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updated: 9/1/2011 3:32 PM

Top 25 College Football Preview Capsules

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Associated Press

FRIDAY

No. 14 TCU at Baylor, 8 p.m. (ESPN)

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Line: TCU by 4.

Series Record: TCU leads 50-49-7.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

TCU has won a nation's-best 25 consecutive regular season games and is coming off an undefeated season in which the Horned Frogs won the Rose Bowl. The Frogs must adjust to life without four-year starting quarterback Andy Dalton, who won 42 games and is now a rookie starter for the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals. Baylor had its first winning season since 1995 but lost 45-10 at TCU.

KEY MATCHUP

Baylor QB Robert Griffin vs. TCU's secondary. Griffin, the dual-threat quarterback, threw for a school-record 3,501 yards with 22 TDs last season and has top receivers Kendall Wright and Terrance Williams back. The Frogs have a redshirt freshman and fifth-year senior taking over for their two departed standout starting safeties.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

TCU: The running back trio of Ed Wesley, Matthew Tucker and Wayman James. Wesley is coming off a 1,000-yard season while all three of the returning runners had 100-yard games last season.

Baylor: Elliot Coffey. The senior is the middle linebacker in new defensive coordinator Phil Bennett's aggressive scheme. The son of a former NFL player, Coffey started eight games at outside linebacker last season with 61 tackles.

FACTS AND FIGURES

Baylor went to its first bowl since 1996, but Bears lost 38-14 to Illinois in the Texas Bowl and finished season with four losses in a row after 30-22 win at Texas the night before Halloween. ... TCU has won 11 consecutive road games, the longest streak in nation and already a Mountain West Conference record. ... Since 2005, TCU is 66-11 for the best record among the 10 FBS teams in Texas. Baylor is eighth at 27-45, ahead of only Rice and North Texas.

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No. 17 Michigan State vs. Youngstown State, 7:30 p.m.

Line: None.

Series Record: First meeting.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

Michigan State is still smarting a bit from a 49-7 loss to Alabama in the Capital One Bowl, which spoiled the end of a terrific season for the Spartans. They're hoping for a sharp performance in their opener against the Penguins, who play in the Football Championship Subdivision.

KEY MATCHUP

Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins vs. the Youngstown State secondary. The Penguins have 49 players on the roster who were not with the program last year, and nearly two-thirds of them play defense. Nine different players started in the secondary last season, and the experienced Cousins might try to exploit that group early.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Michigan State: DT Jerel Worthy. After 8.5 sacks in his first two seasons for the Spartans, Worthy is considered a top pro prospect. The line might be the strength of Michigan State's defense this year, especially because the team lost LBs Greg Jones and Eric Gordon.

Youngstown State: QB Kurt Hess. As a redshirt freshman last year, Hess started all 11 games and threw for 2,117 yards.

FACTS & FIGURES

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio was a defensive assistant at Youngstown State under Jim Tressel from 1986-90. ... This is the Penguins' fifth meeting with a Big Ten team. Youngstown State played Penn State in 2006 and 2010 and Ohio State in 2007 and 2008. ... Friday's game will be only the 10th night game in the 88-year history of Spartan Stadium. The most recent was last September's 34-31 win over Notre Dame on a fake field goal in OT. ... B.J. Cunningham needs 10 receptions to pass Matt Trannon and become Michigan State's career leader. ... Youngstown State had the lead at some point in every game last year.

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SATURDAY

No. 1 Oklahoma vs. Tulsa, 8 p.m. (FX)

Line: Oklahoma by 25.

Series Record: Oklahoma leads 16-7-1.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

Oklahoma opens the season ranked No. 1 for the first time since 2003 and will try to start its first extended run atop the rankings since then. Despite playing for the BCS title twice, the Sooners have held the No. 1 ranking for only two weeks since the end of the 2003 season -- in the middle of Sam Bradford's Heisman Trophy season in 2008. Tulsa, which finished last season ranked 24th, tries to win in Bill Blankenship's head coaching debut and stretch its winning streak to eight games in a row.

KEY MATCHUP

Oklahoma WR Ryan Broyles vs. Tulsa secondary. For the Golden Hurricane to stand a chance, they'll need to slow down the Sooners' All-American who had an FBS-best 131 receptions last season for 1,622 yards and 14 touchdowns. The good news for Tulsa: Returning starters SS Dexter McCoil and FS Marco Nelson each had six of the team's 24 interceptions last season, which led the nation. The bad news: The Golden Hurricane also allowed the most yards passing (319 ypg).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Tulsa: RB Trey Watts. The son of former Sooners QB J.C. Watts is expected to start for the Golden Hurricane after he had 369 yards of total offense and three TDs last season as a freshman. He could play an even more pivotal role helping to fill the void of suspended WR Damaris Johnson, the NCAA's career record holder in all-purpose yards and kickoff return yards.

Oklahoma: LB Corey Nelson. After being highly regarded backup last season, Nelson takes on the task of replacing an injured Travis Lewis -- the team's leading tackler the past three seasons.

FACTS & FIGURES

Oklahoma has the nation's longest home winning streak at 36 games and is 72-2 on Owen Field under coach Bob Stoops. ... Tulsa has opened on the road the last four seasons, going 3-1. ... The Sooners have won the last five games in the series, including a 45-0 shutout two seasons ago. The Golden Hurricane's last win was in 1996 in Norman. ... Both teams run no-huddle offenses and were among the nation's leaders in plays per game -- Oklahoma at 86.5, Tulsa at 77.4

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No. 2 Alabama vs. Kent St.

Line: Alabama by 38.

Series Record: First meeting.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

Alabama would like for AJ McCarron or Phillip Sims to emerge as a clear No. 1 quarterback before a visit to Penn State. Both will play. Kent State is hoping for a strong debut under coach Darrell Hazell, formerly an Ohio State assistant.

KEY MATCHUP

Alabama's secondary, led by All-American safety Mark Barron and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, vs. Kent State QB Spencer Keith, whose 58.1 percent completion percentage is second-best in school history.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Kent St.: DE Roosevelt Nix. Nix earned MAC defensive player of the year honors after racking up 10 sacks and forcing four fumbles.

Alabama: RB Trent Richardson. The two-year backup to Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram is now considered a potential Heisman contender.

FACTS & FIGURES

This is the second time Alabama coach Nick Saban has faced his alma mater. His Toledo team beat Kent State 28-14 in 1990. ... Hazell spent the last seven seasons at Ohio State. ... Crimson Tide is expected to start Barrett Jones, normally a starting guard, at left tackle. ... Alabama has won 10 straight nonconference games and hasn't lost a regular season game outside the SEC since 2007. ... Kent State has lost all nine meetings with SEC teams but hasn't faced one since playing Kentucky four years ago.

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No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 4 LSU, 8:12 p.m. (ABC)

Line: Oregon by 4.

Series Record: LSU leads, 2-1.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

Some say this is a BCS elimination game, which might be a bit harsh because a narrow loss likely would keep either national championship contender high in the polls. LSU seeks to extend its national-best streak of 33 straight regular-season victories over non-conference foes. Oregon is looking to bounce back from losing the BCS title game to Auburn, another SEC team.

KEY MATCHUP

Oregon RB LaMichael James vs. LSU defense: The Tigers have the speed to keep pace with James, but this isn't a sprint. LSU's defensive front will include a true freshman named Anthony Johnson who is nicknamed "The Freak." James, who finished third in Heisman Trophy voting last year, needs 20 yards to become the school's career rushing leader and will be playing a few hours' drive from his hometown of Texarkana, Texas.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Oregon: CB Terrance Mitchell and WR Josh Huff are filling the secondary and kick-return roles normally handled by suspended star Cliff Harris. Mitchell is a redshirt freshman who will be playing his first college game. As a freshman last year, Huff, a Houston native, was second on the team to James with 1,086 all-purpose yards.

LSU: QB Jarrett Lee is taking over for suspended starter Jordan Jefferson. It's understandable that Tigers fans might cringe, still haunted by the memories of him throwing 16 interceptions as a freshman and seeing seven returned for a touchdown. But he's older and presumably wiser than he was in 2008, or in his only start since then, a forgettable game against Louisiana Tech in 2009. Last season, he helped pull out late wins against Tennessee and Florida, and protected a late lead against Alabama.

FACTS & FIGURES

This is the first time since No. 4 Miami beat No. 1 Auburn in 1984 that two top-five teams have opened the season against each other on a neutral field. The only other time it happened was 1983, when No. 1 Nebraska beat No. 4 Penn State. Both those games were played at Giants Stadium. ... LSU coach Les Miles is 23-0 in non-conference, regular-season games. He's also 6-0 in season openers. ... Oregon is 3-0 in regular-season games against Top 10 teams under coach Chip Kelly, but 0-2 against them in BCS games.

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No. 5 Boise State vs. No. 19 Georgia, 8 p.m. (ESPN)

Line: Boise State by 3.

Series Record: Georgia leads 1-0.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

Boise State has moved from the Western Athletic Conference to the Mountain West, but the Broncos still must win this game to have any chance of cracking the BCS. Georgia is coming off its first losing season since 1996, putting coach Mark Richt on the hot seat heading into his 11th year with the Bulldogs. His team will establish the tone for its season in the first two weeks, following up the game against No. 5 Boise State with a Southeastern Conference showdown vs. 12th-ranked South Carolina.

KEY MATCHUP

Georgia QB Aaron Murray vs. Boise State defense. The third-year sophomore had a brilliant debut season (24 touchdowns, only 8 INTs) that was largely overshadowed by Georgia's losing record. He'll be facing an attacking defense that could have as many as nine senior starters.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Boise State: QB Kellen Moore. One of the leading contenders for the Heisman Trophy after topping the nation in passing efficiency last season (71 percent completions, 3,845 yards, 35 TDs, 6 INTs).

Georgia: RB Isaiah Crowell. The touted freshman quickly endeared himself to Georgia fans by using an actual bulldog to announce he was signing with the school. They'll like him even more if he bolsters a running game that's short on experience.

FACTS & FIGURES

Boise State has never beaten a Southeastern Conference team (0-4). ... The Bulldogs are playing their first regular-season game in a domed stadium since 1967, when they lost to Houston 15-14 in the Astrodome. They are familiar with the Georgia Dome, going 4-3 in postseason games at the stadium located about 75 miles from their campus. ... The Broncos have the nation's highest overall winning percentage since 1997 at .819 (145-32). ... Georgia is 41-6 against non-SEC teams during the Richt era. ... Boise State left the WAC after winning eight league championships in 10 seasons. ... Georgia is opening the season against a top-five team for the first time since an 18-17 upset of defending national champion Alabama in 1965. ... Since beating No. 5 Auburn 37-17 on the road in 2006, the Bulldogs are 0-4 against top-five teams. ... Boise State's ranking is the second highest in school history to start a season. Last year, the Broncos were No. 3 in the AP preseason poll.

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No. 6 Florida St vs. Louisiana-Monroe, 3:30 p.m. (ESPNU)

Line: Florida St by 29.

Series Record: First meeting.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

Florida State is looking to show it has returned to the elite ranks with a big win over visiting Louisiana-Monroe. The Seminoles went 10-4 last season in Jimbo Fisher's first year after taking over coaching duties from Bobby Bowden. Florida State returns nearly all its defense and special teams from a year ago and has added a recruiting class some classified as the nation's best. The visiting Warhawks would love to pull an upset similar to one they achieved four years ago at Alabama.

KEY MATCHUP

Florida State's athletic secondary vs. Louisiana-Monroe's veteran cadre of receivers. The Warhawks return their top four receivers, including senior Luther Ambrose, who caught 65 passes last season. Seminole defensive backs Greg Reid, Xavier Rhodes and Mike Harris teamed up for 11 interceptions last season.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Florida State: QB EJ Manuel takes over as the starter for Christian Ponder, who was the Minnesota Vikings first-round pick in last spring's NFL draft. Manuel went 4-2 as a starter when replacing the frequently injured Ponder.

Louisiana-Monroe: Redshirt sophomore QB Colton Browning passed for 2,552 yards and 18 touchdowns and ran for another 385 yards and a team-leading four scores. He also tied a school record with eight consecutive 200-yard passing games.

FACTS & FIGURES

Florida State is chasing its 35th consecutive winning season ... The Seminoles last losing campaign came in 1976 when Bobby Bowden was in his first year at the school. ... Florida State is 8-1 all-time against current Sun Belt Conference members with its lone defeat coming in the school's first year of football when Troy State defeated them 36-6 in 1947.

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No. 7 Stanford vs. San Jose State, 5 p.m. (Comcast SportsNet Bay Area)

Line: Stanford by 30.

Series Record: Stanford leads 49-14-1.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

Heisman Trophy favorite Andrew Luck returns after turning down a chance to be the NFL draft's No. 1 pick. He leads the seventh-ranked Cardinal into a season with high hopes of a Pac-12 title and even a national championship. New Stanford coach David Shaw wants to show the program hasn't lost a step since Jim Harbaugh left for the San Francisco 49ers, especially against a San Jose State team that was 1-12 last season.

KEY MATCHUP

Stanford running game vs. San Jose State's defense. Luck has gained most of the headlines in recent years, but Stanford has always been a run-first team. Stepfan Taylor rushed for 1,137 yards and 15 TDs last season. The Cardinal will use a speedy four-back rotation that also includes Tyler Gaffney, Jeremy Stewart and Anthony Wilkerson.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Stanford: QB Andrew Luck. The spotlight will be on Luck every game this season, and it will especially bright in the opener. He set school records for TD passes (32), completion percentage (70.7 percent) and passing efficiency (170.2) last season, and the big question this year is how he will adjust under Shaw's tutelage.

San Jose State: QB Matt Faulkner. He will have to match Luck if the Spartans have any chance to pull off an upset. Faulkner is making his first start for San Jose State. He transferred from Mount San Antonio College after leading his team to a 13-0 record and the California Community College Athletic Association championship in 2009.

FACTS & FIGURES

The Spartans haven't beaten Stanford since 2006, when the Cardinal finished 1-11 and coach Walt Harris was fired. ... The meeting between the South Bay rivals is also known as the "Bill Walsh Legacy Game." The late San Francisco 49ers coach was a San Jose State graduate and had two coaching stints at Stanford. Shaw also was a receiver at Stanford under Walsh in the early 1990s. ... San Jose State's last victory over a ranked opponent was a 27-24 win vs. No. 9 TCU on Nov. 4, 2000. Since then, the Spartans have lost 17 straight against ranked teams.

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No. 9 Oklahoma State vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, 7 p.m. (FCS)

Line: Oklahoma State by 37.

Series Record: Oklahoma State leads 7-0.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

The Cowboys have matched their highest preseason ranking in the program's history and are looking for more after sharing the Big 12 South title for the first time last season. The Ragin' Cajuns try to pull off a stunner in head coach Mark Hudspeth's debut.

KEY MATCHUP

Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon vs. Louisiana-Lafayette defense. Blackmon had a career-high 13 receptions for 190 yards and two touchdowns in last year's meeting on his way to winning the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top wide receiver. He led the Bowl Subdivision with 1,782 yards receiving and 20 TDs.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Louisiana-Lafayette: TE Ladarius Green. He led the nation's tight ends last season with 794 yards receiving and seven touchdown catches and didn't play when the Ragin' Cajuns led last year's meeting 21-17 at halftime.

Oklahoma State: RB Joseph Randle. As a freshman, he eclipsed 400 yards both receiving and rushing. Now, he gets an even bigger load as the primary replacement for All-American Kendall Hunter, the nation's ninth-leading rusher a year ago.

FACTS & FIGURES

Of the last four Louisiana-Lafayette coaches, Hudspeth is the third to face Oklahoma State in his first game. Nelson Stokley and Jerry Baldwin also did it. ... Hudspeth was previously the wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator at Mississippi State for two seasons. ... Oklahoma State will break out new uniforms.

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No. 10 Nebraska vs. Chattanooga, 3:30 p.m. (BTN)

Line: None.

Series record: First meeting.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

Big Ten newcomer Nebraska needs a clean and crisp performance against an overmatched opponent after losing three of its last four. The opener marks the unveiling of first-year coordinator Tim Beck's fast-paced offense. Players say quick passes and quarterback runs are prominent. Chattanooga gets $475,000 for its trouble.

KEY MATCHUP

Chattanooga QB B.J. Coleman vs. Nebraska's secondary. Coleman, a big-time recruit who transferred from Tennessee in 2009, is an NFL prospect beginning his third year as the starter. He'll surely try to take advantage of Andrew Green, who appeared in one game last season and will be starting in place of star CB Alfonzo Dennard (leg muscle strain).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Chattanooga: WR Joel Bradford. The senior is a preseason FCS All-American after setting a school record with 1,284 receiving yards. Bradford had games of 254 and 274 receiving yards, the top two FCS performances in the nation last year.

Nebraska: QB Taylor Martinez. Which Martinez will show up? The one who drew mention as a Heisman Trophy candidate during a sensational first half of the season, or the one who struggled with ankle and toe injuries and poor decision-making in the biggest games?

FACTS & FIGURES

Nebraska has won 25 straight openers since losing to Florida State in 1985. ... Tyler Moore, at right tackle, is set to become the first Nebraska true freshman offensive lineman to start an opener. ... Brett Maher beat out freshman Mauro Bondi for the kicking job. Maher replaces the most accurate kicker in NCAA history in Alex Henery. ... Chattanooga has played the past two BCS national champions in Alabama (2009) and Auburn (2010) and the 2008 runner-up in Oklahoma. The Mocs also have faced the last three Heisman winners in Cam Newton, Mark Ingram and Sam Bradford.

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No. 12 South Carolina vs. East Carolina at Charlotte, N.C., 7 p.m. (FSN)

Line: South Carolina by 20.

Series Record: South Carolina leads 10-5.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

South Carolina hopes to begin a historic season against the Pirates. The Gamecocks are the defending Southeastern Conference Eastern Division champions and want to advance to their second consecutive league title game. South Carolina received its highest preseason ranking ever this summer. East Carolina is looking to bounce back from a 6-7 year in coach Ruffin McNeil's first season.

KEY MATCHUP

South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore vs. East Carolina defense. Lattimore became the Gamecocks first 1,000-yard rusher in 10 years and set a school record with 19 touchdowns last season. He had a 102 yards and three TDs in the first half last November in South Carolina's 69-24 victory over Troy in its last matchup with a team outside a BCS conference. East Carolina gave up more than 226 yards rushing a game, last in Conference USA a year ago.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

East Carolina: QB Dominique Davis. The junior accounted for 4,108 yards last season, the seventh best total in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

South Carolina: DE Jadeveon Clowney. Sure, he's a freshman. But the country's No. 1 college prospect last winter has impressed throughout camp heading into his debut.

FACTS & FIGURES

South Carolina has won its past 11 season openers, including six with coach Steve Spurrier. ... Spurrier has never coached against East Carolina. ... Pirates inside receivers coach Donnie Kirkpatrick has a daughter, Molly, who's part of South Carolina's spirit squad and will be cheering against her father's team on the sidelines of Bank of America Stadium. ... The teams haven't played since East Carolina's 21-3 victory over Lou Holtz' Gamecocks in 1999. That year, Hurricane Floyd caused the Tar River to spill its banks and flood the Pirates campus, forcing them to remain in Columbia for the next week.

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No. 13 Virginia Tech vs. Appalachian State, 12:30 p.m.

Line: None.

Series Record: Virginia Tech leads 3-0.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

Virginia Tech has lost its last three season openers. Last year it started 0-2, following a loss to Boise State with one five days later to James Madison, an FCS power like the Mountaineers. The game also marks the beginning of redshirt sophomore Logan Thomas' career as the Hokies' quarterback. Appalachian State, which stunned No. 5 Michigan is its season opener in 2007, would become the first FCS school to beat two ranked FBS opponents with a victory.

KEY MATCHUP

Appalachian State quarterback DeAndre Presley vs. the Hokies defense. Presley is one of only 13 players in Division I history to pass for 2,000 yards and run for 1,000 in a season, and the Hokies defense has much to prove after being burned repeatedly by long runs last season. Only five starters return, but the six newcomers have all played extensively for coach Bud Foster.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Appalachian State: Presley. He has run for as many as 264 yards in a game and thrown for as many as five touchdowns. The longer he keeps the Hokies off balance, the better his chances.

Virginia Tech: QB Logan Thomas. He has been impressive in scrimmages since the spring but has yet to play against a hostile opponent.

FACTS & FIGURES

Virginia Tech is the only team in the FBS to have won 10 games in each of the past seven seasons and did it last year after starting 0-2. The Hokies won 11 in a row, then were humbled 40-12 by Andrew Luck and Stanford in the Orange Bowl. ... Speedster David Wilson (5.5 ypc last season) takes over as the Hokies top tailback after Ryan Williams and Darren Evans left for the NFL. Wilson scored 11 TDs last season (5 running, four receiving, two on kickoff returns). ... Appalachian State coach Jerry Moore, in his 23rd season, is seeking his 200th career victory against 79 losses at the school. He has guided the Mountaineers to three national championships, in 2005, 06 and 07. ... Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer, in his 25th season, is seeking his 199th victory in his 25th season at Virginia Tech. He's still seeking his first national championship.

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No. 15 Arkansas vs. Missouri State, 7 p.m. (Pay-per-view)

Line: None.

Series: Arkansas leads 6-0.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

Arkansas reached its first BCS bowl game last season, losing to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. The core of that team returns this season with one notable exception -- quarterback Ryan Mallett. Junior Tyler Wilson is set to make his first start since high school, and expectations are high for Mallett's former understudy. How Wilson performs in the season opener will determine just how high Arkansas' overall expectations should be.

KEY MATCHUP

Arkansas's wide receivers vs. Missouri State's secondary. The Razorbacks' top four receivers (Joe Adams, Greg Childs, Cobi Hamilton and Jarius Wright) combined for 170 catches for 2,882 yards last season. All return this season and figure to completely overmatch the Bears' secondary as well as giving Wilson plenty of open options.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Arkansas: RB Ronnie Wingo. Following Knile Davis' season-ending ankle injury during fall camp, Wingo figures to be the primary rushing option for the Razorbacks. The junior hasn't met expectations so far in his career, rushing for just 253 yards last season, but Davis' injury could provide just the right opportunity.

Missouri State: RB Chris Douglas. The senior rushed for 1,051 yards and scored 11 touchdowns last season, but he's facing an experienced Arkansas defense that returns seven starters.

FACTS & FIGURES

Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino is 7-0 in season openers as a head coach, including a 48-10 win over Missouri State in 2009 ... Arkansas' No. 15 preseason ranking is the school's highest since being ranked No. 14 in 1990 ... Three Southeastern Conference schools, including Arkansas, open their seasons against Football Championship Subdivision opponents -- including Vanderbilt against Elon and Tennessee against Montana ... Missouri State was picked to finish ninth in the preseason Missouri Valley Football Conference, the first time the Bears have been picked last in the league's preseason poll since 1987.

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No. 16 Notre Dame vs. South Florida, 3:30 p.m. (NBC)

Line: Notre Dame by 10.

Series Record: First meeting.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

Notre Dame sets course for a season the Irish hope will end with a BCS bowl berth. Second-year coach Brian Kelly has reinstated star receiver Michael Floyd after his arrest in March for drunken driving, giving the offense its biggest weapon. South Florida has had five straight seasons with at least eight victories, ending in bowl berths. Skip Holtz, whose father, Lou, led Notre Dame to its last national title in 1988, returns to his alma mater, hoping to pull a program-turning upset in his second season at the helm.

KEY MATCHUP

South Florida QB B.J. Daniels vs. Notre Dame inside LB Manti T'eo. The Irish must keep Daniels from running out of the pocket for big gains, while also putting enough pressure on him when he wants to throw. Daniels has nearly 5,000 yards total offense in his career. Te'o leads a defense that got better in the final month last season, and he made 133 tackles, the most by a Notre Dame defender since 1983.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

South Florida: Daniels; LB Sam Barrington, who has 8 tackles for loss in his career, and DB Quenton Washington, who has blocked four kicks in his career, three punts and an extra point.

Notre Dame: QB Dayne Crist, coming off second knee surgery in as many seasons; WR Theo Riddick, the Irish's quickest player who will also return kicks; and RB Cierre Wood, a big-play threat.

FACTS & FIGURES

Both Holtz and Kelly went 8-5 in their first seasons at new schools and won bowl games a year ago. ... Holtz will be making his first trip to South Bend since 1996 when, as coach at UConn, he was able to come back and watch his dad coach his final game at Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish routed Rutgers 62-0 that day. Holtz played one season for his dad at Notre Dame (1986) and then returned as an Irish assistant from 1990-93 before taking the UConn job, his first of three head coaching stints. ... Kelly's teams are 152-9 all-time when leading after three quarters. .... The Irish are 9-1 in their last 10 season openers at Notre Dame Stadium, including a 23-12 win over Purdue a year ago.

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No. 18 Ohio State vs. Akron, noon (ESPN)

Line: Ohio State by 34.

Series Record: Ohio State leads, 6-1.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

Akron is appearing for the payday, an $850,000 appearance fee. Ohio State is looking forward to focusing on football instead of the ugly NCAA investigation that forced out former head coach Jim Tressel.

KEY MATCHUP

Ohio State QBs Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller vs. Akron's defense. After a spirited battle throughout spring practices and preseason camp, Bauserman, a 25-year-old fifth-year senior, won the honor of taking the first snap. They'll replace three-year starter Terrelle Pryor, who's now with the Oakland Raiders. Bauserman has little game experience but still has more than Miller, an acclaimed recruit who graduated from high school early to enroll at Ohio State in January. How the two perform against a Zips defense that gave up an average of 35 points a game last year will be the focal point of the contest.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Akron: QB Clayton Moore. The sophomore JC transfer won the job in camp but will be tested early and often by an Ohio State defense that lost seven starters but has plenty of talent ready to show its stuff.

Ohio State: C Mike Brewster. It isn't often that a center is under the microscope this much, but the All-American leads a ragtag, thin line that is missing one of its top performers in suspended tackle Mike Adams. Brewster must organize the blocking, keep blitzers off the inexperience Buckeyes QBs and open holes for young backs also making their first big step into the spotlight.

FACTS & FIGURES

The Buckeyes will be without Adams, last year's leading rusher Daniel Herron, top returning receiver DeVier Posey and second-team defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, all of whom are suspended for the first five games for accepting cash and free tattoos. ... The game will be interim coach Luke Fickell's first as the Buckeyes top man. ... Akron coach Rob Ianello knows something about big-game atmosphere, having been an assistant at Wisconsin, Arizona, Alabama and Notre Dame. He begins his second season with the Zips, coming off a 1-11 campaign. ... Akron has nine freshmen listed on its two-deep roster; Ohio State has 12. ... The Buckeyes will come out on the field supported by a "tunnel of pride" composed of hundreds of former players. ------

No. 21 Missouri vs. Miami of Ohio, Noon

Line: Missouri by 20.

Series Record: Second meeting. Missouri won 51-13 last year.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

James Franklin debuts as Missouri QB after backing up Blaine Gabbert last year. Former Michigan State offensive coordinator and receivers coach Don Treadwell will be coaching his first game at Miami of Ohio, coming off the Mid-American Conference championship and a six-game winning streak. RedHawks are only Division I school in NCAA history to go from double-digit losses one season to double-digit victories the next.

KEY MATCHUP

Miami of Ohio QB Zac Dysert vs. Missouri defense. Dysert makes first start since lacerating his spleen against Bowling Green last fall. Dysert and Austin Boucher combined for MAC-leading 3,552 yards passing last year. Seven starters are back on Missouri defense although SS Kenji Jackson is lone returning secondary starter for opener. CB Kim Edwards (hamstring) is unlikely to play.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Miami of Ohio: WR Nick Harwell caught 62 passes for 856 yards the last nine games. ... OLB Jerrell Wedge has led school in tackles last two seasons and was among 44 players in nation with 15 or more tackles for loss.

Missouri: James Franklin played sparingly in 10 games last year, completing 11 of 14 passes for 106 yards while rushing for two touchdowns. RBs Kendial Lawrence, De'Vion Moore and Henry Josey combined for 17 TDs last year and could get more work early to ease Franklin's transition.

FACTS & FIGURES

Missouri has had five first-round NFL draft picks the last three seasons, second-most in nation. ... Miami of Ohio has been picked to win the MAC East. RedHawks have won or tied for the MAC East title five of last eight years but have lost three straight openers. ... Don Treadwell was four-year starter at WR for Miami of Ohio from 1978-81. ... Missouri has won 40 games last four seasons, most successful stretch in school history and has won five straight openers. ... Missouri was sixth in nation in scoring defense last year at 16 points. ... Dysert's career completion percentage of .630 is second in school history to Ben Roethlisberger.

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No. 22 Florida vs. Florida Atlantic, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)

Line: Florida by 35.

Series Record: Florida leads 1-0.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

Florida hopes to get the Will Muschamp era off to a strong start. Muschamp replaced two-time national champion Urban Meyer in December. How the Gators will look under Muschamp is anybody's guess. He closed spring practice for the first time in school history, saying it's his only shot at surprising early season opponents.

KEY MATCHUP

Florida RBs Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey vs. FAU's defense. Demps and Rainey are two of the fastest backs in the country. They also are two of the smallest, and how the 180-pounders hold up could be the key to Florida's season.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

FAU: LB Martin Wright. The junior from Miami originally committed to Florida, but his arrest on felony burglary and kidnapping charges in January 2007 ended any shot at playing for the Gators. He spent four months in jail, six months at a boot camp and about a year under house arrest. Wright got a second chance at FAU and now has something to prove. "I'm here. I didn't go anywhere. It was just a little stumbling block. I'm back on the road."

Florida: QB John Brantley. All eyes will be on the senior who was a misfit in Meyer's spread offense last season. With former Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis calling plays, Brantley insists his confidence and comfort level are at all-time highs.

FACTS & FIGURES

This is the first game in FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger's farewell season. He announced his retirement last month. ... FAU RB Alfred Morris has 2,320 yards rushing and 18 TDs the last two years. But he hasn't topped 100 yards on the ground in any of his six games against teams from the six major conferences. ... The Gators have won 21 consecutive season openers. ... Florida has 35 freshmen and 36 sophomores, making it one of the youngest teams in the country.

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No. 23 Auburn vs. Utah St., Noon (ESPN2)

Line: Auburn by 23.

Series Record: First meeting.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

Defending national champion Auburn gets some game experience for a host of young or just plain inexperienced players, including quarterback Barrett Trotter and freshman center Reese Dismukes. Utah State, 1-54 against ranked teams, would love an attention-getting upset.

KEY MATCHUP

Auburn QB Barrett Trotter vs. Utah St. secondary, which features three new starters. Cam Newton's replacement could get a confidence boost in his first meaningful experience.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Utah State: RB Robert Turbin. Turbin missed last season with a torn ACL after running for 1,296 yards and 13 touchdowns and now faces a defensive line with scant experience.

Auburn: RBs Mike Dyer and Onterio McCalebb. The two tailbacks were often overshadowed by the prolific, flashy Newton last season. The solid 1-2 punch comprises one of only three FBS returning tandems that ran for 700-plus yards each last season. More important, they're proven playmakers on an offense with few of them.

FACTS & FIGURES

Utah State will start junior college transfer Adam Kennedy or freshman Chuckie Keeton at quarterback. Auburn is 15-0-1 against current members of the Western Athletic Conference. ... Utah State has seven players returning after missing all or part of last season with injuries, including the top rusher (Robert Turbin) and receiver (Stanley Morrison) from two years ago. ... Utah State coach Gary Andersen is pulling double duty as defensive coordinator after the Aggies gave up 428.8 yards and 33.8 points a game last season.

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No. 25 Southern California vs. Minnesota, 3:30 p.m. (ABC)

Line: USC by 23.

Series Record: USC leads 5-1-1.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

Coach Jerry Kill couldn't have picked a much more daunting place for his debut when the Golden Gophers make their first visit to the storied Coliseum since 1979. Minnesota hasn't won a game in California since 1964. USC is hoping for a fast start to the final year of its NCAA postseason ban with three straight home games.

KEY MATCHUP

Minnesota QB MarQueis Gray vs. USC S T.J. McDonald. The Trojans are impressed with the size and speed of Gray, who's taking over at quarterback after two seasons as a receiver. Gray's run-pass threats must be contained by a defense led by McDonald, USC's leading tackler last season and a projected contender for several honors.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Minnesota: DE D.L. Wilhite. The Gophers were dead last in the FBS last season with just 9.5 sacks, and USC QB Matt Barkley will pick them apart if they can't pressure him. Wilhite is Minnesota's top returning pass-rusher.

USC: WR-KR Robert Woods. The Trojans' freshman prodigy returned a kickoff for a touchdown in last season's 32-21 victory at Minnesota, and Woods only looks more dangerous this summer.

FACTS & FIGURES

USC has won 13 straight openers and 11 straight games against Big Ten opponents. ... Trojans coach Lane Kiffin attended Bloomington Jefferson High School in the Twin Cities area, playing three sports. ... Kill, who spent the last three seasons at Northern Illinois, is hoping to become the first Minnesota coach to win his debut since John Gutekunst did it in 1986. The Gophers' last three coaches lost their debut games. ... Gray occasionally played quarterback during his first two seasons at Minnesota, but threw just 23 passes.

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SUNDAY

No. 8 Texas A&M vs. SMU, 6:30 p.m. (FSN)

Line: Texas A&M by 15.

Series Record: A&M leads 41-29-7.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

Texas A&M has been in the headlines with its announcement that it intends to leave the Big 12 conference. Now, the Aggies are ready to put the focus back on football, with what is expected to be their best team in more than a decade. The Mustangs, coming off consecutive bowl berths, want to showcase their continued improvement.

KEY MATCHUP

Texas A&M's big three offensive threats vs. SMU's defense. The Mustangs will have their hands full dealing with QB Ryan Tannehill, RB Cyrus Gray and WR Jeff Fuller. Tannehill took over at QB midseason and finished with 1,638 yards passing. Gray had 1,133 yards rushing and Fuller grabbed 72 receptions for 1,066 yards.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

SMU: QB Kyle Padron returns after setting school records in yards passing (3,828), total yards (4,072), touchdowns (31), completions (302) and attempts (508) last season.

Texas A&M: Jeff Fuller became Texas A&M's first 1,000-yard receiver last season and has caught at least one pass in each of his 33 career games. He holds the A&M record for career touchdown receptions with 28 which is second among current FBS players.

FACTS & FIGURES

These teams met annually from 1919-1995, except in the two seasons SMU didn't play because of the NCAA "death penalty." ... Since then they've met just once, a 66-8 win victory by A&M in 2005. ... They will finish the three-game agreement in 2012 at SMU. ... SMU hasn't beaten the Aggies since 1984 but tied Texas A&M 21-21 in 1994. ... Texas A&M senior assistant and quarterbacks coach Tom Rossley coached SMU from 1991-1996. ... The Aggies return 10 offensive and eight defensive starters and a school-record 60 lettermen. ... Texas A&M is 66-10 against non-conference opponents since 1980. ... SMU RB Zach Line, a converted linebacker, returns after rushing for 1,494 yards last season.

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No. 24 West Virginia vs. Marshall, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Line: West Virginia by 23.

Series Record: West Virginia 10-0.

First meeting: 1911.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

The Dana Holgorsen era begins at West Virginia and what a better way to start it than against a team the Mountaineers have outscored by an average of 35-13 since the series resumed in 2006. Second-year Marshall coach Doc Holliday will try to pull out all the stops against his alma mater and nearly pulled off the feat last year.

KEY MATCHUP

West Virginia QB Geno Smith vs. Marshall DE Vinny Curry. Curry had 11 sacks a year ago, including getting to Smith twice. Smith rallied the Mountaineers from 15 points down with two long scoring drives in the fourth quarter to force overtime, and WVU beat Marshall 24-21. Smith went 14 of 17 for 151 yards on the final two drives.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

West Virginia: DE Bruce Irvin. The senior amassed 14 sacks in a part-time role last season but now the 246-pound speedster will be called upon in rushing situations, too. He'll be going up against a Marshall offense that breaks in three new starters on the line, and new starters at quarterback and running back.

Marshall: WR Aaron Dobson. The junior scored on a 96-yard pass play against West Virginia last year and he'll be going up a West Virginia secondary that lost three starters. Dobson led Marshall with 689 receiving yards and five TDs.

FACTS & FIGURES

The game is known as the Friends of Coal Bowl. ... West Virginia has won seven straight season openers ... Marshall hasn't defeated a ranked opponent since beating Kansas State on the road in 2003, going 0-10 since. ... Mountaineers WR Ryan Nehlen is the grandson of Hall of Fame coach Don Nehlen, who was at West Virginia from 1980-2000.

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