College Football Preview, August 31 park
College football is finally back. The major college football season kicks off Thursday evening with 16 games, including two involving ranked teams as well as the Tulane Green Wave traveling to Wake Forest (6 p.m.). The action continues straight through the weekend and then for another 13 weeks prior to the bowls.
Allstate Sugar Bowl Match-Up
This year's Allstate Sugar Bowl will feature the champions of the Big 12 and the SEC unless one or both are selected for the College Football Playoff. In that case, the top non-playoff teams from those leagues will square off in New Orleans. This match-up will continue for seven of the next 10 years. In the other three seasons (2017, 2020 and 2023), the Allstate Sugar Bowl will serve as a College Football Playoff Semifinal.
Top Upcoming Games
With the Allstate Sugar Bowl featuring the Big 12 vs. the SEC, the "upcoming games" will be weighted towards those two conferences, with other key match-ups included. All times are Central and rankings are from the Associated Press preseason poll. Check local listings to verify television information.
South Carolina at Vanderbilt (Thursday, 7 p.m., ESPN): Will Muschamp has the challenge of opening his Gamecocks' head coaching tenure with an SEC road game. While playing at Vandy may seem better than many SEC options, the Commodores return eight offensive starters and their defense was much-improved last year with one of the top linebacking corps in the league.
Kansas State at No. 8 Stanford (Friday, 8 p.m. Fox Sports 1): Kansas State has a huge opportunity to pick up an early marquee victory, but the Wildcats will have their hands full with a powerful Stanford quad led by Heisman Trophy candidate Christian McCaffrey.
No. 3 Oklahoma at No. 15 Houston (Saturday, 11 a.m., ABC): The Sooners, projected by many to be a national title contender, will hope that star quarterback Baker Mayfield can break an unflattering streak – the last four times they have been ranked in the preseason top five, they have not finished higher than No. 15. Houston presents a tough challenge as the Cougars are coming off a 13-1 season and return their own star quarterback in Greg Ward, Jr.
Missouri at West Virginia (Saturday, 11 a.m., Fox Sports 1): The first Big 12-SEC match-up of the year features the debut of Mizzou coach Barry Odom (a linebacker at the school from 1996-99) as the Tigers travel to Morgantown to battle a Mountaineers squad with a lot of experience on offense.
No. 16 UCLA at Texas A&M (Saturday, 2:30 p.m., CBS): Texas A&M hopes new quarterback Trevor Knight can return to his Sugar Bowl MVP form (he threw for 348 yards and four TDs as he led Oklahoma to a 2014 victory over Alabama, but transferred in 2015). The Aggies will also be looking to make a mark on the national scene as UCLA and star quarterback Josh Rosen is considered the favorite in the Pac-12 South.
No. 5 LSU vs. Wisconsin (Lambeau Field, Saturday, 2:30 p.m., ABC): Leonard Fournette and LSU have the opportunity to bring some highlights to one of the most storied football venues in the country, but the always-stout Badger defense could make things challenging for the Tigers.
No. 18 Georgia at No. 22 North Carolina (Atlanta, Saturday, 4:30 p.m., ESPN): Kirby Smart makes his head coaching debut against a North Carolina squad which many see as underrated after it won the ACC Coastal last year and returns 14 starters. Bulldog fans hope to see the return of star running back Nick Chubb, who suffered a major knee injury last October, while the quarterback position could be manned by highly-touted true freshman Jacob Eason.
No. 20 USC vs. No. 1 Alabama (Arlington, Saturday, 7 p.m., ABC): Alabama has had its annual talent-drain to the NFL, and will once more be breaking in an inexperienced quarterback, but once again, the preseason prognosticators have picked the Tide as the top team in the nation. The schedule may be Alabama's toughest foe this year as games against LSU, Tennessee and Ole Miss are all on the road – and the opener in Cowboys Stadium features Pac-12 power USC.
No. 2 Clemson at Auburn (Saturday, 8 p.m., ESPN): Coming off a very impressive performance against Alabama in the national championship game, Clemson takes on the other SEC power from the Yellowhammer State. Auburn has some big question marks, but still returns enough talent that Clemson and star quarterback Deshaun Watson, last season's Manning Award winner, will need to be wary of an upset.
No. 10 Notre Dame at Texas (Sunday, 6:30 p.m., ABC): The Fighting Irish were decimated by injuries last year but still turned in a very strong 10-3 season. A positive side of the injuries is that they allowed many backups to gain valuable experience. The season starts with a road game in Austin against a Longhorn squad which returns 15 starters and should be improved at quarterback and running back.
No. 11 Ole Miss vs. No. 4 Florida State (Orlando, Monday, 7 p.m., ESPN): Sugar Bowl champion Ole Miss suffered many key losses to the NFL Draft but Sugar Bowl MVP Chad Kelly returns at quarterback as the Rebels look for another memorable victory as they open against powerful Florida State and its Heisman Trophy-chasing running back Dalvin Cook.
Sugar Bowl Spotlight Event
The 15th Allstate Sugar Bowl Women's Volleyball Collegiate Classic, hosted by Tulane University, will be played on Friday and Saturday, September 2-3, 2016, at Tulane's Devlin Fieldhouse. This year's tourney will feature UT Rio Grande Valley, Bethune-Cookman and Sam Houston State, as well as the host Green Wave. The Green Wave will play UT Rio Grande Valley on Friday, followed by taking on Bethune-Cookman and Sam Houston State on Saturday.
Devlin Fieldhouse is the Freret Street gymnasium on the Tulane campus that was previously known as Fogelman Arena.
"We're very excited about hosting the Sugar Bowl tournament," said Tulane head coach Jim Barnes. "It's an event that I think can bring in some of the best teams into the country to compete and can have a lot of national prestige. This is my inaugural year hosting this tournament, so I'm excited because it will bring our first home matches of the season as well. It's a great opportunity for Tulane fans to see our team, and we appreciate the Sugar Bowl's support over the 15 years this event has been held in New Orleans."
Allstate Sugar Bowl, Jan. 2, 2017
The Manning Award, sponsored and coordinated by the Allstate Sugar Bowl, will be recognizing its 13th winner following the 2016 season. The Bowl announced the preseason Watch List for the Award, which recognizes the top quarterback in the nation, on August 15.
2015-16 Manning Award Watch List
Tommy Armstrong, Sr., Nebraska