Atlanta, and the state of Georgia, plays a significant role in Week 1 of the college football season — featuring four of the top 5 teams in the country — starting with Georgia Tech facing No. 1 Clemson.
Georgia Tech @ No. 1 Clemson
8 p.m, Thursday, Aug. 29, ACC Network
The top-ranked Tigers are 34-point favorites against a Tech defense that returns just three starters.
Tech has lost four straight to Clemson, dating back to 2014. The defending national champions averaged 44 points a game last season, while allowing 13 ppg. The Jackets fare better than most, managing three scores against the Tigers in a, 49-21, loss in Atlanta.
It’s Geoff Collins first game as the head coach of the Yellow Jackets. The revamped offense will make its debut on the newly minted ACC Network. (Check your local listings.)
Florida Atlantic @ No. 5 Ohio State
Noon, Saturday, Aug. 31, FOX
Georgia transfer Justin Fields will make his debut as Ohio State’s starting quarterback.
Fields, of Kennesaw, backed up Jake Fromm last season in Athens. He rushed for 266 yards and passed for 328 yards, completing 26 of 39 passes for a 69.2 completion percentage.
Fields scared away Tate Martell and beat out transfer Gunnar Hoak, a Kentucky graduate, to lead the Buckeyes opening weekend against Lane Kiffin’s Florida Atlantic squad.
Chick-fil-A Kickoff: Duke vs. No. 2 Alabama
3:30 p.m., Aug. 31, ABC (at Mercedes-Benz Stadium)
Alabama hasn’t lost a season opener since 2001. In Nick Saban’s 12 seasons at Tuscaloosa, the Tide has beaten opening-game opponents by an average score of 28.8 points per game.
The Blue Devils are missing seven starters on an offense that scored 21 points or fewer six times last season.
The Chick-fil-A Kickoff will be the first time the Blue Devils and Tide square off since 2010 – a 62-13 Alabama win.
One more stat to consider: Alabama last lost in Atlanta in 2008, succumbing to Florida in the SEC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome.
Georgia State @ Tennessee
3:30 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 31, ESPNU
Georgia State will begin its 10th season of football with a trip to Neyland Stadium, where they handed the Vols a, 51-13, victory in 2012.
“It’s a tough schedule but we plan to have a good group ready to line up and compete in every game,” Panthers coach Shawn Elliott said to start the season of his team, which returns seven starters on both offense and defense.
Elliott coached once against Tennessee as interim coach at South Carolina in 2015, coming away with a, 24-27, loss.
The Vols struggled in Jeremy Pruitt’s first year in Knoxville. Conference USA’s Charlotte and FCS ETSU put a scare on the Vols. The Panthers didn’t fare much better, going 2-10 last season.
Point @ Kennesaw State
6 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 31, ESPN+
After back-to-back FCS Playoff Quarterfinal appearances, the Owls open the season at home against a familiar foe.
Kennesaw State has two wins against Point (of West Point, Ga.) at Fifth Third Bank Stadium. In their last meeting in 2016, the Owls held the Skyhawks to just 94 rushing yards on 36 carries in the, 49-3, win.
The Owls, ranked 10th in the preseason FCS poll, are vying for their third-straight Big South championship. They enter the 2019 season with a 22-4 all-time record at home.
Behind junior safety Isaiah McFarland — the single-season records in forced fumbles and interceptions — Point is picked to finish third in the Mid-South Conference Appalachian Division.
No. 3 Georgia @ Vanderbilt
7:30 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 31, SEC Network
For the first time since 1956, third-ranked Georgia and Vanderbilt are meeting in the season opener for each team.
Kirby Smart is 2-1 against the Commodores as Georgia’s head coach. Last season, Georgia defeated Vandy, 41-13, at Sanford Stadium. The victory kept the Bulldogs undefeated at 6-0 on their way to an 11-3 overall record. The Bulldogs lost to Vandy 17-16 in Athens in 2016 and won the past two games by a combined score of 83-27.
Georgia Southern @ No. 6 LSU
7:30 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 31, ESPNU
LSU returns most starters following the school’s first 10-win season since 2013.
The Eagles face their fourth Power 5 team since 2013.
Georgia Southern shocked Florida in the Swamp in 2013; took the Bulldogs to overtime in 2015; struggled offensively against Auburn in 2017; and held Clemson scoreless in the opening quarter in 2018.
The Eagles return quarterback Shai Werts, who threw for 987 yards, 10 touchdowns and an FBS-best zero interceptions. He added 981 yards on the ground, along with 15 touchdowns.
MEAC / SWAC Challenge: Jackson State vs. Bethune-Cookman
3 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 1, ESPN2 (at Georgia State Stadium)
The HBCU matchup has been played annually since 2005. It’s in its second year at Georgia State Stadium.
The MEAC representative has won nine of the 14 games played.
This will be the seventh meeting between the Tigers and Wildcats with Jackson State leading the series 4-2. They haven’t faced each other since 1989.
Jackson State’s Jordon Johnson averaged 5.5 yards per rush his junior season. On the other side, Wildcats wide receiver Jimmie Robinson posted a total 744 yards while scoring 11 touchdowns, three on special teams.
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