1. LSU vs. Alabama
If you love defensive football, then this game is for you!
To me, this classic rivalry epitomizes all that is great about the game of college football. From the intensity on and off the field, this battle leaves the college football fan wanting for more after the game has been decided.
Each team brings it in terms of physicality each and every season. For fans that love hitting and a blue collar style of play, this game should satisfy your taste buds.
Last season, LSU lost 10-0 in a classic defensive match-up. Both teams laid it on the line in Death Valley and Alabama was able to win with a late fourth quarter touchdown run by Jalen Hurts.
LSU struggled in stretching Alabama's secondary vertically once again and left the Tigers trying to figure out a way to move the football against the Crimson Tide defense. If LSU wants to make a title run in 2017, the road will lead through Tuscaloosa as both teams square off in November with possible SEC West implications on the line.
Since 2011, Alabama is 6-0 against LSU and have won those games by a total score of 140-63 or 12.8 points per game.
Alabama won 14 games in 2016 against 13 FBS opponents (USC, Western Kentucky, Ole Miss, Kent State, Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, Texas A&M, LSU, Mississippi State, Auburn, Florida and Washington) with a combined overall record of 103-65 or .613%. The Crimson Tide won those games by a total score of 520-157 or 27.9 points per game. Alabama also defeated Chattanooga (FCS) by a score of 31-3 last year.
LSU won 8 games in 2016 with 7 wins (Mississippi State, Missouri, Southern Miss, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Texas A&M and Louisville) against FBS opponents with a combined overall record of 46-43 or .516%. The Tigers won those games by a total score of 269-116 or 21.8 points per game. LSU also defeated Jacksonville State (FCS) by a score of 34-13.
LSU's four losses in 2016 to Wisconsin, Auburn, Alabama and Florida were a combined 42-13 overall or .763%. The Tigers lost those games by a total of 23 points or 5.7 points per game.
2. Alabama vs. Florida State
Nick Saban against Jimbo Fisher-nothing better!
What a way to kick off the season than with this classic SEC vs. ACC match-up. This can make or break each team's possible run to a national championship and could propel either team to a number one ranking once the polls are released.
The match-up to watch will be both quarterbacks, Jalen Hurts (Alabama) and Deondre Francois (Florida State).
Both players have had big game experience in 2016 and will look to kick start their sophmore campaigns off in a big way against each other. While Alabama has defeated teams like Wisconsin, Virginia Tech, Michigan and USC on week one in recent years-this will be the toughest test for each team over the last five years to start the season. This game is must watch television for any college football fan.
Alabama has won 15 straight opening season week one games by an average margin of victory of 25.4 points per game. The Crimson Tide's last loss came in 2001 at home to the UCLA Bruins.
Since 2007, under Nick Saban Alabama is 5-1 against the ACC and have won those games by a total score of 210-97 or 22.6 points per game. The loss to Clemson in the National Championship game was the Tide's first against the ACC since Saban took over.
Since 2010, Florida State has won 7 straight opening season week one contests by an average margin of victory of 34.4 points per game.
Since 2009 under Jimbo Fisher, the Seminoles are 9-1 against the SEC and have won those games by a total score of 276-137 or 15.4 points per game. Only loss against SEC under Fisher came in 2012 against the Florida Gators (37-16).
The Seminoles last week one loss came in 2009 to the Miami Hurricanes (38-34) in Tallahassee.
Florida State won 10 games in 2016 against 9 FBS opponents (Ole Miss, USF, Miami, Wake Forest, N.C State, Boston College, Syracuse, Florida and Michigan) with a combined overall record of 69-46 or .600%. The Seminoles won those games by a total margin of 315-180 or 15.0 points per game. Florida State also defeated Charleston Southern (FCS) 52-8 last year.
Florida State lost three games to Louisville, North Carolina and Clemson (all ACC opponents) who were a combined 31-10 in 2016 or .756%.
3. Ohio State vs. Michigan
After last season's controversial ending this game should have huge ramifications at the end of the season for 2017.
In case you missed last year's classic grudge match-the Wolverines appeared to have stopped the Buckeyes on a fourth down attempt in overtime. However, measuring the football and reviewing the play, the Buckeyes maintained possession and went on to score the decisive touchdown on the ensuing play.
Ohio State won 30-27 and found their way into the 2016 College Football Playoff, while Michigan was on the outside looking in.
The loss left Michigan head coach, Jim Harbaugh, fuming and complaining about the officiating. For Ohio State and their head coach, Urban Meyer, the win solidified his legacy as one of the best head coaches in the game today.
For 2017, the stakes should be very high and with the game being played in Ann Arbor-expect drama. Enough said!!!
Since 2011, Ohio State is 5-1 against Michigan and have won those games by a total score of 182-130 or 10.4 points per game.
Ohio State won 11 games in 2016 (Bowling Green, Tulsa Oklahoma, Rutgers, Indiana, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Nebraska, Maryland, Michigan State and Michigan) against FBS opponents with a combined overall record of 79-60 or .568%. The Buckeyes won those games by a total score of 491-146 or 31.3 points per game.
Ohio State lost two games in 2016 to Penn State and Clemson who had a combined overall record or 25-4 or .862%.
Since 2012 under head coach, Urban Meyer, Ohio State is 40-3 or .930% against Big 10 opponents and have won those games by a total score of 1,683-800 or 22.0 points per game.
The Wolverines started out 9-0 in 2016 and won those games by an average margin of victory of 37.3 points per game.
Michigan won 10 games in 2016 (Hawaii, UCF, Colorado, Penn State, Wisconsin, Rutgers, Illinois, Michigan State, Maryland and Indiana) to FBS opponents with a combined overall record of 65-66 or .496%. The Wolverines outscored those opponents by a total score of 452-106 or 34.6 points per game.
Michigan lost three out of their next four to end the season against Iowa, Ohio State and Florida State losing by a total of 5 points. Those opponents had a combined overall record of 29-10 or .743%.
4. Florida State vs. Clemson
It all started with the famous "Puntarooski" in 1988 with legendary Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden. This is a classic rivalry that has it all-uniforms, tradition, atmosphere and of course-players.
Both teams have solidified themselves as the top teams within the conference over the last five seasons. While schools like Louisville and Virginia Tech have narrowed the gap, both the Seminoles and Tigers have the talent to compete with the best in the nation.
Even though Clemson loses a ton of offensive talent this upcoming season, all roads lead through Death Valley as the defending champs will be looking to retain their title.
Florida State has lost the last two against the Tigers by a total of 13 points. In 2015, Clemson won by a score of 23-13. Seminoles running back, Dalvin Cook, was stuffed on a critical fourth down play which allowed Clemson to seal the victory.
In 2016, Clemson quarterback, DeShaun Watson, engineered a two minute drive which resulted in the go ahead touchdown to tight end Jordan Leggett. Clemson won 37-34 despite Dalvin Cook's four touchdown runs in the game.
This year, the Seminoles will have the offensive advantage with sophmore Deondre Francois taking the Seminoles high octane offense into Death Valley. Most likely, ACC Championship implications will be on the line for both teams in this contest.
This rivalry oozes college football with the pageantry and great players that have showcased their talent in this great rivalry. Players like Deion Sanders, Charlie Ward, Warrick Dunn, Tim Jones, Brian Dawkins, Nealon Greene, Raymond Priester and many more.
Since 2003, Clemson is 8-6 against the Seminoles and have won those eight games by a total score of 247-163 or 10.5 points per game.
However, since 2010, Florida State is 4-3 against the Tigers and have won those games by a total score of 139-81 or 14.5 points per game.
Florida State rushed for 1,490 yards (212. yards per game) with 17 touchdowns in their first 7 games of 2016 (5-2 record). That total came against opponents with a combined overall record of 49-28 or .636%. The Seminoles won those four games by a total score of 137-94 or 10.7 points per game.
The Seminoles rushed for 1,138 yards (189.6 yards per game) with 16 touchdowns in the team's last six games of 2016 (5-1 record). That total came against opponents with a combined overall record of 51-28 or .645%. The Seminoles won those five games by a total score of 178-86 or 18.4 points per game.
Florida State completed 60% of their passes for 1,901 yards (271.5 yards per game) with 11 touchdowns and 4 interceptions in their first seven games of 2016. The Seminoles averaged 33.1 passes per game during that span.
The Seminoles completed 54% of their passes in the team's last 6 games of 2016 for 1,532 yards (255.3 yards per game) with 12 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. The Seminoles attempted 31.5 passes per game during this span.
Clemson won 14 games in 2016 against FBS opponents (Auburn, Troy, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Boston College, NC State, Florida State, Syracuse, Wake Forest, South Carolina, Virginia Tech, Ohio State and Alabama) with a combined overall record of 112-59 or .654%. The Tigers won those games by a total margin of 487-227 or 18.5 points per game.
Clemson also defeated SC State (FCS) by a score of 59-0 in 2016.
The Tigers lone loss came to Pittsburgh (8-5 overall) by a score of 43-42 in Death Valley. The Tigers went on to claim their first National Championship since 1981.
5. Louisville vs. Florida State
This game will feature Lamar Jackson and Deondre Francois. The defending Heisman Trophy winner going up against the sophmore phenom that could take home the hardware this upcoming season.
This game features top coaches Florida State's Jimbo Fisher and Louisville's Booby Petrino. If the Cardinals are going to continue to make a move in the ACC, they will need to win on the road in a hostile environment.
Last year, Jackson ripped the Seminoles on the ground and through the air en route to a dominating 63-20 win over the Seminoles in Louisville. While the Cardinals dominated in all facets of last year's battle, expect the Seminoles to be chomping at the bit with revenge on their mind.
This game expects to have fireworks in Doak Campbell Stadium and expect the fans in Tallahassee to torment Lamar Jackson throughout the night. Florida State defense came on at the end of last year winning five straight games to end the season. Louisville jumped out to a fast start in 2016 and lost three straight to end the year at 9-4.
Since 2014, Florida State is 2-1 against the Cardinals and have won those games by a total score of 83-52 or 15.5 points per game.
Louisville won 9 games in 2016 against FBS opponents (Charlotte, Syracuse, Florida State, Marshall, Duke, N.C State, Virginia, Boston College and Wake Forest) with a combined overall record of 48-64 or .428%. The Cardinals won those games by a combined score of 460-161 or 33.2 points per game.
The Cardinals lost four games to Clemson, Houston, Kentucky and LSU by a combined score of 148-93 or 13.7 points per game. Those four opponents had a combined overall record of 38-15 or .716%.
Lousiville rushed for 1,997 yards (285.2 yards per game) with 27 touchdowns in their first 7 games of 2016 (6-1 record). That total came against opponents with a combined overall record of 46-43 or .516%. The Cardinals won those games by a total score of 332-117 or 35.8 points per game.
The Cardinals rushed for 1,018 yards (169.6 yards per game) with 10 touchdowns in the team's last six games of 2016. Those opponents had a combined overall record of 40-36 or .526% and Louisville was 3-3 in those contests. Lousiville won those 3 games by a total score of 128-44 or 28.0 points per game. The Cardinals lost those 3 games during that span by a total score of 106-57 or 16.0 points per game.
6. Oklahoma vs. Ohio State
When both teams squared off in Norman last year, it was the first time the Sooners were underdogs in 91 straight home games. After the 45-24 blowout loss, it looked like the Sooners were cooked for the 2016 season as the Buckeyes exposed every one of Oklahoma's weaknesses.
However, OU head coach Bob Stoops kept the team focused and they responded with 10 straight wins, culminating in a dominating 35-19 bowl win over SEC opponent Auburn.
Just weeks ago, though, Stoops resigned and Lincoln Riley (offensive coordinator) has taken over the reigns for the program heading into the 2017 season. While Riley was one of the best young coordinators in college football over the past couple of seasons, he is still only 33 years of age. There will be more responsibility on him as the head coach as opposed to game-planning the offensive scheme. If he can pull off the road upset here against Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes, the Sooners could gain serious momentum heading into Big 12 play in October and could be serious contenders for a playoff berth.
While Ohio State will have the home field advantage, the Sooners will not go into this game thinking they've already won it. Last year, the Sooners were over-confident and seemed to take the Buckeyes lightly, calling out their defense as "basic".
Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield struggled in the game, throwing two interceptions while completing only 53% of his passes. On the flip side, Ohio State quarterback J.T Barrett embarrassed the Sooners' secondary, tossing four touchdown passes to wide receiver Noah Brown. Over half of Brown's touchdown production (7 receiving touchdowns) was achieved in the win in Norman.
Expect both coaches to have the intensity ramped up for this game. Riley will be looking to add an important win on the road against a Big Ten opponent while Urban Meyer will somehow make the Buckeyes feel that they are the underdog in this battle. Remember, the last time the Bucks took the field, they were SHUT OUT by Clemson and Meyer flatly stated, "This will NEVER happen again." Can't wait!
Oklahoma won 11 games in 2016 against FBS opponents (La. Monroe, TCU, Texas, Kansas State, Texas Tech, Kansas, Iowa State, Baylor, West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Auburn)with a combined overall record of 69-69 or .500%. The Sooners won those games by a total score of 527-297 or 20.9 points per game.
Oklahoma lost 2 games last year to Houston and Ohio State who were a combined 20-6 overall or .769%. The Sooners were outscored by a total margin of 78-47 or 15.5 points per game.
Since 2011, Oklahoma is 18-6 or .750% against out of conference opponents (includes bowl games and FCS). The Sooners have those games by a total margin of 773-273 or 27.7 points per game.
7. Texas vs USC
A rematch of the 2006 Rose Bowl when the Longhorns stunned the Trojans to win the National Championship.
Texas has new head coach, Tom Herman, who will be looking to knock off USC on a national stage in prime time. Texas has taken a back seat in recent years under former head coach, Charlie Strong (USF head coach)-losing top 10 games to teams with lesser talent the Longhorns.
At Houston, Herman knocked off teams like Oklahoma, Louisville and Florida State and led the Cougars to national prominence in just over two seasons at the helm. During his tenure at Houston, Herman was 22-5 or .814 as the leader of the team.
On the flip side, USC will be looking to keep the momentum going from last year. USC started out 1-3 but was able to reel off nine straight wins under freshman quarterback-Sam Darnold.
USC's Clay Helton saved his job turning to Darnold in week four last year against Utah. USC was blown out by the Crimson Tide 52-6 in week one last year and will be looking to knock off the Longhorns to establish themselves as the team to beat in the PAC-12 this year.
This game will feature both Darnold and Texas quarterback, Shane Buechele, who completed over 60% of his passes with 21 touchdowns in 2016.
Expect both teams to be fired up as this can catapult each into a possible playoff spot at the end of the year. Even though USC defeated Washington last season, this will be the most significant win in Helton's career as well as the most significant win since the 2008 season.
In 2015, Texas lost 7 games by a combined total of 273-146 or 127 total points (18.1 points per game). In those losses, the Longhorns defense allowed 39 points per game.
In 2016, Texas lost 7 games by a combined total of 247-185 or 62 total points (8.8 points per game). In those losses, the Longhorns defense allowed 35 points per game.
Texas was 1-5 on the road or on a neutral field site in 2016. The Longhorns lost their seven games in 2016 by a total of 62 points or 8.8 points per game.
Texas won 5 five games (Notre Dame, UTEP, Iowa State, Baylor and Texas Tech) in 2016 against FBS opponents with a combined overall record of 23-38 or .377%. The Longhorns outscored those opponents by a total score of 198-131 or 13.4 points per game.
Texas lost 7 games (CAL, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Kansas State, West Virginia, Kansas and TCU) to FBS opponents with a combined overall record of 53-36 or .595%.
USC had 10 wins in 2016 against FBS schools with a combined overall record of 50-65 or .434% (Utah State, Colorado, Arizona, CAL, Arizona State, Oregon, Washington, UCLA, Notre Dame and Penn State).
Since 2006, USC is 10-1 on week one of the college season and has won those contests by an average margin of 31.8 points per game. The Trojans lost last season to Alabama 52-6 breaking the string of consecutive week one game wins.
8. Michigan vs. Florida
Another solid week one match-up and rematch of the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl in which the Wolverines dominated the Gators by a score of 41-7.
If the Wolverines are a contender this season they must win this game. With the disappointing bowl loss to Florida State (33-32), Michigan must rebound and get back on track to start the 2017 season off with a quality win.
For the Florida Gators, expect the team to show a better effort than they did at the end of the 2015 season when both teams squared off in Orlando. All eyes will be on the Gators offense as fans will see which quarterback can win the starting job.
Luke Del Rio has had more off-season surgery on his shoulder and those close to the program believe that one of the younger players could win the job this upcoming fall. The Gators struggled with offensive balance over the past two seasons but have relied on their defense to carry them to two consecutive SEC East titles.
Michigan head coach, Jim Harbaugh, will want to dominate this game over the SEC especially since he has called out the conference in recent years. The Wolverines lose their top defensive player in Jabril Peppers along with running back De'Veon Smith, wide receiver Amara Darboh and tight end Jake Butt.
The pressure will be on quarterback Wilton Speight to carry the offense in the first month of the season while younger players get playing time.
The stakes will be high in this game and both teams will be focused and ready for battle.
Under Jim Harbaugh, Michigan is 7-2 against FBS non-conference opponents (includes bowl games) and have won those games by a total score of 294-66 or 32.5 points per game.
Under Jim McElwain, Florida is 6-3 against FBS non-conference opponents (includes bowl games) and have won those games by a total score of 198-61 or 22.8 points per game.
9. West Virginia vs. Virginia Tech
This former rivalry from Big East members kicks off in week one of 2017. This is a solid Big 12 vs. ACC clash to amp up the college football fan early on in the year.
While both teams lose major offensive talent, both teams will want to start their year off with a solid win to kick-start their 2017 campaigns.
Dana Holgorsen squares off against Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente. Fuente is the young gun that had brought success to Memphis and restored enthusiasm in Blacksburg last year.
West Virginia is coming off of an impressive 10-3 season which was the team's best effort since Holgorsen arrived in Morgantown in 2011 (10-3 in 2011).
West Virginia started the 2016 season with quality wins over BYU, Kansas State and TCU which had the team sitting at 6-0. However, the team would drop games to Oklahoma State and Oklahoma which dashed their playoff hopes at the end of the season. The Mountaineers would end their 2016 season on a negative note losing to Miami in their bowl game 31-14.
West Virginia was outscored by a total score of 124-62 or 20.6 points per game in those three losses.
The Mountaineers seem to be inching closer to the top of the Big 12, however, this game is critical for national recognition in terms of recruiting. A solid win over the Hokies could make this team a sleeper in the Big 12 and could help propel the team to a title run this season.
On the other hand, Fuente led the Hokies to a 10-4 record and an appearance in the ACC Championship against Clemson last season.
This game will feature similar offensive styles in the spread but give the early edge to Virginia Tech's defense led by defensive coordinator-Bud Foster.
The Hokies ended their 2016 season with a come from behind win over Arkansas in the Belk Bowl (35-24). The Hokies trailed 24-0 at halftime before making the necessary adjustments to reel off 35 unanswered points. The defense recorded six sacks of Austin Allen and tormented the Razorbacks offensive line in the second half.
Virginia Tech will want to continue the momentum from last year's season. A quality win over West Virginia will look great on their resume as they look to make a return to the ACC Championship this season.
West Virginia won 10 games in 2016 against 9 FBS opponents (Missouri, BYU, Kansas State, Texas Tech, TCU, Kansas, Texas, Iowa State and Baylor) with a combined overall record of 50-62 or .446%. The Moutaineers won those games by a margin of 305-167 or 15.3 points per game. West Virginia also defeated Youngstown State (FCS-runner-up 2016) by a score of 38-21.
West Virginia lost three games in 2016 to Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Miami. Those teams were a combined 30-9 overall in 2016 with a winning percentage of .769%. The Mountaineers were outscored by a 124-62 margin or by an average margin of defeat of 20.6 points per game.
Virginia Tech defeated nine FBS opponents (Boston College, East Carolina, North Carolina, Miami, Pittsburgh, Duke, Notre Dame, Virginia and Arkansas) in 2016 who had a combined overall record of 52-61 or a .460%. The Hokies won by a total score of 358-158 or 22.2 points per game. Virginia Tech also defeated Liberty (FCS) last season by a score of 36-13.
Three of the Hokies four losses in 2016 came on the road or on a neutral field site. Virginia Tech lost to Tennessee, Syracuse, Georgia Tech and Clemson who had a combined overall record of 34-19 in 2016 or .641%. The Hokies were outscored in those games by a margin of 148-96 or 13.0 points per game.
10. Clemson vs. Auburn
Both teams played in week one of the 2016 season with Clemson prevailing on the Plains by a score of 19-13.
Auburn will be looking to start September off in a big way with a win over the defending champs. This is a great ACC vs. SEC showdown at the start of the year and will have college football fans watching to see if both teams are legit contenders this season.
Head coach Gus Malzahn was on the "hot seat" last season and most certainly is again after a disappointing 8-5 season in 2016. Auburn lost to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl by a score of 35-19 and has failed to beat arch rival Alabama the past three seasons.
Expectations are soaring on the Plains with the addition of former Baylor quarterback, Jarrett Stidham, transferring to the program. If Stidham can win the job, he will give the Tigers the ability to stretch opposing defenses vertically. This was an area that the team struggled in recent years with quarterback Sean White.
Meanwhile, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has brought home a national championship to Death Valley. All Swinney does is win and he has owned Auburn in recent years along with others from all the major conferences. Swinney is a player's coach that brings "SWAG" to his program and has everyone buying into his methodology.
However, this could be Swinney's toughest coaching challenges as he loses his starting quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end along with others on the defensive side of the ball.
If the Tigers are to keep the momentum rolling from last year, they need to win this game. A loss will have many critics saying that the ACC's success in the bowl season last year (9 wins) was an aberration. A win, however, could make the ACC the "BMOC" for the second straight season.
Since 2011, Clemson is 3-0 against Auburn and has won those games by a total score of 83-56 or 9.0 points per game.
Auburn's last win over Clemson came in 2010 (head coach-Gene Chizik) by a score of 27-24.
Since 2009, Clemson is 22-11 or .666% against FBS out-of-conference opponents and have won those games by a total score of 768-399 or 16.7 points per game.
From 2014-2016, Clemson is 12-2 or .857% against FBS out-of-conference opponents and have won those games by a total score of 413-179 or 19.5 points per game.
Auburn won 8 games in 2016 against 7 FBS opponents (Arkansas State, LSU, LA-Monroe, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt) with a combined overall record of 44-44 or .500%. The Tigers outscored those opponents by a total score of 339-96 or 34.7 points per game.
Auburn lost 5 games in 2016 to opponents with a combined overall record of 55-14 overall or .797%. The Tigers lost those games by a total score of 126-67 or 11.8 points per game.
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