No. 1 Alabama vs. Virginia Tech at Atlanta: The Crimson Tide is awfully good under Nick Saban when he has plenty of time to prepare for an opponent. Alabama whipped Michigan in a neutral-site season opener last year, Virginia Tech in 2009 and Clemson in 2008.
In bowl games, Alabama has done extremely well since that Sugar Bowl debacle against Utah at the end of the 2008 season.
Virginia Tech is limping into this one. The Hokies are missing a starting tight end, linebacker, cornerback and running back. Somebody might knock off Alabama this year, but it won’t be Virginia Tech. … Alabama 42, Virginia Tech 10.
Washington State at Auburn: The Cougars have won only 12 games in the past five years and give Auburn the perfect opponent for the start of the Gus Malzahn. They’re from the Pac-12, a major conference, and have a fairly recognizable head coach in Mike Leach, who used to be at Texas Tech.
Coming off a three-win season, Auburn could use a season-opening victory that will look good on paper, even if it’s not in reality. … Auburn 27, Washington State 20.
Jacksonville State at Alabama State: Jacksonville State opens the Bill Clark era, and it’s a tough one. Isaiah Crowell, a former Georgia star, scored 15 touchdowns a year ago and gives ASU a tremendous breakaway threat.
Clark served as defensive coordinator since 2008 at South Alabama, which must miss him. South Alabama lost Thursday to Southern Utah, which scored a touchdown and a field goal in the final seven minutes to win.
However, it’s the offense that should be worth watching closely today for JSU. Clark plans to play at least two quarterbacks, although he isn’t saying who. No matter who is behind center, JSU will run a fast-paced attack, which should offer excitement for fans. … Jacksonville State 21, Alabama State 16.
No. 5 Georgia at No. 8 Clemson: Georgia averaged 38 points a game last season, while Clemson put up about 41 a game. Both have their starting quarterbacks back, with Georgia’s Aaron Murray and Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, and enough weapons to make a difference. … Georgia 30, Clemson 28.
No. 7 Texas A&M vs. Rice: Johnny Manziel, last year’s Heisman winner, will sit out the first half because of a suspension, but that won’t make a difference in who wins. All it means it that he likely will have only 250 yards or so of total offense.
If Manziel hadn’t been suspended, he still would’ve played only a half — sitting out the second half of a blowout rather than the first half. … Texas A&M 42, Rice 14.
No. 12 LSU vs. No. 20 Texas Christian at Arlington, Texas: The Horned Frogs have slipped from that 13-0 season of 2010. They’re coming off a 7-6 season and facing an LSU team that is rebuilding its defense but still has plenty of talent in the pipeline. … LSU 34, Texas Christian 22.
No. 13 Oklahoma State vs. Mississippi State at Houston: After a 7-0 start a year ago, Mississippi State followed up by losing five of its last six. The Bulldogs struggled on defense a year ago, especially in the second half of the year, and return only five starters. Quarterback Tyler Russell and running back LaDarius Perkins are back. … Oklahoma State 45, Mississippi State 29.
Toledo at No. 10 Florida: This is one of those games the Gators bought to fill out the schedule. Toledo is where former Alabama quarterback Phillip Ely transferred, but he won’t be eligible until next season. Toledo is a good Mid-American Conference team, having gone to three straight bowls, but this is Florida and the SEC, so … Florida 48, Toledo 13.
Louisiana Monroe at No. 16 Oklahoma: ULM is the team that upset Arkansas a year ago. The Warhawks run the spread offense and have a top quarterback in Kolton Browning, but will they be able to hang with Oklahoma? … Oklahoma 55, Louisiana Monroe 28.
No. 11 Florida State at Pittsburgh: Florida State will unveil redshirt freshman Jameis Winston as starting quarterback. Winston is a former Hueytown High star. … Florida State 27, Pitt 21.