**Note: This was a print-only story**
North Carolina at No. 6 South Carolina
A battle between two teams with completely different identities: North Carolina’s high-scoring offense led by Bryn Renner against South Carolina’s shutdown defense headlined by defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. The key to the game is whether the Gamecocks can find stability at the quarterback position with the inconsistent Connor Shaw as the starter.
Ole Miss at Vanderbilt
This matchup pits two teams on a mission to prove that their records from a year ago were no fluke. Led by quarterback Bo Wallace, the Rebels will look to reverse their recent record against Vanderbilt, who has won six of the previous eight games, including the past three, in this annual rivalry. Senior Austyn Carta-Samuels replaces the graduated Jordan Rodgers as the Commodores starting quarterback.
Mississippi State vs. No. 13 Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State will use two quarterbacks – Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh – to start the season, in a game that will likely come down to Mississippi State’s ability to slow down the Cowboys’ high-flying passing attack. The Bulldogs will have their hands full against the third-highest scoring offense in the nation from a year ago, after losing their top two corners in Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay to the NFL. With a win, Mississippi State could make the SEC West title race a little more interesting.
No. 5 Georgia at No. 8 Clemson
The season will essentially be on the line when these two national championship hopefuls faceoff in Death Valley, and it will all be ultimately decided by one man: the quarterback. Senior quarterbacks Aaron Murray of Georgia and Tajh Boyd of Clemson are a virtual match at the position after both threw 36 touchdowns and nearly 3,900 yards a year ago. Murray will be complemented by running back Todd Gurley, while Boyd will receive aid from all-purpose playmaker Sammy Watkins.
No. 12 LSU vs. No. 20 TCU
This year’s Cowboys Classic in Dallas showcases two top programs meeting for the first time since 1968. The matchup to watch will be LSU’s deep stable of running backs headlined by Jeremy Hill, against TCU’s stout defense that returns most of its starters from a year ago. An improved Zach Mettenberger in year two as the Tigers’ starting quarterback could be a difference maker.
Kentucky vs. Western Kentucky
Last year, Kentucky’s overtime loss at home against the Hilltoppers marked the beginning of an eight-game losing streak for the Wildcats, en route to a dismal 2-10 finish. This year, it marks the start of a new beginning. Former Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops brings in a revitalized coaching staff and offensive scheme in his first year leading the Kentucky program. On the other side, Western Kentucky is led by notable college football head coach Bobby Petrino, who is also entering his first season at a new school.