The first full weekend of the 2017 college football season has arrived. After 15 games on Thursday night, the rest of the weekend is packed, including Alabama-Florida State and Michigan-Florida on Saturday before the slate ends with the Labor Day clash between Georgia Tech and Tennessee.
What should you watch this weekend and who will win? Let's break down all of the key games as the season gets underway.
All times are Eastern, and within each time slot games are previewed in order of importance and watchability.
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Saturday Early Afternoon
Maryland at No. 23 Texas
Tom Herman makes his highly anticipated debut against a Terrapins squad that went bowling in D.J. Durkin's debut a year ago. Maryland did a solid job in getting to six wins, but it was blown out by all the top teams on its schedule. That raises a question: How quickly can Herman take Texas from middling to powerful? The Longhorns sneaked into the preseason AP top 25, and for good reason. They were young last year, and the season-long distraction of a coach on the hot seat is gone. This is Herman's team now, and Todd Orlando should immediately upgrade the defense, which gets back 13 of its top 15 tacklers. With the game on the road in Austin, it's a tough matchup for new Maryland QB Tyrrell Pigrome. Maryland is far from a lay-up easy Week 1 win for the Longhorns, but they'll have the strong offensive line and improved defense to comfortably win Herman's first game.
Pick: Texas 34, Maryland 16
Wyoming at Iowa
Noon, Big Ten Network
The last time Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen faced a Big Ten opponent, in his second game as starter, he completed 16 of 32 passes for 189 yards, one TD and five INTs in a 52-17 loss at Nebraska a year ago. Now, Allen heads to Iowa City in a much different position: He's the hyped NFL Draft prospect expected to be a top-10 pick in 2018. Watch Allen play, and it doesn't take long to see what NFL types love about him: He's 6-foot-5, 233 pounds. Under head coach Craig Bohl, he plays in a pro-style offense similar to the one Carson Wentz played in at North Dakota State. He has a huge arm, mobility and a knack for making impressive throws on the move. The raw talent and athleticism are there. Can he become more consistently accurate? Can he cut down on his mistakes? The first major test with the NFL Draft spotlight shining brightly on him comes against the Hawkeyes, who lost All-America CB Desmond King but are always tough defensively. Wyoming has a significant quarterback advantage in this game, but behind a veteran O-line, Akrum Wadley and Nevada transfer James Butler can win this game for the Hawkeyes on the ground.
Pick: Iowa 26, Wyoming 24
Kent State at No. 5 Clemson
Clemson opened with either Auburn or Georgia in four of the past five seasons, but it gets to ease in new quarterback Kelly Bryant and get some snaps for others, too, in Week 1 this year … before hosting Auburn next week. Kent State has an intriguing quarterback in versatile athlete Nick Holley, but the Golden Flashes have gone 12-35 the past four years, and he's about to run into the nation's most talented defensive line. With coach Paul Haynes on a medical leave of absence, Kent State offensive coordinator Don Treadwell is calling the shots for an unwinnable road game against the Tigers. Despite the loss of Deshaun Watson and some other key players, the defending national champions are still loaded with talent and will start strong.
Pick: Clemson 42, Kent State 7
Akron at No. 6 Penn State
The Nittany Lions enter the 2017 season in a much different position than last year, expected to get off to a much better start, too. They're ranked No. 6, their highest preseason ranking since 1999, with most of an explosive and entertaining offense returning. That's led by RB Saquon Barkley and QB Trace McSorley, with offensive line improvement that can set the stage for more consistently high performances. Akron is a common early-season opponent for Penn State, as this will be their sixth September meeting since 1999. The Zips are a middle-of-the-pack MAC team, and they're not capable of keeping pace with this Nittany Lions attack as Barkley begins his Heisman Trophy campaign.
Pick: Penn State 45, Akron 13
California at North Carolina
12:20 p.m., ACC Network
At least Cal is getting the 2017 versions of UNC and Ole Miss rather than the Tar Heels and Rebels we saw a couple years ago. Still, Justin Wilcox faces a brutal Year 1 at California: The Golden Bears play the Tar Heels and Rebels two of the first three games, and they draw USC and UCLA from Pac-12 South, on top of the tough North schedule. Making matters worse, this is a 12:20 p.m. ET kickoff … meaning it's 9:20 a.m. PT for Cal. Both teams replace drafted QBs -- UNC's Mitch Trubisky, Cal's Davis Webb -- and both have defensive questions, but the experienced Larry Fedora and UNC have the advantage at home.
Pick: North Carolina 37, California 24
Other ranked teams in action: Bethune-Cookman at No. 18 Miami (12:30 p.m., ACC Network)
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Saturday Late Afternoon
No. 11 Michigan vs. No. 17 Florida (at Arlington, Texas)
3:30 p.m., ABC
Earlier this week, we wrote about all the mysteries associated with this game: Michigan returns experience but technically only five starters and has several big holes to fill. It also didn't release a roster until this week and hasn't named a quarterback, even if Wilton Speight is unlikely to actually lose the job. Florida lost a ton on defense again, suspended a bunch of players including star WR Antonio Callaway and still had three quarterbacks vying for the starting job. Shortly after publishing, two things happened: Florida suspended starting tailback Jordan Scarlett, bumping the total count to 10, and coach Jim McElwain named redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks the starting quarterback.
One mystery may have been cleared up, and perhaps all the Week 1 attrition makes this game easier to predict. With Florida starting a QB who's never played before against an excellent Michigan defensive line, without his best receiver and best tailback, Michigan has one clear advantage here. Michigan is breaking in a new secondary, three new offensive line starters and a new receiving corps, though, against a Florida defense that is going to take a step back but is capable of being among the best in the SEC anyway.
Both offenses boast potential, but given all the unknowns, it's a lot easier to see defense controlling this game on both sides. The Florida suspensions and Michigan's D-line push this one in the Wolverines' favor.
Pick: Michigan 23, Florida 19
N.C. State vs. South Carolina (at Charlotte, N.C.)
3 p.m., ESPN
Jake Bentley looks like a rising star quarterback for South Carolina. After graduating high school a year early, he burned his redshirt halfway through his freshman season and mostly played well -- Clemson game aside -- in leading the Gamecocks to a bowl in Will Muschamp's first season as head coach. Bentley has a high ceiling, and he's surrounded by a solid supporting cast led by TE Hayden Hurst, WR Deebo Samuel and RB Rico Dowdle. There's a problem: Offensive line is still a possible weakness, and defensive line is by far N.C. State's biggest strength.
The Wolfpack are an experienced team in many places, but the No. 1 reason for their preseason sleeper buzz is a talented, senior-dominated defensive line featuring Bradley Chubb, B.J. Hill, Justin Jones and Kentavius Street (plus junior Darian Roseboro). They'll lean on that unit to control this game and aim for what would be an essential victory for Dave Doeren as he tries to get this potential breakthrough season off on the right foot.
Pick: N.C. State 30, South Carolina 24
Temple at Notre Dame
3:30 p.m., NBC
Two years ago, Temple-Notre Dame was so big that "College Gameday" made a surprise trip to Philadelphia for it. The Owls are coming off an AAC title but lost coach Matt Rhule, QB Phillip Walker and much of their defense; Notre Dame is coming off a 4-8 season and has all new coordinators around head coach Brian Kelly. There's a different feel to this one, with a ton of pressure on Notre Dame to show signs of a significant turnaround as it gets set to host Georgia next week. With Geoff Collins stepping in as head coach, Temple's defense will still be formidable, but Notre Dame's offensive line gives new QB Brandon Wimbush -- an excellent breakout candidate -- and offensive coordinator Chip Long a chance to start strong and generate some positivity around the Fighting Irish after their 2016 debacle.
Pick: Notre Dame 34, Temple 17
Western Michigan at No. 4 USC
5:15 p.m., Pac-12 Network
This would have felt bigger last year, when Western Michigan was 13-0 in the regular season and played in the Cotton Bowl. Alas, coach P.J. Fleck left, and even though the Broncos are still talented for a MAC squad, they have to rebuild their passing game without QB Zach Terrell and WR Corey Davis. Playing a playoff frontrunner with a Heisman Trophy favorite QB in Sam Darnold is not exactly an ideal first assignment for new Broncos coach Tim Lester. The focus is justifiably on Darnold, but watch out for a big game from USC tailback Ronald Jones II.
Pick: USC 38, Western Michigan 14
Troy at Boise State
3:45 p.m., ESPNU
This is one of the best all-Group of Five matchups of the season. Both teams have talented veteran quarterbacks, Troy's Brandon Silvers and Boise State's Brett Rypien. Troy is coming off a breakthrough 10-3 season in which it nearly upset Clemson, and Boise State is always one of the nation's top Group of Five teams. At home, with a more talented roster, Boise State is a clear favorite, but it has significant turnover on defense and also has to replace standout tailback Jeremy McNichols. The Trojans are a tough out with all of their offensive production back, and they'll push the Broncos on the blue turf.
Pick: Boise State 34, Troy 27
UTEP at No. 7 Oklahoma
3:30 p.m., Fox
There are two reasons to pay attention to this game: You want to watch Lincoln Riley's debut as Oklahoma's head coach. Or you really like offensive line play. That's about it, because this is mostly an opportunity for Baker Mayfield to start off strong and for Oklahoma to test out its new group of skill position players before going to Ohio State next week. The Sooners have arguably the nation's best offensive line, led by tackle Orlando Brown, and UTEP has one of the nation's top guards in Will Hernandez. That's about the one positive for the Miners here.
Pick: Oklahoma 52, UTEP 10
Other ranked teams in action: Stony Brook at No. 19 South Florida (4 p.m., ESPN3)
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Saturday Prime Time
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 3 Florida State (at Atlanta)
8 p.m., ABC
Based on the preseason AP poll, this is the biggest opening game ever. Never before has the opening weekend featured a game between No. 1 and another top-three team. This one happens to be at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, which is also home to the national championship game. The loser is certainly not eliminated from the playoff chase, so a rematch of these teams on Jan. 8 in the same stadium is plausible.
Over the years, Nick Saban has dominated his former assistants -- this is his first meeting with Jimbo Fisher, his offensive coordinator at LSU -- and he has also dominated season-openers. Alabama has played seven neutral site openers against power conference opponents under Saban; it has won those games by 24, 10, 27, 25, 10, 18 and 46 points. Of course, it's unlikely that any of those teams were as strong as Florida State is right now. This is a new kind of test, Alabama meeting a legitimate fellow playoff frontrunner, with plenty of Week 1 questions to answer. The Crimson Tide can be expected to reload quickly, but they must replenish their pass rush, and they're also seeking to expand their passing game against an FSU defense loaded with talent, including the return of star DB Derwin James from an injury.
If Alabama's defensive front plays up to its usual standard, it has the edge here. Offensive line has been a weakness for the Seminoles, and they'll be throwing new running backs -- Cam Akers and Jacques Patrick -- at the Tide defense while the questionable line tries to protect QB Deondre Francois.
Florida State is one of the few teams that can come close to matching Alabama's overall talent. Will Francois get enough help on offense, from both his line and receiving corps? It's possible, but it's a lot easier to be confident in Alabama being Alabama and the Crimson Tide winning this with their deep running game.
Pick: Alabama 28, Florida State 20
Appalachian State at No. 15 Georgia
6:15 p.m., ESPN
We have reached the 10-year anniversary of one of the most memorable upsets in college football history, an anniversary that will surely have Georgia paying attention this Saturday in Athens:
Appalachian State is an FBS team now, and a formidable one. The Mountaineers have gone 21-5 over the past two seasons, and they nearly upset Tennessee in the opener last year. There's no doubt that Georgia has to be careful here against the Sun Belt frontrunners. Appalachian State has an experienced roster, led by RB Jalin Moore and QB Taylor Lamb, and it's capable of taking advantage of any Week 1 sloppiness from Georgia. With that said, while Appalachian State nearly beat the Vols, it lost by 35 to Miami at home last year. Georgia has a massive talent advantage, especially with a defense capable of dominating this game. QB Jacob Eason and the O-line remain the center of attention for Georgia with plenty of room for improvement, but even if they get a scare here, the Bulldogs will hold on to win behind Nick Chubb and their ground attack.
Pick: Georgia 31, Appalachian State 21
No. 16 Louisville vs. Purdue (at Indianapolis)
7:30 p.m., Fox
Welcome back, Lamar Jackson. Louisville is only the second team ever to have a returning Heisman Trophy winner and start the season outside the top 10. It's no surprise, given how last season ended with three straight losses to Houston, Kentucky and LSU in which a lackluster offensive line fell apart. The line remains a massive question mark, but it won't matter much against Purdue. Former Louisville QB Jeff Brohm was an excellent choice as new head coach for the Boilermakers, but this is a big rebuilding job. Jackson can get back to doing what he did early last season and put on a show against an overmatched opponent.
Pick: Louisville 49, Purdue 20
Georgia Southern at No. 12 Auburn
7:30 p.m., SEC Network
With one game to prepare before next week's massive visit to Clemson, Auburn will gets it first look at Jarrett Stidham in a real game. The Baylor transfer QB joins offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey as newcomers to Gus Malzahn's offense, which hopes to become more consistently dangerous in the passing game, which, in turn, would open up even more room for Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson to run wild. Georgia Southern was a more dangerous opponent a few years ago, but it stumbled to 5-7 in Tyson Summers' first year as coach and has to rebuild its run game. Auburn has too much defensive talent for the Eagles to truly pose a threat here.
Pick: Auburn 45, Georgia Southern 13
Vanderbilt at Middle Tennessee
8 p.m., CBSSN
Vanderbilt decisively beat MTSU 47-24 last year, but this is a dangerous road trap for the Commodores. The last time the Commodores played in Murfreesboro, in 2015, they barely escaped with a 17-13 win. That was when star MTSU QB Brent Stockstill and WR Richie James were freshmen. Now, that prolific combination is seasoned, a pair of juniors hoping to lead the Blue Raiders to the Conference USA title under coordinator Tony Franklin, who's known for prolific offenses. Vandy has solid experience back beyond losing All-America linebacker Zach Cunningham, and its best hope is being able to control the line of scrimmage -- MTSU has a lot of turnover on both lines -- to open the door for a big game from tailback Ralph Webb. But we picked MTSU to win Conference USA, and will go with the slight upset.
Pick: Middle Tennessee 30, Vanderbilt 28
Arkansas State at Nebraska
8 p.m., Big Ten Network
It's the long-awaited first start for Nebraska QB Tanner Lee, who struggled in two years at Tulane but is being hailed as a possible NFL prospect and a better fit for Mike Riley's offense than Tommy Armstrong was. Arkansas State has been a consistently good Sun Belt program, but that hasn't carried over the nonconference play. There's some talent in the Red Wolves' defensive front -- led by Ja'Von Rolland-Jones and Dee Liner -- to give Lee an interesting test, but a new Arkansas State offensive line spells trouble in a Week 1 game against a Big Ten opponent.
Pick: Nebraska 38, Arkansas State 20
Other ranked teams in action: Central Arkansas at No. 20 Kansas State (7:10 p.m., ESPN3)
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Saturday Late Night
No. 13 LSU vs. BYU (at New Orleans, La.)
9:30 p.m., ESPN
The game originally scheduled for Houston was moved to the Superdome in New Orleans, where LSU will unveil a new-look offense under creative new coordinator Matt Canada, who transformed Pitt into an exciting big-play attack in 2016. LSU hopes to improve its passing game, but the most proven weapon, by far, is tailback Derrius Guice, who will be the foundation of the offense. The Cougars were underwhelming in their opener against Portland State last week, but they're strong on the offensive line and have a talented quarterback in Tanner Magnum, who will try to take advantage of the absence of star LSU pass rusher Arden Key, who's still working back from an injury. Last year, the Cougars played everybody close, and this will be an interesting test for LSU as the Ed Orgeron era truly begins. LSU is the deeper, more talented team, but BYU will push the Tigers.
Pick: LSU 27, BYU 20
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Texas A&M at UCLA
7:30 p.m., Fox
It's the Hot Seat Bowl, even if this game, individually, is unlikely to have a significant impact on the futures of coaches Kevin Sumlin and Jim Mora. There's obviously a lot of pressure on both, perhaps even more so on UCLA, as it is the home team facing a team playing with a new quarterback. Redshirt freshman Nick Starkel is the likely starter for the Aggies, while the Bruins welcome back prized QB Josh Rosen, who missed the second half of last year's fall to 4-8 with a shoulder injury but is one of the nation's most talented passers.
The Bruins offense was a mess in 2016, and Mora brought in Jedd Fisch from Michigan as the new offensive coordinator to fix a broken offensive line and running game. Things unfortunately got off to a rough start, as right tackle Kenny Lacy was lost for the season with an injury. Texas A&M lost both Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall at defensive end, but it still has some talent on the interior that poses a threat to this revamped offense. Still, expect Fisch to put Rosen in a much better position to succeed, and expect a solid UCLA defense to cause some trouble for the new Aggies quarterback. Texas A&M has been known for fast starts and rough finishes under Sumlin, but Rosen has a good chance to put the Aggies in a 0-1 hole this time.
Pick: UCLA 31, Texas A&M 27
No. 21 Virginia Tech vs. No. 22 West Virginia (at Landover, Md.)
7:30 p.m., ABC
This makes for a fascinating Sunday night matchup for a few reasons. West Virginia is probably a bit overrated as a top-25 team, with a lot of turnover on defense for the second year in a row. Last year, it won 10 games, but all three losses weren't close and it went 4-0 in games decided by one possession. Now, it breaks in a new passing game against a talented Virginia Tech defense boasting one of the nation's best secondaries.
However, that new quarterback is Will Grier, a talented transfer from Florida, who's poised for big things in the offense under Dana Holgorsen and Jake Spavital. Grier isn't exactly a proven veteran -- he's played only half a season -- but he's more seasoned that Virginia Tech redshirt freshman Josh Jackson, who will be playing in his first college game. This game features two excellent defensive coordinators in Virginia Tech's Bud Foster and West Virginia's Tony Gibson. WVU has the quarterback edge, but the Hokies have the defensive talent edge. Expect a down-to-the-wire game, but we'll give the advantage to Virginia Tech's secondary.
Pick: Virginia Tech 34, West Virginia 28
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No. 25 Tennessee vs. Georgia Tech (at Atlanta)
8 p.m., ESPN
After last season's disappointing finish, the pressure is on Butch Jones. It starts with the Labor Day prime-time spotlight game against the always tricky Georgia Tech option offense. The Vols will be missing injured LB Darrin Kirkland, and they also have some unexpected issues on the offensive line, in front of a new quarterback. That leaves a lot of unknowns. However, Georgia Tech is hardly proven, either. The Yellow Jackets will be breaking in a new quarterback, and top running back Dedrick Mills was kicked off the team in the preseason. That leaves Georgia Tech without its top three rushers from last year, including QB Justin Thomas.
This is nevertheless a tricky game for Tennessee with the disappointment from 2016 lingering, but it would be easier to feel confident in a Georgia Tech victory -- which would merely be a slight upset, playing at the nearby Mercedes-Benz Stadium -- if it didn't turn over the core of its option attack. For all his faults, Jones has recruited well, and talent can win out over a Georgia Tech option attack that won't be a well-oiled machine just yet.
Pick: Tennessee 27, Georgia Tech 24