2019 college football preview

Gators, Hurricanes, Seminoles have challenging slate

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney kisses the championship trophy after the Tigers defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide 44-16 in the College Football Playoff National Championship, Jan. 7, 2019, in Santa Clara, California.

As the college football season gets ready to kick off this weekend, Local10.com previews some of the most anticipated games of the year.

Aug. 24

No. 8 Florida vs. Miami

Florida Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel is sacked in a 21-16 loss to the Miami Hurricanes, Sept. 7, 2013, at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.

It's only fitting that a once-heated rivalry kicks off the 2019 season. Florida and Miami played annually from 1944 until 1987, but the schools have only met six times since. The Gators are ahead of schedule under head coach Dan Mullen, having won 10 games for the first time since 2015 and trouncing Michigan in the Peach Bowl. Meanwhile, the Hurricanes will find out in a hurry how improved they are offensively under first-year head coach Manny Diaz after a subpar 7-6 season in 2017 led Mark Richt to call it quits. Mullen turned quarterback Feleipe Franks into a surprisingly accurate passer (12 touchdowns with no interceptions in his final four games).  Miami's quarterback situation is less clear. Redshirt freshman Jarren Williams beat out redshirt sophomore N'Kosi Perry, who started six games last year, and Ohio State transfer Tate Martell in fall practice to claim the starting job. Diaz's calling card is defense. He spent the past three seasons as Miami's defensive coordinator, orchestrating one of the better defensives in the country. The Hurricanes were the nation's top passing defense a season ago. Miami leads the all-time series 29-26 and has won seven of the last eight dating to 1986, including the last meeting at home in 2013. This will be the first meeting between the schools in Orlando since Florida's 19-10 win in 1976.

Aug. 29

Georgia Tech at No. 1 Clemson

Clemson Tigers running back Travis Etienne carries the ball against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Sept. 22, 2018, in Atlanta.

The defending national champions open the season on the new ACC Network against a familiar foe with a new-look offense. Georgia Tech is abandoning its triple offense, installed by former head coach Paul Johnson, in favor of a spread offense preferred by successor Geoff Collins. That's a tough transition to make against a team like the Tigers. Complicating matters is a lack of returning starters and an open quarterback competition. Redshirt junior Lucas Johnson, who missed all of 2018 with a foot injury, has played two career games of mop-up duty. Redshirt sophomore Tobias Oliver was last season's backup. Redshirt freshman James Graham played in three games last season but was ruled academically ineligible for Georgia Tech's bowl game. They're all getting a clean slate under Collins, who won 15 games in two seasons at Temple.

Aug. 31

No. 16 Auburn vs. No. 11 Oregon
7:30 p.m. on Local 10

The Oregon Ducks marching band performs before taking on the Auburn Tigers in the BCS National Championship, Jan. 10, 2011, at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

The last time Auburn and Oregon played, it was for a national championship. The Tigers won their last national championship in 2010 by holding off Oregon 22-19 in the pre-playoff era. The winner of this year's game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, could be destined for a spot in the College Football Playoff. Oregon has one of the country's best quarterbacks in senior Justin Herbert, who threw for 3,151 yards and 29 touchdowns while leading the Ducks to a 9-4 record last season. The Ducks also return all five starters on the offensive line and their top two rushers (CJ Verdell and Travis Dye) from a season ago. Conversely, Auburn is starting over at quarterback and failed to produce a 1,000-yard rusher last season for the first time in 10 years.

North Carolina vs. South Carolina

South Carolina's Jasper Sasser tackles North Carolina Tar Heels running back Elijah Hood, Sept. 3, 2015, at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Gamecocks won 17-13.

Mack Brown makes his (second) debut as North Carolina head coach against intrastate rival South Carolina at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. Brown came out of retirement to return to North Carolina, where he led the Tar Heels to a 69-46-1 record and six straight bowl appearances in 10 seasons from 1988-97. In the interim, he spent 16 years at Texas, winning a national championship during the 2005 season. Brown's return isn't an immediate elixir, but it's already paid dividends. Four-star quarterback recruit Sam Howell, who had been committed to Florida State, spurned the Seminoles and decided to stay in his home state and play for the Tar Heels. Howell will compete for the starting job with redshirt freshmen Cade Fortin, who started two games last season, and Jace Ruder. South of the border, Will Muschamp expects a better performance from the Gamecocks than his team's last trip to Charlotte. South Carolina lost to Virginia 28-0 in the Belk Bowl, capping off a season decimated by injuries and turnovers. Fourth-year starting quarterback Jake Bentley led the Southeastern Conference with 14 interceptions last season. The Gamecocks were also 12th in the SEC in turnover margin last season after ranking in the top three in each of Muschamp's first two years. The Tar Heels haven't beaten South Carolina since 1991, when Brown was in his fourth season at North Carolina. He is 1-3 against the Gamecocks, who are a perfect 10-0 against teams from the state of North Carolina since 1999.

Sept. 2

No. 9 Notre Dame at Louisville

Louisville quarterback Malik Cunningham led the Cardinals in rushing with 497 yards in 2018.

Notre Dame won all 12 regular-season games last year. Then along came Clemson, which handed the Fighting Irish a 30-3 thrashing in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Cotton Bowl. Such has been the fate of Notre Dame in the Brian Kelly era. It was the second time in seven years that the Irish have been perfect in the regular season, only to be outmatched against the eventual national champion. Notre Dame returns seven starters on offense, including quarterback Ian Book, and six on defense, but the schedule is more challenging than 2018. Yes, that includes the Labor Day evening season opener at Louisville. New head coach Scott Satterfield inherits a team that won just two games last year and went 0-8 against Atlantic Coast Conference competition, but there's no reason to think the Cardinals will be that bad in 2019. Finding a quarterback will be key for Satterfield. Louisville didn't win a game that redshirt junior Jawon Pass started last year. He threw for 1,960 yards with eight touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Redshirt sophomore Malik Cunningham started three games, played in 10 and relieved Pass in the two games Louisville won. He also led the Cardinals in rushing with 497 yards. Early enrollee Evan Conley followed Satterfield to Louisville after committing to play for him at Appalachian State.

Sept. 7

No. 12 Texas A&M at No. 1 Clemson
3:30 p.m. on Local 10

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher talk before the start of a game, Sept. 8, 2018, at Kyle Field in College Station, Texas.

Jimbo Fisher once again faces Dabo Swinney. These two have been going at it annually since 2010, when Fisher succeeded Bobby Bowden at Florida State. Now in his second year at Texas A&M, he'll get one last crack at Swinney when the Aggies travel to Clemson. Fisher and Swinney are two of just five active head coaches to have won national championships. Swinney is 5-4 against Fisher, including the Tigers' 28-26 win last year. It was Clemson's closest game of the season.

No. 6 Louisiana State at No. 10 Texas
7:30 p.m. on Local 10

Texas wide receiver Roy Williams signals his own touchdown with the help of teammates after dragging LSU safety Jack Hunt into the end zone in the third quarter of the Cotton Bowl, Jan. 1, 2003, in Dallas. The Longhorns won 35-20.

Stability has replaced uncertainty at Louisiana State, where head coach Ed Orgeron is comfortably in command of the Tigers after leading them to 10 wins, including a 40-32 Fiesta Bowl victory that snapped Central Florida's 25-game winning streak, and a No. 6 national ranking. LSU exceeded expectations last season, so the Tigers will have to acclimate themselves to playing the role of contender in 2019. LSU quarterback Joe Burrow is back after passing for 2,894 yards and 16 touchdowns with five interceptions. He also rushed for 399 yards and seven touchdowns. Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger is the unquestioned leader for the Longhorns. His 41 touchdowns accounted for last season were second in school history behind Colt McCoy's 45 touchdowns in 2008. This is the first meeting between the teams since Texas beat LSU 35-20 in the 2003 Cotton Bowl.

No. 24 Nebraska at Colorado

Nebraska Cornhuskers quarterback Adrian Martinez outruns Colorado Buffaloes linebacker Davion Taylor to score in the first half, Sept. 8, 2018, at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska.

These former Big 12 Conference rivals meet again after Colorado's 33-28 win last year. Nebraska was last year's most-improved team, having won four of its last six games under first-year head coach Scott Frost. By season's end, the Cornhuskers were playing competitive football. Their last two losses were respectable, falling 36-31 at Ohio State and 31-28 at Iowa. Nebraska returns Adrian Martinez, who was only the third true freshman quarterback to start for the Cornhuskers. Martinez passed for 2,617 yards and 17 touchdowns to just eight interceptions. He was also second on the team in rushing with 629 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground. Colorado went the other direction last year, losing its final seven games after a 5-0 start. Mike MacIntyre was fired as head coach and replaced by former Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. He brings a winning pedigree to Boulder, but it's going to take more than that for a program that's had just one winning season since 2005.

Miami at North Carolina

Miami's Romeo Finley runs back an interception for a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the North Carolina Tar Heels, Sept. 27, 2018, at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.

The ACC opener for both schools pairs some familiar faces on opposing sidelines. Brown hired Diaz as his defensive coordinator at Texas in 2011, but Diaz was fired in September 2013 after the Longhorns surrendered 550 rushing yards in a 40-21 loss to Brigham Young. Brown called the defensive display "unacceptable" in announcing his decision to relieve Diaz two games into the season. Defense hasn't been problematic for Miami under Diaz's watch. The nation's fourth-best defense last season returns six starters, anchored by the linebackers. Seniors Zach McCloud, Michael Pinckney and Shaq Quarterman have started every game of their college careers together. Conversely, the Tar Heels were one of the nation's worst, ranking 112th out of 130 Football Bowl Subdivision teams. Gone is linebacker Cole Holcomb, who graduated after leading the team in tackles each of the past three seasons. Brown hired Army defensive coordinator Jay Bateman to be co-defensive coordinator for the Tar Heels (along with Tommy Thigpen, who previously coached safeties) this season. Army's defense twice finished ranked among the top 10 nationally during Bateman's tenure. This ACC Coastal Division rivalry has been pretty even through the years. Miami is 8-7 against UNC since joining the conference in 2004.

Sept. 14

No. 1 Clemson at No. 22 Syracuse
7:30 p.m. on Local 10

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is helped from the field after taking a hard hit from the Syracuse Orange, Sept. 29, 2018, at Clemson Memorial Stadium in Clemson, South Carolina.

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence hardly looked like a true freshman last season, supplanting Kelly Bryant after four games, but his first career start against Syracuse was the exception. He was just 10-of-15 passing for 93 yards before leaving in the second quarter with concussion symptoms. Clemson narrowly outlasted Syracuse 27-23 last September and went on to win the national championship. Lawrence finished the season with 3,280 yards, 30 touchdowns and just four interceptions. His numbers in the College Football Playoff were even more impressive -- 674 yards, six touchdowns and zero interceptions in blowout wins against Notre Dame (30-3) and Alabama (44-16). It's crazy to think that Syracuse is the greatest threat to the Tigers claiming their fifth consecutive ACC crown. The Orange were the last ACC team to beat the Tigers at the Carrier Dome in 2017.

No. 8 Florida at Kentucky

Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops has a discussion with his players during a timeout in the first half against the Florida Gators, Sept. 8, 2018, in Gainesville, Florida. The Wildcats snapped a 31-game losing streak to Florida.

Kentucky snapped a 31-game losing streak to Florida last year, beating the Gators for the first time since 1986 and winning in Gainesville for the first time since 1979. Now the setting shifts to Commonwealth Stadium, where the Wildcats were 6-1 a season ago. Kentucky won 10 games last season for the first time since 1977 and finished with a winning record in Southeastern Conference play for the first time since that same year. But the Wildcats lost seven starters on offense and defense, so repeating that task won't be easy. At least Kentucky will have junior quarterback Terry Wilson, who started every game during the 2018 campaign. The Gators haven't dropped consecutive games against Kentucky since 1977.

Sept. 21

No. 9 Notre Dame at No. 3 Georgia

Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm hands off to fullback Christian Payne during the second half against Notre Dame, Sept. 9, 2017, at Notre Dame Stadium. The Bulldogs defeated Notre Dame 20-19.

Notre Dame will face Georgia "between the hedges" at Sanford Stadium for the first time. Senior quarterback Ian Book, who took over in the fourth game of the 2018 season and averaged 306.9 passing yards per game, once again leads the Fighting Irish offense. For the first time since Lou Holtz roamed the sideline more than two decades ago, Notre Dame is coming off back-to-back double-digit winning seasons. Head coach Brian Kelly is responsible for the resurgence of Notre Dame football, having led the Irish to two undefeated regular seasons in the span of seven years. But Notre Dame pundits who argue the Irish aren't quite a championship-caliber program would point to their futility on the grand stage -- a 42-14 loss to Alabama in the 2013 national championship game and a 30-3 thumping in the last Cotton Bowl capped off both seasons. The Bulldogs are 2-0 all-time against Notre Dame, winning 17-10 in the 1981 Sugar Bowl and 20-19 at Notre Dame Stadium in 2017.

Sept. 28

No. 5 Ohio State at No. 24 Nebraska

Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins leaps over blockers and would-be tacklers to pick up yardage in the fourth quarter against the Nebraska Cornhuskers, Nov. 3, 2018, in Columbus, Ohio. The Buckeyes defeated Nebraska 36-31.

Ryan Day begins his first full season as head coach at Ohio State. Technically, he's already got three games under his belt, spelling the now-retired (again) Urban Meyer while he was serving a suspension at the start of last season. Day spent the last two seasons as offensive coordinator and was the primary play caller for the Buckeyes in 2018. Ohio State trailed Nebraska 21-16 at halftime in last year's game before rallying to beat the Cornhuskers 36-31. This could be the first true test for Day.

Oct. 5

No. 16 Auburn at No. 8 Florida

Auburn quarterback Joey Gatewood gets some instruction from head coach Gus Malzahn during practice, Aug. 2, 2019, in Auburn, Alabama.

Auburn has won the last three meetings in this once-annual rivalry. The Gators haven't defeated Auburn since Ron Zook was head coach in 2002. The 30-23 win in Gainesville was also the last meeting before the SEC dropped the number of permanent cross-divisional rivals from two to one, making this game expendable. The Auburn quarterback battle is down to three after junior Malik Willis decided to transfer. That leaves redshirt freshman Joey Gatewood, true freshman Bo Nix and redshirt freshman Cord Sandberg vying for the starting job. Nix is the likely frontrunner. The early enrollee's father, Patrick Nix, was a former Auburn quarterback. He led his high school to consecutive state championships and set a state record with more than 12,000 career total offense yards. Gatewood saw action in Auburn's 63-14 win against Purdue in last year's Music City Bowl. Sandberg spent five years playing minor league baseball before signing with Auburn in 2018. His father played baseball for the Gators.

Oct. 12

No. 8 Florida at No. 6 Louisiana State

LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire runs past Florida defensive lineman Jachai Polite during the first half, Oct. 6, 2018, in Gainesville, Florida.

After consecutive games against LSU in Gainesville, the Gators return to Tiger Stadium in 2019. The Tigers return their top four receivers from last season and the offensive line returns four starters, making LSU a legitimate contender for the SEC crown. Clyde Edwards-Helaire takes over as the primary ball carrier in 2019. The junior running back is the top returning rusher with 146 carries for 658 yards and seven touchdowns. He also caught 11 passes for 96 yards. Defensively, the Tigers are led by junior safety Grant Delpit. The consensus All-American is the latest in a long line of premier LSU defensive backs. Delpit recorded 74 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, nine pass breakups, four quarterback hurries, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Florida has won two of the last three meetings, including a 16-10 victory at LSU in 2016. The Gators outlasted LSU 27-19 last year.

No. 4 Oklahoma vs. No. 10 Texas

Texas Longhorns quarterback Sam Ehlinger smiles as he runs into the end zone for a touchdown against the Oklahoma Sooners in the second quarter, Oct. 6, 2018, at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.

Is Texas back, for real? Don't tell that to departed Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, now with the Cleveland Browns. "I'm sick of that crap," the 2017 Heisman Memorial Trophy winner told an Oklahoma radio show in June. These teams met twice in a season for the first time last year. Texas won the Red River Showdown at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, but Oklahoma got payback in the Big 12 title game. In two seasons leading the Sooners, Lincoln Riley has coached two Heisman quarterbacks -- Mayfield and Kyler Murray. Will Alabama graduate transfer Jalen Hurts make it three in a row? Hurts was 25-2 as a starter before being benched, so he took his 5,481 passing yards, 48 passing touchdowns, 1,945 rushing yards and 23 rushing touchdowns to Oklahoma. "I want to go out with a bang," Hurts said after joining the Sooners for his final season of eligibility. Despite Oklahoma's 39-27 win in December, the Golden Hat remains with the Longhorns, who retained the trophy by virtue of their 48-45 win in the regular season.

No. 12 Texas A&M at No. 2 Alabama

Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond is sacked by Alabama's Anfernee Jennings and Isaiah Buggs, Sept. 22, 2018, at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The Crimson Tide defeated the Aggies 45-23.

Nick Saban remains undefeated against his former assistants, owning an impressive 16-0 record. That includes a 2-0 mark against Fisher each of the last two seasons (45-23 victory against Texas A&M in 2018 and 24-7 against Florida State in 2017). Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa set the NCAA record for passing efficiency (199.4) last season. He threw for 3,966 yards with 43 touchdowns and six interceptions. Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond distanced himself last season from Nick Starkel, who has since transferred to Arkansas. Mond finished with 3,107 passing yards and 24 touchdowns. He was also a rushing threat, recording 732 yards and seven scores. He'll likely continue to improve under Fisher, who was lured to Texas A&M with a 10-year, $75 million contract and the promise of delivering championships. But if the Aggies truly want to contend for a national championship, they'll first have to contend for the SEC Western Division. 

Florida State at No. 1 Clemson

Clemson's Nyles Pinckney makes a tackle for loss against Florida State running back Cam Akers in the third quarter, Oct. 27, 2018, at Bobby Bowden Field at Doak S. Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Florida. The Tigers won 59-10.

The debut of the Willie Taggart era was, by all appearances, disastrous. Under Taggart's watch, the Seminoles missed a bowl game for the first time since 1982 and finished with a losing record for the first time since 1976. Florida State's seven losses were the most since Darrell Mudra's final season in 1975. Arguably the lowest point of the season was a 59-10 loss to Clemson. The 49-point defeat was the worst home loss in school history. Now the Seminoles must try to win at Clemson, which has been a struggle of late. Florida State is 1-7 at "Death Valley" since 2003. The winner of this rivalry has represented the ACC Atlantic Division in the conference title game each year since 2009. The Tigers have won four consecutive ACC championships. That's the longest run since FSU reeled off nine in a row from 1992-2000.

Oct. 18

No. 5 Ohio State at Northwestern

Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins runs the ball against the Northwestern Wildcats in the fourth quarter of the Big Ten Championship, Dec. 1, 2018, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

This rematch of last year's Big Ten Conference title game takes place on a Friday night. Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald is on record that he's not a fan of the Friday night games. "I understand why we're doing this, but it does not make me happy," he said after the schedule was announced. "I still fundamentally believe that Fridays are for high school football." This will be Ohio State's first trip to Evanston since 2013, giving Illinois high school prospects a first-hand look at a top-tier Big Ten clash. Ohio State's 45-24 win last year wasn't enough to propel the Buckeyes to a spot in the College Football Playoff. Clemson transfer Hunter Johnson is the projected starting quarterback for the Wildcats, while Georgia transfer Justin Fields takes over for departed quarterback Dwayne Haskins at Ohio State. Northwestern has only beaten the Buckeyes once since 1972.

Oct. 19

Tennessee at No. 2 Alabama

Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver Jaylen Waddle eludes Tennessee Volunteers defensive back Bryce Thompson, Oct. 20, 2018, in Knoxville, Tennessee.

The "Third Saturday in October" has been downright miserable for Tennessee fans in the Saban era. The Volunteers have lost 12 in a row to Alabama, last winning in 2006 -- the year before Saban's arrival. Will things be different with former Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt leading Tennessee? The Volunteers went 5-7 in Pruitt's first season, but their most-lopsided loss was a 58-21 beatdown by the Tide. Tennessee's offense ranked last in the SEC in scoring and rushing last year, so Pruitt shuffled his staff, moving receivers coach David Johnson to running backs and switching Chris Weinke from running backs to quarterbacks. Pruitt also hired former Tennessee quarterback Tee Martin, who led the Volunteers to the 1998 national championship, to work with receivers and lured offensive coordinator Jim Chaney away from Georgia. These changes should help quarterback Jarrett Guarantano and running back Ty Chandler improve upon last year's numbers. Guarantano completed 62.2% of his passes for 1,097 yards (11th in the SEC) and 12 touchdowns (tied for 12th in the conference), but he also threw just three interceptions and set a school record with 166 consecutive passes without a pick. As for Chandler, he averaged 5.5 yards per carry on 115 attempts but only had 630 rushing yards and four touchdowns (plus another three receiving) to show for it.

Oct. 26

No. 9 Notre Dame at No. 7 Michigan

Notre Dame running back Jafar Armstrong runs the ball to score a first-quarter touchdown against the Michigan Wolverines, Sept. 1, 2018, at Notre Dame Stadium.

This regular rivalry resumed last year when Notre Dame beat Michigan 24-17 in the season opener. The Wolverines then reeled off 10 straight wins, remaining in contention for the College Football Playoff until the final week of the regular season. The nation's second-ranked defense a season ago was hit hard by offseason attrition. Michigan must replace four NFL draft picks, including linebacker Devin Bush Jr., who was the 10th overall pick. With just five returning starters on defense, there are holes to fill on the line, up the middle and in the secondary. Here's the good news for the Wolverines: the Irish have lost each of their four previous games at Michigan Stadium, including a 41-30 loss on the most recent visit in 2013.

No. 16 Auburn at No. 6 Louisiana State

LSU's Cole Tracy celebrates after kicking the game-winning field goal in a 22-21 win over the Auburn Tigers, Sept. 15, 2018, at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama.

Auburn hasn't won in Baton Rouge since 1999. That's two decades of dominance in the Bayou State. This could be the year Auburn gets it done, thanks to another superlative secondary, led by safety Grant Delpit. The junior playmaker led the SEC with five interceptions and finished second with 14 passes defended last season. LSU is 15-12 against Auburn since the teams began playing annually in 1992. Auburn led 21-10 in the third quarter before LSU rallied with 12 unanswered points, capped by a last-second, 42-yard field goal by Cole Tracy to prevail 22-21. The record-setting kicker is gone, but Auburn won't catch a break with Connor Culp, who will reclaim kicking duties in 2019. He notched field goals of 42 and 36 yards in the final three minutes of LSU's 27-23 victory in 2017.

Nov. 2

No. 8 Florida vs. No. 3 Georgia

Florida Gators quarterback Feleipe Franks passes during a game against the Georgia Bulldogs at TIAA Bank Field on Oct. 27, 2018 in Jacksonville, Florida.

When Kirby Smart talks, people listen. So when Smart suggested that the annual border rivalry move out of Jacksonville, where it's been played every year since 1933 (except for 1943, when the game was interrupted by World War II, and 1994-95, when the games were moved to Gainesville and Athens because of stadium renovations), he ignited on-again, off-again debate about the future of the series. Smart has said playing the game away from campus is "not conducive to recruiting," but the current contract with Jacksonville expires after 2021, so there's at least three more seasons of memorable moments to be made along the banks of the St. Johns River. After that, though, is anyone's guess. "Nothing's off the table, but nothing's been decided, either," Smart told reporters during the SEC spring meetings. Not that the location has mattered much for Smart. The Bulldogs are 2-1 against Florida under Smart. Although Georgia has won five of the past eight meetings, the Bulldogs have only beaten the Gators eight times since 1990.

No. 14 Utah at No. 13 Washington

Injured Utah Utes running back Zack Moss (left) and quarterback Tyler Huntley missed the Pac-12 Championship game.

This is a rematch of last year's Pacific 12 Conference title game. Georgia transfer Jacob Eason is expected to take the reigns of Washington's offense from departed four-year starter Jake Browning. Eason started at Georgia as a true freshman in 2016 but transferred to Washington after injuring his leg and eventually losing his job. Meanwhile, Utah gets returning starter Tyler Huntley back after missing the final five games of 2018 with an injury. Huntley passed for 1,096 yards and 12 touchdowns, but he also had six interceptions. Running back Zack Moss also returns after running for 1,096 yards and 11 scores in an injury-shortened 2018 season. With Huntley and Moss out, the Huskies prevailed 10-3 in the lowest-scoring Pac-12 title game to date. The Utes had the No. 5 rushing defense and 14th overall defense last season, while the Huskies had the No. 5 scoring defense and 12th overall defense. Something's got to give this time around.

Miami at Florida State

Florida State's D.J. Matthews returns a punt 74 yards for a touchdown early in the third quarter against the Miami Hurricanes on Oct. 6, 2018 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. His score gave the Seminoles a 27-7 lead.

After snapping a seven-game losing streak to Florida State in 2017, Miami has won two in a row against the Seminoles. The Hurricanes had to battle back from a 27-7 deficit in the third quarter to outlast FSU 28-27 for their first home win in the rivalry since 2004. The game was arguably FSU's greatest offensive performance of the season, which isn't exactly reassuring to fans. Taggart touted "lethal simplicity" in 2018. It was anything but. In the aftermath of Florida State's worst season in decades, Taggart turned to Kendal Briles to replace the departed Well Bell as offensive coordinator. Briles has no playbook and comes with some baggage by way of his last name, but it won't matter so long as he fixes FSU's anemic offense. On the opposing sideline, Diaz grew up in Miami (his father is the former mayor) but graduated from FSU and got his coaching start as a volunteer assistant under the legendary Bobby Bowden. The Hurricanes are, by all indications, the better team, but the best team hasn't always won when it comes to this rivalry. The Seminoles are 10-5 against Miami since the Hurricanes joined the ACC in 2004.

Nov. 9

No. 6 Louisiana State at No. 2 Alabama

Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa runs for a third-quarter touchdown against the LSU Tigers, Nov. 3, 2018, at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Alabama won the game 29-0.

Entering his third full season at LSU, head coach Ed Orgeron has the Tigers poised to pounce on the SEC's Western Division. Despite returning seven starters on offense and eight on defense, the biggest coup for the Tigers in 2019 might be the addition of Joe Brady, who was hired away from the NFL's New Orleans Saints to serve as LSU's passing game coordinator. Orgeron has tasked Brady with transitioning the Tigers from a power running game into a run-pass option offense. "I just see the offense I finally want," Orgeron said during spring practice. Of course, none of that will matter if LSU can't take down Alabama on the road. Alabama has won eight in a row, including a 29-0 victory in Baton Rouge last year. The Tigers have scored a total of 10 points in the last three meetings. That's going to have to change, although LSU's last victory in 2011 was a 9-6 kicking clinic in overtime at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Nov. 16

No. 8 Florida at Missouri

Missouri Tigers quarterback Kelly Bryant throws during practice, Aug. 12, 2019, in Columbia, Missouri.

There is life after Drew Lock for Missouri at the quarterback position. Enter former Clemson starter Kelly Bryant, who led the Tigers to the College Football Playoff during the 2017 season before losing his job and taking advantage of the new NCAA redshirt rule, thus allowing him to preserve his final year of eligibility as a graduate transfer. Bryant will be helped by running back Larry Roundtree III, who rushed for 1,216 yards as a sophomore last season. The Tigers are 4-3 against Florida since joining the SEC, including back-to-back wins the last two years. Another thing going for Missouri is the timing of the game. The Tigers haven't lost in November since 2016. No matter what happens this season, one thing is certain -- Missouri won't be bowling. The NCAA instituted a one-year bowl ban in January after finding that a rouge Missouri tutor completed coursework for the school's student-athletes.

Nov. 23

No. 12 Texas A&M at No. 3 Georgia

Georgia Bulldogs running back D'Andre Swift rushed for 1,049 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2018.

This is the first meeting between the schools since Texas A&M joined the SEC in 2012. Texas A&M's offensive line must replace two starters from a unit that allowed 35 sacks last season, including 21 in the first six games. Fisher took a cue from his old boss Bobby Bowden, defending the O-line and saying it's "been pretty dad-gum productive." He pointed out how now-departed running back Trayveon Williams rushed for a single-season school record 1,760 yards. Joshua Corbin is expected to carry the load for the Aggies this season. The sophomore averaged 5.7 yards on 61 carries a season ago. Georgia has some bell cows at running back, beginning with junior D'Andre Swift, who rushed for 1,049 yards and 10 touchdowns despite dealing with injuries for most of last season. Just behind him are senior Brian Herrien (923 yards and seven scores in his career), sophomore James Cook (brother of former Florida State and current Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook) and redshirt freshman Zamir White (No. 1 running back prospect who missed the 2018 season after suffering a knee injury in preseason practice). This is a game that will be won in the trenches.

Boston College at No. 9 Notre Dame

Boston College Eagles running back AJ Dillon runs for a touchdown in the first quarter against Holy Cross, Sept. 8, 2018, at Alumni Stadium in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.

After a 7-5 campaign was abruptly cut short by the cancellation of the First Responders Bowl, Boston College head coach Steve Addazio was rewarded with a two-year contract extension through 2022. The Eagles return one of the nation's best running backs in AJ Dillon, who rushed for 1,108 yards and 10 touchdowns as a sophomore despite missing two games to injury. Junior quarterback Anthony Brown has started 22 games in his career and threw 20 touchdowns last season, putting the Eagles in position to win more games than they lose. Boston College was 7-2 early last November and ranked in the top 25 before ending the season on a three-game slide, losing to Clemson, Florida State and Syracuse in successive weeks. The Eagles will need a better showing this November to become a legitimate top 25 team. Notre Dame and Boston College have met 24 times since their first game in 1975, but the rivalry really got going when the teams played every year from 1992 to 2004. Boston College hasn't beaten the Irish since 2008, dropping each of the past six meetings. Prior to that, the Eagles won six straight in the "Holy War."

UCLA at Southern California

USC quarterback JT Daniels looks for an open receiver during the second half against the UCLA Bruins, Nov. 17, 2018, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.

The debut of the Chip Kelly era at UCLA was hardly impressive. The Bruins lost their first five games -- their worst start since 1943 -- and won just three games in 2018. Thankfully for UCLA fans, one of those wins came in the crosstown rivalry against Southern California. The star of UCLA's 34-27 win was running back Joshua Kelly, who accounted for 289 yards and two touchdowns against the Trojans. It was the most yards USC has ever surrendered against a UCLA running back. Meanwhile, USC finished with a losing record for the first time since 2000. Head coach Clay Helton, who led the Trojans to 11 wins and a Pac-12 championship in 2017, is surely feeling the pressure from an impatient fan base. To that end, Helton hired Kliff Kingsbury to be his offensive coordinator in December, but the in-demand play caller left to be head coach of the NFL's Arizona Cardinals a month later. Helton then hired North Texas offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Graham Harrell to take Kingsbury's place. JT Daniels is back at quarterback after graduating from high school early and starting 11 games for the Trojans in 2018, throwing for 2,672 yards with 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. This game should serve as a barometer to which team made the biggest strides in a year. The Bruins haven't won at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum since 2013.

Nov. 29

No. 23 Washington State at No. 13 Washington

Washington State head coach Mike Leach watches from the sideline during the second half against Washington, Nov. 23, 2018, in Pullman, Washington.

Washington State head coach Mike Leach is 26-10 in Pac-12 games since 2015. Four of those losses have been to Washington. Last year's Apple Cup determined which team represented the North Division in the Pac-12 title game. Washington's 28-15 win made it six in a row for the Huskies. Graduate transfer Gage Gubrud comes to Washington State after accumulating more than 11,000 yards of offense and 100 total touchdowns at Eastern Washington. Gubrud is quite familiar with the Cougars. He led Eastern Washington to a 45-42 win against them in his first career start in 2016.

Nov. 30

No. 5 Ohio State at No. 7 Michigan

Ohio State linebacker Pete Werner and defensive end Jonathon Cooper tackle Michigan running back Tru Wilson during the second half, Nov. 24, 2018, in Columbus, Ohio. The Buckeyes beat the Wolverines 62-39.

Ohio State has won 14 of 15 and seven consecutive against Michigan, including a resounding 62-39 victory in Columbus last year. The Wolverines' lone win during that span was at Michigan Stadium in 2011. Has Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh hit his ceiling at his alma mater? The Harbaugh era has yielded no championships, a 0-2 mark in major bowl games and, worst of all, a 0-4 record against the Buckeyes. Adding insult to injury, Michigan defensive line coach Greg Mattison bolted for Ohio State in the offseason.

No. 2 Alabama at No. 16 Auburn

Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa runs from the Auburn Tigers, Nov. 24, 2018, at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Auburn defeated Alabama 26-14 the last time these state rivals met at Jordan-Hare Stadium, but the Tide easily disposed of the Tigers 52-21 in last year's "Iron Bowl." Saban is 3-3 at Auburn since he became Alabama's head coach in 2007. In other words, the Tigers have a chance, so long as they're the home team. Their victory at the end of the 2017 regular season may have kept Alabama from playing for the SEC championship, but it didn't keep the Tide from earning one of the top four spots in the College Football Playoff. In fact, Alabama is only team to participate in every College Football Playoff since it began during the 2014 season. The embattled Gus Malzahn takes over play-calling duties at Auburn this season on the heels of a 63-14 rout of Purdue in the Music City Bowl. With Malzahn in control of the offense, the Tigers set a bowl record with 53 points in the first half. Don't expect that kind of performance against Alabama with a first-year starter at quarterback, but it's bound to better than Auburn's offensive production in its last three losses to the Tide, when the Tigers were outscored 111-46.

No. 12 Texas A&M at No. 6 Louisiana State

Texas A&M wide receiver Kendrick Rogers (right) celebrates with Camron Buckley after catching a pass for a two-point conversion during the seventh overtime to beat LSU, Nov. 24, 2018, in College Station, Texas. The Aggies won 74-72.

Texas A&M beat LSU 74-72 in seven overtimes last November, giving the Aggies their first win against the Tigers since 1995. The game set a FBS record for the most points scored in a game. Texas A&M fans are no doubt concerned about LSU athletic director Scott Woodward, who lured Jimbo Fisher to "Aggieland" before leaving for his alma mater in April. Woodward and Fisher are chummy dating back to their days together in Baton Rouge, when Fisher was LSU's offensive coordinator. Fisher's lucrative contract has no buyout clause, which Woodward knows plenty well. If LSU continues to stumble against the Aggies, don't be surprised if Woodward comes calling.

Florida State at No. 8 Florida

Florida State head coach Willie Taggart, left, and Florida head coach Dan Mullen shake hands after the Gators defeated the Seminoles 41-14 at Bobby Bowden Field at Doak S. Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Florida, Nov. 24, 2018.

The Gators snapped a five-game losing steak to Florida State with a 41-14 win in Tallahassee last year. They also ensured the Seminoles of their first losing season since 1976 and kept them from making a bowl game for the first time since 1982. Will this be the year the Gators break their losing streak to FSU in Gainesville? Florida hasn't been victorious against its state rival at "The Swamp" since former Heisman winner Tim Tebow played his final game there in 2009. Although FSU has won seven of the last nine meetings, Mullen is a perfect 5-0 against the Seminoles, including his time as Florida's offensive coordinator.