College Football is officially back with a slate of some great opening weekend games, some of which already have playoff implications.
And there’s probably no team with a bigger weight on its shoulders than the University of Washington, the No. 6 team in the country, who’ll be facing off against No. 9 Auburn. The Huskies are not just trying to make a statement about their playoff credentials this year, they’re also playing in defense of the Pac-12’s sagging overall image.
Auburn vs. Washington Chick-fil-A Kickoff 2018 Hype The Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game is an annual college football game played on the opening weekend of the NCAA Division I FBS season in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. This year it will be hosted by Auburn University and The University of Washington.
Last year, the Pac-12 looked about as terrible as the thought of John Travolta playing John Gotti when they went 1-8 overall during the bowl season. But they could gain some instant credibility at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Saturday night in the weekend’s marquee matchup that features two Top 10 teams.
Although both squads are known for the offensive firepower and innovations that their head coaches, Gus Malzahn and Chris Petersen, are associated with, it’s the Auburn and Washington defenses that should take center stage in this game.
Auburn’s defense held opponents to just 18.3 points per game last year, and they’re led by the dynamic senior linebacker duo of Deshaun Davis and Darrell Williams, who combined for almost 140 tackles. They’ll certainly face a stern test from Washington quarterback Jake Browning, who’s entering his fourth year as the starter and widely regarded as one of the country’s top signal-callers in the nation.
As a sophomore in 2016, Browning passed for 3,430 yards and 43 touchdowns, with only nine interceptions. But last year, while missing some key offensive weapons, those numbers dipped to 2,719 yards and 19 scores. Look for speedster Chico McClatcher to emerge as one of his favorite targets, in addition to being one of college football’s most electric and exciting players.
Heralded as the “Fastest Running Back in High School Football” coming out of Federal Way, Chico McClatcher displayed the potential of his explosive playmaking ability and versatility as a freshman at the University of Washington–with many more big plays to come from him in the coming years.
Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham made a solid debut last year, but the big question this year is if he can take the next step.
Both teams also feature outstanding running attacks, with the Tigers averaging 218.3 rushing yards per game last year and the Huskies averaging 183.2.
Auburn is tasked with replacing its star ball carrier in Kerryon Johnson, who bolted for the NFL after running for 1,391 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. But the Tigers are always stocked with depth in the backfield, so look for Kam Martin, who rushed for 453 yards last fall, to step into the featured role. Another player who could emerge as a threat is redshirt freshman JaTarvious Whitlow.
Highlights from Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham’s week 13 performance against Alabama. Twitter: @SkyDesignsgfx Instagram: @skydesignsgfx
Because the Huskies play on the west coast, most casual fans don’t realize that for the past few years, they’ve boasted one of the country’s best running backs in Myles Gaskin. The senior has rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of his three seasons. Sophomore Salvon Ahmed, who averaged 6.4 yards per rush last fall, will also be prominently featured.
But due to the strength of both defenses, Auburn and Washington should be hard-pressed to find a lot of running room on Saturday night. The key could be how the Tigers offensive line holds up against the Huskies exceptional defensive line.
The other can’t miss opening weekend games are:
No. 14 Michigan Wolverines at No. 12 Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC
This will be the first time the college football Blue Bloods have met in four years. The signature game of college football’s first full weekend of action might have implications down the road when the playoff committee starts meeting.
Michigan brings back 10 starters on what was one of the toughest defenses in all of college football last year. They’re absolutely loaded with future NFL draft picks and All-American candidates, with the most prominent among them being New Jersey native Rashan Gary, who is an absolute terror on the defensive line.
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Notre Dame returns nine starters from a very good defense as well. Wolverines fans are excited to see the debut of quarterback Shea Patterson, an Ole Miss transfer who many believe will solve the problems that have plagued Michigan’s play at the QB position in recent years.
No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Louisville Cardinals (Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Florida)
Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, ABC
Alabama is the undisputed king of college football right now, and they’re gunning for back-to-back national titles and its sixth championship in nine years. Head coach Nick Saban is also going for what would be a remarkable seventh national title, which would set the all-time record.
All eyes will be on who lines up under center for the Crimson Tide. Jalen Hurts has a remarkable 26-2 record as a starter. The SEC Offensive Player of the Year as a true freshman was relegated to the background though after Tua Tagovailoa replaced him in the second half of the national championship game against Georgia, where his performance and touchdown pass to win the game in overtime made him an instant legend.
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Louisville must replace the incomparable Lamar Jackson, college football’s most exciting quarterback since Michael Vick. Given the strength of Alabama’s defense, will see if redshirt sophomore Jawon Pass is up to the task.
No, 8 Miami Hurricanes vs. No. 25 LSU Tigers (AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas) Sunday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC
The Hurricanes won their first 10 games last year, but they fell off faster than Luniz after they dropped I Got Five On It by losing to Pittsburgh, Clemson and Wisconsin in their final three contests.
“I Got 5 on It” is a hip hop song by hip hop duo Luniz, taken from their album Operation Stackola. It features vocal contributions from R&B singer Michael Marshall. The song has become their most famous to date, and helped make Operation Stackola their best-selling album. No copyrights intended.
Both programs feature prominent defenses and are looking to return to the elite status reserved for the likes of Alabama, Clemson, Georgia and Ohio State nowadays.
No. 20 Virginia Tech Hokies at No. 19 Florida State Seminoles, Monday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
The Hokies return 12 starters from a team that started 7-1 last year before losing three of its last five games. Their marquee player is quarterback Josh Jackson, who passed for 2,991 yards and 20 touchdowns last year as a freshman.
New Florida State head coach Willie Taggart is only the third head man that the program has had in the last 42 years.
The best of FSU RB Cam Akers from the 2017 college football season. SUBSCRIBE: http://bit.ly/Oqg3iE The ACC Digital Network (theACCDN) is a joint venture between Stadium, and Raycom Sports, a long-time television producer and partner of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The Seminoles bring back 12 starters, with probably the most important being quarterback Deondre Francois, the 2016 ACC Offensive Rookie of the Year during his freshman season who missed all of last year after suffering an injury against Alabama in the opening game.
The player to watch is Florida State’s Cam Akers, who had an exceptional freshman campaign last year.