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Jack Freifelder | | September 3, 2016

College football: Games to watch in Week 1

College Football Playoff Predictions for 2016

Students return to school, textbooks fly off the shelves and the college football pundits of the world sharpen their pencils getting ready to take notes on the nation's best. The wait is almost over, which means college football is just about back y'all.

Before everyone gets caught up in the hype of predicting who will be hoisiting the various trophies at season's end, there's plenty of football that needs to be played. Some teams have a chance to make a real statement in their opener, while other squads will be looking to justify their respective preseason hype.

Full Week 1 schedule & scoreboard

One thing is for sure; you've got to pace yourself, people. It's a long season and there's no need for anyone to catch a silly injury from too much channel surfing. That said, there are definitely a few games to key in on for the first weekend of action.

Let's take a look at what this week has to offer.

Oklahoma vs. Houston: Saturday, Sept. 3, at NRG Stadium (Houston, 12 p.m. ET, ABC)

Oklahoma Football: Mayfield forces 2OT

All eyes will be on the quarterback matchup when Houston meets Oklahoma, and most can’t be blamed for being glued to the screen when Baker Mayfield of Greg Ward Jr. have the ball in their hands.

Related: 7 things to know about the Houston-Oklahoma game

Both QBs can put up points in a hurry, but the stakes are sure to be high in what is a “neutral site” matchup — the game is being held at NRG Stadium in Houston, the home of the NFL’s Houston Texans.

Sure Oklahoma could weather a loss and still make an appearance in the College Football Playoff at season’s end, but an "L" for Houston pretty much makes the Playoff a pipe dream. Both defenses will have to work in this one, that’s for sure.

Georgia vs. North Carolina: Saturday, Sept. 3, at Georgia Dome (Atlanta, 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Get your popcorn, or um, your waffle fries ready for this one. It’s going to be fun when the Bulldogs and Tar Heels face off from the Georgia Dome for the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game.

Both teams come off successful seasons in 2015, but their respective campaigns ended on decidedly different notes (UGA won five in a row while UNC lost two straight). 

If things had gone a bit differently, UNC had an outside shot at the College Football Playoff, if not for a late-season loss to Clemson in the ACC Championship

  Nick Chubb (27) and the Bulldogs will take part in this year's Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game against UNC.
Nick Chubb has been cleared to play for Georgia, which will be music to the ears of the Bulldogs faithful after his injury last year, but a reunion with backfield mate Sony Michel could be a few weeks away. More to the point, UGA’s opener could be overshadowed by a potent UNC squad.

MOREHolcomb's trip from walk-on to UNC starting LB

UNC will start the season with junior QB Mitch Trubisky under center, but he’ll have a full complement of skill position players to help shoulder the load. RB Elijah Hood returns along with wideouts Mack Hollins and Ryan Switzer.

Switzer, the senior from Charleston, W.Va., has posted solid numbers in his three years at wide receiver under the tutelage of head coach Larry Fedora. Entering 2016 he stands one punt return touchdown away from the all-time record (8), so don’t be surprised if we see UNC try to spring the senior wideout in the kicking game.

USC vs. Alabama: Saturday, Sept. 3, at AT&T Stadium (Arlington, Texas, 8:00 p.m. ET, ABC)

Two of the most successful programs in college football history will meet in Week 1 when the Trojans take on the Crimson Tide. When the defending Champs take the field, most eyes will be watching.

  Nick Saban and his Alabama Crimson Tide will open the season with a matchup against USC.
A primetime matchup on Saturday night will be the first stage that Alabama must perform on to justify their No. 1 ranking as they begin their title defense (Alabama has won three of the last five titles).

Alabama’s vaunted defense (14.4 points per game in 2015) will go up against a potent offense for USC (35.1 ppg) in this one, but some questions will likely swirl around the quarterback play on both sides of the ball. USC will trot out new starting quarterback Max Browne — despite his relative inexperience — and Alabama is determing whether to go with Cooper Bateman or Blake Barnett against USC.

If things start slowly it could be a long day head coach Clay Helton and the Trojans, but rest assured USC understands the importance of a Week 1 matchup with the defending champs.

Clemson vs. Auburn: Saturday, Sept. 3, at Jordan-Hare Stadium (Auburn, Ala., 9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

This matchup doesn’t have as much to offer as some of the other battles in Week 1, but a chance to watch a Heisman hopeful in Deshaun Watson is a good reason to tune in to see Clemson in action.

College Football: 5 best quarterbacks of 2016
Auburn is coming off a middling 7-6 result from a year ago, while Clemson made it all the way to the national championship game before losing to eventual champion Alabama.

Dabo Swinney will lead his bunch into this one with the bitter taste of last year’s defeat still in their mouths, which could mean a bad day is in store for Auburn and head coach Guz Malzahn.

Auburn gave up a whopping 27 points a game last year, a total that Clemson failed to reach in only three games a year ago (mind you they won all of those matchups).

As a result, there’s little reason to believe that Clemson is going to take it easy on Auburn, or any opponent from the SEC for that matter. In fact, this battle could serve as a warning to all SEC and power conference teams that Clemson is back on the warpath.

Ole Miss vs. Florida State: Monday, Sept. 5, at Florida Citrus Bowl (Orlando, 8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Of all the Week 1 matchups to watch, this could be the game with the most immediate implications for the College Football Playoff.

A meet up between No. 4 and No. 11 (FSU and Ole Miss, respectively) will draw a lot of eyeballs around the country. Win and you stay in the hunt, lose and you are left crossing your fingers on the outside looking in at the Playoff.

This would have been a battle between senior quarterbacks, but FSU’s Sean Maguire will have to wait a few weeks for his 2016 debut after suffering a foot injury in training camp. Enter redshirt freshman Deondre Francois, who gets the opportunity to match wits with Mississippi’s Chad Kelly.

Ole Miss Football: Kelly 27-yd TD
The offenses are not the only thing to watch in this game because the defenses will be on trial too. FSU and Ole Miss each play in conferences with a lot of firepower, so this will be a good measuring stick to see where the other stands.

Remember the last time Florida State started a redshirt freshman at quarterback? Well, it ended with a perfect season and a national championship trophy. Just saying.

Honorable mentions:

LSU v. Wisconsin: Saturday, Sept. 3, at Lambeau Field (Green Bay, Wis., 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

Any time spent watching Leonard Fournette run the ball is time well spent. And the icing on the cake here is the added benefit of playing at the iconic home of the NFL's Green Bay Packers.

RELATED:  5 best running backs of 2016

UCLA v. Texas A&M: Saturday, Sept. 3, at Kyle Field (College Station, Texas, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

Sophomore QB Jake Rosen looks to follow-up on last year’s campaign with another stellar year for UCLA.

MORE:  Rosen finds Fuller for 21-yd TD 

First up, head coach Kevin Sumlin and his Texas A&M Aggies.

Notre Dame v. Texas: Sunday, Sept. 4, at Royal Texas Memorial Stadium (Austin, Texas, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

Notre Dame’s dueling quarterback scenario will not just be a problem in-house, it’s now a problem for the rest of college football. There could be some fireworks here if this one gets out of hand early.

RELATEDWill Notre Dame make the Playoff?

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