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Here are this week’s top picks from Athlon Sports senior writer David Fox:
North Carolina vs. South Carolina (Charlotte)
Both teams need to re-boot their defenses under new coordinators. South Carolina has the stiffer test in the opener against Marquise Williams.
Fox’s Prediction: North Carolina 28–21
WKU at Vanderbilt
Western Kentucky put up points on just about everyone last season. Derek Mason’s life won’t get any easier if his first game at DC is a showcase for WKU QB Brandon Doughty.
Fox’s Prediction: WKU 35–21
Michigan at Utah
Jim Harbaugh may have won the offseason, but he’s going to need solid offensive line play to win his debut at Michigan. That’s been in short supply.
Fox’s Prediction: Utah 24–21
TCU at Minnesota
Trevone Boykin’s Heisman bid gets an early test in a rematch against the standout Minnesota secondary.
Fox’s Prediction: TCU 28–14
Baylor at SMU
A neat game for head coaches who worked their way from Texas high schools to being offensive masterminds. Unfortunately, it won’t be close.
Fox’s Prediction: Baylor 56–14
Washington at Boise State
Washington’s defense is rebuilding. So is Boise State’s backfield. I’ll throw my lot in with the Broncos.
Fox’s Prediction: Boise State 35–28
Stanford at Northwestern
Stanford will have a lopsided advantage in the trenches and has the more experienced quarterback. The Wildcats could go 0-for-the-Bay Area the last two openers.
Fox’s Prediction: Stanford 28–21
BYU at Nebraska
Nebraska’s 29-game season-opener winning streak might end if we see the same Taysom Hill we saw at the start of last season.
Fox’s Prediction: BYU 28–24
Louisville vs. Auburn (Atlanta)
Jeremy Johnson might be the most hyped first-year starting quarterback in a preseason since Tim Tebow. Facing Louisville in an opener is an interesting test.
Fox’s Prediction: Auburn 28–21
Penn State at Temple
Christian Hackenberg and P.J. Walker combined for six interceptions in this game last year. This game has to be better, right?
Fox’s Prediction: Penn State 24–14
Virginia at UCLA
UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen’s first start comes against a team rebuilding the pass rush.
Fox’s Prediction: UCLA 35–21
Bowling Green vs. Tennessee (Nashville)
Can Tennessee live up to the hype? The Volunteers might have to play through some nerves as they start the season.
Fox’s Prediction: Tennessee 35–17
Arizona State vs. Texas A&M (Houston)
This game could set up as a shootout. Arizona State will be the team that can make the critical stop or force the crucial turnover.
Fox’s Prediction: Arizona State 35–28
New Mexico State at Florida
Treon Harris is a surprise starting quarterback for new Gators coach Jim McElwain. Can he hang onto the job?
Fox’s Prediction: Florida 49–14
Texas at Notre Dame
Expect some nasty defense in this one. Notre Dame has the experience on defense and a functional offense, making this an easy pick for the Irish.
Fox’s Prediction: Notre Dame 24–10
Wisconsin vs. Alabama (Arlington)
Wisconsin’s normally stout offensive line is a question this year. Alabama will have a major edge.
Fox’s Prediction: Alabama 31–14
Texas State at Florida State
FSU won’t have much trouble, but Everett Golson’s progress will be worth watching.
Fox’s Prediction: Florida State 41–10
Mississippi State at Southern Miss
Mississippi State will go as far as Dak Prescott can take the Bulldogs.
Fox’s Prediction: Mississippi State 28–10
Colorado at Hawaii
This is actually an interesting late-night game. Well-traveled USC transfer Max Wittek might give the Warriors a chance, and those late games at Hawaii are always tricky.
Fox’s Prediction: Colorado 28–21
Ohio State at Virginia Tech
The Buckeyes will be better prepared for anything Bud Foster throws at them this time around.
Fox’s Prediction: Ohio State 28–14