It’s a bittersweet week here at Clear Your Schedule. This is the first year in my time here that we will not have a weekly SEC feature — and some of you let me know your disappointment around that development — but I assured you then and will assure you now that we will still talk SEC football in this space. In fact, if you scroll down a bit, you’ll see that we will mention a little bit of Paul Finebaum’s favorite conference right here.
I am looking forward to being hammered on which six games make it here each week, especially early in the season. I may omit your preferred game a few times, and I’ll apologize in advance. Oh, no trivia question — yet. If you’d like a trivia question in these columns, let me know in the comments section.
Also, one note on our weekly picks contest. Please note that this is not sponsored by, endorsed by, or maybe even condoned by FBSchedules.com. This is another way for the site’s readers to have a more interactive weekly experience and collect some bragging rights. Our good friend Paul Swaney over at Stadium Journey has expressed some interest in a small congratulatory offering to the winner, and if a) we go forward with those plans and b) the highly unlikely event of my winning the contest occurs, any prize we offer would go to the second-place winner. Stay tuned for details!
To join us and make your picks — even if all you want is to tell me that you beat me — click this link. You will be able to pick each game until it starts (for instance, our first game locks Thursday night, but you should be able to pick Saturday’s games until they kick off). It may be better to pick them all at once, just to be sure.
Without further ado, here we go!
Keyword Search (all times Eastern and rankings AP)
#2 TCU at Minnesota
9:00pm (Thursday) | ESPN
- Don’t be a stranger: TCU and Minnesota play in consecutive seasons after having gone 40 years between their first two meetings. The Gophers defeated the Horned Frogs 9-7 in the Land of 10,000 Lakes in 1974, while TCU returned the favor with a 23-point defeat of Minnesota in Fort Worth last year. Big 12 Preseason Offensive Player of the Year Trevone Boykin completed 27-of-46 passes for 258 yards and two scores in the victory, adding 92 rushing yards on 12 carries.
- A string of success: Gary Patterson has never lost a regular-season game in four tries against Big Ten teams as TCU’s head coach. He’ll face good friend Jerry Kill for the second time in an attempt to extend his streak. Kill was part of Patterson’s wedding, and both men played for current Texas State coach Dennis Franchione (at different schools) while in college.
- Double “dos”: Minnesota has not played the second-ranked team in 16 years. The Golden Gophers edged out a one-point victory against Penn State in Happy Valley in November of 1999. With two other ranked teams on Minnesota’s schedule (#1 Ohio State and #20 Wisconsin), this might not be the last chance for the Gophers to face a team with that ranking in 2015.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Boykin and Minnesota’s Mitch Leidner will make for a fun battle of dual-threat QBs. A Gopher win would change the landscape.
Louisville vs. #6 Auburn (Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic)
3:30pm | Georgia Dome (Atlanta, Ga.) | CBS
- Hello again: It seems forever ago that this happened, but Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino has quite the experience with Auburn. Petrino was the offensive coordinator at Auburn for one season (2002) before becoming the head coach at Louisville. Petrino then interviewed at Auburn after one year at Louisville — except the Tigers had not yet decided to move on from then-coach Tommy Tuberville. Petrino would go on to have an ill-fated tenure with the Falcons before returning to the college ranks at Arkansas and eventually Louisville (again).
- Shooting for 90 percent: Auburn will try for its ninth win in its last ten season-openers, with a 26-19 loss to Clemson in 2012 the only blemish on the Tigers’ record in openers since 2006. The only meeting between the Cardinals and Tigers took place in 1974, which was also a season-opener. Auburn won that contest 16-3 at Birmingham’s Legion Field.
- Uncertainty under center: Louisville had three quarterbacks see significant — and productive — time at the quarterback position in 2014. Will Gardner (127-221, 1669 yards, 12 TD), Reggie Bonnafon (61-120, 864 yards, 5 TD) and Kyle Bolin (45-78, 716 yards, 3 TD) all turned in a significant number of snaps. Gardner and Bolin are the more traditional passers, while Bonnafon also offers an appreciable rushing threat (72 carries, 164 yards, 5 TD). Auburn’s Jeremy Johnson will draw just the third start of his college career, and the sophomore (28-37, 436 yards, 3 TD in 2014) is already garnering significant national attention.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Louisville will look quite different without DeVante Parker, Gerod Holliman and the like. This is a tough draw against the team from the Plains.
#15 Arizona State vs. Texas A&M
7:00pm | NRG Stadium (Houston, Tx.) | ESPN
- Facing the hometown team: Sophomore Aggie quarterback Kyle Allen will face off against one of the clubs from his home state in this contest. Allen threw for 1,322 yards last season, completing 118-of-192 passes. Allen attended Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale, completing 542-of-814 career passes for 8,201 yards and 86 touchdowns in three varsity seasons. Freshman wide receiver Christian Kirk and sophomore defensive end Qualen Cunningham are also Arizona natives.
- Feels like the first time: Arizona State will try for their first victory against a current SEC school. The Sun Devils have been dealt six losses by conference clubs, including two each by Georgia and Arkansas, one by LSU and the most recent, a 24-20 loss to Missouri on September 15, 2012.
- Just call them “A&M”: Texas A&M’s sports information department notes that the Aggies will face zero opponents from the Lone Star State in 2015. This is the first time in the school’s 110-plus years of varsity football that this has happened.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Arizona State may be the ranked team here, but look out for the Aggies. ASU winning in the Aggies’ back yard would be a “statement” win.
Texas at #11 Notre Dame
7:30pm | NBC
- Milestones: Should Texas defeat Notre Dame Saturday, this would be a significant victory for the Longhorns on two fronts. First, a Texas victory would tie the Longhorns with the Fighting Irish for second place in all-time program victories (882). Further, a Longhorn victory would be the first for the school in South Bend in 81 years (just the second overall).
- Don’t you know what the night can do?: This will be just the 12th night game played at Notre Dame Stadium. The Fighting Irish have lost only to Miami (31-13 in 1984) and USC (31-17 in 2011) under the lights in South Bend. The first-ever night game was played on September 18, 1982, and resulted in a 23-17 win (in regulation — thanks, amigo!) for the Fighting Irish.
- A blessing and a curse: The team with the higher national ranking has won just two of the seven teams played between the schools. Texas was the last higher-ranked team to win in the series, as the #1 Longhorns defeated the #5 Irish 21-17 in the 1970 Cotton Bowl to claim the national championship.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Charlie Strong needs a “signature” win to get the Texas faithful excited. The Irish don’t want to see their title hopes vanish in week one.
#20 Wisconsin vs. #3 Alabama (AdvoCare Classic)
8:00pm | AT&T Stadium (Arlington, Tx.) | ABC
- Successful sixties: Only seven Power Five schools have won 60 or greater games over the last six seasons. Alabama tops that list with 72 victories; however, Wisconsin also appears on that list. The Badgers have won 60 games over the last six seasons, and have won 10 or more games in six of the last 10 seasons.
- Born to run — or not: Though single-game rushing record holder Melvin Gordon has graduated from Wisconsin and headed to the NFL, this will be a battle of wills. Wisconsin boasted the nation’s fourth-best rush offense last year, toting the pigskin for an average of 320.14 yards per game. However, Alabama featured the fourth-best rush defense last season, surrendering just 102.43 yards per game. Alabama’s season-high rushing output allowed was Ohio State’s 281 yards in the championship game. Wisconsin eclipsed that total eight times last season, including a season-high 644 in a 68-17 win over Bowling Green.
- No two in a row…please?: Alabama will be looking to avoid back-to-back losses to Big Ten schools for the first time in 11 years. The last two Big Ten schools to consecutively beat Alabama were Michigan in the 2000 Orange Bowl and Minnesota in the 2004 Music City Bowl. Wisconsin, however, would be okay with continuing their streak. The Badgers claimed a 34-31 overtime victory over Auburn in the 2015 Outback Bowl, their last contest against an SEC club.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: This has all the makings of a game decided in the final two minutes. If Wisconsin can establish the run, they may pull the upset.
#1 Ohio State at Virginia Tech
8:00pm (Monday) | ESPN
- The big payback: Ohio State enters the season with the longest active FBS winning streak (13 games). That last loss? Virginia Tech, who handed the Buckeyes a 35-21 gut punch in Ohio Stadium on September 6, 2014. Despite that loss, Ohio State still enjoys the best home winning percentage of any Power 5 team over the last 20 years, winning 121 of their 137 games in the Horseshoe. Virginia Tech ranks sixth on that list, having put 105 of their 128 contests during that span in the left-hand column.
- Grin and Barrett: Virginia Tech held J.T. Barrett to just a 9-for-29 performance in last season’s Buckeye loss. The Hokies’ pass defense allowed the lowest pass completion percentage to opposing quarterbacks of any FBS team in 2014. Barrett’s 31 percent completion percentage against the Hokies is all the more eye-popping when you consider that his next-lowest completion percentage in any game last season was 60 percent (15-for-25) in a 31-24 victory over Minnesota.
- Looking out for number one: When Ohio State strides onto the Worsham Field grass next Monday night, they will be just the third top-ranked opponent to have done so. Virginia Tech’s only previous visits from number ones resulted in losses, both against Miami (43-23 in 1992 and 26-24 in 2001).
Print that, tweet that, whatever: On paper, this would appear to line up for a beatdown by Ohio State. However, the Hokies always look to make a statement in Blacksburg.