The Southeastern Conference is set to kick off its 10-game, league-only schedule, making this Saturday the most normal-feeling yet of a most unusual season.
As of Wednesday, all the SEC openers were still on. The Big 12 and Atlantic Coast Conference were also scheduled to have all their teams playing this weekend — until Tuesday, when Notre Dame and Wake Forest was postponed because of a COVID-19 outbreak among Fighting Irish players.
The first week of the SEC season features the debuts of four new coaches, including Lane Kiffin at Mississippi taking on No. 5 Florida and Mike Leach at Mississippi State visiting defending national champion and No. 6 LSU.
“I don’t know who has the toughest schedule in the SEC, but the toughest schedule that’s ever been played in the history of college football is going to be one of the teams in the SEC this year,” said Leach, who is taking his Air Raid offense to Starkville after successful stops at Texas Tech and Washington State.
Eight SEC teams begin the season ranked, but only two play each other Saturday. A sneaky good game between No. 23 Kentucky and No. 8 Auburn could determine just how seriously we need to take these teams as division contenders.
Wildcats vs. Tigers is one of three games matching ranked teams this weekend. With the Big Ten still a month away from starting its season — and the Pac-12 and Mountain West looking likely to follow in late October/early November — this is as normal as college football will get for while.
No. 2 Alabama (minus 27)) at Missouri
Tigers drew the Tide and LSU when the SEC revised its schedule. It's been nine years since Mizzou joined the conference but it's still tough to be the new guy ... ALABAMA 45-10.
Kansas State (plus 28) at No. 3 Oklahoma
Wildcats upset the Sooners last year and last won in Norman in 2014 ... OKLAHOMA 42-28.
No. 4 Georgia (minus 26) at Arkansas
First game as a head coach for Razorbacks' Sam Pittman comes against his last employer ... GEORGIA 35-7.
No. 5 Florida (minus 14 1/2 ) at Mississippi
Interesting quarterback situation for the Rebels. How will coach Lane Kiffin use John Rhys Plumlee (better runner) and Matt Corral (better passer)? ... FLORIDA 31-21.
Mississippi State (plus 16 1/2) No. 6 LSU
QB Myles Brennan makes his first start for LSU as Joe Burrow's successor ... LSU 38-14.
No. 23 Kentucky (plus 7 1/2) at No. 8 Auburn
Former SMU and Arkansas coach Chad Morris takes over play calling at Auburn ... AUBURN 27-21.
No. 8 Texas (minus 18) at Texas Tech
Red Raiders allowed 572 yards passing in its opener to Houston Baptist, albeit with a depleted team ... TEXAS 45-31.
Vanderbilt (plus 30 1/2) at No. 10 Texas A&M
Will Year 3 under coach Jimbo Fisher be a big step forward for the Aggies? ... TEXAS A&M 42-10.
Florida State (plus 11) at No. 12 Miami
Hurricanes have won three straight in the rivalry, which says a lot about how things have gone lately for the Seminoles because Miami has hardly been vintage Miami during that time ... MIAMI 28-21.
No. 13 UCF (minus 27) at East Carolina
Knights have won four straight in the series and averaged 47 points per game ... UCF 45-24.
No. 22 Army (plus 13 1/2) at No. 14 Cincinnati
Black Knights have averaged more than 36 minutes of time of possession in two games ... CINCINNATI 24-17.
West Virginia (plus 8 1/2) at No. 15 Oklahoma State
Cowboys coach Mike Gundy said he was hopeful QB Spencer Sanders (leg) would be ready to play ... OKLAHOMA STATE 31-20.
No. 16 Tennessee (minus 3 1/2) at South Carolina
Gamecocks will start Colorado State grad transfer Collin Hill at quarterback. He followed new offensive coordinator Mike Bobo from Fort Collins to Columbia ... TENNESSEE 23-16.
Troy (plus 14) at No. 18 BYU
After having a game postponed, can the Cougars pick up where they left off at Navy? ... BYU 27-17.
Georgia Southern (minus 14) at No. 19 Louisiana-Lafayette
Ragin' Cajuns have won two of three since GSU joined the Sun Belt in 2016 ... LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE 28-17.
North Carolina State (plus 6 1/2) at No. 20 Virginia Tech
After failing to crack 26 points in any ACC game last season, Wolfpack put up 45 in their opening victory against Wake Forest ... N.C. STATE 24-20.
No. 24 Louisville (plus 2 1/2) at No. 21 Pittsburgh
First meeting since 2015 matches Cardinals' speedy offense vs Panthers rugged defense ... LOUISVILLE 31-28.
Tulane (minus 3 1/2) at Southern Mississippi — @GriffinTSmith
Two old Conference USA rivals coming of heartbreaking, last-second losses ... TULANE 24-16.
Iowa State (minus 2 1/2) at TCU — @willminich
Cyclones are 3-8 against the Horned Frogs and looking for consecutive victories for the first time in the series ... TCU 24-20.
Last week: 8-1 straight; 7-2 against the spread.
Season: 13-4 straight; 12-4 against the spread.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at http://www.westwoodonepodcasts.com/pods/ap-top-25-college-football-podcast/
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