Big Ten & SEC Week 1 Preview: Alabama begins title defense in Orlando
In the first week of the college football season, members of the Florida Citrus Sports Team Selection Committee are making visits throughout Big Ten and SEC country, meeting with fans across both conferences in advance of the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day.
Here’s a look at some of the most highly-anticipated games on the schedule this week:
No. 1 Alabama (0-0, 0-0 SEC) vs Louisville (0-0, 0-0 ACC) – 8 p.m. on ABC
Alabama will begin its CFP national championship defense in Orlando when the Crimson Tide takes on Louisville in the Camping World Kickoff.
On the heels of its fifth title in the past nine seasons, Alabama opens the season at No. 1 for the fourth time in school history and returns 10 starters from the 2017 squad. Nick Saban’s team also enters the primetime matchup having won an FBS-record 73 consecutive games against unranked opponents. Alabama is 86-49-4 all-time in 139 neutral site contests and is 11-0 in season-openers under Saban, and in 14 matchups against the ACC, Saban’s teams are 11-3. The Crimson Tide has now been ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press poll at least once each season since 2008.
Louisville, on the other hand, returns 15 starters from last season’s team that finished 8-5. The Cardinals are facing the defending national champion for the second consecutive season and the fourth time in school history. Louisville’s offense is paced by returning first team All-ACC wide receiver Jaylen Smith and honorable mention All-ACC wide receiver Dez Fitzpatrick, who look to build on a 2017 campaign that saw them combine for 105 receptions for 1,679 yards
Alabama leads the all-time series between the two programs 2-1. However the Louisville pulled off one of the biggest wins in school history in the last meeting when the Cardinal’s stunned the No. 25 Crimson Tide 34-7 in the 1991 New Year’s Day Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Arizona.
No. 6 Washington (0-0, 0-0 PAC 12) vs No. 9 Auburn (0-0, 0-0 SEC) – 3:30 p.m. on ABC
Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta will play host to No. 6 Washington and No. 9 Auburn in another huge neutral site match-up to start the 2018 season.
The Huskies return 16 starters on a team that went 10-2 last season. The core of veterans is highlighted by the most prolific quarterback-running back tandem in the sport. Four-year starting quarterback, Jake Browning is coming off a season in which he threw for 2,719 yards and 19 touchdowns, while AP preseason All-American Miles Gaskin ran for 1,380 yards and 21 touchdowns. The Huskies ended last season with a 35-28 loss to Penn State in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl.
Auburn, meanwhile, is coming off a 10-4 season that saw the Tigers capture their ninth SEC West Championship and starts the season in the AP Top 10 for the 19th time since preseason rankings began in 1950. Despite a strong season, the Tigers ended last season with back-to-back losses to Georgia and UCF — both at the site of this week’s game — and are 1-6 all-time against ranked teams in Week 1.
Tigers quarterback Jarrett Stidham, defensive lineman Derrick Brown, linebacker Deshaun Davis, wide receiver Ryan Davis and defensive back Jamel Dean were all preseason All-SEC selections, and Auburn returns eight of the top 12 tacklers return from a unit that finished 11th in scoring defense (18.5) and 14th in total defense (319.4) in 2017.
Saturday’s game will be the first time that these schools have played each other in football. Since 2000, there have been 33 matchups between SEC and PAC 12 teams with the SEC leading the series 18-15. Auburn is 5-0 against the PAC-12 in neutral-site games, with its last win over a PAC-12 school coming in 2013, against Washington State in Gus Malzahn’s first game as the Tigers’ head coach.
No. 14 Michigan (0-0, 0-0 Big 10) at No. 12 Notre Dame (0-0) – 7:30 p.m. on NBC
One of college football’s great rivalries returns as No. 14 Michigan travels to South Bend, Indiana to face Notre Dame. The Wolverines and the Fighting Irish met 31 times between 1978 and 2014, with the teams splitting the games 15-15-1, but have not played since.
Notre Dame enters the Saturday’s game coming off a 10 win season a year ago that ended in a 24-21 win against LSU in the Citrus Bowl. Despite losing defensive coordinator Mike Elko this offseason, Notre Dame brings back a veteran core on the defensive side of the ball along with returning starting quarterback Brandon Wimbush.
Michigan began the 2017 season with an 8-2 record, but dropped their final three games, closing the year with a 26-19 loss to South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. The Wolverines return 16 starters including 9 starters on a defensive unit that limited opponents to just 271 yards per game last year.
This weekend will be the 43rd overall matchup in a Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry that began in 1887. Since then, Michigan leads the series 24-16-1 (Notre Dame forced to vacate 1 win by the NCAA). In the most recent matchup between the two schools, Notre Dame cruised to a 31-0 win over the Wolverines, snapping Michigan’s NCAA record streak of games without being shut out at 365.
No. 8 Miami (0-0, 0-0 ACC) vs No. 25 LSU (0-0, 0-0 SEC) – 7:30 p.m. (Sunday) on ABC
The Hurricanes and the Tigers will kick off their 2018 seasons in a Top-25 showdown at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas this Sunday. This will be the 12th time that the two teams have met and the first matchup between the two schools since 2005.
LSU ended concluded a 9-4 season last year with a 21-17, last minute loss to Notre Dame in the Citrus Bowl. LSU head coach Ed Oregeron enters his second season as head coach of the program as the team returns five starters on a defense that features a strong front seven and a variety of playmakers in the secondary. Offensively, LSU has big shoes to fill on offense, as the Tigers lost starting quarterback Danny Etling and running back Derrius Guice. The team will look to quarterback Joe Burrow, an Ohio State transfer, to help make up for the lost production.
Miami enters Sunday’s game coming off a 10-3 record in 2017 that ended with a three game losing streak and a 34-24 loss to Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl. Miami returns seven starters on offense and is led by senior quarterback Malik Rosier, who threw for 3,120 yards and 26 touchdowns last season. Defensively, the Hurricanes return eight starters with a veteran secondary leading the unit. Las year, the Hurricanes tied for third in country by forcing 31 turnovers. Since 2000, Miami is 6-4 against SEC teams
LSU is 9-3 all-time against Miami, including a win in the most recent matchup between the two teams when the Tigers beat the Hurricanes 40-3 in the 2005 Peach Bowl.
Other Big Ten and SEC games being played this week
New Mexico State (0-1) at Minnesota (0-0, 0-0 Big Ten) – 7:00 PM on BTN
Northwestern (0-0, 0-0 Big Ten) at Purdue (0-0, 0-0 Big Ten) – 8:00 PM on ESPN
Northwestern State (0-0, 0-0 Southland) at Texas A&M (0-0, 0-0 SEC) – 8:30 PM on SEC
Utah State (0-0, 0-0 Mountain West) at No. 11 Michigan State (0-0, 0-0 Big Ten) – 7:00 PM on BTN
Western Kentucky (0-0, 0-0 C-USA) at No. 4 Wisconsin (0-0, 0-0 Big Ten) – 9:00 PM on ESPN
Kent State (0-0, 0-0 MAC) at Illinois (0-0, 0-0 Big Ten) – 12:00 PM on BTN
Texas State (0-0, 0-0 Sun Belt) at Rutgers (0-0, 0-0 Big Ten) – 12:00 PM on BTN
No. 23 Texas (0-0, 0-0 Big 12) vs Maryland (0-0, 0-0 SEC) – 12:00 PM on SEC
Oregon State (0-0, 0-0 Pac 12) at No. 5 Ohio State (0-0, 0-0 Big Ten) – 12:00 PM on ABC
Coastal Carolina (0-0, 0-0 Sun Belt) at South Carolina (0-0, 0-0 SEC) – 12:00 PM on SEC
Ole Miss (0-0, 0-0 SEC) vs Texas Tech (0-0, 0-0 Big 12) – 12:00 PM on ESPN
Northern Illinois (0-0, 0-0 MAC) at Iowa (0-0, 0-0 Big Ten) – 3:30 PM on BTN
Appalachian State (0-0, 0-0 Sun Belt) at No. 10 Penn State (0-0, 0-0 Big Ten) – 3:30 PM on BTN
Central Michigan (0-0, 0-0 MAC) at Kentucky (0-0, 0-0 SEC) – 3:30 PM on ESPNU
Tennessee (0-0, 0-0 SEC) at No. 17 West Virginia (0-0, 0-0 Big 12) – 3:30 PM on CBS
Austin Peay (0-0, 0-0 OVC) at No. 3 Georgia (0-0, 0-0 SEC) – 3:30 PM on ESPN
UT Martin (0-0, 0-0 OVC) at Missouri (0-0, 0-0 SEC) – 4:00 PM on SEC
Eastern Illinois (0-0, 0-0 OVC) at Arkansas (0-0, 0-0 SEC) – 4:00 PM on SEC
Indiana (0-0, 0-0 Big Ten) at Florida Intl (0-0, 0-0 C-USA) – 7:00 PM on CBSSN
Charleston Southern (0-0, 0-0 Big South) at Florida (0-0, 0-0 SEC) – 7:30 PM on SEC
Middle Tennessee (0-0, 0-0 C-USA) at Vanderbilt (0-0, 0-0 SEC) – 7:30 PM on SEC
Stephen F. Austin (0-0, 0-0 Southland) at No. 18 Mississippi State (0-0, 0-0 SEC) – 7:30 PM on ESPNU
Akron (0-0, 0-0 MAC) at Nebraska (0-0, 0-0 Big Ten) – 8:00 PM on FOX