This article was co-written by In Between the Lines writers Ben Gibson and Will Davis.
#11 Michigan vs #17 Florida
9/2 1:30 CT on ABC
Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan Wolverines go toe-to-toe with Jim McElwain’s Florida Gators in one of the more exciting opening day match-ups of the college football season. Both teams had very successful 2016 campaigns. This game has lots of question marks considering Florida’s off the field issues and the departure of 11 Michigan starters to the NFL Draft.
Florida’s star wide receiver Antonio Callaway is one of seven Florida players suspended for the season opener. Fortunately, the Gators are typically known for their stifling defense which should be solid for another year. Michigan also touts a very young but talented defense, which means that whatever team’s offense can get in rhythm will most likely pull out the win. Will freshman Feleipe Franks and Florida prevail or will Michigan’s young talent shine through? Look forward to a defensive battle Saturday afternoon on ABC.
Gibson: 31-17 Michigan
Davis: 21-17 Gators
#3 Florida State vs #1 Alabama
9/2 7:00 PM CT on ABC
The Crimson Tide of Alabama take on the Seminoles of Florida State Saturday night at 7 PM in the newly constructed Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. Both teams have high hopes for the 2017 season. Alabama finished as runner-ups in last season’s College Football Playoff and Florida State finished 11-3 with a thrilling last second victory over a talented Michigan team in the Orange Bowl. Per usual, both teams will come in sporting two of the most talented defenses in college football. The biggest question mark for each team will be the success of the respective quarterbacks. The play of sophomore studs Jalen Hurts and Deondre Francois will be the key matchup that decides the winner of this game. Whatever the result, this game is almost sure to play a role in the landscape of the College Football Playoff later in the year. Be sure to tune in Saturday night to watch two of the more talented teams in the nation on primetime television.
Gibson: 24-17 Alabama
Davis: Roll Tide 31-20
#22 West Virginia vs #21 Virginia Tech
9/3 5:30 PM CT on ABC
Transfer quarterback Will Grier will make his first career start Sunday against the Virginia Tech Hokies. Virginia Tech’s second year coach Justin Fuentes hopes to beat rival West Virginia in order to start a successful run in 2017. In what is sure to be a hard fought, gritty battle, two high octane offenses will be in action. Virginia Tech has a dynamic quarterback in Josh Jackson and he should put plenty of pressure on West Virginia’s suspect defense. On the other hand, a lot of hype has surrounded West Virginia’s Will Grier and his return to college football after being suspended for performance enhancing drug use at Florida. Defense will be the key to securing the Black Diamond Trophy in this longstanding rivalry. Look for a high scoring affair this Sunday between the Hokies and Mountaineers.
Gibson: 38-31 West Virginia
Davis: 31-24 Va Tech
#25 Tennessee vs Georgia Tech
9/4 6 PM CT on ESPN
This matchup features two teams who are likely to take a step back in the 2017 college football season. Tennessee saw the departure of star quarterback Josh Dobbs, star defensive end Derek Barnett and star running back Alvin Kamara in last year’s NFL draft. In addition, Tennessee’s backup running back Jalen Hurd transferred to Baylor this offseason. With all these losses on both sides of the ball, Tennessee will most likely be forced to start some young, inexperienced players. Fortunately for Georgia Tech, almost all of their starting defense will be comprised of juniors and seniors this year. In addition, their triple option is always a tough task for opposing defenses. This game will ultimately be decided on the success of Tennessee’s young talent and Georgia Tech’s offensive line dominance. Lots of questions surround the potential of both of these teams and this game should be a good measurement in the direction each team is headed in this year.
Gibson: 31-24 Tennessee
Davis: 24-21 Georgia Tech
LFHS Alumni in Action This Weekend:
Charlie Reinkenmeyer – Ball State @ Illinois, Saturday, 11 AM CT
Tommy Kennedy & John McCarthur – Butler @ Illinois State, Saturday, 6:30 PM CT
Jaxon Mills & Matthew Clifford – Dayton @ Robert Morris, Saturday, 11 AM CT
Danny Carollo – Purdue @ Louisville, Saturday, 6:30 PM