The opening weekend of the college football season is sort of like an all-you-can eat buffet. Usually, most of what’s laid out doesn’t look particularly appealing, but there is a lot of it.
You’ll walk away full if not totally satisfied, and there’s always a chance to find a few really tasty dishes — such as No. 9 South Carolina on the road against feisty Vanderbilt on Thursday night, No. 24 Boise State visiting No. 13 Michigan State on Friday night, and Georgia Tech at No. 16 Virginia Tech on Monday night.
The chef’s special comes Saturday night, when the center of the college football world will be Arlington, Texas. No. 8 Michigan plays No. 2 and defending national champion Alabama at Dallas Cowboys Stadium. No hyperbole necessary, and you certainly won’t get any from Nick Saban.
“I think first games are always really exciting for everyone. We are really looking forward to the opportunity that we have to play against a really good, well coached Michigan team,” the Crimson Tide coach said. “It’s always exciting to have, for us at least, to have a challenging game in the opener. I think that really excites the players throughout the year and not just this week, so we are looking forward to the opportunity and the challenge that we have.”
Yes, Saban allows for excitement. Cold, calculated and brutally efficient excitement.
The Wolverines and the Tide have only played only three times and never before in the regular season, so there is plenty of reason to get pumped for the opener, even though Michigan is nearly a two-touchdown underdog.
The Wolverines hold a 2-1 advantage in the series, including the 2000 Orange Bowl, a 35-34 Michigan overtime victory in what is now best known as Tom Brady’s last college game. He did OK.
The current Michigan quarterback is OK, too. Denard Robinson is speedy and unpredictable. The Alabama defense has been revamped after losing about half the key players from last year’s top-ranked unit. But most of the new starters were four- and five-star recruits, so no need to worry about the Tide.
After an offseason filled with Penn State scandal and BCS changes, it’s finally time to play some games. And make some picks:
No. 9 South Carolina (minus 6 1/2) at Vanderbilt
Commodores are no longer SEC pushovers ... SOUTH CAROLINA 21-10.
No. 24 Boise State (plus 6 1/2) at No. 13 Michigan State
How good will Broncos be without Kellen Moore? ... MICHIGAN STATE 28-17.
San Jose State (plus 26) at No. 21 Stanford
Cardinal can ease into life without Andrew Luck ... STANFORD 38-10.
Hawaii (plus 40) at No. 1 Southern California
Matt Barkley gets Heisman campaign off and running ... USC 52-14.
No. 2 Alabama (minus 13 1/2) vs. No. 8 Michigan at Arlington, Texas
Tide has advantage on lines, where Wolverines are rebuilding ... ALABAMA 34-14.
North Texas (plus 43) at No. 3 LSU
No Honey Badger necessary ... LSU 48-10.
No. 4 Oklahoma (minus 31) at UTEP
Interesting place for Sooners to start season ... OKLAHOMA 55-13.
Arkansas State (plus 35 1/2) at No. 5 Oregon
Gus Malzhan vs. Chip Kelly, but Kelly has a stacked deck ... OREGON 45-7.
Buffalo (plus 37 1/2) at No. 6 Georgia
Most of intrigue is about which Bulldogs will be suspended ... GEORGIA 49-6.
Murray State (no line) at No. 7 Florida State
First of two straight FCS opponents for Seminoles ... FLORIDA STATE 60-10.
Jacksonville State (no line) at No. 10 Arkansas
Former Arkansas coach Jack Crowe leads Gamecocks ... ARKANSAS 58-14.
Marshall (plus 24) at No. 11 West Virginia
Mountaineers are 11-0 against in-state ’rivals’ ... WEST VIRGINIA 42-17.
Northern Iowa (no line) at No. 12 Wisconsin
Badgers break in latest QB transfer, Danny O’Brien ... WISCONSIN 56-14.
No. 14 Clemson (minus 3 1/2) vs. Auburn at Atlanta
No All-American Sammy Watkins (suspension) for Clemson ... CLEMSON 28-24.
Wyoming (plus 29) at No. 15 Texas
Cowboys QB Brett Smith looks to build on strong freshman season ... TEXAS 38-7.
Southern Miss (plus 19 1/2) at No. 17 Nebraska
Be careful Cornhuskers ... SOUTHERN MISS 28-24.
Miami, Ohio (plus 23) at No. 18 Ohio State
Urban Meyer era begins for Buckeyes ... OHIO STATE 38-10.
Savannah State (no line) at No. 19 Oklahoma State
Savannah State’s next opponent? Florida State. YIKES! ... OKLAHOMA ST 58-3.
Missouri State (no line) at No. 22 Kansas State
K-State QB Collin Klein ran for 27 TDs last season ... KANSAS STATE 45-14.
Bowling Green (plus 29) at No. 23 Florida
Two QBs to play for Gators, still trying to replace Tebow ... FLORIDA 31-13.
Kentucky (plus 13) at No. 25 Louisville
Cardinals snapped four-game skid in series last year ... LOUISVILLE 24-3.
Georgia Tech (plus 7) at No. 16 Virginia Tech
ACC rivals usually play close games, and Hokies usually win ... VA. TECH 28-23.
Last year’s final record: 230-68 (straight); 139-134-1 (vs. spread).
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP