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What To Watch For In Week 1 Of The 2021 College Football Season

There are five games between top 25 teams, headlined by No. 3 Clemson against No. 5 Georgia on Saturday night.

It’s difficult to remember an opening weekend of the college football season that has this many top-tier games, with five matchups between top-25 teams set for Saturday afternoon and into the evening.

That includes No. 19 Penn State at No. 12 Wisconsin (12 p.m. on FOX), No. 1 Alabama vs No. 14 Miami (Fla.) in Atlanta (3:30 p.m. on ABC), No. 17 Indiana at No. 18 Iowa (3:30 p.m. on BTN), No. 23 Louisiana at No. 21 Texas (4:30 p.m. on FOX) and No. 3 Clemson vs No. 5 Georgia in Charlotte (7:30 p.m. on ABC).

Four of those five games have either conference or national title implications, though none more so than the meeting between the Tigers and Bulldogs to end the night. Of course, the loser isn’t out of the College Football Playoff picture by any means, but the winner won’t be playing from behind as the season unfolds.

Both the Badgers and Nittany Lions are looking to rebound from disappointing seasons in 2020 and believe they have the talent to compete for a Big Ten title this fall. This game is especially important in the standings for Penn State, which still has to face Indiana and Michigan at home and travel to Iowa and Ohio State later this season.

Speaking of the Hoosiers, they’re coming into the season with aspirations of competing in the Big Ten for the first time in what feels like forever. The opener in Iowa City against the Hawkeyes will be a good barometer for where they stand, especially with quarterback Michael Penix Jr. coming off of a torn ACL that prematurely ended his 2020 campaign.

Miami quarterback D’Eriq King is an electric talent who could make a few plays with his arm and legs against Alabama, and perhaps make the game a little more respectable than anticipated. It certainly won’t be enough to lead the Hurricanes to an upset of the defending national champion Crimson Tide, but it will certainly be worth tuning in.

Lastly, Saturday’s game against Louisiana marks the Texas debut of head coach (and former Alabama assistant) Steve Sarkisian. His Longhorns will be tested by the Ragin’ Cajuns, who knocked off Iowa State to open last season and return 20 starters from a team that went 10-1. Is another Big XII program on upset watch? We'll see.

Other games of note include No. 10 North Carolina at Virginia Tech (Friday at 6 p.m. on ESPN), West Virginia at Maryland (Saturday at 3:30 p.m. on ESPN), No. 16 LSU at UCLA (Saturday at 8:30 p.m. on FOX) and No. 9 Notre Dame at Florida State (Sunday at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN).

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