Is a win more important to Clemson or Georgia?
Some of college football's biggest programs are in Week 1 action on TSN2 this Labour Day weekend. National Championship hopefuls John Metchie III, of Brampton, Ont., and Alabama and Oklahoma take the field on Saturday afternoon before the evening's marquee matchup between No. 3 Clemson - featuring Brooks, Alta.'s Ajou Ajou - and No. 5 Georgia from Atlanta. You can catch all of the action on TSN2, the TSN app, streaming on TSN Direct and on TSN.ca.
Saturday, Sept. 4
No. 2 Oklahoma (0-0) vs. Tulane (0-0), Noon et/9am pt - Much like Sam Howell is expected to take the lead in Chapel Hill, the Sooners will go as far as Spencer Rattler will take them. The latest in a long line of star QBs during the Lincoln Riley era at Norman that includes Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts, Rattler has big shoes to fill, but appears more than up to the challenge. Rattler is currently the odds-on favourite to win the Heisman (+650) and will very likely be the first person to shake Roger Goodell's hand on stage next April. As a redshirt freshman last season, Rattler took his lumps at times, but also showed why scouts are so high on his talent. In 11 games, Rattler threw for 3,031 yards on 214-for-317 passing with 28 touchdowns to seven interceptions. Rattler's arm is strong and his release is fast. He's able to retain accuracy in motion. But the need for improvement is also evident. Gaps in pocket awareness, especially against the blitz, have been obvious. If Rattler holds up his side of the bargain, the Sooners offence should click just like their run defence is expected to, allowing Oklahoma to push for another spot in the College Football Playoff for the fifth time in eight years. Technically, this is a home game for the Green Wave. It was set to be played in New Orleans until Hurricane Ida forced its relocation to Norman. Tulane had been practicing all week at Alabama's facilities in Tuscaloosa. While Tulane is expected to make some noise in the American this season, Saturday's trip to Oklahoma could feel like a long one.
No. 1 Alabama (0-0) vs. No. 14 Miami (0-0), 3:30pm et/12:30pm pt - Nick Saban's factory of dominance that is Alabama Crimson Tide football gets its 2021 campaign under way with a tricky visit to a Miami Hurricanes team that appears to be the biggest obstacle standing in the way of UNC claiming the ACC Coastal Division. Key to the Tide's offence along with new starting quarterback Bryce Young (at +1100, Young's Heisman odds are second to Rattler's), who takes over the job with Mac Jones heading to the NFL (New England Patriots), is junior wideout John Metchie III of Brampton, Ont. With the departures of DeVonta Smith (Philadelphia Eagles) and Jaylen Waddle (Miami Dolphins) to the NFL, Metchie is the veteran of the Bama wideout corps, lining up alongside Slade Bolden and Ohio State transfer Jameson Williams. Last season, he hauled in 55 receptions for 916 yards and six touchdowns. To become the latest Bama WR to be taken in the first round come next spring, there still are facets to Metchie's game that require improvement. For him to excel at the pro level, Metchie will need to do a better job of hanging onto the ball into contact. Likely to come up against teams' best corners this season, Metchie will also need to improve on winning balls in contested situations. The Hurricanes represent what is easily the most difficult stop on Bama's out-of-conference schedule and getting that out of the way early will allow the team to focus on the ever-onerous SEC sked that contains three games against Top 25 teams. A fourth national title in eight years could be in the cards for the Tide if they play up to their vast capabilities.
No. 3 Clemson (0-0) vs. No. 5 Georgia (0-0), 7:30pm et/4:30pm pt - It's the biggest matchup of Week 1 and a rarity in NCAA football scheduling as two top-five teams, both with legitimate College Football Playoff hopes, open the regular season. Clemson and UGA will meet in Atlanta for the first time since 2008. It's the 65th meeting between the two programs with the rivalry having been decidedly one-sided over history. The Bulldogs are 42-18-4 against Clemson, but much has changed over the past seven years since they last met the Tigers. Since his arrival in 2009, Dabo Swinney has turned Clemson into a perennial contender and one of college football's premier programs. Swinney's teams have a 140-33 record over his 13 seasons with seven ACC titles and two National Championships. The Dawgs' last national championship came in 1980. The meeting at the Mercedes-Benz Dome will be the first time since 1913 that Clemson and Georgia have met at a neutral site. From 1907 to 1913, the two programs met annually in Augusta, GA. Key to Swinney's elite teams has been dominant quarterback play from Deshaun Watson to Kelly Bryant to Trevor Lawrence. His starter in 2021 is DJ Uiagalelei, who got his first start last season as when Lawrence missed time after testing positive for COVID-19. In nine games in 2020, Uiagalelei threw for 914 yards on 78-for-117 passing and five touchdowns. Among Uiagalelei's weapons this season will be Brooks, Alta.'s Ajou Ajou, who returns for his sophomore year. Ajou found limited opportunity in 2020. He appeared in two games, hauling in a combined 41 yards on two catches. He will once again be fighting for time on a very deep receiving corps led by redshirt junior Justyn Ross, who's widely expected to be the first receiver taken in the 2022 NFL Draft. The stakes couldn't be higher for either team and a loss can potentially jeopardizes any CFP hopes. The only saving grace here is that the loss will be very early and against a quality opponent, two factors that go into the CFP Committee's thinking when putting together its rankings. Still, a loss in Week 1 will greatly reduce the margin of error for the losing team going forward, a prospect of which both Swinney and Kirby Smart are undoubtedly well aware.
ALSO ON SATURDAY: BYU (0-0) vs. Arizona (0-0), 11pm et/8pm pt