Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins dives between Georgia Tech defenders Daniel Drummond, left, and Louis Young to the 1-yard line during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012, at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/ Richard Shiro)
AP TOP 25
5:30 p.m. Saturday vs. Virginia Tech
2 Ohio State
11 a.m. Saturday vs. Buffalo
3 p.m. Saturday vs. Nicholls State
10 p.m. Sept. 7 vs. San Jose State
7 p.m. Saturday at No. 8 Clemson
6 South Carolina
5 p.m. Thursday vs. North Carolina
7 Texas A&M
Noon Saturday vs. Rice
7 p.m. Saturday vs. No. 5 Georgia
2:30 p.m. next Sunday vs. Ohio
11:20 a.m. Saturday vs. Toledo
11 Florida State
7 p.m. Sept. 2 at Pittsburgh
8 p.m. Saturday vs. No. 20 TCU
13 Oklahoma State
2:30 p.m. Saturday vs. Miss. State
14 Notre Dame
2:30 p.m. Saturday vs. Temple
7 p.m. Saturday vs. New Mexico St.
6 p.m. Saturday vs. La.-Monroe
2:30 p.m. Saturday vs. C. Michigan
7 p.m. Saturday vs. Wyoming
19 Boise State
9 p.m. Saturday at Washington
8 p.m. Saturday vs. No. 12 LSU
9 p.m. Saturday vs. Nevada
9:30 p.m. Saturday at California
11 a.m. Saturday vs. Massachusetts
10 p.m. Saturday at Hawaii
25 Oregon State
5 p.m. Saturday vs. E. Washington
Updated: September 27, 2013 6:35AM
Saturday’s prime-time game between Georgia and host Clemson (7, ABC) is a perfect marquee opener on many levels. Both top-10 teams have explosive talent and extraordinary momentum; the Bulldogs came within a whisker of beating Alabama in the 2012 Southeastern Conference championship game, and the Tigers took down big, bad LSU in a bowl game to finish 11-2.
In a great year for quarterbacks, Georgia’s Aaron Murray and Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, both seniors, may be the two best passers. It’s too soon for this to be a Heisman elimination game, but a crippling blow will be dealt to one of these teams’ national title chances.
TGI . . . Thursday
College football’s actual opening night starts with sack monster Jadeveon Clowney, the most dominant player in the country, leading Steve Spurrier’s best-yet South Carolina team against talented North Carolina (5, ESPN). And it ends with USC quarterbacks Max Wittek and Cody Kessler continuing their battle for the starting job as the Trojans visit Hawaii (10, CBS Sports Network).
Also, a couple of Thursday nighters only a Big Ten diehard could love: Indiana vs. Indiana State and Minnesota vs. UNLV, both at 6. Big Ten Network will televise Minnesota in Chicago, while Indiana will be available on the network’s extra game channel.
The biggest reason the first Saturday of the season has gotten a lot cooler is matchups such as Alabama vs. Virginia Tech (4:30, ESPN) in Atlanta, LSU-TCU (8, ESPN) at Jerry Jones’ house in Arlington, Texas, and Oklahoma State-Mississippi State (2:30, ESPN2) in Houston. They’re like bowl games, only nobody’s gotten fat beforehand from team vs. team eating contests.
Go, Johnny, go
If you want to watch Johnny Manziel pass and run for half a billion yards, Texas A&M will be obliterating Rice beginning at noon on ESPN. Given the NCAA’s continued silence regarding its investigation of Manziel, it appears the Sharpie-wielding superstar is good to go . . . for now, anyway.
’Cats and dogs
Northwestern is facing a huge Saturday right out of the gate. The Wildcats should be the better team at California (9:30, ESPN2), but that hasn’t stopped many a Big Ten squad from embarrassing itself in a visit to Pac-12 country. Think Wisconsin at Oregon State last September.
While you’re at it, think Northern Illinois at Iowa. A year ago, what turned out to be a great Huskies team lost 18-17 to what turned out to be an awful Hawkeyes team. They’re about to go at it again in an Iowa City rematch (2:30, Big Ten Network) that’s all about revenge for Jordan Lynch and friends.
Monday night football
Repeat the name Jameis Winston until it has been burned into your brain. Winston is the one-time mega-recruit who’ll make his first collegiate start at quarterback when Florida State visits Pittsburgh (7, ESPN). Seminole Nation sees a Heisman in the redshirt freshman’s future and at least one national title along with it. These things have a way of not working out, but until then: Sure, we’ll bite.