Power programs who kick off the 2018 season with a bang

By Amy Daughters -

Of the 64 Power conference members coming into this season, a mere 22 (or 34%) will open 2018 against a team from an opposing Power program.

The ACC, Big Ten, and SEC tie for the most members with five. That leaves the Pac-12 with four and the Big 12 with just three. Two of the 12 matchups are conference games and two include independents who are widely considered Power opponents.

Of the remaining 42 Power teams enjoying a slower start, 18 will have the further benefit of playing their opener against a visiting FCS program.

It adds up to a select handful of teams having a much harder path to a 1-0 record than their counterparts. It also makes the following list an early look at “must-see TV” for Week 1 of the 2018 season.

All games are scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 1 unless otherwise noted.

Alabama vs. LouisvilleCamping World Stadium, Orlando, Fla.

The last time Alabama didn’t open against a Power opponent was in 2011, when it kicked off against Kent State before traveling to beat (23) Penn State in Week 2. Louisville began last season against Purdue, hosted Charlotte the year before and opened with (6) Auburn in 2015 and Miami Fla. in 2014.

Alabama and Louisville haven’t met since the 1990/91 Fiesta Bowl, a game the Cardinals won 34-7. The Tide won the only two other meetings, both in Tuscaloosa, in 1976 and 1977.

Auburn vs. Washington Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Ga.

Auburn snapped a five-season streak of opening against a Power team last year when it hosted Georgia Southern in Week 1. As for Washington, this is its third-consecutive big opener, playing Rutgers in a home-and-home in 2016-17. Prior to that, 2009 was the last time the Huskies kicked off with a current Power 5-member, hosting (11) LSU and losing 31-23.

This is Auburn and Washington’s first-ever meeting in football. The Tigers are 8-3 all-time vs. the current Pac-12 while the Huskies are 3-10 vs. the SEC.

BYU at ArizonaArizona Stadium, Tucson, Ariz.

Arizona also opened against BYU in 2016, a game it lost 18-16. Though it squared off with Utah to start the 2005 season, the Utes were still members of the Mountain West. The last time the Wildcats kicked off against a team that was a member of a Power 5 conference at the time was in 1999, when they were preseason ranked No. 4 and lost 41-7 at (3) Penn State.

Arizona and BYU have met 23 times previously, the Wildcats lead 12-10-1, but the two have split the last four.

LSU vs. Miami (Fla.)AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas – Sunday, Sept. 2

LSU has opened with a Power opponent four of the last five years, including independent BYU, which it blanked 27-0 last season. Not only has Miami (Fla.) not kicked off with a Power foe in three seasons, it’s started every campaign since 2015 with an FCS opponent. The Hurricanes’ most recent big boy was fellow ACC member Louisville in 2014, a 31-13 loss. Their most recent opener against a non-conference Power opponent was all the way back in 2001, a 33-7 win at Penn State.

LSU leads the all-time series 9-3, but the two have split the last four. The most recent meeting was in the 2005 Peach Bowl, a game the Tigers won 40-3.

Maryland vs. Texas FedEx Field, Landover, Md.

The Terrapins and Longhorns also opened the 2017 season together, this time in Austin, a 51-41 win for Maryland. It was the first time the Terps had kicked off with a Power opponent since beating Miami (Fla.) in Week 1 of the 2011 season, three years before their move from the ACC to the Big Ten. Their last opener vs. a non-conference Power foe was in 2009, a 52-13 loss at (12) Cal. It’s Texas’ fourth-straight Week 1 game against a big gun, also facing Notre Dame in back-to-back appearances in 2015-16.

A rematch of the 1978 Sun Bowl, the Longhorns lead the all-time series 3-1. Maryland lost the first three meetings by a combined score of 102-0.

Michigan at Notre DameNotre Dame Stadium, Notre Dame, Ind.

Michigan has kicked off with a Power foe two of the last three seasons, downing (17) Florida last year and falling at Utah in 2015. Notre Dame’s home-and-home with Texas in 2015-16, both played in Week 1, are the only Power openers the Irish have booked since hosting Purdue in 2010.

The Wolverines lead the all-time series 24-16-1, but the two have split the last four. This is the first meeting since 2014.

North Carolina at California  – California Memorial Stadium, Berkeley, Calif.

Like Maryland-Texas, the Tar Heels and Golden Bears also kicked off the 2017 season together, Cal winning 35-30 in Chapel Hill. This year marks UNC’s fourth-consecutive Power opener, the previous three all resulting in losses (to No. 18 Georgia in 2016 and to South Carolina in 2015). Prior to last season, Cal hadn’t kicked off with a Power foe since 2014, when it traveled to Northwestern and won 31-24.

Last year’s game was the first-ever in football between UNC and Cal.

Northwestern at Purdue Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, Ind. – Thursday, Aug. 30

The first of two in-conference openers, Northwestern hasn’t kicked off with a Power foe since upsetting (21) Stanford 16-6 in 2015. The last time the Wildcats had a Big Ten foe in Week 1 was 34-years ago, in 1984, when they traveled to Illinois and lost 24-16. Purdue kicked off 2017 with a 35-28 loss to (16) Louisville, its first Power opener since losing at Notre Dame to start the 2010 season. The Boilermakers haven’t kicked off vs. a fellow Big Ten school since 1996, a loss at Michigan State.

Purdue leads the all-time series 50-31-1, but Northwestern has won four straight.

Oregon State at Ohio StateOhio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio

Oregon State kicked off  2016 with a loss at Minnesota, also its only Power opener since 2012 when it hosted another Big Ten school, this time (13) Wisconsin. Despite being seven-point underdogs, the Beavers upset the Badgers 10-7 and finished 9-4, their best record since. This is Ohio State’s third Power opener in four years, winning at Indiana last season and at Virginia Tech in 2015.

The Buckeyes lead the all-time series 2-0. Both previous games were played in Columbus, in 1984 and 1974.

Ole Miss vs. Texas Tech NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas

The only other Power-opponent Ole Miss has booked in Week 1 in the last four seasons is (4) Florida State, which it fell to memorably to kick off 2016. Texas Tech has opened against either an FCS opponent or SMU every season since 2006. The Red Raiders last started a season vs. a Power team in 2002 when they visited (13) Ohio State and lost 45-21. It also marked the last time they lost an opener, posting a 15-0 record since.

A rematch of the 2008/09 Cotton and 1998 and 1986 Independence Bowls, Ole Miss leads the all-time series 3-2.

Tennessee vs. West VirginiaBank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.

Tennessee kicked off last season with a narrow 42-41 win over Georgia Tech, also its first Power opener since beating NC State in Week 1 of the 2012 campaign. It’s West Virginia’s third-straight season with a big gun up first, falling to (21) Virginia Tech last year and beating Missouri in 2016.

The Volunteers and Mountaineers have never met in football. Tennessee is 9-8 all-time vs. the current Big 12 while West Virginia is 25-25-2 vs. the SEC.

Virginia Tech at Florida State Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, Fla. – Monday, Sept. 3

The second of the two in-conference Power games in Week 1, this is Florida State’s third-straight opener against a Power opponent. The Seminoles haven’t kicked off with a conference game since 2013, when as the preseason No. 10 they rolled into Pitt and won 41-13. This is Virginia Tech’s second-straight season to come big early, knocking off (22) West Virginia 31-24 last season. The Hokies last opened vs. an ACC opponent in 2012, hosting Georgia Tech and winning 20-17.

Florida State leads the all-time series 23-12-1, but the two have split the last four. This is the first meeting since 2012 and a rematch of the 2010 and 2005 ACC Championship games and the 2001/02 Gator and 1999/2000 Sugar Bowls.

Historical data courtesy of Sports-Reference College Football.

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Comments (8)

BYU ain’t a P5. They would be a weak G5 but quit to go independent. They will be lucky to be a D1 program next year. You must be smoking dope.

BYU is not the strongest program to be sure, However, sweeping Texas a few years ago and beating Mississippi, Georgia Tech and beating Nebraska and Michigan State on the road within the last 2-3 years isn’t exactly chicken#hit. If it is, is Texas a legit P5 program? Most teams have a down period every once in a while. Didn not LSU lose to Troy last year and Florida to Georgia Southern?

I think we will know a lot more about the SEC after the first weekend than any other conference. Auburn VS Washington and Miami FL vs LSU should be games between the 2nd or 3rd best teams in each conference. Ole Miss v Texas Tech are both middle of the road programs. Alabama should beat Louisville and West Virginia should beat Tennessee.