College football starts better than it ends.
The sport has evolved through numerous postseason systems that have clumsily crowned champions, and while the College Football Playoff does a better job than its predecessors it has also spawned a month’s worth of tedious debate over the importance of bowl games.
The season still sort of peters out. When are the semifinals this year? How long do we have to wait until the championship game?
The season begins with bang, though, an immersive five-day holiday weekend filled with games after everyone’s appetite was whetted with something called Week 0.
Admittedly, this opening weekend is light on marquee matchups. The only game with two ranked teams is No. 11 Oregon vs. No. 16 Auburn in Arlington, Texas. In this case quantity wins out over quality. Plus, doesn’t it always seem like this type of schedule produces wacky results?
On the down side, this is also the time of year for some pretty ridiculous mismatches. We’ll mostly ignore them here and you should, too.
Georgia Tech (plus 36) at No. 1 Clemson
You will need the ACC Network to get a look at Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence this weekend … CLEMSON 35-3.
Texas State (plus 33 1/2) at No. 12 Texas A&M
New Bobcats coach Jake Spavital was A&M’s offensive coordinator and QB coach from 2013-15 … TEXAS A&M 49-10.
No. 14 Utah (minus 5) at BYU
Utes have won eight straight in the Holy War, their longest winning streak since the 1930s … UTAH 24-17.
Tulsa (plus 23) at No. 18 Michigan State
Can the Spartans’ offense give its stout defense some help this season? … MICHIGAN STATE 31-14.
No. 19 Wisconsin (minus 13 1/2) at South Florida
The Bulls ended last season on a six-game losing streak after winning their first seven … WISCONSIN 31-21.
No. 2 Alabama (minus 34 1/2) vs. Duke at Atlanta
This would be a potentially competitive 1 vs. 8 second-round matchup in the NCAA Tournament, with the Blue Devils as favorites. But, alas, this is not basketball … ALABAMA 42-10.
No. 3 Georgia (minus 20 1/2) at Vanderbilt
It was only three seasons ago that Vandy beat the Bulldogs in Athens. Since then, UGA has outscored the ‘Dores 86-27 … GEORGIA 42-14.
FAU (plus 27 1/2) at No. 5 Ohio State
Lane Kiffin’s Owls get first crack at the revamped Buckeyes’ defense —and QB Justin Fields … OHIO STATE 52-21.
Georgia Southern (plus 28) at No. 6 LSU
Facing Georgia Southern’s triple-option is not the easiest way to start a season … LSU 38-14.
Middle Tennessee (plus 33 1/2) at No. 7 Michigan
Wolverines set to unveil a new-look offense … MICHIGAN 48-10.
Louisiana Tech (plus 20 1/2) at No. 10 Texas
Longhorns tune up for LSU with La. Tech … TEXAS 35-13.
No. 11 Oregon (plus 3 1/2) vs. No. 16 Auburn at Arlington, Texas
Another big neutral-field game for the Pac-12 against Auburn. Can the Ducks do better than Washington did last year? … AUBURN 24-21.
Eastern Washington (no line) at No. 13 Washington
Huskies debut for QB Jacob Eason against an FCS squad with a history of pushing Pac-12 teams … WASHINGTON 48-24.
Miami, Ohio (plus 21 1/2) at No. 20 Iowa
Hawkeyes are 23-4 against MAC teams .., IOWA 42-14.
No. 22 Syracuse (minus 17 1/2) at Liberty
Weird road trip to start the season for a ranked team as Hugh Freeze makes coaching debut for Flames … LIBERTY 35-34, UPSET SPECIAL.
New Mexico State (plus 33 1/2) at No. 23 Washington State
Cougars will start Anthony Gordon, a former JUCO transfer and three-year reserve, at quarterback … WASHINGTON STATE 56-17.
South Alabama (plus 27 1/2) at No. 24 Nebraska
Huskers are ranked to start a season for the first time since 2014 … NEBRASKA 56-24, BEST BET.
Northwestern (plus 6 1/2) at No. 25 Stanford
(Insert joke about high academic standards here) … STANFORD 24-21.
Houston (plus 21 1/2) at No. 4 Oklahoma
Jalen Hurts debuts as the Sooners’ quarterback against a defense that was one of the worst in the country last season … OKLAHOMA 59-28.
No. 9 Notre Dame (minus 20) at Louisville
First game of what is expected to be a lengthy rebuild for Cardinals coach Scott Satterfield … NOTRE DAME 42-14.
UCLA (plus 2 1/2) at Cincinnati, Thursday — cliftnote
Bruins lost to the Bearcats in coach Chip Kelly’s first game last year … UCLA 24-21.
Oklahoma State (minus 14 1/2) at Oregon State, Friday — BCGCSuper
Beavers RB Jermar Jefferson ran for more yards (1,380) than any freshman in the country last season … OKLAHOMA STATE 35-28.
Utah State (plus 3 1/2) at Wake Forest, Friday — VegasAggie
Aggies QB Jordan Love has the attention of NFL scouts after 2018 breakout … WAKE FOREST 35-30.
Missouri (minus 17 1/2) at Wyoming, Saturday — scott_jarrett1
Former Clemson QB Kelly Bryant plays his first game for Mizzou … MISSOURI 31-17.
Boise State (plus 6) vs. Florida State, Saturday in Jacksonville, Florida — Matt_Peaty
Peace-of-mind game for Seminoles fans to build confidence in coach Willie Taggart … FLORIDA STATE 28-23.
Virginia (minus 2 1/2) at Pittsburgh, Saturday — danhodes
The Cavaliers are the favorites in what promises to be another weird ACC Coastal race; Pitt won it last year … VIRGINIA 24-17.
Last season: 225-92 straight; 170-169-3 against the spread.
Upset specials: 8-6 (straight up).
Best bets: 6-6 (against the spread).
Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at https://podcastone.com/AP-Top-25-College-Football-Podcast
More AP college football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
The sport has evolved through numerous postseason systems that have clumsily crowned champions, and while the College Football Playoff does a better job than its predecessors it has also spawned a month’s worth of tedious debate over the meaningfulness of bowl games. (AP Photo/Butch Dill, File)