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  #51  
Old 09-02-2017, 10:24 AM
sailfish sailfish is offline
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When: 4:00 PM ET, Saturday, September 2, 2017
Where: Jones AT&T Stadium, Lubbock, Texas

Preview: Eastern Washington at Texas Tech
Gracenote
Aug 30, 2017

Few coaches in college football enter the season with a hot seat any hotter than the one occupied by fifth-year Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury. And that puts even more added importance on picking up a season-opening win Saturday afternoon for the Red Raiders who host a FCS school, Eastern Washington of the Big Sky Conference.

Kingsbury, who is 24-26 overall in Lubbock and is coming off a disappointing 5-7 campaign, knows the dangers of perhaps overlooking an FCS school like Eastern Washington, which upset Pac-12 power Washington State 45-42 last season and also won at Oregon State in 2013. "We're very aware, obviously," Kingsbury said on Monday's Big 12 coaches' teleconference noting that his old mentor at Texas Tech, Washington State head coach Mike Leach, lost to the Eagles last season. "We all have relationships with Mike Leach, and Eastern Washington beat them last year at their place starting off the season. We know we'll need to play our best game. They're a very talented team." Making this one an almost must-win for Texas Tech is the fact the Red Raiders' schedule doesn't get any easier with a nonconference home date against Arizona State and a road game at Houston before a tough Big 12 opener against Oklahoma State.

TV: 4 p.m. ET, FSN. LINE: None.

ABOUT EASTERN WASHINGTON (12-2 in 2016): The Eagles are ranked No. 4 and No. 5 in major FCS polls despite losing head coach Beau Baldwin, who left to become offensive coordinator at Cal, and standout wide receiver Cooper Kupp, a third round NFL pick of the Los Angeles Rams who had 428 career receptions and 73 receiving touchdowns. The good news is that junior quarterback Gage Gubrud returns after completing 386-of-570 passes for 5,160 yards, 48 touchdowns and 14 interceptions en route to FCS Player of the Year honors by the Touchdown Club of Columbus. Longtime offensive-line coach Aaron Best, now in his 21st year in the program as a player and coach, takes over for Baldwin as head coach.

ABOUT TEXAS TECH (5-7 in 2016): Redshirt 6-4 senior Nic Shimonek will take over at quarterback for Patrick Mahomes III who passed for 5,052 yards and 41 touchdowns last season before heading off to the NFL where he was a first-round pick by the Kansas City Chiefs. Shimonek has a strong group of receivers, led by seniors Dylan Cantrell and Cameron Batson, who both had eight touchdown catches a year ago, and junior Keke Coutee, who was second on the team with 890 receiving yards. The big question is how much improved will be a defense that finished dead last in the NCAA in total defense last season but returns seven starters as well as junior linebacker Dakota Allen, the team's second leading tackler as a freshman in 2015 before heading off to junior college for a year after getting charged with felony robbery, a case that was later dismissed.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Texas Tech has won 20 of its last 21 season openers, including 14 in a row which is the fourth longest streak nationally behind Florida (27), Ohio State (16) and Alabama (15).

2. Allen, the focus of the Netflix series Last Chance U, had 117 tackles, two sacks and an interception last season at East Mississippi Community College.

3. The Red Raiders allowed 40 or more points in eight games last season.

PREDICTION: Texas Tech 55, Eastern Washington 34
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  #52  
Old 09-02-2017, 10:24 AM
sailfish sailfish is offline
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When: 4:00 PM ET, Saturday, September 2, 2017
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida

Preview: Stony Brook at South Florida
Gracenote
Aug 30, 2017

South Florida survived a bit of a scare in the season opener last week and hopes to make things a little easier when it hosts FCS member Stony Brook on Saturday at Raymond James Stadium. The 21st-ranked Bulls gave up the game’s first 16 points at San Jose State last Saturday before rallying for a 42-22 victory behind a strong ground attack and an improving defense that forced three turnovers.

“It’s good that you have a good game like this, so now the guys know that there’s improvement to be made,” first-year USF coach Charlie Strong told reporters. “… We can’t be complacent.” Bulls senior quarterback Quinton Flowers hopes to improve off a game in which he completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes, but threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score while totaling almost 300 yards. USF will look to continue churning out first downs on the ground against Stony Brook after compiling 315 rushing yards as seniors D’Ernest Johnson and Darius Tice combined for 193 and Flowers added another 70. The Seawolves of the Colonial Athletic Association, who lost their final four games last season, are expected to do the same as 12th-year coach Chuck Priore told the team’s website recently that his corps of running backs is the strength of the team.

TV: 4 p.m. ET, ESPN3. LINE: Off

STONY BROOK (2016: 5-6): Senior Stacey Bedell, who led the team with 698 yards and 10 touchdowns rushing in 2016, joins juniors Donald Liotine and Jordan Gowins in a potent backfield with All-CAA lineman Timon Parris paving the way. Junior Joe Carbone (three TD passes, 12 interceptions last year) returns at quarterback for the Seawolves, but he will be pushed by redshirt freshman Tyquell Fields. There is also decent depth at receiver with senior Ray Bolden (37 catches, 536 yards in 2016) as the top target while junior wide-out Donavin Washington (28, 244 in 2015) returns after missing most of last year to injury.

SOUTH FLORIDA (1-0): Sterlin Gilbert, who came with Strong from Texas to be the new offensive coordinator, has installed an attack with a faster tempo and it showed as the Bulls ran a school-record 101 plays in the opener. “It gets to the point where you get the defense very tired, and that’s what you like to see in a defense,” Flowers told reporters. “You pick’em apart and keep moving. … Sometimes to DBs, they get so locked into the run and before you know it, we can take a big shot.” Ronnie Hoggins led the Bulls with eight tackles Saturday while fellow defensive backs Devin Abraham and Mazzi Wilkins each picked off a pass along with linebacker Nico Sawtelle.

EXTRA POINTS

1. The Bulls have scored at least 30 points in 18 consecutive games, dating back to the 2015 season, and have won six straight contests.

2. Stony Brook is 1-7 in eight games against FBS opponents, including a 59-14 setback against USF in 2010.

3. USF senior WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling led the way with six catches for 91 yards in the season opener.

PREDICTION: South Florida 55, Stony Brook 14
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  #53  
Old 09-02-2017, 10:25 AM
sailfish sailfish is offline
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When: 4:00 PM ET, Saturday, September 2, 2017
Where: M. M. Roberts Stadium, Hattiesburg, Mississippi

Preview: Kentucky at Southern Mississippi
Gracenote
Aug 30, 2017

Precisely who the starting quarterback will be for Southern Mississippi has yet to be determined ahead of Saturday's season opener against visiting Kentucky. Kwadra Griggs, a junior who redshirted last season, seemed to have a leg up on the competition before missing a week of practice with a finger injury, which allowed sophomore Keon Howard, last season's backup, a chance to state his case to second-year head coach Jay Hopson.

The Wildcats and coach Mark Stoops know who their starting quarterback will be, but find themselves behind the eight ball before the season begins because of injuries at other positions. Senior wide receiver Dorian Baker will miss most if not all of the season with a fractured ankle and senior left tackle Cole Mosier was lost for the season after tearing the ACL in his right knee. The Wildcats were already looking at getting significant contributions from freshmen and other first-year players such as receivers Clevan Thomas, Isaiah Epps, Lynn Bowden and Josh Ali, defensive end Joshua Paschal, defensive lineman Quinton Bohanna and defensive back Cedrick Dort, Jr. and the list may grow larger. "Guys that either can't do it or won't do it are going to get passed up because we have a lot of depth and a lot of talent on this team. At least a lot more than we've had," Stoops, who sports a 19-30 record with the Wildcats, told the media.

TV: 4 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network. LINE: Kentucky -10

ABOUT KENTUCKY (2016: 7-6): After facing competition in practice from Drew Barker, who opened last season as the starter at quarterback before going down with an injury, senior Stephen Johnson was listed atop the depth chart for the opener. Johnson took over in Week 3 of last season and led the Wildcats to a 7-4 record, including a victory over Louisville when he posted a season-high 338 yards and three touchdowns. Stoops will replace Mosier on the offensive line with the duo with sophomore Landon Young, a former five-start recruit, and senior Kyle Meadows.

ABOUT SOUTHERN MISS (2016: 7-6): Senior running back Ito Smith, who accounted for 1,459 yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground and 459 yards and two scores through the air, was named to the Conference-USA preseason first team. Senior receiver Allenzae Staggers, who caught 63 passes for 1,165 yards and seven scores, was bestowed with the same honor. Smith, whose name appears on the Maxwell Award and Doak Walker Award watch lists, is the only active back in the nation with more than 3,000 rushing and 1,000 receiving yards and has a chance to become the 10th back in NCAA history with 4,000 rushing and 1,000 receiving.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Mike Edwards, who led all SEC defensive backs with 100 tackles to go along with three interceptions last season, will see time at nickel back this season for the Wildcats.

2. Southern Miss enjoyed the largest comeback in school history by scoring the final 34 points in a 44-35 victory at Kentucky to open last season and snap a 13-game losing streak against the SEC.

3. Benny Snell, Jr., one of two 1,000-yard rushers (1,091) and the team leader with 13 rushing touchdowns last season, will get the starting nod at running back for Kentucky.

PREDICTION: Kentucky 34, Southern Miss 27
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  #54  
Old 09-02-2017, 10:26 AM
sailfish sailfish is offline
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When: 5:15 PM ET, Saturday, September 2, 2017
Where: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, California

Preview: Western Michigan at USC
Gracenote
Aug 29, 2017

USC ended last season as the hottest team in the nation and the No. 4 Trojans will try to pick up where they left off against Western Michigan at the Coliseum on Saturday. USC won its final nine games behind freshman quarterback Sam Darnold, but even that streak didn't top Western Michigan's string of 13 straight wins to start last season.

Western Michigan, USC's first-ever MAC opponent, features a new head coach this season but the same backfield of Jarvion Franklin and Jamauri Bogan, who combined for 2,276 rushing yards last season. The Trojans have their top rusher back as well, and Ronald Jones II won't have to split carries this season with Justin Davis, now with the Los Angeles Rams. Jones totaled 1,082 rushing yards last season after gaining 987 as a freshman in 2015, and should join Darnold in the early Heisman Trophy discussion. Leading receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and Darreus Rogers have also moved on to the NFL, leaving Deontay Burnett as the main target for Darnold with Jalen Greene also expected to have a much bigger role this season.

TV: 5:15 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network. LINE: USC -27.

ABOUT WESTERN MICHIGAN (2016: 13-1): The Broncos will need to reset a passing game that was led last season by senior quarterback Zach Terrell, who ranked fourth in the FBS with a 175.2 passer rating, and wide receiver Corey Davis, a Biletnikoff Award finalist who finished with 97 receptions for 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns before getting selected fifth overall in the NFL Draft by the Tennessee Titans. Jon Wassink is set to take over at quarterback, and he'll guide an offense that not only is without Davis, but its next two best receivers and top offensive lineman from last season. Tim Lester, who takes the helm after serving as quarterbacks coach at Purdue last season, will likely lean on his experienced running backs against the Trojans.

ABOUT USC (2016: 10-3): Darnold will experience his first season opener as starting quarterback at USC and many believe it will be his last. Darnold, a redshirt sophomore, took over as the starter in Week 4 last season and led the Trojans to a 9-1 mark the rest of the way, passing for 2,950 yards with 29 touchdowns and eight interceptions as a starter. Cameron Smith was USC's leading tackler last season, and the third-year starter at middle linebacker should be a key figure against Western Michigan's powerful run game.

EXTRA POINTS

1. USC's nine-game winning streak is its longest since winning 12 in a row in 2008-09.

2. USC has no players on its roster from Michigan, and Western Michigan has no players from California.

3. Western Michigan opened the season against No. 6 Michigan State two years ago and lost 37-24.

PREDICTION: USC 45, Western Michigan 28
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  #55  
Old 09-02-2017, 10:27 AM
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When: 6:00 PM ET, Saturday, September 2, 2017
Where: Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, Greenville, North Carolina

Preview: James Madison at East Carolina
Gracenote
Aug 29, 2017

Junior Gardner Minshew will get the start under center for East Carolina, which looks to snap a four-game losing streak when it plays defending FCS national champion James Madison on Saturday night in the season opener for both teams. Minshew, who completed 119-of-202 passes for 1,347 yards and eight touchdowns last season, won a tight battle over Duke graduate transfer Thomas Sirk in the preseason.

East Carolina won its first two games last season, including an impressive 33-30 victory over in-state rival N.C. State in the second contest. Things, however, unraveled quickly thereafter for the Pirates and they went 1-7 in American Athletic Conference play. The Pirates also have to replace Zay Jones, a second-round draft pick of the Buffalo Bills, who finished second in the nation with 1,746 receiving yards and tied for the team lead with eight touchdowns. James Madison figures to pose a stern test as the Dukes were selected to win the Colonial Athletic Association title and are ranked No. 1 in the nation in several preseason FCS polls.

TV: 6 p.m. ET, ESPN3.com. LINE: None

ABOUT JAMES MADISON (2016: 14-1): Paced by a dominant defense, the Dukes won their final 12 games last season capped by a 28-14 victory over Youngstown State for their second FCS title. James Madison, whose lone loss of the season was at N.C. State 56-28, will have to replace running back Khalid Abdullah who ended his career atop the school record books in career touchdowns, single-season touchdowns and single-season rushing yards. The Dukes finished as the FCS leader in scoring margin at plus-25.5 points per game, second in points per game (46.7) and 16th in points allowed (21.2).

ABOUT EAST CAROLINA (3-9): Sirk, a dual threat, appeared to have the nod at quarterback after an impressive career at Duke which included a 2015 season that saw him amass 3,428 total yards of offense, the second-best in school history. An Achilles tendon injury, however, has slowed his progress and coach Scottie Montgomery went with Minshew, who is more familiar with the system. The Pirates also have to replace James Summers (now with the Arizona Cardinals), who ran the wildcat at quarterback and led the team in rushing with 869 yards and seven scores, in their bid to climb the AAC standings.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Junior Devin Anderson, who gained 258 yards on 57 carries last season, is the leading returning rusher for the Pirates.

2. ECU finished 11th out of 12 teams in the conference in scoring defense last season, allowing 36.1 points per game.

3. James Madison senior TE Jonathan Kloosterman, who scored seven touchdowns last season, will miss the game because of a violation of team rules.

PREDICTION: East Carolina 34, James Madison 20
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  #56  
Old 09-02-2017, 10:28 AM
sailfish sailfish is offline
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When: 6:00 PM ET, Saturday, September 2, 2017
Where: Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, North Carolina

Preview: North Carolina Central at Duke
Gracenote
Aug 30, 2017

With a disappointing season in the rear view mirror, Duke looks to get back to its recent winning ways when it opens the 2017 campaign at home against FCS foe North Carolina Central. The Blue Devils fell to 4-8 last season after recording three consecutive winning seasons for the first time since the 1960s.

Duke averaged over 30 points per game from 2012-15, culminating in bowl appearances each season, but tallied just 23.3 a contest last year while yielding 28.2 points. Daniel Jones, who last season became the first freshman to start at quarterback since 1997, should continue to grow, but coach David Cutcliffe wants to see more reliability from his receivers. “The quarterback should throw the ball where it’s most easily caught, and the receiver should catch every one of them,” Cutcliffe told the Raleigh Observer during preseason camp. “So how do you manage that? We manage with each rep by having a greater purpose in practice. So if it sounds like pressure, it is. That’s the level of college football we are playing.” NC Central won its third straight Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship last season and is ranked No. 24 in the FCS Coaches poll - its first preseason ranking in its Division I era.

TV: 6 p.m. ET, ACC Network. LINE: NL.

ABOUT NC CENTRAL (2016: 9-3): The Eagles must replace three-year starting quarterback Malcolm Bell (2,431 yards, 26 total touchdowns last season) and four offensive lineman from an offense that set a school record with 384.5 yards of total offense. Sophomore quarterback Micah Zanders, a transfer from Hines (Miss.) Community College, will take over from Bell, while Ramone Simpson (632 rushing yards) and fellow junior Dorrel McClain (453), the 2015 MEAC Rookie of the Year who battled injuries last season, will fight for carries. Senior linebacker Reggie Hunter (84 tackles, four interceptions) and senior linemen Antonio Brown (14.5 tackles for loss, 56 tackles, eight sacks), both second team All-MEAC selections in 2016, lead a talented front seven that averaged nearly three sacks per game and yielded 22.9 points per contest.

ABOUT DUKE (2016 record: 4-8): Scouts believe the 6-5 Jones (62.8 percent, 2,836 yards, 16 TD, nine interceptions in 2016), has an NFL future, forcing the transfer of former starter Thomas Sirk to East Carolina for his senior season. Senior Shaun Wilson ran for 623 yards last season - the most by a Blue Devils’ top rusher since 2003 - and junior wide receiver T.J. Rahming (70 catches, 742 yards) heads a receiving core that is looking for consistency from tight end Daniel Helm (21 catches) as well as wideouts Chris Taylor (29), freshman Scott Bracey and sophomore Keyston Fuller (both missed last season with injuries). Linebackers Joseph Giles-Harris and Ben Humphreys (combined 213 tackles, 8.5 sacks) lead a group of five returning starters on a defense that surrendered 28.2 points and 6.3 yards per play – the most since 2012.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Duke is 5-0 all-time against NC Central, including a 49-6 victory in the opener last season. Jones completed 10-of-15 passes for 189 yards and two TDs in his college debut as the Blue Devils outgained the Eagles 535-112.

2. After throwing five interceptions in an Oct. 1 loss to Virginia last season, Jones threw 10 TDs against just one pick over the final seven games.

3. The Duke offensive line, which returns three starters, also adds RT Evan Lisle - a graduate transfer from Ohio State.

PREDICTION: Duke 42, NC Central 10
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  #57  
Old 09-02-2017, 10:28 AM
sailfish sailfish is offline
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When: 6:15 PM ET, Saturday, September 2, 2017
Where: Sanford Stadium, Athens, Georgia

Preview: Appalachian State at Georgia
Gracenote
Aug 30, 2017

Georgia opens its second season under coach Kirby Smart at home Saturday against Appalachian State, and the 15th-ranked Bulldogs have plenty of returning offensive firepower to deploy on their quest to win the SEC East. Optimism is high given running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel skipped the NFL draft and returned to campus for their senior seasons, and sophomore quarterback Jacob Eason has a full year of experience as Smart looks to direct Georgia to its first conference title since 2005.

Smart acknowledged to reporters Monday there is more of a comfort level after having a year – albeit an up-and-down campaign – under his belt as he starts his second season as head coach at his alma mater. “It makes you much more comfortable coming into this season as opposed to the first one,” Smart said. Appalachian State looks to debut its season in the same fashion it did a decade ago, when the Mountaineers authored one of the biggest upsets in college football history with a stunning victory at fifth-ranked Michigan. The Mountaineers nearly toppled No. 9 Tennessee in last year’s season opener, pushing the Volunteers into overtime before falling 20-13.

TV: 6:15 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Georgia -14.5

ABOUT APPALACHIAN STATE (2016: 10-3, 7-1 Sun Belt): The Mountaineers have won 21 games the past two seasons – including a pair of bowl victories – and return quarterback Taylor Lamb and running back Jalin Moore (1,402 yards, 10 touchdowns) behind a strong offensive line. But the Mountaineers have to replace five of the top 10 tacklers from a defense that finished last season 17th in the country in total defense. Linebacker Eric Boggs and cornerback Clifton Duck lead the returners on defense for the Mountaineers, who have won 14 of their past 16 conference contests.

ABOUT GEORGIA (2016: 8-5, 4-4 SEC): Eason became the starter in week two of his freshman season and experienced growing pains while passing for 2,430 yards, 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions. The biggest boost for Georgia came when Chubb (1,130 yards, eight touchdowns) and Michel (840 yards, four scores) decided to return. The Bulldogs allowed 24 points per game on defense, giving up less than 20 points only three times, but return a group of experienced playmakers fronted by defensive lineman Trenton Thompson, linebacker Davin Bellamy and safety Dominick Sanders.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Chubb and Michel combined to lead Georgia in rushing 12 times in 13 games a season ago.

2. Smart told reporters Georgia DB Malkom Parrish, who suffered a broken foot two weeks ago, may be available for the season opener.

3. Appalachian State lost only 13 turnovers last season, ranking ninth in the country.

PREDICTION: Georgia 38, Appalachian State 17
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  #58  
Old 09-02-2017, 10:29 AM
sailfish sailfish is offline
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When: 7:00 PM ET, Saturday, September 2, 2017
Where: McLane Stadium, Waco, Texas

Preview: Liberty at Baylor
Gracenote
Aug 30, 2017

Baylor begins the Matt Rhule Era on Saturday when the Bears open their 2017 season with a home game against Liberty. Rhule comes to Waco from Temple where he led the Owls to consecutive 10-win seasons as well as the 2016 American Athletic Conference championship.

Rhule inherits what some might describe as a huge mess, taking over a program that has been clouded by a wide-ranging Title IX scandal that cost former head coach Art Briles his job and featured numerous sexual-assault allegations involving players. The Bears also slumped badly on the field last season, losing their final six regular season games before bouncing back to defeat Boise State 31-12 in the Cactus Bowl. Barring a major upset, however, Rhule figures to start 2-0 out of the gate with back-to-back home games against the Flames, an FCS team that will transition to the FBS in 2018, and UTSA, which finished 6-7 last season and had its season opener with Houston postponed by Hurricane Harvey. "I think the thing you learn as a coach very early on is that you just control what you can control," Rhule said about his new job. "You focus 100 percent on your team, knowing that any team you play can beat you and you can beat any team you play."

TV: 7 p.m. ET, FS2. LINE: None

ABOUT LIBERTY (6-5 in 2016): The Flames, coached by former Kansas and Buffalo head coach Turner Gill, are playing their final season in the Big South Conference and will become a FBS independent in 2018. Sophomore Stephen Calvert returns at quarterback after throwing for 1,931 yards and 15 touchdowns while starting the final seven games of the season. The Flames also return four starters on the offensive line as well as a trio of running backs in Carrington Mosley (663 yards, 5 TDs), Todd Macon (620 yards, 7 TDs) and Frankie Hickson (450 yards, 6 TDs) who combined for 1,733 yards and 16 touchdowns last season.

ABOUT BAYLOR (7-6 in 2016): Rhule announced Tuesday that Anu Solomon, a graduate transfer from Arizona, beat out sophomore Zach Smith and freshman Charlie Brewer for the starting quarterback job. Solomon passed for 6,922 yards and 49 touchdowns with just 16 interceptions in three injury-plagued seasons with the Wildcats before transferring to Baylor in the spring. The defense, which gave up 200 yards per game on the ground last season, is led by linebacker Taylor Young, who had 93 tackles, and defensive lineman K.J. Smith, who had seven sacks.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Baylor CB Grayland Arnold, expected to be the team's top cornerback this season, suffered a broken arm in the team's final scrimmage and will miss six to eight weeks after undergoing surgery.

2. Bears senior S Taion Sells will serve a three-game suspension and senior offensive tackle Mo Porter will serve a half-game suspension Saturday for unspecified incidents that happened over the summer, according to Rhule.

3. Baylor has won 19 consecutive regular-season nonconference games.

PREDICTION: Baylor 44, Liberty 21
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  #59  
Old 09-02-2017, 10:31 AM
sailfish sailfish is offline
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Where: Gerald J. Ford Stadium, Dallas, Texas

Preview: Stephen F. Austin at SMU
Gracenote
Aug 29, 2017

SMU's quest to end a five-year bowl drought rests on the shoulders of a quarterback with just 11 starts under his belt - but Ben Hicks couldn't have asked for a better way to start the season. The Mustangs look to build on last year's modest improvement as they kick off their 2017 campaign Saturday night against visiting Stephen F. Austin.

Hicks flashed brilliance at times last season, but the overall stat line left much to be desired: The freshman accumulated 2,930 passing yards but threw 15 interceptions against just 19 touchdown passes. That said, he's going to have a lot more help this season, including an electrifying wideout in Courtland Sutton, who scouts believe will be a high draft pick in the NFL next year. The redshirt junior with a 33 1/2-inch vertical leap is expected to rejuvenate an offense that was all over the place last season, although it did show signs of life in the latter stages. Both Hicks and Sutton should have a field day Saturday against the Lumberjacks, who had the worst pass defense in FCS in 2016.

TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN3. LINE: None

ABOUT STEPHEN F. AUSTIN (2016: 5-6): Anything the Lumberjacks did on offense was overshadowed by a pass defense unit that allowed a whopping 332.6 yards per game through the air (the next-closest FCS team surrendered 301 passing yards per game.) TCU transfer Foster Sawyer takes over the quarterback reins from Zach Conque, and he'll have several options to choose from - including holdover and FCS Freshman All-American Tamrick Pace and a pair of fellow FBS transfers in Terian Goree (North Texas) and Frank Iheanacho (Texas A&M). With the secondary in shambles, Jeff Byrd was installed as defensive coordinator after a successful run with UT Martin, which ranked 18th in FCS in total defense last season.

ABOUT SMU (2016: 5-7): Head coach Chad Morris saw a three-win bump in his second season at the helm, and is buoyed by a Mustangs defense that finished in the top 40 in sacks in Division I last season. Senior Justin Lawler is expected to anchor the defense after racking up 65 tackles and six sacks last season, while Demerick Gary added four sacks as a freshman and is expected to take a step forward in his second season with SMU. In the backfield, Braeden West will look to build upon a 1,000-yard, six-touchdown showing in 2016, but he'll be pushed for carries by fellow returnees Xavier Jones and Ke'Mon Freemon; a robust rush attack will take some pressure off Sutton, who had 1,246 receiving yards and 10 TDs a season ago.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Sutton finished 2016 with a flourish, recording 31 catches for 478 yards and five touchdowns over his final three games.

2. Sawyer completed 37-of-82 passes for 433 yards with three TDs and four interceptions in 12 games with the Horned Frogs.

3. SMU was outscored in the second half and overtime by a 216-120 margin last season.

PREDICTION: SMU 57, Stephen F. Austin 20
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  #60  
Old 09-02-2017, 10:32 AM
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When: 7:00 PM ET, Saturday, September 2, 2017
Where: Memorial Stadium, Lawrence, Kansas

Preview: Southeast Missouri State at Kansas
Gracenote
Aug 28, 2017

Preseason picks might provide Kansas with plenty of motivation as the Jayhawks start the season against visiting Southeast Missouri State on Saturday night. Junior defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr. was named the Big 12's preseason defensive player of the year but Kansas was still picked to finish last by league media.

"He's motivated, but he's not captivated by it," third-year coach David Beaty said of Armstrong's honor. Armstrong, who had 56 tackles, 20 tackles for loss and 10 sacks, will try to improve a defense that allowed 37.3 points and 236.4 rushing yards last year. The Jayhawks allowed six opposing backs to gain at least 99 yards in Kansas' last four games of 2016. That could be good new for Redhawks junior running back Marquis Terry, who was a first-team National Junior College Athletic Association All-American last season after leading the NJCAA with 1,319 yards and 16 TDs at Highland (Kansas) Community College.

TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN3. LINE: None.

ABOUT SOUTHEAST MISSOURI STATE (2016: 3-8): Senior quarterback Jesse Hosket (2,332 yards, 11 touchdowns, seven interceptions, three rushing TDs) returns after throwing for more than 200 yards in eight of his starts last year. Sophomore Kristian Wilkerson, who led the team with 743 receiving yards and four TDs, and senior linebacker Chad Meredith, a first-team All-Ohio Valley pick after 86 tackles and four sacks last year, also return. All-OVC pick Cameron Sanders - who led the league with 27 yards per kick return - is another option at running back.

ABOUT KANSAS (2016: 2-10): The Jayhawks likely won't announce whether junior college transfer Peyton Bender (who started five games at Washington State in 2015 before paying at Itawamba Community College) or sophomore Carter Stanley (959 yards, 6 TDs in nine games, including three starts) will start at quarterback. Top receiver Steven Sims Jr. (72 passes for 859 yards, seven TDs) returns but second-leading receiver LaQuvionte Gonzalez was dismissed the day before fall camp started. Sims might also help Kansas on returns, where the Jayhawks ranked last in FBS at minus-1.43 per punt return.

EXTRA POINTS

1. New Kansas offensive coordinator Doug Meacham helped TCU average 46.5 points (second nationally), 42.1 points (seventh) and 31 points during the 2014-16 seasons, respectively.

2. Hosket is the first Redhawks quarterback to start consecutive seasons since Matt Scheible (2008-11) led the Redhawks to their only OVC title and a FCS Playoff appearance in 2010.

3. Armstrong is the first Kansas player to receive a preseason individual award during the school's 22 years in the Big 12.

PREDICTION: Kansas 38, Southeast Missouri State 17
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  #61  
Old 09-02-2017, 10:33 AM
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Preview: Massachusetts at Coastal Carolina
Quick Hits

Overall Team Offense

Coastal Carolina Chanticleers offensive statistics will be available following the first regular season game.
The Massachusetts Minutemen are ranked 24 on offense, averaging 413.0 yards per game. The Minutemen are averaging 115.0 yards rushing and 298.0 yards passing so far this season.

Home and Away

The Coastal Carolina Chanticleers have not played any home games yet this season.
The Massachusetts Minutemen are 0-0 while on the road this season, 0-0 against conference opponents and 0-1 against non-conference opponents.
On the road, the Minutemen are averaging 0.0 scoring, and holding teams to 0.0 points scored on defense.
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  #62  
Old 09-02-2017, 10:34 AM
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When: 7:10 PM ET, Saturday, September 2, 2017
Where: Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan, Kansas

Preview: Central Arkansas at Kansas State
Gracenote
Aug 30, 2017

Especially for college football's elder statesman entering his 26th season on the sideline and as a man who values his privacy, Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder's offseason was more public than he'd prefer. After dealing with a health scare this winter and getting caught in a contentious back-and-forth with a former player, the 77-year-old Snyder returns to the business of football Saturday when the 19th-ranked Wildcats host FCS foe Central Arkansas.

Snyder, who announced in February that he had been diagnosed with throat cancer, was back for the start of spring practice in late March, but he made nearly as many headlines for refusing to grant receiver Corey Sutton a release from his scholarship and initially blocking his transfer. Kansas State eventually relented, leaving the Wildcats to focus on building upon a 9-4 record last season which ended with a 6-1 finish, including a 33-28 victory over Texas A&M in the Texas Bowl. Senior quarterback Jesse Ertz is one of the reasons for the growing optimism in Manhattan, as he was one of only four quarterbacks in the country to rush for at least 1,000 yards and throw for at least 1,500. The Bears, who made it to the second round of the FCS playoffs last season, are ranked 15th in the FCS Coaches Poll and coming off a 10-win campaign.

TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, ESPN3. LINE: NL.

ABOUT CENTRAL ARKANSAS (2016: 10-3): The Bears placed a league-high 12 players on the preseason All-Southland Conference first or second teams, including first-team senior defensive backs Tremon Smith, George Odum and Jaylon Lofton as well as second-team quarterback Hayden Hildebrand and running back Carlos Blackman. Hildebrand ranked seventh in FCS with 3,051 passing yards last season, while Blackman ran for a team-high 616 yards as a true freshman, leading the way for an offense that ranked second in the conference in rushing and fourth in scoring. Smith is the team's most decorated defender as a two-time all-conference performer, although Odum was named Southland Defensive Player of the Week twice in 2016 and ranked eighth in the league with 86 tackles (league-high 60 solo tackles).

ABOUT KANSAS STATE (2016: 9-4): The Wildcats averaged a school-record 5.27 yards per carry last season - a mark spiked by then-freshman Alex Barnes' 7.89 - the best in school history from a player with 50 or more attempts. California transfer Carlos Strickland - a highly touted receiver recruit in 2015 - joins a receiver group that returns its top two contributors from a season ago in Byron Pringle (39 catches for 631 yards) and Dominique Heath (45, 438). Despite losing All-American defensive end and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Jordan Willis, the Wildcats still remain stout on that side of the ball with two-time all-conference defensive tackle Will Geary, Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year defensive end Reggie Walker and Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year D.J. Reed.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Reed, who finished tied for second on the team with 75 tackles, also ranked fifth nationally and tied for first in school history with 19 pass defended last season.

2. Saturday will mark the third time Central Arkansas has played a Big 12 team in the last four years, losing 42-35 at Texas Tech in 2014 and 32-8 at Oklahoma State in 2015.

3. Underclassmen made 135 starts for the Wildcats in 2016, the most ever under Snyder.

PREDICTION: Kansas State 33, Central Arkansas 17
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  #63  
Old 09-02-2017, 10:35 AM
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When: 7:30 PM ET, Saturday, September 2, 2017
Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, Alabama

Preview: Georgia Southern at Auburn
Gracenote
Aug 30, 2017

Auburn kicks off the season Saturday night at home against Georgia Southern, and it appears the No. 13-ranked Tigers have found themselves a solid No. 1 quarterback as they look to challenge Alabama in the SEC West. Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham has been named the starter for the season opener, and he will be backed by an experienced duo of game-changing running backs in Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson.

Stidham passed for 12 touchdowns in limited action for the Bears two seasons ago, one more than Auburn’s top three quarterbacks combined for last season. “I think everybody’s ready,” Stidham told reporters last weekend. “We’re excited to get out there against another team and see what we can do.” Saturday’s opener will give the Tigers an opportunity to see Stidham under game conditions, an important step considering a trip to fifth-ranked Clemson awaits next week. Georgia Southern has proven to be a difficult opponent for Power 5 schools in recent seasons, upending Florida in 2013 while losing in overtime to Georgia in 2015.

TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network. LINE: Auburn -35

ABOUT GEORGIA SOUTHERN (2016: 5-7, 4-4 Sun Belt): The Eagles start coach Tyson Summers’ second season with just eight seniors on their roster and lost six starters on offense and defense from last year. Redshirt freshman Shai Werts will start the season opener and direct Georgia Southern’s triple-option offense, while Wesley Fields (512 yards, three touchdowns last year) is the top returning running back. The Eagles are 21-1 since 2014 when rushing for 300 yards or more.

ABOUT AUBURN (2016: 8-5, 5-3 SEC): Stidham will have plenty of support in running backs Pettway (1,224 yards, seven touchdowns last season) and Johnson (11 touchdowns, 895 yards), and new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey hopes to improve a red-zone offense that ranked 97th nationally. The Tigers’ defense was one of the better units in the country last season until melting down late in the campaign, allowing a combined 65 points in losses to Alabama and Oklahoma. Seven starters return for a unit that surrendered just 17.1 points per game a season ago.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Auburn QB Sean White, whose 63.9 percent completion rate led the SEC last season, will serve as Stidham’s backup after recovering from an arm injury.

2. Auburn K Daniel Carlson is fourth in SEC history in field-goal percentage (83.1 percent) and has converted a school-record eight field goals of 50-plus yards.

3. The Eagles are 1-5 against SEC or ACC schools the past four seasons, losing by no more than 11 points.

PREDICTION: Auburn 37, Georgia Southern 10
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Old 09-02-2017, 10:35 AM
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When: 7:30 PM ET, Saturday, September 2, 2017
Where: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Oxford, Mississippi

Preview: South Alabama at Ole Miss
Gracenote
Aug 29, 2017

Ole Miss can take the next major step in moving past a tumultuous stretch when it hosts South Alabama on Saturday in the opener for both teams. Matt Luke, a center with the Rebels in the 1990s, will make his debut as interim head coach for a program that fired Hugh Freeze amid controversy this summer before a self-imposed postseason ban stemming from several NCAA allegations.

Luke inherits a team that finished below .500 last year for the first time since 2011 and was picked by the media to finish last in the SEC West, but that has not hindered his enthusiasm. "I've got to control my emotions and be a very efficient and organized head coach," Luke - who spent several years as an assistant under Freeze and others - told reporters. "That's going to be one of my biggest challenges, but I'm excited and prepared for it." He'll need to be prepared to avoid a letdown against the Jaguars, who upset Mississippi State to begin the 2016 season and were selected by Sun Belt coaches to finish fourth in the 12-team league. After visiting Oxford, South Alabama has an abbreviated week before hosting No. 11 Oklahoma State the following Friday.

TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU. LINE: Ole Miss -24

ABOUT SOUTH ALABAMA (2016: 6-7): The player to watch on the offensive side is senior running back Xavier Johnson, who has 2,225 yards on the ground and 18 touchdowns in his career. Dallas Davis was solid under center in the upset of the Bulldogs but he had offseason surgery on his throwing shoulder and will open the year backing up Cole Garvin, who led the team to a big win over a good San Diego State squad last year. "Cole had a lights-out camp, his arm strength is there, he has been very accurate and staying away from the 'Brett Favre plays' as they say where he was winging it a little bit," coach Joey Jones told reporters. "He has really honed in on what the coaches have asked him to do."

ABOUT OLE MISS (2016: 5-7): Shea Patterson stepped into the quarterback job when Chad Kelly suffered a season-ending injury late last year and was solid through three starts, throwing for 880 yards and six touchdowns. Patterson will work behind a veteran line that is the strength of the squad, with two players - Greg Little and Javon Patterson - making the preseason All-SEC third team. Luke will hope for more from a defense that ranked last in the SEC with 34 points allowed and senior defensive end Marquis Haynes - who needs 2 1/2 sacks to become the school's all-time leader - is the anchor.

EXTRA POINTS

1. This marks the first meeting between the schools.

2. Rebels K Gary Wunderlich hit 22-of-23 field goals last year (his lone miss was a 55-yard attempt) and was a preseason third-team All-SEC selection.

3. Johnson was held to minus-6 yards on seven carries in the upset win over Mississippi State last year.

PREDICTION: Ole Miss 40, South Alabama 21
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  #65  
Old 09-02-2017, 10:36 AM
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When: 7:30 PM ET, Saturday, September 2, 2017
Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana

Preview: Louisville vs. Purdue
Gracenote
Aug 30, 2017

Jeff Brohm was born and raised in Louisville and has followed in the footsteps of Bobby Petrino for the better part of a decade, so it only seems appropriate he would begin his new job at Purdue facing his alma mater and mentor. With the help of reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, Petrino looks to make life rough for his former assistant Saturday when his 17th-ranked Cardinals meet the Boilermakers at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Brohm, who was the starting quarterback for Louisville from 1991-93, served as Petrino's quarterback coach with the Cardinals from 2003-06 and again in 2013 at Western Kentucky, which went 30-10 in three years under Brohm following Petrino's return to Louisville in 2014. His first assignment with the Boilermakers: figure out a way to slow down Jackson, who averaged 393.4 yards per game of total offense and accounted for 51 touchdowns in 2016 - both ACC single-season records - en route to becoming the youngest player to win the Heisman. The Cardinals' offense fell off considerably late in the year, leading to a three-game losing streak, so Petrino and Jackson should be plenty motivated to recapture the same form that saw Louisville average 49.6 points during its 9-1 start. Brohm will be tasked with turning around a Purdue program that lost its final seven contests in 2016, has not won more than three games in a season since 2013 and posted only one winning record since 2007.

TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, Fox. LINE: Louisville -24.5.

ABOUT LOUISVILLE (2016: 9-4): Jackson has bulked up from 199 to 212 pounds, but he may have taken even larger strides mentally, according to quarterbacks coach Nick Petrino: "He made a commitment over the summer to improve on it and it's shown out there. He's seeing things out there that he never saw (before)." Junior Jaylen Smith and sophomore Seth Dawkins will be among the group of pass-catchers who will need to replace the 131 catches, 2,052 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns left behind by the departures of their top three receivers (James Quick, Cole Hikutini and Jamari Staples). Jeremy Smith (382 yards, six TDs) is set to replace second-leading rusher Brandon Radcliff and complement Jackson as Louisville attempts to improve on its 13th-place finish in rushing offense (242.2 yards per game).

ABOUT PURDUE (2016: 3-9): Brohm still has yet to name a starting quarterback, although junior David Blough - who returned to practice Sunday after missing two weeks with a shoulder injury - is considered the frontrunner after leading the Big Ten in passing yards per game (279.3) and passing touchdowns (25) last season. The Boilermakers lost top receiver DeAngelo Yancey to the NFL Draft in the spring, but they do boast a strong tight end combination of Cole Herdman and Brycen Hopkins, whose four receiving touchdowns in 2016 are the most for any returning FBS tight end. Grant Hermanns is expected to get the start at left tackle in the opener, making him the first freshman since Mike Otto in 2003 to do so.

EXTRA POINTS

1. The Cardinals rushed for a school-record 3,148 yards (including a school-record 1,571 from Jackson) and 37 touchdowns (21 from Jackson) last season.

2. Blough is one of only six FBS quarterbacks to throw for at least one touchdown in his last 12 outings.

3. The teams played to a 22-22 tie in their only other meeting back in 1987.

PREDICTION: Louisville 49, Purdue 14
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  #66  
Old 09-02-2017, 10:37 AM
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Preview: Cal. Poly - SLO at San Jose State
When: 7:30 PM ET, Saturday, September 2, 2017
Where: CEFCU Stadium, San Jose, California
Quick Hits

Overall Team Offense

The San Jose State Spartans are ranked 28 on offense, averaging 387.0 yards per game. The Spartans are averaging 109.0 yards rushing and 278.0 yards passing so far this season.
The Cal. Poly - SLO Mustangs are ranked 0 on offense, averaging yards per game. The Mustangs are averaging yards rushing and yards passing so far this season.

Home and Away

The San Jose State Spartans are 0-1 at home this season, 0-0 against conference opponents and 0-1 against non-conference opponents.
At home the Spartans are averaging 22.0 scoring, and holding teams to 42.0 points scored on defense.
The Cal. Poly - SLO Mustangs are 0-0 while on the road this season, 0-0 against conference opponents and 0-1 against non-conference opponents.
On the road, the Mustangs are averaging 0.0 scoring, and holding teams to 0.0 points scored on defense.
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  #67  
Old 09-02-2017, 10:37 AM
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When: 8:00 PM ET, Saturday, September 2, 2017
Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Nebraska

Preview: Arkansas State at Nebraska
Gracenote
Aug 30, 2017

After a down year two seasons ago, Nebraska surprised many with an unexpected nine-win season in 2016, but coach Mike Riley's mission to return the program to prominence appears to be far from complete. With many questions still left to answer following a spring full of turnover and change, the Cornhuskers begin what could be a season of transition Saturday when they host Arkansas State.

Nebraska made a three-win improvement last season, but their prospects for 2017 are a bit up in the air as Riley enters the year with a new defensive coordinator (Bob Diaco) and quarterback (Tanner Lee, who replaces record-setting quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr.) among a host of other key changes. "New defense, new quarterback. It feels like, in a way, starting over. But the beauty of it is we're not. We've been with many of these kids for two years," Riley recently told the Lincoln Journal Star. The Cornhuskers dropped four of their final six last season after winning their first seven, so they hope to rediscover their first-half form against the Red Wolves, who shared the Sun Belt conference title with Appalachian State in 2016. After starting out 0-4, Arkansas State suffered only one more loss the rest of the way and defeated Central Florida in the Cure Bowl.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network. LINE: Nebraska -16.5.

ABOUT ARKANSAS STATE (2016: 8-5): Three defenders landed on the preseason All-Sun Belt Conference first team, including defensive end Ja’Von Rolland-Jones, who has 30.5 career sacks - 13.5 shy of the FBS record of 44 (Terrell Suggs, Arizona State; 2000-02). The only offensive player to make the first-team list was tight end and fellow senior Blake Mack, who is on the Mackey Award watch list one season after averaging 19.2 yards per catch and leading the team in receiving yards (652). Junior running back Warren Wand - a 2016 all-conference second-team selection - is on the watch list for the Doak Walker Award and needs only 412 yards to become the 13th player in school history with 2,000 rushing yards in a career.

ABOUT NEBRASKA (2016: 9-4): Lee won the starting job with a strong showing in the spring, and most of the Cornhuskers' hopes of enjoying success in the post-Armstrong era ride on the right arm of the Tulane transfer, who could be Nebraska's first NFL quarterback prospect in several generations. Stanley Morgan Jr. (33 catches for 453 yards) is the Cornhuskers' top returning receiver following the graduation of Jordan Westerkamp, who finished his career second on the school's all-time receptions list. Diaco is overseeing a change from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4, but he'll have to make due for most of the season without senior cornerback Chris Jones, who will be sidelined at least four months after undergoing surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee in July.

EXTRA POINTS

1. The Cornhuskers were one of only five FBS teams to go 7-0 or better at home last season and have won 19 straight night games in Lincoln.

2. Rolland-Jones is one of only two defenders in the 16-year history of the Sun Belt to win the league's player of the year award.

3. Nebraska has won both meetings between the schools - most recently in 2012 - and is 12-0 against teams from the Sun Belt.

PREDICTION: Nebraska 41, Arkansas State 20
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  #68  
Old 09-02-2017, 10:38 AM
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When: 8:00 PM ET, Saturday, September 2, 2017
Where: Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, Iowa

Preview: Northern Iowa at Iowa State
Gracenote
Aug 30, 2017

Matt Campbell begins his second year at the helm at Iowa State on Saturday when the Cyclones host Northern Iowa. And even though the visiting Panthers are an FCS school coming off a disappointing 5-6 season, Campbell knows all too well that his team can't take the visitors for granted.

That's because Northern Iowa has won three of the past five meetings with Iowa State, including a 25-20 thriller last year in Ames that spoiled Campbell's coaching debut with the Cyclones. Iowa State appeared to turn a corner later in the season when it bounced back for impressive Big 12 wins over Kansas and Texas Tech en route to an overall 3-9 finish. But with a showdown with in-state rival Iowa on deck, Campbell wants to make sure his squad doesn't sputter out of the gate again. "I don't want to take any credit from Northern Iowa because they beat us," Campbell said. "But I think we have certainly matured and continued to grow. That's why I'm really excited for this week."

TV: 8 p.m. ET, None. LINE: None

ABOUT NORTHERN IOWA (5-6): The 5-6 finish for the Panthers was only the third season below .500 in the 16-year Mark Farley coaching era. Seventeen starters return including 6-5 junior quarterback Eli Dunne who threw for 1,175 yards and seven touchdowns despite playing in just five games. Senior linebacker Jared Farley is a STATS FCS second team preseason All-American who anchors the defense and had 80 tackles last season.

ABOUT IOWA STATE (3-9): The Cyclones return 10 players on offense and nine on defense who started at least four games last season. Junior Jacob Park returns at quarterback and has a strong supporting cast led by wide receiver Allen Lazard, who has 170 career catches and 2,419 receiving yards, and two talented running backs in junior Mike Warren, who led all freshmen in rushing two years ago with 1,339 yards, and sophomore David Montgomery, who averaged 113.7 yards and 6.1 yards per carry over the final three games last season. The defense is led by defensive backs Kamari Cotton-Moya and Brian Peavy and linebacker Willie Harvey, all of whom had at least 62 tackles and were named to the All-Big 12 team.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Lazard has caught a pass in a school-record 35 straight games and needs seven receptions to become Iowa State's career leader in receptions (176, Todd Blythe).

2. Joel Lanning, who spent his first four years at QB for the Cyclones, has moved to linebacker for his senior season where he is listed as a starter, but he is also likely to see action on offense in short-yardage situations.

3. Iowa State is 21-6-3 all-time against Northern Iowa.

PREDICTION: Iowa State 38, Northern Iowa 17
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  #69  
Old 09-02-2017, 10:39 AM
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When: 8:00 PM ET, Saturday, September 2, 2017
Where: Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas

Preview: Jackson State at TCU
Gracenote
Aug 28, 2017

TCU senior quarterback Kenny Hill returns but the Horned Frogs will have a different look on offense when they host Jackson State on Saturday. Tweaks to the Air Raid offense - including new signals and an emphasis on the run game - have been made since the spring.

"I think there were some things we had to change to win championships," coach Gary Patterson told the media Thursday. "We still have pace, but you have to be able to be a power football team if you need to be." That could be a good thing for Hill, who attempted the second-most passes in school history while leading the Big 12 Conference in interceptions last year. He will be surrounded by an experienced team with nine other starters returning to the offense and seven on defense. SWAC preseason defensive player of the year Keontre Anderson leads the Tigers' defense after topping FCS players with 25.5 tackles for loss last year.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, FSN. LINE: None.

ABOUT JACKSON STATE (2016: 3-8): The Tigers have not named a starting quarterback but only sophomore Brent Lyles (50-of-106, 593 yards, four INTs, three TDs in seven games) has significant playing experience at Jackson State. Sophomore Jordan Johnson (477 rushing yards, two TDs) and senior Robert Johnson (151 yards, 3 TDs) return to lead the Tigers' ball-control offense. Jackson State's defense should be bolstered by the addition of lineman Deion Pope and defensive back Jamoral Graham, both Mississippi State transfers.

ABOUT TCU (2016: 6-7): Hill (3,208 yards, 17 TDs, 609 rushing yards and 10 scores) will be joined in the backfield by Kyle Hicks, who led the Horned Frogs in rushing yards (1,042), rushing touchdowns (12) and catches (47). Returning receivers Taj Williams (39 catches for team-high 702 yards) and Jaelan Austin (23 catches for 332 yards) each had five touchdown catches last year. Linebacker Travin Howard returns after leading the Big 12 with 130 tackles while Ty Summers (121 tackles at linebacker) has moved to defensive end.

EXTRA POINTS

1. TCU won conference titles (2005 Mountain West title and a share of 2014 Big 12 title) the year following its two other losing seasons under Patterson.

2. Freshman receiver Jalen Reagor - son of former NFL DE Montae Reagor - is listed as co-starter at one of the receiver spots for TCU while freshman Shawn Robinson is Hill's backup.

3. Anderson, a 6-4, 255-pound lineman, also had 55 tackles and nine sacks for Jackson State.

PREDICTION: TCU 48, Jackson State 15
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  #70  
Old 09-02-2017, 10:40 AM
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When: 8:00 PM ET, Saturday, September 2, 2017
Where: Floyd Stadium, Murfreesboro, Tennessee

Preview: Vanderbilt at Middle Tennessee
Gracenote
Aug 29, 2017

Vanderbilt has made strides under fourth-year head coach Derek Mason and hopes to snap a five-game losing streak in season openers when it begins its campaign at Middle Tennessee on Saturday. The Commodores have not won an opener since topping Elon in 2011 and their last win against an FBS team to begin a season came against Miami (Ohio) in 2008.

"It's a chip," Mason told reporters of the program's struggles out of the gate. "It sits there and stares me in the face everyday." Vanderbilt has increased its win total in each of the last two seasons and played its first bowl game under Mason in 2016, and it returns nine starters on an offense that should improve upon a 13th-place finish in the SEC in scoring (23 points per game). More pressing in this one will be the Commodores' ability to slow down the Blue Raiders' prolific connection between quarterback Brent Stockstill and wide receiver Richie James. Stockstill, the son of head coach Rick Stockstill, threw for 3,233 yards and 31 touchdowns last year while James was third in the Conference USA with 1,625 receiving yards and found the end zone 12 times.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network. LINE: Vanderbilt -3.5

ABOUT VANDERBILT (2016: 6-7): Mason said he feels great about the balance on offense after last season's squad produced just nine scores through the air and 26 on the ground - half of those by star running back Ralph Webb. Finding that balance begins with junior quarterback Kyle Shurmer, who threw for 113 yards and a TD in a 47-24 win over the Blue Raiders last year and averaged 290.5 passing yards over the final four games of the regular season. The Commodores, picked by the media to finish sixth in the SEC East, lost All-American Zach Cunningham at linebacker but Mason expects big things from returnees Emmanuel Smith and Oren Burks.

ABOUT MIDDLE TENNESSEE (2016: 8-5): The Blue Raiders have played five straight FCS opponents in season openers, which has given this one a little extra buzz around Floyd Stadium. "This is different," coach Stockstill told reporters. "We understand that it is different." James hauled in a school-record 14 passes for 183 yards and Brent Stockstill - who had offseason shoulder surgery - made a career-high 65 passing attempts in last year's meeting with the Commodores.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Vanderbilt won a 17-13 decision in its previous visit to Middle Tennessee in 2015.

2. This marks the first of the Blue Raiders' three straight games out of the gate against Power 5 opponents. They visit Syracuse and Minnesota the next two Saturdays.

3. Webb led the SEC in rushing attempts (250) and was fourth in yards (1,283) in 2016.

PREDICTION: Vanderbilt 35, Middle Tennessee 31
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Old 09-02-2017, 10:40 AM
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When: 8:00 PM ET, Saturday, September 2, 2017
Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia

Preview: Alabama vs. Florida State
Gracenote
Aug 30, 2017

Two national championship contenders kick off the season in one of the most anticipated openers of all-time when top-ranked Alabama faces third-ranked Florida State on Saturday at Atlanta. The Crimson Tide have won four national titles under Nick Saban and Florida State has claimed one under Jimbo Fisher and both squads are forecasted to be in the title hunt this season.

Alabama lost 35-31 to Clemson on a last-second touchdown in last season's College Football Playoff title game and Saturday's contest -- the first football game at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium -- is billed as perhaps the biggest opener in college history. "There is probably more hype because we've had longer to talk about it as a season opener. That has a lot to do with it in my opinion," Fisher told reporters. "But it's the first time two top-three teams have played to open up a season, so I understand where that comes from." Meanwhile, Saban is eager to put last season behind him and focus on the 2017 campaign. "The identity of this team is going to be created by what this team does, not what happened last year, not what happened on the last play of the game," Saban told reporters. "None of that is going to matter to how this team develops their identity and their ability to conquer adversity."

TV: 8 p.m. ET, ABC. LINE: Alabama -7

ABOUT ALABAMA (2016: 14-1, 8-0 SEC): Sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts stood out last season as an all-around force as he passed for 2,780 yards and 23 touchdowns and added 954 yards and 13 scores on the ground. Senior wideout Calvin Ridley (72 catches in 2016) is etching his name in the Crimson Tide record books and ranks fourth in school history with 161 receptions. The defense lost a lot of star power, but preseason first-team All-American Minkah Fitzpatrick - a junior strong safety - is back after intercepting six passes last season, while sophomore defensive end Raekwon Davis is doubtful after being shot in his right leg last Sunday.

ABOUT FLORIDA STATE (2016: 10-3, 5-3 ACC): Sophomore quarterback Deondre Francois will be looking to take a step forward after a stellar 2016 in which he passed for 3,350 yards and 20 touchdowns against just seven interceptions. The big issue is replacing all-everything back Dalvin Cook and junior Jacques Patrick (350 rushing yards last season) will get the first crack. Sophomore free safety Derwin James is healthy after playing just two games last season due to a knee injury, but senior linebacker Matthew Thomas (77 tackles) is in jeopardy of missing the game after not practicing the past three weeks.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Alabama leads the series 2-1-1 but Florida State prevailed in the most recent meeting 21-14 in 2007.

2. The Seminoles are 9-1 against SEC foes under Fisher -- the loss was to Florida in 2012.

3. Crimson Tide junior RB Bo Scarbrough (812 yards, 11 touchdowns in 2016) rushed for 90 or more yards in each of the last four games.

PREDICTION: Florida State 23, Alabama 21
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Old 09-02-2017, 10:41 AM
sailfish sailfish is offline
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When: 8:00 PM ET, Saturday, September 2, 2017
Where: Yulman Stadium, New Orleans, Louisiana

Preview: Grambling State at Tulane
Gracenote
Aug 29, 2017

Jonathan Banks won't need to do much to improve the Tulane passing game when it begins its season Saturday against visiting Grambling State. The Green Wave were at or near the bottom of the FBS in every passing category during the first season under coach Willie Fritz and as a result, suffered through their third straight losing season.

Banks, a dual-threat quarterback who will be with his fourth team since leaving high school after attending two different junior colleges in addition to spending a redshirt season at Kansas State, will likely spend a lot of time handing off to senior running back Dontrell Hilliard, an All-American Athletic Conference preseason second-team honoree. Hilliard rushed for 759 yards and nine touchdowns last season and should inherit a larger workload following the departure of the team's second- and third-leading rushers from last season. With senior quarterback Devante Kincade returning from last season's 12-1 squad, the Tigers are primed for another strong season under coach Broderick Fobbs. Kincade amassed 2,999 passing yards while throwing for 31 touchdowns against only four interceptions as the Tigers captured the Southwestern Athletic Conference title and the Historically Black Colleges and Universities championship.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN3.com

ABOUT GRAMBLING STATE (2016: 12-1): With a slew of unproven wide receivers, senior running back Martez Carter will be critical to the Tiger's success on offense. Carter, who amassed 906 yards and 11 touchdowns on 118 carries, got better as the season went along to close with three straight 100-yard games and nine straight games with at least one score. Carter also happens to be the top returning receiver after producing 28 catches, 351 yards and three touchdowns, which means the likes of wide receivers Devohn Lindsey, Devante Davis and freshman Raylon Richardson will need to step up if the team is to match last season's 39 points per game.

ABOUT TULANE (2016: 4-8): When Banks drops back to throw, he will have a pair of experienced receivers to target in junior Terren Encalade and sophomore Darnell Mooney. The duo combined for 60 receptions, 767 yards and eight touchdowns last season with most of that production coming from quarterback Glen Cuiellette, who has been relegated to fourth string. The Green Wave offense will also feature a pair of experienced tight ends in Charles Jones II and Kendall Ardoin, who between them have 50 games and 29 starts.

EXTRA POINTS

1. The 4-8 mark in his first season with the Green Wave was only the second losing season for Fritz in 20 years as a head coach.

2. Grambling State's only loss last season came at the hands of Arizona, which outscored the Tigers 28-0 in the second half to post a 31-21 victory.

3. Carter also returns kicks for the Tigers and has amassed 1,829 return yards and four return touchdowns in his career.

PREDICTION: Grambling State 31, Tulane 27
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Old 09-02-2017, 10:41 AM
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When: 8:15 PM ET, Saturday, September 2, 2017
Where: Autzen Stadium, Eugene, Oregon

Preview: Southern Utah at Oregon
Gracenote
Aug 29, 2017

Oregon is seeking to rebound from its first losing season since 2004 and new coach Willie Taggart leads the Ducks into action for the first time when they host FCS member Southern Utah on Saturday. Taggart, hired away from South Florida, inherits a 4-8 squad and promises to put the entertainment back into an offense that slipped last season.

Taggart is looking for sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert to be more comfortable after being forced to play earlier than expected and he is looking to put bushels of points on the scoreboard. "We are going to be fun," Taggart recently told reporters. "You are going to see tempo, you are going to see things we have done in the past around here, but you will see things that are different. In a nutshell, you'll see us (have a) lethal simplicity. We are going to be sharp, fun, simple, fast." The best development of the offseason for the Ducks was senior running back Royce Freeman deciding to return to school instead of entering the NFL draft. Freeman has rushed for 4,146 career yards and is on track to break the school mark held by LaMichael James (5,082 from 2009-11).

TV: 8:15 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network. LINE: None

ABOUT SOUTHERN UTAH (2016: 6-5, 5-3 Big Sky): Senior quarterback Patrick Tyler passed for a school-record 23 touchdowns last season but is still trying to hold off sophomore Aaron Zwahlen (transfer from Hawaii) as the opener approaches. The defense features two standouts in senior outside linebacker Mike Needham (five interceptions in 2016) and senior defensive tackle Robert Torgerson (12 tackles for losses, including five sacks), and Needham is aware of the importance. "It's a resume game for me," Needham said of playing a Pac-12 program. "You don't try to play harder in those games, but you kind of do. You just want to have the best game of your life against those teams."

ABOUT OREGON (2016: 4-8, 2-7 Pac-12): Freeman ranks third in school history with 47 total touchdowns, but his junior season was disrupted by a shin injury and his output of 945 yards was roughly half of his school-record 1,836 yards racked up as a sophomore. Herbert worked on being more assertive with his teammates in the spring and summer after displaying promise with 19 touchdowns against just four interceptions. The defense allowed an average of 41.4 points per game but has a budding star in sophomore linebacker Troy Dye, who led the squad in tackles (91) and stop for losses (13) last season.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Ducks senior WR Charles Nelson, who caught 52 passes last season, holds the school record with 2,173 kickoff return yards.

2. The Thunderbirds were 0-2 against FBS foes last season, falling to Utah (24-0) and Brigham Young (37-7).

3. Freeman has 22 career 100-yard outings, four behind the school mark held by James.

PREDICTION: Oregon 45, Southern Utah 13
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Old 09-02-2017, 10:43 AM
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When: 9:30 PM ET, Saturday, September 2, 2017
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana

Preview: LSU vs. BYU
Gracenote
Aug 30, 2017

LSU will begin its season with a change of scenery Saturday when its contest against BYU will take place in New Orleans instead of Houston. The site was switched after Hurricane Harvey inflicted major damage on the Houston area, creating a virtual home game for the 12th-ranked Tigers, who are based about an hour away from the Superdome.

The Tigers are coming off a season in which their four losses came by a total of 23 points, but perhaps a returning star at running back will be the difference this time around. “Everything that we do this year is going to be based around our best player — Derrius Guice,” coach Ed Orgeron said recently. “We feel we have one of the best running backs and one of the best offensive players in the country coming back." BYU opened its season last weekend with a 20-6 triumph against Portland State - an ugly win according to coach Kalani Sitake. “The guys obviously weren’t happy with the performance,” Sitake said. “That’s what I expect from those guys, but I also want them to respect the game and know that wins are hard to come by. We will build on this. It’s easier to build off a win than if we had lost.”

TV: 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: LSU -16

ABOUT LSU (2016: 8-4, 5-3 SEC): Les Miles was fired after a 2-2 start before Orgeron posted a strong finish to the 2016 season, capped by a 20-point win in the Citrus Bowl. Guice paced all SEC players in rushing (1,387 yards) and scored 15 touchdowns on the ground, while quarterback Danny Etling is back after a solid but relatively quiet junior season. Among the players that LSU must replace are star tailback Leonard Fournette and standout safety Jamal Adams, both of whom were top-six picks in the NFL draft, and fellow first-round pick, cornerback Tre'Davious White.

ABOUT BYU (1-0): Squally Canada ran for a career-high 98 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries in the season opener and Tanner Mangum threw for 194 yards and a score, but it was generally an uninspiring win for BYU. “This was definitely not our best performance. It was a little too sloppy," Mangum said. "We had way too many penalties, shooting ourselves in the foot — especially on big plays. That’s something that we don’t want to have happen. We have to get better than that.” Linebacker Fred Warner, one of the senior captains, had 10 tackles to pace a solid defensive effort.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Over Guice's final four games in 2016, he averaged 189.5 yards and scored eight touchdowns, including four TDs and a school-record 285 rushing yards against Texas A&M in the regular-season finale.

2. LSU was undefeated last season (8-0) when scoring at least 14 points.

3. The Cougars allowed the Vikings to cross midfield only twice all game in their season opener.

PREDICTION: LSU 33, BYU 24
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Old 09-02-2017, 10:44 AM
sailfish sailfish is offline
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When: 10:30 PM ET, Saturday, September 2, 2017
Where: Martin Stadium, Pullman, Washington

Preview: Montana State at Washington State
Gracenote
Aug 30, 2017

Mike Leach has never won a season opener in his five years as coach of Washington State, but that could all change when the Cougars begin a campaign filled with optimism by hosting FCS member Montana State on Saturday night. With senior quarterback Luke Falk poised to become the most prolific passer in Pac-12 history, Washington State -- picked to finish third in the North Division preseason poll -- will likely prove difficult to stop.

Falk could have bolted for the NFL after a junior season in which he tied his own school record with 38 touchdown tosses and was fourth nationally in passing yards with 4,468, but decided against it. “It felt right to come back,'' Falk told reporters. "Felt like I had some things, growing up to do in life, not football. I felt football-wise, I could. But there’s still a lot to learn this year and I really want to finish off with the guys I came in with.” The Cougars are coming off back-to-back winning seasons for only the fourth time since joining the Pacific-8 Conference (now the Pac-12) in 1968 and first since the 2001-03 clubs went a combined 30-8. The Bobcats are coached by former Washington State assistant Jeff Choate, who inherits a team that went 4-7 in the Big Sky Conference last season and returns 15 starters (seven on offense, eight on defense).

TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1. LINE: None

ABOUT MONTANA STATE (2016: 4-7): The Bobcats are led by sophomore quarterback Chris Murray, the Big Sky Freshman of the Year who rushed for team bests of 860 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. He'll be counted on even more with senior running back Nick LaSane, listed No. 1 on the depth chart, suspended for the first four games after getting arrested twice over the summer (DUI, bar fight). Without much of a passing attack, Choate will likely lean on freshman running back Troy Andersen to support Murray.

ABOUT WASHINGTON STATE (2016: 8-5): The Cougars added a significant rushing element to their Air Raid offense last season as their 23 touchdowns on the ground were their most since totaling 27 in 1997. The top three running backs from 2016 return as sophomore James Williams (584 yards, six touchdowns last season), and seniors Jamal Morrow (575, five) and Gerard Wicks (475, 11) are all expected to again carry the load. Falk's favorite target might wind up being junior Tavares Martin Jr., who recorded 64 receptions for 728 yards and seven touchdowns while sophomore Isaiah Johnson-Mack -- Martin's high school teammate in Belle Glade, Fla. -- could be ready for a breakthrough season.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Washington State junior DL Hercules Mata'afa was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection last season after recording team highs of five sacks and seven quarterback hurries.

2. Williams and Morrow (48 receptions apiece last season) and Wicks (29) are also receiving threats with Falk throwing five touchdown passes to Morrow.

3. Washington State has won all eight meetings, including 23-22 in the last encounter in 2010.

PREDICTION: Washington State 42, Montana State 20
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