Bama, Auburn, LSU, UGA highlight Saturday TV games

Bama, Auburn, LSU, UGA highlight Saturday TV games

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Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney speak after the 2016 national title game. Alabama plays Southern Cal and Clemson plays Auburn as the season gets underway. (Source: AP/David J. Phillip) Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney speak after the 2016 national title game. Alabama plays Southern Cal and Clemson plays Auburn as the season gets underway. (Source: AP/David J. Phillip)

(RNN) - The SEC and all those other conferences resume football hostilities this Saturday and wow. Just wow.

Look at all these inter-conference showdowns that will impact the entire season - and it’s week one!

TV and live streams, Safari and Bing, these are a few of my favorite things.

No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 20 Southern Cal (AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX)

Alabama’s a big betting favorite and the line shot up three points from a 9-point spread in a little over 48 hours.

That’s curious. Bama, as usual,has no clear-cut starting QB for opening day. The two who’ll play the most are freshman Blake Barnette and junior Cooper Bateman, who in his career has thrown 52 passes, 37 of which were caught by friendly forces. He's thrown one touchdown with two interceptions. Highly-touted freshman Blake Barnett has not taken a college snap.

The gamblers may be thinking about Alabama’s defense having, oh, maybe six 2017 NFL draft picks. And by the way, USC QB Max Browne is making his first start. He's thrown 19 previous passes for the Trojans.

Bama’s got a new defensive coordinator. Jeremy Pruitt replaced Kirby Smart, who was Saban’s right-hand man through three jobs and many years. Most people think it won't make any difference, but how can you be so sure?

Bama needs early production from gigantic but untested running back Bo Scarbrough, who looks a lot like departed Heisman winner Derrick Henry. But does he play like him?

No. 3 LSU vs. Wisconsin (Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI)

Les Miles is under the gun again, and he was close enough to getting fired last year that the athletic director held a news conference minutes after the Tigers beat Texas A&M to say “All is well” - like Kevin Bacon in Animal House.

LSU is loaded like Santa’s sleigh, and the Tigers should dispatch Wisconsin without too much trouble. Can and will are two different things when you talk about LSU, though.

The defense has been the biggest problem, and LSU is on its third coordinator in as many years. Ironically, new guy is the Badgers’ former defensive coordinator, Dave Aranda. He put in a new 3-4 scheme and much will depend on whether it keeps from falling apart in the second half, which has happened a lot the past two seasons.

Offensively, Brandon Harris has had a streaky career, but the main thing is to hand it to No. 7, Leonard Fournette, who can tote the tater like none other.

No 2 Clemson at Auburn (Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, AL)

Coach Gus Malzahn is on the hot seat after two not-so-hot seasons.

Auburn’s had a rough go since its 2013 appearance in the national championship game. This offseason was no fun, either.. fraught with dismissals, arrests, injuries - all that stuff. The Tigers are thin at running back, which is crucial to their offense. QB Sean White will start against Clemson. He spent a lot of time running for his life and getting knocked down last year.

Clemson has the amazing Deshaun Watson back at QB, who last year got Clemson as far as leading in the fourth quarter against Alabama in the championship game. Auburn’s defense is now under the direction of former Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, who is remembered there primarily for his last game, a 70-33 Orange Bowl beatdown at the hands of West Virginia.

Auburn’s tough at home, and will hang with Clemson, who is a 7.5-point favorite. Unless Deshaun gets in the zone, then those points could mean very little.

Georgia vs North Carolina (Georgia Dome, Atlanta)

This is new coach Kirby Smart’s first game as UGA coach. He has declared that his QB will be Greyson Lambert, last year’s steady but unspectacular starter. He beat out freshman sensation Jacob Eason, a recruiting coup who was touted as the savior of the program.

He may be, one day, but not Saturday. Probably.

Running back Nick Chubb is the offense, anyway. He was gaining a billion yards a game when he tore his ACL last year against Tennessee, which was the day we all got the feeling that Mark Richt’s days were numbered.

UNC was a fun-to-watch team with a wild offense last year. They ran naked wild in last year’s 45-37 loss to the awesome Clemson in the ACC Championship Game. Mitch Trubisky takes over at quarterback for Marquise Williams, who put on a show. Trubisky played a lot last year, though, and the offense should still be pretty sparky.

No. 16 UCLA at Texas A&M (Kyle Field, College Station, TX)

Kevin Sumlin’s on his way out if he doesn’t put together a decent season, and this game would be a good place to start.

Noel Mazzone, who was UCLA's offensive coordinator, is now at Texas A&M, which is a little weird. This year he’ll see what he can do with Trevor Knight, the graduate transfer from Oklahoma who will start for Texas A&M because Baker Mayfield doesn’t play there.

The Bruins' Josh Rosen could be the best pro-style QB in college this year. We’ll see what he can do against DE Miles Garrett and the rest of the Texas A&M defensive front. They need to get pressure on him, or he will pick them apart.


No. 3 Oklahoma at No. 20 Houston (NRG Stadium, Houston)

Houston went 12-1 last year, mangled Florida State in the Peach Bowl and put first-year coach Tom Herman on the wish list for every school with coaches on the hot-seat and billionaire boosters. (Looking at you, Texas and Texas A&M.)

Greg Ward Jr. is the engine that drives the Cougar offense. He’s a lot like Clemson’s Deshaun Watson in the way he plays and single-handedly propels his team into national championship conversation.

Wait, Houston? Yeah. That’s why this game is so big. If 10-point home dog Houston could somehow knock off Oklahoma, will we be talking about whether a team from the AAC could crash the playoffs?

If Oklahoma does what it’s supposed to do with Mayfield and beastly running backs Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon, the Houston talk will subside to a murmur.

If Houston can pull it off, it’ll be decided by their front seven, which is actually very good. Likewise, Oklahoma’s down linemen need to contain and pressure Ward Jr. If you don’t, he’ll kill you to death.

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