Many teams take the easy road during the first weekend of action, therefore, we aren't left with a large bank of games to choose from. The 8:00 - 10:00 schedule on Saturday night should be fun, but don't forget to check out the games on Thursday and Monday night as well. I'll be tweeting throughout, so follow me @JoshNorris. All times are EST.
UNC vs South Carolina, 6:00 p.m. on ESPN (Columbia, SC)
Gamecocks junior DE Jadeveon Clowney vs. Tar Heels’ passing game
- Clowney admitted to playing out of shape last season. That is scary. An improved motor will only help the pass rusher finish plays on the edge.
- He’ll face NFL prospects in LT James Hurst and likely chip blocks by TE Eric Ebron.
- Speaking of Ebron, he called his size/speed combination “illegal,” hopefully he worked on his hands during the offseason. Expect him to be used from multiple alignments.
- The key is Tar Heels QB Bryn Renner’s poise. For an up-tempo offense, Renner slows the game down once the ball is snapped, working through multiple reads with pocket awareness. That is tough to find at the college level.
- Many will claim Renner doesn’t have an NFL arm, in terms of velocity to test downfield. His placement does tend to vary when forcing zip on throws outside the hashes, but his passes have plenty of pop in the short to intermediate game. Here is my extended evaluation.
Alabama vs Virginia Tech, 5:30 pm on ESPN (Atlanta, GA)
Logan Thomas’ production vs. a Nick Saban defense
- I understand Thomas has an NFL frame and athleticism, but last season’s tape showed an undraftable prospect from a throwing standpoint. Here is my extended evaluation.
- Thomas has worked on his throwing this offseason, specifically to the left side of the field, along with staying balanced in the pocket.
- Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Scott Loeffler called Nick Saban's defense "more complex than any college defense in the country."
- The Crimson Tide’s defense was good in 2012 but struggled to generate a consistent pass rush. Watch Hokie LT Jonathan McLaughlin , a true freshman, and see if Saban attacks that side of the line.
- Keep an eye on Bama junior S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. He could really emerge as a top 32 (or 15) pick this season.
Georgia vs Clemson, 8:00 pm on ABC (Clemson, SC)
Can Clemson’s offense reload outside of QB Tajh Boyd/junior WR Sammy Watkins and can Georgia’s defense reload after losing tons of NFL talent?
- Clemson still has Boyd and Watkins, but youngsters need to step up to lift the team. Junior Martavis Bryant has moved into the starting lineup, and freshman Mike Williams has drawn comparisons to DeAndre Hopkins.
- Boyd arguably improved more than anyone in the country between 2011 and 2012, especially in terms of pocket movement, so we can only expect another step forward. He was asked to make a lot of quick reads last year, so we could see more progression work this season.
- Many will be critical of his height, but Boyd throws from multiple platforms and arm angles, so he compensates to find passing lanes thanks to pocket awareness. Here is my extended evaluation.
- The Bulldogs lost nearly every starter on defense. Add on S Josh Harvey-Clemons’ suspension, and the team is even more shorthanded. Sophomore pass rushers Jordan Jenkins and James Deloach might be the ones who step up for the Bulldogs.
LSU vs TCU, 9:00 pm on ESPN (Arlington, TX)
Cam Cameron leading LSU’s passing attack vs TCU senior CB Jason Verrett
- Former Ravens OC Cam Cameron, who was fired midway through last season, is now in charge of LSU’s offense. His fingerprints on QB Zach Mettenberger should be evident.
- Mettenberger’s movements are very slow and methodical, so his anticipation and decision making must be quicker than his counterparts’. Here is my extended evaluation.
-Senior CB Jason Verrett is an excellent talent. Physical with WRs while winning at the catch point. His trail technique is very consistent as well. He will likely shadow junior Odell Beckham across the field.
- Two more points to keep an eye on: TCU QB Casey Paschall’s return and the suspension of stud sophomore pass rusher Devonte Fields.
Nevada vs UCLA, 10:00 pm on Pac 12 Network (Pasadena, CA)
The Pistol offense vs the Machine Gun
- Despite Chris Ault’s departure Nevada will continue to run the pistol, and likely run it with success. Junior QB Cody Fajardo could make a national name for himself in this contest, but he already has scouts’ attention.
- Many of Fajardo’s snaps involve two reads, so it will be interesting to see how star OLB Anthony Barr handles that play on the edge. Will he overcommit or stick to his responsibility?
- Speaking of Barr, he is only going into his second season on the defensive side. He has added weight, which hopefully translates to using his length and hands more at the point of attack. Barr’s edge and closing speed is undeniable.
- Bruins Redshirt sophomore QB Brett Hundley has drawn plenty of attention from NFL Draft evaluators this offseason, even more than Oregon redshirt sophomore Marcus Mariota. This leads me to believe he is leaning more towards than NFL than his Pac-12 counterpart.
- UCLA has a history of the pistol, but switched to a “machine gun” style last season. “It's an offense that relies on getting to the ball and running a play as quickly as possible.” Expect a lot of throws that allow for yards after the catch.
FSU vs Pittsburgh, 8:00 pm on ESPN (Pittsburgh, PA)
Seminoles duo at RB vs Pittsburgh’s front seven
- Florida State might possess the best running duo in college football, with juniors James Wilder and Devonta Freeman. Wilder is an upright power runner with a comparable build to Adrian Peterson out of Oklahoma. Freeman is a more compact runner with great explosion in his cuts. Don’t let his size fool you, as Freeman gets after it on contact.
- Not only will Noles LT Cameron Erving protect redshirt freshman starting QB Jameis Winston, he’ll be paving the way on edge runs. Erving is a former defensive lineman who started at the same spot on the left side last season. We expect a big jump in development, specifically in his technique.
- Pittsburgh’s defense lacks the talent it has in recent years, but DT Aaron Donald is an upfield penetrator and can disrupt plays in the backfield before they get going.