With the 2014 college football season set to begin Wednesday, Local10.com previews some of the most anticipated games of the year.
No. 21 Texas A&M at No. 9 South Carolina
Both Southeastern Conference teams kick off the 2014 season on a Thursday night without last year's star players -- 2012 Heisman Memorial Trophy winning-quarterback Johnny Manziel for Texas A&M and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, this year's No. 1 overall NFL Draft choice, for South Carolina. Expectations remain high for the Gamecocks despite the loss of Clowney, leading receiver Bruce Ellington and quarterback Connor Shaw, whose 26-5 record (including a 17-0 record at home) as a starter is the best in school history. South Carolina, which finished fourth in the final rankings last season, returns 16 starters from a year ago and has the longest home winning streak in the country at 18 games. Meanwhile, the Aggies have established themselves as a contender in the SEC after just two seasons, compiling a 20-6 record, but that was with Manziel, who won the starting job as a redshirt freshman. Now Texas A&M will turn to sophomore Kenny Hill, who beat out prized recruit Kyle Allen to win the starting job. South Carolina is 7-0 in Thursday night openers since Steve Spurrier became head coach in 2005.
No. 16 Clemson at No. 12 Georgia
Clemson proved it was a national title contender with a 38-35 victory against Georgia in last year's season opener. Now the Tigers will try to tame the Bulldogs "Between the Hedges," only this time without quarterback Tajh Boyd or receiver Sammy Watkins. Boyd threw for an Atlantic Coast Conference-record 107 touchdowns in his Clemson career, while Watkins and fellow departed receiver Martavius Bryant had a combined 143 receptions for 2,292 yards and 19 touchdowns. Clemson has turned the reigns over to senior quarterback Cole Stoudt, who was named the starter in the spring after the dismissal of Chad Kelly from the team. Georgia is also starting over at quarterback now that Aaron Murray has graduated. Like Boyd, Murray also held a conference record with 121 career passing touchdowns. His replacement is redshirt senior Hutson Mason, who finished last season as the starter after Murray tore his anterior cruciate ligament against Kentucky. Mason was 1-1 in the final two games, rallying the Bulldogs from a 20-0 deficit at Georgia Tech in double overtime and falling to Nebraska in the Gator Bowl despite passing for a career-high 320 yards. Both quarterbacks will be tested early by the stout defenses of the opposing teams. The Tigers haven't won at Sanford Stadium since 1986.
No. 13 Louisiana State vs. No. 14 Wisconsin
Louisiana State continues its recent tradition of scheduling quality non-conference opponents early in the season. Enter Wisconsin, which travels south to Houston to play LSU for the first time since 1972. Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris will battle to replace Zach Mettenberger for the starting quarterback job at LSU. Jennings, who replaced an injured Mettenberger as a freshman late last season, threw a 49-yard game-winning touchdown pass with 1:15 left against Arkansas and led the Tigers to Outback Bowl victory. Harris, an early enrollee, threw for three touchdowns and ran for another in the spring game. Senior running backs Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard will also battle for LSU's starting spot. Magee played in nine games last season, while Hilliard played in 12 games with one start. Wisconsin is expecting big things from the running back tandem of redshirt junior Melvin Gordon and sophomore Corey Clement. Gordon rushed for 1,609 yards and 12 touchdowns behind starter James White last season. With White gone, Gordon is being touted as a Heisman contender, but he'll share the load with Clement, who also rushed for 547 yards and seven touchdowns last season. The Tigers won both previous meetings -- 38-28 at Wisconsin in 1971 and 27-7 at LSU the following year.
No. 1 Florida State vs. Oklahoma State
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Florida State opens the 2014 season against Oklahoma State at the same venue where the Seminoles hope to end it -- AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, which is the site of the new College Football Playoff national championship game. The defending national champions will debut their much-criticized new logo against the Cowboys. Although the logo may have changed, the mascot remains the same. Coincidentally, Renegade and Chief Osceola led the Seminoles onto the field for the first time in the 1978 home opener -- a 38-20 victory against Oklahoma State. The Seminoles benefit from the return of reigning Heisman winner Jameis Winston, whose 4,057 passing yards and 44 total touchdowns (40 passing and four rushing) last season set a freshman record. Although Winston will be eligible for the NFL Draft after this season, FSU fans hope he stays true to his word and stays in school at least two more years. Of course, Winston has made as many headlines for his off-field actions (allegations of sexual assault in 2012, stealing soda from Burger King last summer and receiving a citation for shoplifting crab legs from a Publix in April) as he has for those on the gridiron. Winston simply can't afford another incident. While it will be challenging to improve upon last year's numbers, a sophomore slump isn't likely since Winston will have the luxury of playing behind four returning starters on the offensive line. Senior tight end Nick O'Leary (11 career touchdowns) and senior receiver Rashad Greene (1,128 yards) will be reliable targets for Winston after the early departure of Kelvin Benjamin, who caught the game-winning touchdown with 13 seconds left to defeat Auburn in the final Bowl Championship Series national title game in January. This will be the first meeting between the schools since FSU's 34-24 victory in the 1985 Gator Bowl.
No. 2 Alabama vs. West Virginia
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Alabama and West Virginia meet for the first time ever in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Two former Florida State quarterbacks could be behind center when the Crimson Tide and Mountaineers face each other. Clint Trickett was named starting quarterback to begin the season for West Virginia. The question remains whether Trickett, who took a backseat to Winston in last year's spring game at FSU and promptly transferred, can stay healthy after being sidelined with two concussions last season and sat out this spring while recovering from shoulder surgery. Alabama must replace AJ McCarron, who won two national championships in three seasons as the Tide's starting quarterback. FSU transfer Jacob Coker appears to be the frontrunner for the starting job, but don't tell that to head coach Nick Saban, who promises there will be competition with dual-threat senior Blake Sims and redshirt freshman Cooper Bateman. Coker, who grew up in Alabama and attended the same high school as McCarron, received high praise from FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher as he battled Winston for the starting job last summer. Because he graduated early, Coker will be eligible to play this season. Sims was McCarron's backup each of the past two seasons, throwing for 244 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 248 yards and two scores in relief. Bateman arrived at Alabama in January 2013 after passing for 2,384 yards and 15 touchdowns while rushing for 277 yards and 12 touchdowns as a high school senior in Utah.
Miami at Louisville
Miami and Louisville open the season the way both teams ended 2013. The Cardinals capped off a 12-win season with a 36-9 victory over the Hurricanes in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Meanwhile, Miami started last season 7-0 before faltering to a 2-4 record in its final six games. Both teams will begin the 2014 season with new quarterbacks. Teddy Bridgewater left Louisville early to become a first-round draft pick, leaving redshirt sophomore Will Gardner as the frontrunner in the three-man race to win the job this season. Ryan Williams was expected to take over for the departed Stephen Morris at Miami, but the fifth-year senior suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the spring and may not be ready for the season opener. True freshman Brad Kaaya, who was 23-3 as a starter in high school, was named the starting quarterback against Louisville. If Kaaya struggles, former Brigham Young and Kansas quarterback Jake Heaps transferred to Miami and is eligible to play immediately. Heaps threw for 1,414 yards and eight touchdowns at Kansas last season. Louisville also lost head coach Charlie Strong to Texas, so the Cardinals turned to a familiar face to lead the program. Bobby Petrino returns for a second stint at Louisville, where he compiled a 41-9 record from 2003-06. The embattled coach resigned in the midst of his only season coaching the Atlanta Falcons in 2007 and was fired from Arkansas before the 2012 season after he lied about his relationship with a 25-year-old student-athlete development coordinator, whom Petrino hired and was a passenger on his motorcycle during an accident that ultimately uncovered the extramarital liaison. Petrino reemerged at Western Kentucky last season, leading the Hilltoppers to an 8-4 record. The Labor Day evening game will serve as Louisville's ACC debut.
No. 8 Michigan State at No. 3 Oregon
These two top-10 teams could meet again in the College Football Playoff. Michigan State claimed the Big Ten Conference crown and won 13 games last season. Are the Spartans good enough to do it again in 2014? A victory at Oregon might set the tone for another championship season. Michigan State finished with the second-ranked defense in the country last season, while Oregon finished with the second-ranked offense. Something's got to give. The Ducks were 7-0 at Autzen Stadium last year, in large part thanks to returning quarterback Marcus Mariota. He threw for 3,665 yards, 31 touchdowns and just four interceptions while leading Oregon to an 11-2 record in Mark Helfrich's first season as head coach.
Michigan at No. 17 Notre Dame
This traditional rivalry goes on hiatus after the 2014 season. Michigan and Notre Dame have met annually since 2002 and sporadically since 1978 (with the only breaks coming during the 1983-84, 1995-96 and 2000-01 seasons). After Notre Dame exercised its option to cancel the games scheduled for 2015-17, Michigan head coach Brady Hoke said the Fighting Irish were "chickening out" of the series. At the conclusion of Michigan's 41-30 victory last season, the "Chicken Dance" blared over the Michigan Stadium sound system as Michigan fans who made up most of the NCAA-record crowd of 115,109 danced in the stands. Irish players, coaches and fans won't likely forget it when the Wolverines visit Notre Dame Stadium for the final time (at least for the foreseeable future). Everett Golson is the starting quarterback for Notre Dame after missing the 2013 season because of academic issues. The redshirt junior threw for 2,405 yards and 12 touchdowns while rushing for 298 yards and six touchdowns during Notre Dame's undefeated regular season in 2012. Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner returns for his senior season after accounting for five touchdowns against Notre Dame last year.
Virginia Tech at No. 5 Ohio State
After eight consecutive seasons with 10 or more wins, Virginia Tech has only won 15 games the past two seasons. Head coach Frank Beamer has been given the benefit of the doubt because of the team's success in his 27 prior seasons in Blacksburg, Va., but he can hardly afford another subpar season in 2014. A victory at Ohio State would go a long way in reestablishing the Hokies as a legitimate contender in the championship conversation. The Hokies will turn to Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer as the successor to Logan Thomas -- Virginia Tech's record-holder for career total offense -- at quarterback. Brewer was slated to be Texas Tech's starter in 2013, but a late-summer back injury forced him to miss August practice and the first month of the season. By the time he recovered, the depth chart was set, so Brewer, who graduated in May with two years of eligibility remaining, packed his bags and joined the Hokies. Ohio State won its first 24 games under head coach Urban Meyer, but the Buckeyes enter this season on a two-game losing streak after falling to Michigan State in the Big Ten title game and Clemson in the Orange Bowl. Braxton Miller was poised to return for his fourth year as starting quarterback for the Buckeyes until an August shoulder injury sidelined him for the entire season. Miller, who is 26-8 as a starter, has passed for 5,292 yards and 52 touchdowns while rushing for 3,054 yards and 32 touchdowns in his career. Now the offense is in the hands of redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett, who has never played in a game. Redshirt sophomore Cardale Jones, who has only thrown two passes, is the new backup.
No. 12 Georgia at No. 9 South Carolina
The Bulldogs might have the nation's best running back tandem in juniors Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. In 2012, Gurley became the first true freshman to amass more than 1,000 yards on the ground since eventual Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker in 1980. He was just shy of reaching the 1,000-yard mark last season, finishing with 989 yards, and had a career-high 30 carries against South Carolina. Marshall had 759 rushing yards as a freshman and 246 yards in 2013 before suffering a season-ending ACL tear. New defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, who left FSU after one season in the same role, vowed that no starter's job was safe, especially after a mediocre defense that averaged 375.5 yards per game. The secondary remains the biggest concern. Damian Swann is the only returning starter for a unit that ranked second-to-last in the SEC in interceptions. Josh Harvey-Clemons was dismissed from the team before spring practice because of two off-the-field transgressions and transferred to Louisville. Georgia is 14-8 against the Gamecocks since South Carolina joined the SEC in 1992, but the Bulldogs are just 5-4 since Spurrier took over. The Gamecocks have also won each of the previous two meetings in Columbia, S.C. The winner of this game will have an early advantage in the SEC Eastern Division race.
UCLA two-way star Myles Jack runs through Southern California defenders in last season's game against the Trojans.
No. 7 UCLA vs. Texas
An early-season meeting with UCLA will be a barometer for the success of Texas under Strong, who replaces the retired Mack Brown. Strong becomes the first new head coach to lead the Longhorns since 1998. Brown guided the Longhorns to a 158-48 record, two Big 12 Conference championships and the 2005 national title in his 16 seasons. But after winning at least nine games in each of his first 12 seasons, Brown's Longhorns endured a losing record in 2010 and only won nine games once in his final four seasons. Strong isn't guaranteeing overnight success, especially with questions at quarterback. David Ash was the starter in 2012, but he's been hampered by injury throughout his career. Ash has thrown for 4,372 yards and 30 touchdowns in 28 career games. He received a medical hardship in 2013 and will have two seasons of eligibility remaining. If he's not healthy, the Longhorns could turn to sophomore Tyrone Swoopes or incoming freshman Jerrod Heard. Meanwhile, UCLA is coming off its first 10-win season since 2005. Junior quarterback Brett Hundley leads the Bruins on offense and linebacker Myles Jack on offense and defense. Hundley has thrown for 51 touchdowns and rushed for 18 more in two seasons as UCLA's starter. Jack was the coaches' choice for Pacific 12 Conference offensive and defensive freshman of the year last season after moonlighting as running back. He scored seven rushing touchdowns while logging 75 tackles. This is the first meeting for both teams since a 49-20 Texas victory in 2011. UCLA has had good fortune against the Longhorns in its last two trips to Texas -- a 34-12 victory in 2010 and 66-3 win in 1997.
Penn State at Rutgers
Rutgers welcomes its neighbor from the Keystone State in the first Big Ten game for the Scarlet Knights. After 46 years with the late Joe Paterno at the helm, the Nittany Lions are on to their third coach since 2011, when Paterno was fired in the wake of the child sex abuse scandal involving former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. Penn State hired James Franklin away from Vanderbilt in the offseason. He follows Bill O'Brien, who was named head coach of the Houston Texans, and Tom Bradley, who immediately succeeded Paterno on an interim basis for the remainder of the 2011 season. These teams met every year from 1982-95. The Nittany Lions lead the all-time series 22-2, including a 59-34 victory in their last meeting. Now that both teams are in the Big Ten, the rivalry will resume on an annual basis.
No. 16 Clemson at No. 1 Florida State
Clemson's lone ACC losses since winning the league crown in 2011 have come against FSU. Consequently, the Seminoles have won back-to-back ACC championships for the first time since 2002-03. Last season, FSU dominated the Tigers, 51-14, and ended 10 years of futility at Clemson's "Death Valley." Winston threw for 444 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for another in the game. Clemson is counting on star defensive end Vic Beasley to pressure Winston. Beasley had 13 sacks and 23 tackles for loss as a junior last season, but he only had one tackle in last year's game. The winner of this game will likely be in the driver's seat in the Atlantic Division and, as such, the ACC title in 2014.
Florida at No. 2 Alabama
This is a chance at redemption for Florida and fourth-year quarterback Jeff Driskel. His final play of 2013 was an interception returned for a touchdown before breaking his leg early in the season against Tennessee. Driskel has fewer touchdown passes (14) than turnovers (15), yet he's 11-3 as a starter. His injury set the tone for Florida's season, which ended with the Gators mired in a seven-game losing streak and their first losing season since 1979. Alabama has won 22 straight SEC openers since a 35-0 loss to the Gators in 1991. The Crimson Tide won the last meeting, 38-10, at Florida in 2011. A Florida victory would help reverse its recent slide, but a loss might mean the beginning of the end for head coach Will Muschamp.
Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech
Was it just a fluke that last year's "Battle of the Techs" didn't have a bearing on the final ACC Coastal Division standings? Last season marked the first year since the ACC split into divisions in 2005 that neither team represented the division in the championship game. Virginia Tech's 17-10 win improved the Hokies to 8-3 all-time against Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets have only beaten Virginia Tech once in Blacksburg (a 38-27 victory in 2006). Paul Johnson has never had a losing record in ACC play since becoming Georgia Tech's head coach in 2008, but fans are no doubt hungry for more, especially since the 2009 ACC championship was vacated due to NCAA sanctions. Vad Lee, Georgia Tech's starting quarterback last year, transferred, meaning redshirt sophomore Justin Thomas will take over in 2014. Thomas rushed for 234 yards and two touchdowns in 10 games as a backup last year. The former Alabama high school record-holder in the 100-meter dash provides speed that Lee didn't. Question marks still remain at the all-important running back positions in Georgia Tech's spread-option offense.
No. 24 Missouri at No. 9 South Carolina
Missouri put the rest of the SEC on notice last season after reaching the conference title game in its second year in the league. The Tigers arrived at the Georgia Dome last December with a 7-1 record in SEC play. Their only blemish was a 27-24 double-overtime loss to South Carolina at home. Missouri led 17-0 at the end of the third quarter, but the Gamecocks scored 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, sending the game into overtime. Redshirt junior Andrew Baggett missed a 24-yard field-goal attempt in the second overtime against South Carolina that sealed the victory for the Gamecocks. In April, Missouri dismissed top playmaker Dorial Green-Beckham after two drug-related arrests and an incident in which he allegedly forced open an apartment door and pushed an 18-year-old woman down several stairs. The rising junior had amassed 1,278 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns for the Tigers. The SEC has designated Missouri and South Carolina permanent cross-divisional rivals, so the "Battle of Columbia" trophy was established in 2012 since both teams share a city with the same name. The Gamecocks earned the inaugural trophy with a 31-10 victory at home two years ago and retained the trophy after last year's win.
Maryland at Indiana
After a long allegiance to the ACC, Maryland makes its Big Ten debut at perennial conference doormat Indiana. It's hard to believe the Terrapins were briefly a top-25 team after a 4-0 start last season. Then reality set in as the Terps closed out the season with a 3-6 record. C.J. Brown is back at quarterback for Maryland after throwing for 2,242 yards as a junior last season. He'll be helped by the return of junior playmaker Stefon Diggs, who was the second-leading receiver on the team with 587 yards and three touchdowns despite breaking his leg against Wake Forest and missing the final five games of 2013. Defensively, cornerback Will Likely is expected to shine as a full-time starter in 2014 after defending a team-high seven passes as a true freshman. Likely also led the team in punt and kick returns. Meanwhile, the Hoosiers have only had one winning season since 1994 and haven't won a Big Ten championship since 1967.
No. 13 Louisiana State at No. 6 Auburn
The Tigers of LSU handed Auburn its only SEC loss last season. Nick Marshall returns for his senior season as Auburn's starting quarterback. The dual-threat signal caller threw for 1,976 yards and 14 touchdowns while rushing for 1,068 yards and 12 scores a season ago. Marshall threw for 224 yards in last year's meeting, but his two picks doomed Auburn in a 35-21 loss at LSU. Auburn is expected to turn to senior Cameron Artis-Payne to replace the departed Tre Mason at running back. Mason, who finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy balloting last year, rushed for 132 yards and two touchdowns against LSU on his way to a school-record 1,816 yards. LSU has won six of the past seven meetings, the lone loss coming during Auburn's national championship season in 2010.
No. 3 Oregon at No. 7 UCLA
The Bruins will be out to atone for last season's 42-14 walloping in this potential Pac-12 title game preview. UCLA was tied with Oregon at halftime before the Ducks scored 28 unanswered points in the second half. Oregon running back Byron Marshall stole the show, rushing for 133 yards on 19 carries for three touchdowns. He returns for his junior season after amassing 1,038 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground in 2013. UCLA hasn't beaten Oregon since 2007.
No. 4 Oklahoma vs. Texas
The name may have changed, but the rivalry remains the same. In April, Texas and Oklahoma jointly announced that the annual border war would be known as the "Red River Showdown." It's the third moniker for the former "Red River Rivalry," which was renamed from the "Red River Shootout" in 2005. The Longhorns surprised the Sooners with an upset win at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas last year. Their 36-20 victory snapped a three-game losing streak to Oklahoma. Texas never trailed in the game, scoring on defense (31-yard interception return) and special teams (85-yard punt return). The Longhorns will have a new challenge trying to stop Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight, who torched Alabama in the Sugar Bowl with 348 passing yards and four touchdowns. Since Bob Stoops became head coach in 1999, Oklahoma is 9-6 against Texas.
No. 17 Notre Dame at No. 1 Florida State
Florida State is 5-2 all-time against Notre Dame, but the Fighting Irish pulled off a 34-24 victory on their only trip to Tallahassee, Florida, in 2002. The Seminoles rallied from a 14-point halftime deficit to defeat the Irish, 18-14, in their last meeting at the 2011 Champs Sports Bowl. FSU was forced to start four freshmen on the offensive line in that game, allowing five sacks. Now those linemen -- Austin Barron, Bobby Hart, Tre' Jackson and Josue Matias -- are seniors with a combined 113 starts. Barron is the only new addition to the starting lineup this season, replacing Rimington Trophy winner Bryan Stork at center. Notre Dame could be without four players -- cornerback KeiVarae Russell, receiver DaVaris Daniels, defensive end Ishaq Williams and linebacker Kendall Moore -- who were being held out of all team-related activities while they were being investigated for academic fraud. The Seminoles will also be without receiver Isaiah Jones, who was declared academically ineligible.
No. 11 Stanford at No. 19 Arizona State
This is a rematch of last year's Pac-12 title game. Stanford decimated Arizona State in a 38-14 victory on its last trip to Tempe, Ariz., to claim the 2013 conference crown. Arizona State also fell to the Cardinal, 42-28, in its Pac-12 opener before winning eight straight conference games en route to the South Division championship. The Sun Devils will benefit from the return of six starters on offense, including quarterback Taylor Kelly, running back D.J. Foster and receiver Jaelen Strong as they try to snap a four-game losing streak to Stanford.
No. 21 Texas A&M at No. 2 Alabama
This new SEC Western Division rivalry has been a welcome addition to college football. In just two seasons in the SEC, Texas A&M's games against Alabama have become instant classics. In 2012, Texas A&M notched a 29-24 upset victory in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Last season, the Tide got even with a 49-42 victory at Texas A&M. Manziel and McCarron accounted for 1,360 passing yards and 12 touchdowns in each of the past two meetings. If history is any indicator, quarterback will be integral when these teams take the field.
Stanford defeated Arizona State to win the Pacific 12 Conference championship last season.
No. 9 South Carolina at No. 6 Auburn
South Carolina faces Auburn for the first time since a 16-13 loss in 2011. The Gamecocks are 1-9-1 all-time against Auburn and have never beaten the Tigers as a member of the SEC. In fact, South Carolina's lone victory was a 16-14 decision in 1933.
No. 1 Florida State at Louisville
This game could become the new standard for measuring competition in the ACC. The Cardinals are an upgrade to Maryland, the team they're replacing in the Atlantic Division, and could stand in the way of FSU winning its third consecutive ACC championship. The last Thursday night game for the Seminoles at Louisville ended in a 26-20 overtime loss in 2002. Of course, FSU is a different team with Winston behind center. Although he's only a sophomore, Winston has more career starts than any other quarterback in the ACC. The Cardinals were first in rushing defense, second in scoring defense and first in overall defense last season. Not to be outdone, the Seminoles had the top-ranked passing defense, top-ranked scoring defense and third-ranked overall defense of the 2013 season. Yet both defenses will have new leadership in 2014. Louisville brought Todd Grantham from Georgia to become the team's new defensive coordinator, switching to a 3-4 base defense. That led Georgia to hire Jeremy Pruitt away from FSU after one season as defensive coordinator to fill Grantham's role. FSU then promoted special teams coordinator and linebackers coach Charles Kelly, who vows not to change what was successful in 2013. Louisville also hired former FSU standout Terrell Buckley to coach the defensive backs.
No. 12 Georgia vs. Florida
Florida is reeling after three straight losses to the Bulldogs. It is Florida's longest losing streak in the border rivalry since Georgia won three in a row from 1987-89. Both teams have a bye week before the game formerly known as the "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" in Jacksonville, Florida. Muschamp, who was a safety for the Bulldogs from 1991-94, is 0-3 against his alma mater. A fourth loss could seal his fate.
No. 11 Stanford at No. 3 Oregon
Stanford has proven to be the biggest challenge to Oregon winning the Pac-12 title. The Cardinal have won the past two meetings, holding the high-scoring Ducks to 20 and 14 points in 2013 and 2012. Stanford has to replace six starters on offense from last season, including four on the offensive line. Senior quarterback Kevin Hogan returns for his third season as a starter, owning a 16-3 record. Last season, Hogan threw for 2,630 yards and 20 touchdowns. The winner of this game will likely have an advantage in the Pac-12 North Division race.
Duke at Pittsburgh
No, this isn't a misprint. File this game under the basketball powers join the football fray category. Duke won six conference games last season -- twice the amount the Blue Devils won in eight years combined before head coach David Cutcliffe arrived in 2008 -- and became the first team other than Georgia Tech or Virginia Tech to win the Coastal Division. One of only two ACC losses for Duke in the regular season last year was to Pittsburgh in overtime. The Panthers turn to redshirt sophomore Chad Voytik to replace the departed Tom Savage as quarterback. Voytik stepped in for an injured Savage in last season's Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. True freshman Chris Blewitt kicked the winning field goal to beat Bowling Green, 30-27, to win their first bowl game since the 2010 season. Duke suffered a blow to repeating as division champions after first-team All-ACC linebacker Kelby Brown tore his anterior cruciate ligament in August and was ruled out for the season.
No. 5 Ohio State at No. 8 Michigan State
Michigan State enters the 2014 season on a 10-game winning streak, including a 34-24 victory over Ohio State in the Big Ten title game. That's guaranteed not to happen again because of the new conference alignment that places the Buckeys and Spartans in the same geographically aligned division. Ohio State began fall camp as the favorite to win the conference crown, but losing Miller opens the door for the Spartans to repeat. Already without four of their five starting offensive linemen, leading receiver and leading rusher from last season, the Buckeyes now have the added pressure of grooming a young quarterback by thrusting him into action prematurely. A victory for Michigan State, which hasn't lost a conference game since November 2012 and won its first Rose Bowl since 1988, would all but ensure the Spartans of a return trip to Indianapolis.
No. 10 Baylor at No. 4 Oklahoma
It was a season of firsts for Baylor in 2013. The Bears won a school-record 11 games, including a 41-12 victory at Oklahoma. It was the first time the Bears won consecutive games against the Sooners (having previously defeated Oklahoma 45-38 in 2012). The victory helped Baylor win the Big 12 title for the first time in school history. Can the Bears make it three in a row?
Alabama has won three in a row against LSU, including a 21-0 victory in the 2012 BCS National Championship.
No. 2 Alabama at No. 13 Louisiana State
Alabama has won three in a row against LSU, including a 21-0 victory in the 2012 BCS National Championship. Saban is 5-3 against the team he coached to the 2003 national championship. The Crimson Tide have represented the Western Division in the SEC Championship three times since Saban came to Alabama in 2007, while the Tigers have appeared twice during that same span. The last three "Saban Bowl" games at "Death Valley" have included a 27-21 Alabama victory in overtime and two fourth-quarter comeback victories by the Tide and Tigers.
No. 9 South Carolina at Florida
South Carolina had never beaten Florida before Spurrier's arrival. The "ol' ball coach" is now 4-5 against his alma mater since returning to the SEC in 2005. The Gamecocks have won three of the last four meetings, but their SEC title hopes were dashed after a 44-11 loss on their last trip to Gainesville, Florida, in 2012.
No.6 Auburn at No. 12 Georgia
Last year's game was one of many close calls that the Tigers overcame en route to playing for the national championship. Auburn was trailing 38-37 with 36 seconds remaining on fourth-and-18 when Marshall -- a former defensive back for the Bulldogs in 2011 -- threw a "Hail Mary" pass that was tipped by former Georgia safety Josh Harvey-Clemons into the hands of Auburn wide receiver Ricardo Louis for the game-winning touchdown. This annual interdivisional rivalry returns to Georgia after a two-year hiatus because of SEC expansion. The Tigers haven't won "Between the Hedges" at Sanford Stadium since 2005.
Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston drops back to pass against rival Miami in last season's 41-14 victory.
No. 1 Florida State at Miami
The Hurricanes were undefeated entering last November's meeting with FSU when the Seminoles exposed Miami in a 41-14 victory. The Seminoles have won seven of the last nine meetings and four in a row, a feat that hasn't been accomplished since FSU won five straight in the late 1990s. FSU hasn't lost at Miami since 2004 when the Hurricanes still played in the old Orange Bowl.
No. 15 Southern California at No. 7 UCLA
The Bruins have won two in a row against their crosstown rivals for first time since 1997-98. It seems the billboard that Southern California erected near UCLA's Westwood campus two years ago has been the only real threat to the Bruins under third-year head coach Jim Mora, who led his team to a 35-14 victory at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum last season. Steve Sarkisian brings his no-huddle, pro-style offense to Southern California, where he was an assistant coach from 2005-08. He left to become head coach at Washington, leading the Huskies to a 34-29 record in five seasons. Now he's back to lead the Trojans back to prominence. To do so, USC will need to find better protection for junior quarterback Cody Kessler this year. Kessler threw for 2,968 yards and 20 touchdowns last season, but he was also sacked 30 times.
Oklahoma State at No. 10 Baylor
The Cowboys upended Baylor, 49-17, last season to dash its national title hopes. J.W. Walsh has been inconsistent as Oklahoma State's quarterback the last two years, but he's now the team's only experienced signal caller. Walsh has 2,897 career passing yards, a .629 completion percentage and 22 touchdowns. He has also rushed for 584 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Cowboys had their best defense in more than a decade last season, but they return only four starters and lost significant playmakers on the line, at linebacker and in the secondary. Although Oklahoma State won 10 games a season ago, expectations seem low in 2014.
No. 6 Auburn at No. 2 Alabama
The highlight of all of last season may have been one defining play for both Alabama and Auburn in the "Iron Bowl." Alabama was marching along on its way to a third consecutive national championship and fourth in five seasons late last November before Auburn intervened. With one second remaining and the score tied at 28, Auburn's Chris Davis caught the football after a missed 57-yard field-goal attempt by Alabama and raced 109 yards for the game-winning touchdown. The Tide won't have to worry about Davis, who has since graduated, but they'll be hungry to avenge last season's stunning loss that prevented them from even winning the SEC Western Division. In 2010, the Tigers overcame a 24-0 deficit to upend the Tide, 28-27, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Florida at No. 1 Florida State
Last season, the Seminoles beat Florida, 37-7, to hand the Gators their worst home loss in the history of the rivalry. After losing six in a row from 2004-09, the Seminoles have won three of the last four meetings, but their lone loss was a 37-26 decision on Florida's last visit to Tallahassee in 2012. FSU led 20-16 in the fourth quarter of that game, but the Gators took advantage of FSU's five turnovers and scored 24 straight points. Last year, FSU's offense outgained Florida 456-193, most of it through the air. Winston threw for three touchdowns and 327 yards in his first outing against the Gators.
Tyvis Powell intercepts a two-point conversion attempt to preserve Ohio State's 42-41 victory against border rival Michigan last season.
Michigan at No. 5 Ohio State
Last season's game was another classic finish in the border war between Michigan and Ohio State. After scoring a touchdown with 32 seconds left and the Wolverines trailing by a point, Michigan attempted a two-point conversion for the win. Instead, Ohio State safety Tyvis Powell intercepted Gardner's pass to preserve a 42-41 victory. The end result was Michigan's ninth loss to the Buckeyes in the last 10 meetings. After the game, Hoke was unapologetic about the decision. "We played the game to win," he said. If the same scenario holds true this year, what are the odds that Hoke sends out the kicker?
Rutgers at Maryland
This is the first meeting as conference opponents for the newest members of the Big Ten. Rutgers defeated Maryland, 34-13, when the teams previously met in 2009. Gary Nova is back for his senior season as starting quarterback for the Scarlet Knights. Although Nova was benched in favor of Chas Dodd late last season, he reemerged as the clear leader in the spring. This game will be a bittersweet homecoming for Rutgers offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen, who graduated from Maryland and coached the Terrapins from 2001-10. After he was hired, Friedgen said he burned his degree and "could care less about Maryland."
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