It’s never too early to plan ahead. With the 2018 college football season approaching, there will be plenty of storylines to watch, new coaches and Heisman Trophy hopefuls.
Florida opens its season Sept. 1 against Charleston Southern, a good chance for the Gators to get their bearings before a rough and tumble SEC schedule.
Other teams throughout the country have chosen to start the season with tougher tests. Here’s a look at five marquee match-ups in the first weekend of the 2018 season.
Alabama vs. Louisville (Sept 1, 8 p.m., ABC, Orlando): The defending national champs will face another ACC opponent on a neutral field after opening the season with FSU in Atlanta last year. The big question for the Tide remains who will start at quarterback, Jalen Hurts or last season’s BCS title game hero, Tua Tagovailoa. Louisville, meanwhile, must find a signal-caller of its own to replace departed former Heisman winner Lamar Jackson.
Tennessee vs. West Virginia (Sept. 1, time, TV TBD, Charlotte, N.C.): In his coaching debut at Tennessee, former Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt gets a tough test, facing a high-powered West Virginia offensive led by former Gator turned Mountaineer QB Will Grier. Last season, Grier passed for 3,490 yards with 34 TDs and 12 interceptions.
Michigan at Notre Dame (Sept. 1, 7:30 p.m., TV TBD, Notre Dame Stadium): Both schools have decided to renew their traditional rivalry after last playing in 2014. The Irish are projected as a top-15 team despite losing two NFL first-round picks on the offensive line — guard Quenten Nelson and tackle Mike McGlinchey. Michigan will be led by Ole Miss transfer QB Shea Patterson and a group of receivers coached by former UF coach Jim McElwain.
Auburn vs. Washington (Sept. 1, Time and TV TBD, Atlanta): Washington will travel cross-country to face Auburn in an SEC-Pac 12 match-up. Auburn was in contention for a College Football Playoff berth before falling to Georgia in the SEC title game last season. Washington, which reached the College Football Playoffs in 2016, went 10-3 last season and has been consistently competitive under fourth-year coach Chris Petersen.
Miami vs. LSU (Sept. 2, 7:30 p.m., ABC, Arlington, Texas): Miami enjoyed a breakout second season under coach Mark Richt, going 10-3 and reaching the ACC title game for the first time in school history. Senior QB Malik Rosier returns for the Hurricanes, but Miami will get a stiff test facing fast, physical LSU. This could be a make or break season for LSU coach Ed Orgeron, as fans want to see progress from last season’s inconsistent 9-4 campaign.