

    Oklahoma State won 10 games in 2013 but has to replace its quarterback, its best receiver and several notable defensive contributors. The Cowboys were a game away from playing in a BCS game last season but instead head into this neutral-site contest on a two-game losing streak.

    This won't be a lopsided game by any means, but while it's more of a challenge than FSU faced in most weeks in 2013, it also will not be anywhere near the Seminoles' toughest game.

    Prediction: Florida State 31, Oklahoma State 17

    Final: Florida State 37, Oklahoma State 31

No. 14 Wisconsin vs. No. 13 LSU (in Houston)

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 9 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: LSU downed Wisconsin 27-7 in 1972, one of two meetings all time between the programs. The Tigers won the other clash the year before, 38-28.

    What to watch for

    Wisconsin went 9-4 last season, going from an outside candidate for a BCS spot to a team ending on a two-game losing streak by falling at home to Penn State and then to South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. The Badgers will be missing some key players from a year ago, but they still have prolific running back Melvin Gordon working alongside new quarterback Tanner McEvoy.

    LSU has newcomers and inexperienced backups set to play all over the field in this opener, but that's the case in nearly every season for the Tigers. Graduation and NFL early entry raids the roster each season, but great recruiting has prevented that from being an issue, as can be seen by going 44-9 the last four years.

    Les Miles still hasn't chosen between sophomore Anthony Jennings and freshman Brandon Harris for his quarterback, but his backfield is sure to include No. 1 overall recruit Leonard Fournette.

    Both teams have a lot of questions heading into this game, and LSU looks like it has more of the answers.

    Prediction: LSU 27, Wisconsin 23

    Final: LSU 28, Wisconsin 24

No. 25 Washington at Hawaii

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 10:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Keith Price threw for 315 yards and four touchdowns as Washington jumped out to a 21-0 lead and held on for a 40-32 win over Hawaii in September 2011.

    What to watch for

    Washington won nine games last season, its best output since going 11-1 in 2000. That success enabled Steve Sarkisian to land the USC job, but the Huskies made a great trade-off by plucking Chris Petersen from Boise State. This year's Washington team lacks veterans on offense is but very experienced and solid on the defensive side.

    Hawaii lost its first 11 games in 2013 before beating Army in the finale, ending the program's worst season since 1998. The Warriors are always tougher at home than on the mainland, but the last few years that advantage hasn't been there.

    Washington is starting sophomore Jeff Lindquist at quarterback with Cyler Miles suspended for the opener. That one personnel move won't dictate the outcome, but it will affect it.

    Prediction: Hawaii 30, Washington 24

    Final: Washington 17, Hawaii 16

South Dakota at No. 3 Oregon

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Aug. 30; 10:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    South Dakota was 4-8 last season, with one of its losses coming at Kansas. The Coyotes are 1-5 all time against FBS opponents, their lone victory coming in 2010 against Minnesota.

    Oregon has won at least 10 games each of the past six seasons, claiming 67 victories during that span. With Marcus Mariota back at quarterback, the Ducks will once again be a contender not only for the Pac-12 title but for the first-ever College Football Playoff semifinals. He isn't the only key player, not with several potent running backs and a defense that features the nation's best shutdown corner in senior Ifo Ekpre-Olomu.

    Oregon has won all 10 games it has played against FCS teams, and most of them haven't been close after the first quarter. That will again be the case Saturday night.

    Prediction: Oregon 56, South Dakota 10

    Final: Oregon 62, South Dakota 13

Utah State at Tennessee

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Sunday, Aug. 31; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Utah State reached the Mountain West title game and then beat Northern Illinois in the Poinsettia Bowl last season, doing most of that after dynamic quarterback Chuckie Keeton went down with a season-ending knee injury.

    Keeton is back and ready to bust out again this fall, and the Aggies should not only contend for the MWC title again but also be in the running for the at-large spot the College Football Playoff committee is giving out to a non-power program.

    Tennessee was 5-7 in 2013, Butch Jones' first season, and he brought in an enormous recruiting class that ranked seventh nationally and featured more than a dozen early enrollees who should have an impact this fall.

    The Volunteers went with experience at quarterback with senior Justin Worley, but Brad Bobo of KNEA 970 AM tweeted that Jones plans to play up to 30 freshmen in the opener.

    Utah State and its mostly white uniforms will shock the six-figure orange-clad crowd in Neyland Stadium.

    Prediction: Utah State 30, Tennessee 27

    Final: Tennessee 38, Utah State 7

SMU at No. 10 Baylor

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    Ed Zurga/Associated Press

    When: Sunday, Aug. 31; 7:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Baylor got 341 yards and four passing touchdowns from Nick Florence in a 59-24 win over visiting SMU to open the 2012 season.

    What to watch for

    SMU has been very average under coach June Jones since he came from Hawaii, but it fell to 5-7 last season after moving from Conference USA to the American. The Mustangs, as all Jones-coached teams, were pass-dominant and will be again this year with sophomore Neal Burcham taking over for the graduated Garrett Gilbert. He'll have plenty of targets, led by junior Darius Joseph.

    Baylor unveils swanky new McLane Stadium with another high-powered offense, again led by senior quarterback Bryce Petty and a treasure trove of skill weapons. The Bears defense also looks good and may be the key to winning the Big 12 and getting into the College Football Playoff.

    Expect a lot of points, but the vast majority going to the home team.

    Prediction: Baylor 55, SMU 24

    Final: Baylor 45, SMU 0

Miami (Fla.) at Louisville

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    When: Monday, Sept. 1; 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Teddy Bridgewater threw for 447 yards and three touchdowns, and Louisville held Miami to 174 total yards to cap a 12-1 season with a 36-9 win over the Hurricanes in last December's Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando.

    What to watch for

    Week 1 ends six days after it starts with an intriguing ACC matchup that marks the league debut for Louisville and is also a rematch of last season's Russell Athletic Bowl.

    Miami fell apart in the second half of last season after running back Duke Johnson broke his ankle. He's back and should be at 100 percent, poised for his best year yet. Coach Al Golden has tabbed true freshman Brad Kaaya to start at quarterback ahead of Kansas transfer Jake Heaps. Not to be forgotten, though, is a defense that features one of the nation's top linebackers in Denzel Perryman.

    Louisville, moving over from several dominant years in the Big East/American, transitions from Charlie Strong's defense-first approach to Bobby Petrino's uptempo style. Petrino won big with the Cardinals when he was in charge in the mid-2000s, but he goes into this game without his top returning weapon after receiver DeVante Parker broke a bone in his foot and was ruled out for six to eight weeks.

    Last year's Labor Day game was the coming-out party for another quarterback from a Florida school (Jameis Winston of Florida State), and this time Kaaya will use the spotlight to shine. But not enough to win.

    Prediction: Louisville 28, Miami 24

    Final: Louisville 31, Miami 13

    Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.