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OPINION | WALLY HALL: Suddenly, college football is off and running

by Wally Hall | September 1, 2023 at 2:30 a.m.

With seven televised games Thursday night, college football is officially here and Saturday has a full slate of games from early morning to late night.

Most of Saturday's SEC games are rent-a-win, although Sunday has a big game when No. 5 LSU, the surprise of the league last season, travels to take on No. 8 Florida State at 3 p.m.

While the predictions are made below, here's a couple of others. First, Nick Saban will be all out to prove he is still king of the hill in football and Central Arkansas will give Oklahoma State a very good game.

Here's the opening week picks:

Western Carolina at Arkansas

The Catamounts are big up front, but are they fast enough? The Razorbacks could start slow with up to 11 newcomers getting their first start at the UA, but expect them to finish fast enough that the backups will be on the field. Arkansas 49-0

Arkansas State at Oklahoma

Butch Jones and the Red Wolves have spent a month focusing on this game. The Sooners will be improved, especially on defense, second-year coach Brent Venable's speciality. Oklahoma 35-24

Middle Tennessee at Alabama

Even Nick Saban may not be able to hold the score down as the Tide break in a mystery quarterback. Alabama 63-0

UMass at Auburn

Hugh Freeze gets off on the right foot. The Tigers score on a 72-yard pass on its second down and are off to the races. Auburn 45-7

Tennessee-Martin at Georgia

This is one of many games listed here that is the reason ESPN wants a nine-game conference schedule. Georgia 56-3

Ball State at Kentucky

Little Rock's Layne Hatcher gets the start for the Cardinals, meaning he experiences the most pressure from a defense he has ever felt. Kentucky 52-17

LSU vs. Florida State (Sunday)

The extra day wait might be worth it. The Tigers will be looking to avenge last year's opener and Seminoles will be trying to make an early statement. Should go down to the final possession. LSU 31-28

Mercer at Ole Miss

The Grove might be more competitive than Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The Bears got blown out by Auburn last year 42-16 and before October ended, the Tigers had fired their head coach. Ole Miss 45-10

SE Louisiana at Mississippi State

Zach Arnett, the Bulldogs' new head coach, will be off to a good start although the Lions did win nine games last season and made the FCS playoffs. But they didn't face a Power 5 team the entire season. Mississippi State 35-10

South Carolina at North Carolina

Finally a prime time game with a 6:30 p.m. kick. The Gamecocks will be looking to pick up where they left off last season when they went 8-5 and finished the season by stomping No. 5 Tennessee 63-38 and beating No. 7 Clemson before losing to Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl. The Tar Heels were the luckiest team in football last season, winning six games by a field goal or less. South Carolina 31-30

Virginia at Tennessee

The Cavaliers won only three games last season, one in ACC play, so second year Coach Tony Elliott needs improvement. But that may be hard to come by against a team that was 11-2 and beat Clemson 31-14 in the Orange Bowl. Tennessee 38-14

New Mexico at Texas A&M

The Lobos lost their last nine games a year ago and have the misfortune of facing Bobby Petrino in his role as offensive coordinator, something he hasn't done since he was at Auburn in 2001. This one will be over at the half. Texas A&M 56-0

Alabama A&M at Vanderbilt

The Commodores take care of business and go 2-0 on the season. Vanderbilt 30-14

Print Headline: Suddenly, college football is off and running


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