What to Watch, Week 1: Welcome back, college football

It’s finally here.

The long awaited return of the college football season, and with it, our weekly primer to make you sound smart at the bar on college football weekends.

The opening weekend slate is full of intriguing games starting with tonight’s 6 p.m. ET clash between No. 6 South Carolina and North Carolina. The game will feature the first 2013 look at Heisman candidate Jadeveon Clowney. If you need a refresher on who he is, well, here you go:

That play will never get old. Ever.

Here are some other things that you may have forgotten during the layoff:

Alabama won the national championship – again. And the SEC bragged about it – again. And a bunch of really jealous coaches claimed Nick Saban was evil, which is something I think we’ve all suspected for a very long time.

This guy was the Heisman Trophy winner:

This guy had a fake girlfriend and introduced the college football world to the term "Catfish":

And this is the face most associated with Alabama football this offseason:

There are several new rules in place this year to help player safety, which means stuff like this will not be tolerated anymore:

Oh and this is the last year of the BCS system, which will give way to a four-team playoff in 2014.

I think that’s everything, so look ahead to this week.

Game of the week:
No. 5 Georgia vs. No. 8 Clemson, 8 p.m. ET
This is the only opening week game between two top 10 teams and it should be a good one. Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray and Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd are among the best veteran quarterbacks in the country and both have a host of offensive weapons at their disposal. The only question mark for both teams is on defense. Georgia’s defense was mediocre last year and most of those guys are gone. Similarly, Clemson allowed nearly 400 yards of total offense and 25 points per game last year.

Game to watch:
No. 12 LSU vs. No. 20 TCU, 9 p.m. ET

There’s been a lot of gamesmanship going on with these two coaches as they head into what will be a pivotal early season matchup for both team. Both have star players suspended for the game – supposedly – but both players are dressing in some sort of weird game of coaching chicken. Regardless, this is a chance for both teams to prove themselves early. TCU, in its second Big 12 season, was mediocre last year, but has its tough defense back and a couple seasoned quarterbacks that could make people remember the 2010 TCU team. LSU was supposed to be an offensive powerhouse with quarterback Zach Mettenberger a year ago, but that offense never materialized. Here’s a chance for the Tigers to show their going to be a player – not an afterthought – in the SEC.

Also check out…
Texas Tech vs. SMU, Fri. 8 p.m. ET

If you just want pure offensive entertainment, this game will probably be right up your alley. Former Texas A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury makes his head coaching debut with Texas Tech and introduces the world to yet another unknown quarterback (remember meeting that Manziel kid last year?). This isn’t one of those games that’s going to change either team’s season drastically, but it should be some high-scoring fun for a Friday night.

Don't waste your time with:
No. 7 Texas A&M vs. Rice, 1 p.m. ET

Manziel’s eligibility has dominated the news the past couple weeks and now that it’s been resolved, it doesn’t mean that Manziel becomes must-watch TV against a hapless Rice team. Manziel won’t play in the first half, which has some people thinking that Rice is going to have a lead at halftime, but that’s just ridiculous. Even without Manziel, A&M has more talent than Rice and should win this game easily. In fact, if the NCAA hadn’t suspended Manziel for a half, he probably would have sat the second half of this game anyway. Sure, it might be worth a second of your time to see if Johnny Football is still as exciting as he was last year, but after you see one series, look for something else to watch.

Keep an eye on
There are a couple things to watch this weekend that will have an effect on various team’s seasons as they move forward. Thursday night, USC will use two quarterbacks against Hawaii. And if you’re willing to stay up for the 11 p.m. ET kickoff, it might be worth a glance to see if either Max Wittek or Cody Kessler can help save coach Lane Kiffin’s job… Tommy Rees returns as Notre Dame’s starter against Temple at 3:30 p.m. ET. The predictions are mixed for the Irish. There’s no doubt the defense will be stout, but the season hangs on whether Rees can be an elite quarterback. Temple might not be a great gauge, but it’s a good first look… Beamer Ball makes its season debut against reigning national champion Alabama at 5:30 p.m. ET, and really this is a terrible season opener for a mediocre Virginia Tech squad. The only reason we’re highlighting this game is because it’s a first chance to see Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon, who could be a Heisman darkhorse this season.

Upset alert:
Western Kentucky (+4.5) vs. Kentucky, 7 p.m. ET

Former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino returns to coaching with a talented Western Kentucky team that is the favorite to win the Sun Belt and create some upsets along the way. Not sure how big of an upset this would actually be since the Hilltoppers won this game a year ago. But any time a Sun Belt team can topple an SEC team, even if it is Kentucky, it’s worth taking notice.

And look, the Hilltoppers are already talking smack.

Impress your friends with this random stat:
Last season, six ranked teams won their season opener by seven or fewer points and five of those games were against unranked opponents.

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