1) No. 1 should be safe: The last time the preseason No. 1 team in the country lost its opening game was 1990, when the defending champion Miami Hurricanes were upset by BYU in Provo, Utah. The game launched Ty Detmer’s Heisman Tophy-winning season. No. 1 Alabama is the two-time defending champion and a 201/2-point favorite to beat Virginia Tech at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta Saturday. For the Hokies to pull the upset, quarterback Logan Thomas will have to put on a Detmer-esque performance.
2) Slump-buster: Southern Mississippi was the lone winless team in major college football in 2012, a remarkable collapse for a program that hadn’t had a losing season since 1993. The Golden Eagles have a new coach, former Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Todd Monken, and the longest losing streak in the nation. Southern Miss opens at home Saturday against Texas State, a Sun Belt team that went 4-8 last season, its first against a full slate of Football Bowl Subdivision opponents. If the Golden Eagles don’t snap that streak this week, it could be a while. Their next three games, against No. 18 Nebraska, Arkansas and No. 19 Boise State, are all on the road. Two teams have 11-game losing streaks: Kansas, which is off this week before opening with South Dakota Sept. 7; and New Mexico State, which opens at Texas.
3) Streaking: Ohio State was the only undefeated team in the country last season and the second-ranked Buckeyes enter the season with a nation-best 12-game winning streak. Thirteen in a row seems like a safe bet with Urban Meyer’s team opening against Buffalo at the Horseshoe. The Bulls have one of the best linebackers in the country in Khalil Mack – but not much else that will help them match up against the Buckeyes, who are favored by nearly five touchdowns. Stanford (off until Sept. 7 against San Jose State) and Arkansas State, which opens against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, have the next-best winning streaks at eight games.
Tracking the Top 25
Saturday’s games ... comments when deserving.
No. 1 Alabama vs. Virginia Tech at Atlanta, 5:30 p.m.
No team has won three straight national titles. Tide can become the first. ACC, looking for signature win, will get another chance.
No. 2 Ohio St. vs. Buffalo, Noon
Buckeyes are clear of NCAA sanctions but not free of off-field distractions.
No. 3 Oregon vs. Nicholls St., 4 p.m.
Can Ducks keep same break-neck pace under new coach Mark Helfrich?
No. 5 Georgia at No. 8 Clemson, 8 p.m.
Bulldogs have holes to fill on defense, but no Alabama on its schedule. Tigers are laden with upperclassmen, notably ACC player of the year Tajh Boyd.
No. 7 Texas A&M vs. Rice, 1 p.m.
Johnny Football can be second-half hero for Aggies, who have highest preseason ranking since 1999.
No. 10 Florida vs. Toledo, 12:21 p.m.
Gators won 11 games last season despite 103rd-ranked offense.
No. 12 LSU vs. No. 20 TCU at Arlington, Texas, 9 p.m.
Tigers brought in assistant Cam Cameron to inject life into passing game.
No. 13 Oklahoma St. vs. Mississippi St. at Houston, 3:30 p.m.
No. 14 Notre Dame vs. Temple, 3:30 p.m.
Tommy Rees (14 interceptions, five fumbles lost in 2011) is back at starting QB, but defense is without Manti Te’o.
No. 15 Texas vs. New Mexico St., 8 p.m.
Mack Brown’s Longhorns are just 22-16 over the past three seasons, but 19 starters return.
No. 16 Oklahoma vs. Louisiana-Monroe, 7 p.m.
No. 17 Michigan vs. Cent. Michigan, 3:30 p.m.
No. 18 Nebraska vs. Wyoming, 8 p.m.
No. 19 Boise St. at Washington, 10 p.m.
No. 21 UCLA vs. Nevada, 10 p.m.
Bruins were most-penalized team in FBS last season, with 130 infractions for 1,281 yards.
No. 22 Northwestern at California, 10:30 p.m.
No. 23 Wisconsin vs. Massachusetts, Noon
No. 25 Oregon St. vs. E. Washington, 6 p.m.
Six-win turnaround last season was best in program history.
No. 9 Louisville vs. Ohio, 3:30 p.m.
Heisman hopeful quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and the Cardinals won’t be challenged much in the American Athletic Conference.
No. 11 Florida State at Pittsburgh, 8 p.m.
Seminoles lost 11 players to the NFL draft.
Upset of the week
SMU over Texas Tech
Too much working against the favored Red Raiders here. The Mustangs will be motivated against a Big 12 team and have an experienced quarterback in Garrett Gilbert. Texas Tech breaks in a new quarterback and a new coach in Kliff Kingsbury.
Notre Dame: The Irish lack proven playmakers on both sides of the ball, caught a lot of breaks last season on their way to the BCS title game.
Louisville: Sure, Teddy Bridgewater is a fine quarterback, and the Cardinals have momentum after Sugar Bowl win over Florida. But Louisville lost to Syracuse and Connecticut last season, too.
Don’t nap on them
Miami: Quarterback Stephen Morris and running back Duke Johnson are a formidable 1-2 punch, and that defense can’t get any worse. NCAA sanctions still are looming, however.
Baylor: No matter the quarterback, Coach Art Briles’ offense puts up big numbers. This year, the defense may have finally caught up, with five third-year starters.
“The only way we’ll ever catch the SEC, if it’s true we’re behind them, is you’ve got to play them,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. TCU opens against LSU.
Compiled from the Washington Post, Kansas City Star, Associated Press