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College football games to watch this weekend

Photo by Loren Elliot, Tampa Bay Times

Photo by Loren Elliot, Tampa Bay Times

Story by John Morgan, Sports Editor

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Tailgaters set up outside the stadium as the smells of game day foods fill the autumn air. Fans wearing two distinct colors file in to witness a treasured pastime. The opening kickoff results in a deafening roar as the festivities get under way.

College football has arrived once again as many teams start their seasons this upcoming weekend. New coaches, new players and new challenges await 130 Football Bowl Subdivision teams as they finally get back out onto the field.

This opening weekend is loaded with marquee matchups and intriguing storylines.

Here are five games that should be on every football fan’s watch list:

Maryland at Texas

The Longhorns have been anything but relevant in the college football world since losing to Alabama in the 2009 national title game. New coach Tom Herman is definitely aware of this and has shown this offseason that he has plans to turn things around. Herman, the former coach at Houston, has many Longhorns at least optimistic that this season will be a sign of things to come. While an 11 a.m. kickoff in Austin is rather unconventional, you can expect a packed house and exciting game for Herman’s debut.

Kent State at Clemson

This game definitely has the makings of a blowout, but it will be fun to watch the defending national champions back in action. After defeating Alabama in last year’s title game, everyone has been asking if coach Dabo Swinney and his team can repeat their success. Replacing former quarterback Deshaun Watson will be anything but easy, but a strong returning cast on defense should keep the Tigers in the championship race.

Michigan vs. Florida

This will be the classic opening week game of two top 25 teams that are both in rebuilding mode this season. The conference showdown between the SEC and the Big Ten might be overshadowed by the fact that the Wolverines will be without former playmakers like Jabrill Peppers and the Gators have ten players serving suspension for this game. AT&T Stadium should get a closely contested affair that will jumpstart one program and plague the other.

Game of the Week: Florida State vs. Alabama

This game is being hyped as one of the biggest opening week games in history. Two of the top three teams in the country will face off in the brand new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The Crimson Tide are looking to avenge their loss to Clemson from last year and look to be primed for another College Football Playoff run, but they will have a Seminoles team with a solid amount of returning talent aiming to once again lower Alabama spirits. Primetime is the perfect venue for what should be an all out battle on the field.

West Virginia vs. Virginia Tech

The NFL doesn’t start for another week, so for now, we still have college football, and this game should be just as entertaining. The battle of the Virginias will showcase two rather similar teams looking to make strong opening statements as they both will have to overcome various rivals within their respective conferences in order to be relevant come December. Both teams will test out new quarterbacks and new defensive units as they fight to reign supreme over two states.

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