August 8, 2013
Thursday, Aug. 29
North Carolina at South Carolina (-11.5)
These two schools used to meet regularly but this will be the first meetings since 2007. South Carolina will be opening its season without its top rusher, receiver, and top four tacklers from a year ago. UNC finished 7-2 in its final nine games of 2012 and HC Larry Fedora is in his second season with 13 returning starters, including top quarterback Bryn Renner (28 TD & 7 INT last season). North Carolina has dropped five straight games against ranked opponents. Three of those losses were by single digits and all were by an average of 10.4 points per game. South Carolina has won 13 straight season openers. Five of those wins were against BCS schools by an average of 16.4 points per game.
Utah State at Utah (-4.5)
Utah State won at home against Utah last season to snap a 12-game series losing streak. The Aggies went on to win the WAC and bowl game, finishing with an 11-2 record. Fourteen starters return, including star QB Chuckie Keeton, all five offensive linemen, and seven defenders. But gone is head coach Gary Anderson (left for Wisconsin). Last year Utah finished with its first losing season since 2002. The Utes have just 12 returning starters from that squad. They’ve won five straight home openers by an average of 20 points per game.
Ole Miss at Vanderbilt (1.5)
Vandy has won three straight and four of the last five years against Ole Miss. Vandy went on a 79 yard, nine play TD drive with :52 seconds remaining to beat the Rebels by one point. Ole Miss returns an astonishing 19 starters from a year ago and brought in one of the nation’s top recruiting classes. Vanderbilt is off of its 2nd winning season since 1982 and just its third bowl victory of all time. The Commodores return 13 starters from last year, including six of its top seven defenders. But they lost their top two offensive players from last year, QB Jordan Rodgers and RB Zac Stacy.
Saturday, Aug. 31
Purdue at Cincinnati (-14)
The only previous meeting between these two was in 2001 and it’s also the last time Cincinnati dropped its home opener. Cincy finished 10-3 last year with a bowl victory. HC Butch Jones departed for Tennessee and Tommy Tuberville was named as the replacement. The Bearcats open this season as hefty 14-point favorites over Big Ten Purdue. The Boilers also have a new head coach after firing Danny Hope. Darrell Hazell takes over after coaching at Kent State the previous two seasons. Purdue returns eight starters on defense but just five on an offense that really struggled in 2012. Their top two quarterbacks, top rusher, and top receiver all have to be replaced. Purdue is just 1-6 in its last seven road openers, losing by an average of 7 points per game.
Northern Illinois at Iowa (-6.5)
Iowa is 8-0 all-time vs. NIU, winning by an average of 27 points per game. However, this isn’t the typical Huskies squad. The Huskies only regular season loss last season was by one-point to these Hawkeyes and they went on to play in their first BCS Bowl Game (21-point loss vs. Florida State). They are no stranger to the Big Ten either. NIU has played seven Big Ten opponents over the last five seasons and has a 6-1 ATS record in those games. They return MAC Player of the Year QB Jordan Lynch (44 total touchdowns in 2012) and will be a handful for the Hawkeyes.
Oklahoma State (-13) vs. Mississippi State (Houston, Texas)
Mississippi State returns its QB, all five starting linemen, and top five rushers from a year ago. The Bulldogs will be breaking in an entirely new receiving corps after losing its top four pass-catchers. This will be MSU’s first BCS-conference regular season opponent since hosting Georgia Tech in 2009. Oklahoma State has 15 returning starters and is 4-1 in its last five games against BCS-conference opponents (only loss was last year at Arizona).
Alabama (-18) vs. Virginia Tech (Atlanta, Georgia)
Alabama has lost just five regular season games over the past five seasons, and none of those were against non-conference opponents. They are 20-0 in non-conference play over that span, including 6-0 both SU and ATS against BCS-conference opponents (winning by an average of 24.5 points per game). Virginia Tech is off of its first non-10-win season since 2003. Nine starters return on defense and Logan Thomas returns at QB after a sub-par season. V-Tech has only been a 17+ point underdog twice in the 2000’s and is 8-1 ATS under those circumstances in the Frank Beamer era.
Georgia at Clemson (-2)
Clemson is off of one of its best seasons in recent memory. The Tigers finished 11-2 with a bowl win over LSU. Their only two losses were at #4 Florida State and vs. #13 South Carolina. ACC Player of the Year Tajh Boyd returns (46 total touchdowns last year) to pilot this offense. Clemson has won nine straight home openers by 21 points per game. Its last loss was in 2003 against these Georgia Bulldogs. This will be just the third time in the last 19 years that Georgia opens the season on the road. They are just 2-2 in their last four openers, losing at #9 Oklahoma State in 2009 and against #5 Boise State in 2011 (neutral site).
TCU (+5) vs. LSU (Arlington, Texas)
TCU will get back QB Casey Pachall this season, who was suspended after four games in 2012. He has 35 touchdowns and 8 interceptions over the past two seasons as the Horned Frogs’ starting QB. TCU has won nine of its last 13 against ranked opponents, but finished just 2-3 against ranked foes last season. The Horned Frogs are also 13-4 SU against non-conference BCS foes since 2005. LSU has won 10 straight season openers. Six of those wins have come against BCS teams including #3 Oregon, #18 North Carolina, and #15 Arizona State.