College football is finally ready to start its season on Aug. 29, and not a minute too soon. After another rough college football offseason, including the Johnny Manziel mess and 30 minute suspension, the actual games are the best temporary cure for the NCAA. Fortunately, the first week of the season offers a few marquee games to kick it all off.
To many, the college football season really won’t start until Manziel’s Texas A&M Aggies host the No. 1, two-time defending champion Alabama Crimson Tide on Sept. 14. That game may decide who plays in the final BCS title game in four months, even if losing to the Aggies didn’t stop the Tide last season. But now that Manziel will be eligible to play in that showdown after all, the countdown is back on.
However, Manziel and the Aggies aren’t the only stories of college football’s opening week. Here is a list of the premiere games for week 1 of the season, which includes an early top 10 showdown and the debut of Heisman favorites other than the defending champion.
North Carolina vs No. 6 South Carolina: Aug. 29
The college football season starts with the return of the most hyped player in the sport other than Manziel. South Carolina Gamecocks’ defensive end Jadeveon Clowney got on the national map with a gigantic hit in the Outback Bowl, and now he begins a full fledged Heisman campaign against the North Carolina Tar Heels on Aug. 29. As for the Gamecocks, they want an SEC and BCS title game campaign to go with it.
No. 5 Georgia vs No. 8 Clemson: Aug 31
The Bulldogs and Tigers offer the first top 10 showdown of the season on Aug. 31. Yet Georgia and Clemson still have work to do to be considered real championship contenders, despite their respective No. 5 and No. 8 preseason rankings. Since both of them have failed to reach the elite for years — with the Bulldogs coming five yards short of being the Tide for the SEC crown last year — this is a real put up or shut up season for each program.
Virginia Tech vs No. 1 Alabama: Aug. 31
The Tide can bring an end to the BCS by winning its last three championships. The two-time champions start out by facing the rebuilding Virginia Tech Hokies on Aug. 31, then embark on a two week rest before their rematch with Manziel in College Station.
No. 12 LSU vs No. 20 TCU: Aug 31
LSU doesn’t come in as the top threat to Alabama in the SEC for once. But since the Tigers are under the radar, perhaps they’ll be better equipped to make a move — although equally under the radar TCU could trip them up right off the bat.
Buffalo vs No. 2 Ohio State
Urban Meyer still hasn’t lost a game as coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes. However, he has also never coached a game in which the Buckeyes are eligible for the postseason. Now that the Buckeyes’ probation is over, Meyer can really get started as the No. 2 Buckeyes open up against Buffalo.
No. 19 Boise State vs Washington: Aug 31
The BCS’s biggest Cinderella has one more chance to crash college football’s biggest party. The Broncos come into this year at No. 19, although that can change by running the table while everyone else collapses. That formula hasn’t actually worked in three years, but the Broncos can start anew by beating the Washington Huskies on the road.
Rice vs No. 7 Texas A&M: Aug 31
After halftime of Texas A&M’s opener against the Rice Owls, Manziel will return to the field and his autograph scandal will be over — at least officially.
The Aggies will then go back to waiting impatiently for the Tide’s visit two weeks later, as a victory there will really wash away this difficult offseason — or make it more controversial to those who believe Manziel shouldn’t be eligible for that game, or any others.