The best early season college football match-ups to watch

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Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn will play Georgia early in the SEC schedule

William Houghton, Reporter

With the college football season officially underway, fans of the sport are surrounded with lots of questions. Will the Pac Twelve play a season this fall? Will there be a College Football Playoff this year? Will we even finish the season? Despite all of these questions however, the season is heading towards its second real week of action, and with the SEC getting ready to begin conference play, the stage is set for some big matchups in the coming weeks.

     

     Army Black Knights vs Cincinnati Bearcats

     The third full college football Saturday sees a huge battle involving a team from the American Athletic Conference against an Independent team. Assuming the rankings don’t change too much in the upcoming week, the only ranked vs ranked matchup on a Saturday the 26th that sees the SEC begin play, will be #22 Army vs #13 Cincinnati from Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. Army had a surprising start to the season, blowing out both Louisiana Monroe, and Middle Tennessee State to earn them a place in the rankings. Cincinnati will open against Austin Peay state this weekend, well Army gets an extra week to study film and prepare for the high flying offense of Cincinnati. On paper this game should be a big win for the Bearcats, who have a decked out roster compared to a year ago, when they were one win away from an AAC title and an appearance in the Cotton Bowl. However, Army runs a triple threat style of offense, meaning they keep the ball on the ground for the majority of the game, and rely on slow and methodical drives to keep the opposing team’s offense off the field. This will be an interesting contrast of styles to watch, as Cincinnati will likely rely on a steady receiving core, and the arm of JR quarterback Desmond Ridder to win the game.

     Prediction: The Bearcats to get off to an early 17-6 lead, one that Army withers away as the game goes on. With time running out, the Black Knights slow offense proves to be their own downfall, as they run out of time to catch up. Cincinnati 23, Army 16

     

     Alabama Crimson Tide vs Missouri Tigers

     September 26th features much more than just a huge matchup between the Bearcats and Black Nights, it will also see the SEC kick off it’s season with a bang. #8 Florida travels to Mississippi to take on the Rebels, defending champions and #6 LSU host Mississippi State in its season opener, #15 Tennessee battles South Carolina, Vanderbilt plays #10 Texas A&M and more. However, arguably the biggest game from week one of SEC play features #2 Alabama traveling to Missouri to take on the Tigers. After losing star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to the NFL draft, it’ll be interesting to see how Alabama performs with a new face in the backfield. In addition, Alabama fans will get to witness the return of star linebacker Dylan Moses, who was sidelined with a knee injury last season. On the other side of the ball, Missouri mans the field with most of their starpower on offense from last year gone, including former QB Kelly Bryant, who is currently looking for a job in the NFL, and receiver Jonathan Nance, who led the team in receiving yards last year. Without as much star power on the offensive side of the ball, look for running back Tyler Badie to step up his production, and catch lots of passes out of the backfield, taking some pressure off of a young receiving core.

     Prediction: An early mental error from Alabama QB Mac Jones leads to Missouri taking a 10-0 lead into the second quarter, but as halftime draws near, the Crimson Tide’s defense takes over, causing two turnovers, and helping Alabama enter the locker room up by 11. After the break, Bama’s offense picks up the slack, putting up twenty four points in the final half of play. Alabama 45, Missouri 13.

 

     Auburn Tigers vs Georgia Bulldogs

     The second week of SEC play is highlighted by a big matchup between the 8th ranked Tigers and 4th ranked Bulldogs in Georgia. Auburn is coming off a huge season that saw them defeat rival Alabama, and play in the Outback Bowl against Minnesota. They bring back sophomore quarterback Bo Nix, who threw for 2,542 yards last year. Georgia on the other hand is coming off a an SEC championship appearance in 2019, in which they were blown out by the soon to be champions, LSU. This will be the first big game of the year for both squads, and considering the fact that Alabama and Florida both have such promising rosters, SEC title hopes could be on the line. In addition, Georgia will play the game in front of an empty stadium this game, which should help level the playing field for Auburn, who had trouble playing on the road in crazy environments last year. 

     Prediction: Both defenses dominate the early stages of the game, and a Georgia scoop and score in the first quarter is the only touchdown at halftime. Heading into the fourth quarter down by seven, Auburn drives down the field, and with a few minutes left in the game, and the ball at the one, Georgia comes up with a huge goal line stand, keeping the Tigers out of the endzone and securing the win. Georgia 10, Auburn 3.

   

     Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns vs Appalachion State Mountaineers

     Week six of the CFB season begins with a Wednesday night thriller between two Sun Belt conference rivals. Louisiana began the season with a huge upset over #23 Iowa State, leading to them receiving the first national ranking they’ve seen since 1943. App State on the other hand has been a powerhouse in the Sun Belt for a long time, and in last year’s conference championship game, they handed the Ragin’ Cajuns their only conference loss of the season. The Mountaineers opened 2020 with a win against Charlotte, earning them a spot in the AP poll at number twenty three. Both of these teams have great passing attacks, and even better special teams, meaning we should be in for a shootout.

     Prediction: Defense forgets to show up to the game, and at halftime the Mountaineers lead 35 – 31. The second half begins with a kickoff return touchdown for Appalachian State, however, Louisiana slowly fights back, chipping away at the App State lead until the score is tied at 49. With time expiring, the Ragin’ Cajuns march down the field, and score a game winning touchdown. Louisiana 56, Appalachian State 49.