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Courtney Martinez | | February 9, 2016

7 reasons why college football Week 1 is going to be great

High Five: Best College Football Towns

It's the time all college football fans dread: the offseason. Even though spring practices are around the corner, fans have to wait seven more months until a regular season game graces their television screens again.

But fear not for September isn't that far away and it promises to be well-worth the wait. From coaching debuts to top 25 programs clashing, the opening week of games in 2016 will deliver plenty of excitement.

Here are seven reasons why Week 1 could prove to be one of the greatest in recent memory:

1. There are plenty of familiar faces in new places.

New eras will commence for 27 FBS programs that made coaching changes in 2015. Two of the most eagerly awaited debuts are Georgia's Kirby Smart and Miami's Mark Richt.

It's hard not to have high expectations for both Richt and Smart given their resumes. Richt returns to his alma mater after spending 15 years at Georgia, while Bulldogs alum Smart coached Alabama's defense to the 2015 national championship. There is no question Smart has the toughest matchup in his first game with Georgia set to face North Carolina in Atlanta. Richt and the Canes host Florida A&M.

South Carolina's Will Muschamp and Virginia Tech's Justin Fuente will have tough shoes to fill after Steve Spurrier and Frank Beamer both stepped down in 2015. The Gamecocks travel to Nashville to face division foe Vanderbilt while Virginia Tech hosts Liberty in Fuente's Lane Stadium debut.

2. College football shines on an international stage.

Georgia Tech has never played a game outside the country before, but the Yellow Jackets will have their chance against Boston College in Dublin, Ireland on Sept. 3. The game is the ninth to be played in Ireland and the seventh between two FBS opponents. Boston College defeated Army 38-24 in its first and only previous visit to Ireland in 1988.

ACC fans will want to set their alarms early with this game set to kickoff at 7:30 a.m. Eastern (12:30 p.m., local time).

But it's not the only international game on the radar. Cal and Hawaii will take their teams down under with the season opener in Sydney, Australia, on Aug. 27. The contest marks the first college football game ever played in Sydney and the first in Australia since 1987.

3. It's the Tide vs. the Trojans in Jerry World.

Alabama will start to defend its national championship against USC at AT&T Stadium in the Cowboys Classic. It will be the first time since 1978 that the Tide and Trojans have faced one another during the regular season. The Trojans edged the Tide 24-14 but both teams later split the national title.

Alabama holds a 5-2 series lead, but there is no doubt these are two of the top programs in college football history. Alabama and USC have combined for 27 national championships and eight Heisman Trophy winners.

The other big storyline will feature Tide offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin facing his former team and alma mater. It's sure to be the biggest game of the week.

4. Notre Dame and Texas meet in Austin.

Alabama-USC isn't the only season opener between powerhouse programs. Notre Dame will travel down to Texas for a battle with the Longhorns for the second straight season. Notre Dame thrashed Texas 38-3 in South Bend, so the Longhorns don't want a repeat in 2016.

It is the first time the Fighting Irish have played in Austin since 1996. Notre Dame kicked a game-winning field goal as time expired in the 27-24 shocker over Texas.

5. The Badgers and Tigers meet at one of football's historic stadiums.

For the fourth time in its history, Lambeau Field will host a college football game. But Wisconsin and LSU are the first FBS programs to compete at the home of the Green Bay Packers. It is the third straight season opener for Wisconsin in a NFL stadium. The Badgers and Tigers are pretty familiar with playing each other in NFL stadiums too.

Two years ago, LSU defeated Wisconsin 28-24 at Regent Stadium in Houston. Leonard Fournette served as LSU's No. 2 running back and had only eight carries for 18 yards in that game, so it will be fun to see what he does against the Wisconsin the second time around.

6. Auburn and Clemson clash on the Plains.

Just seven months after facing Alabama, Clemson will start the 2016 season against the Tide's biggest rival in Auburn. Both Tigers haven't faced one another in four years but the series goes back to 1899 and this year's game will mark the 50th meeting between the two.

Clemson returns many players from its 2015 ACC Championship team, including star quarterback and Heisman contender Deshaun Watson. Many believe Clemson will be the preseason No. 1, so it will be no easy feat for Auburn, who holds the series record 34-13-2.

7. Teams won't shy away from tough nonconference games.

Most schools aren't usually known for scheduling tough games right off the bat in Week 1. But the 2016 schedule is throwing that assumption out the window.

Stanford and Heisman contender Christian McCaffrey host Kansas State in a rare Friday night game. Pac-12 and SEC go head-to-head when Texas A&M hosts UCLA. BYU new coach Kalani Sitake doesn't have an easy first game facing Rich Rodriguez and Arizona at Phoenix Stadium.

Houston and Oklahoma both had terrific outings in 2015. They play each other at Houston's Regent Stadium and all eyes will be on the Baker Mayfield vs. Greg Ward Jr. quarterback battle. To top everything off, Chad Kelly and Ole Miss have the toughest matchup against Florida State in Orlando on Labor Day night.

With this monster slate set for Week 1, there is no telling what surprises are in store for the fans in 2016. Now, all we have to do is wait 208 days.


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