Even Nick Saban, a coach who is all about urgency, wasn't quite ready to buy into the idea that the first game of the season was a make-or-break deal
``It's horrible. It's a horrible thought for any team to be out of anything after one game,'' the Alabama coach said earlier this week.
True, but in college football, one loss can change a season, which makes opening weekend games such as Alabama-Virginia Tech, Oregon-Boise State and BYU-Oklahoma so intriguing.
No. 5 Alabama starts its season in the Georgia Dome for the second straight year, this time taking on No. 8 Virginia Tech, the Atlantic Coast Conference favorites. The Crimson Tide jump started a national title run in 2008 by beating up supposed-ACC heavyweight Clemson in Atlanta last season.
The Tigers never quite recovered from the 34-10 beating and a season of great expectations fizzled.
Labor Day weekend football bonanza, starting with Thursday night's showdown on the Blue Turf in Boise, Idaho. For No. 14 Boise State, the visit by the 16th-ranked Ducks is being called the biggest home game in school history.
No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 20 BYU open the season Saturday at the Dallas Cowboys' new stadium in Arlington, Texas. An upset by the Cougars would stoke national title talk in Provo, Utah.
No. 9 Oklahoma State hosts No. 13 Georgia in a game that should help stir the debate over which league is better, the Southeastern Conference or the Big 12.
The picks:
Thursday
Utah State (plus 20 1/2) at No. 19 Utah
A rivalry only in name - Utes have won 11 straight ... UTAH 42-17.
No. 16 Oregon (plus 3 1/2) at No. 14 Boise State
Ducks looking for payback after 37-32 loss to Broncos last year ... OREGON 40-27.
Saturday
Charleston Southern (no line) at No. 1 Florida
Gators paid $450,000 for this game or about $6,400 per point ... FLORIDA 70-7.
Louisiana-Monroe (plus 41) at No. 2 Texas
Longhorns have won nine straight openers by average of 43 points ... TEXAS 60-14.
No. 3 Oklahoma (minus 22) vs. No. 20 BYU
Cougars banged-up O-line leaves little chance of upset ... OKLAHOMA 50-21.
ern California
Freshman QB Matt Barkley starts for Trojans ... USC 45-10.
No. 5 Alabama (minus 6 1/2) vs. No. 7 Virginia Tech
All the making of defensive struggle ... VIRGINIA TECH 20-17.
Navy (plus 21 1/2) at No. 6 Ohio State
Middies' option could prove tricky for Buckeyes - a little ... OHIO STATE 35-14.
No. 13 Georgia (plus 5 1/2) at No. 9 Oklahoma State
SEC 1, Big 12 0 ... GEORGIA 31-28.
Akron (plus 27) at No. 9 Penn State
First of three cupcakes to open season for JoePa's team ... PENN STATE 48-14.
No. 11 LSU (plus 17 1/2) at Washington
This is no way for Huskies to usher in new era ... LSU 48-20.
Maryland (plus 21 1/2) at No. 12 California
Cal slept through much of last season's 35-27 loss at Terps ... CALIFORNIA 37-10.
Jacksonville State (no line) at No. 15 Georgia Tech
Former LSU QB Ryan Perrilloux, now at JSU, suspended for opener ... GEORGIA TECH 58-10.
The Citadel (no line) at No. 21 North Carolina
Tar Heels 3-0 vs. Bulldogs; last meeting 1986 ... NORTH CAROLINA 48-14.
Northern Iowa (no line) at No. 22 Iowa
UNI ranked No. 4 in FCS preseason poll ... IOWA 34-17.
Nevada (plus 14 1/2) at No. 23 Notre Dame
DAME 39-17.
Florida Atlantic (plus 22 1/2) at No. 24 Nebraska
FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger has history of upsetting Huskers ... NEBRASKA 45-21.
Northern Colorado (no line) at No. 25 Kansas
UNC was 1-10 last season in FCS ... KANSAS 62-17.
Sunday
No. 8 Mississippi (minus 16 1/2) at Memphis
Rebels have won four straight against Tigers ... OLE MISS 28-14.
Monday, Sept. 7
Miami (plus 6) at No. 18 Florida State
First of what should be four ranked opponents to start season for 'Canes ... MIAMI 20-14.
----
Last season's record:
Season: 223-71 (straight); 147-130-1 (vs. points).

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