1. Clarence McKinney vs. Kirby Smart – Since early January, it’s all built to this. Ever since McKinney was named Texas A&M’s full-time offensive coordinator, and ever since Smart walked off the field at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, everything has pointed toward this game. Make no mistake, there are still two-and-a-half months of season left after this, but this is more than your typical mid-September game. Both coordinators will have great plans in place, but it’s how they handle the off-script plays Johnny Manziel creates that will decide this game.
2. Kliff Kingsbury vs. Gary Patterson – You’ve got to love a game like this, when two head coaches that are experts in their field take ownership over opposing sides of the ball. Patterson has experienced both sides of the Red Raiders’ pattened Air Raid attack, losing 70-35 in Lubbock in 2004, and winning 12-3 in Fort Worth two years later. He’s yet to face Kingsbury’s version of the spread, while the Red Raiders haven’t seen a defense with near the talent of TCU.
3. The Ole Miss offensive staff vs. Greg Robinson – This had to have been an interesting week of preparation in Oxford. Think they pulled out any old Texas, Syracuse or Michigan film to get an idea what they’ll see on Saturday? I expect Robinson to call a much more conservative, base game than Manny Diaz’s blitz-happy scheme. What will it say about Ole Miss’ prospects if Texas somehow stymies the Rebels’ offense and wins the game?
4. Tony Franklin vs. Luke Fickell – Cal true freshman quarterback Jared Goff’s numbers from his first two games as college player: 39-of-64 for 450 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions in a 44-30 loss to Northwestern, and 33-of-51 passing for 485 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in a 37-30 win over Portland State. He’s the nation’s passing leader by 68 yards per game. Franklin will have to keep Goff’s numbers around the 500 mark for the Golden Bears to have any sort of shot in this game.
5. The UCLA offensive staff vs. the Nebraska defensive staff – Do you remember the 2010 Big 12 Championship Game? Oklahoma defeated Nebraska, 23-20 in overtime. This game also doubles as the last time Nebraska’s defense held a top-flight offense in check.
6. The Vanderbilt offensive staff vs. the South Carolina defensive staff – The last time we heard from a member of South Carolina’s defense, Jadeveon Clowney was campaigning to move to middle linebacker. Maybe he can cover all-everything Vanderbilt wideout Jordan Matthews (10 catches for 178 yards and a touchdown against Ole Miss).
7. Gary Andersen vs. Todd Graham – There’s no official preseason in college football, but these teams’ schedules come pretty close: Wisconsin has faced Massachusetts and Tennessee Tech, and Arizona State has faced a bye week and Sacramento State. Who got the most out of their extra two weeks of preparation?
8. Lane Kiffin vs. Steve Addazio – Let’s be honest, most of the intrigue falls on the first name in this matchup. Now that Kiffin has chosen a starting quarterback, perhaps the Trojans can cross the impenatrable thresholds of 14 offensive points and a pass longer than 19 yards.
9. The Troy offensive staff vs. the Arkansas State defensive staff – Points will absolutely be scored on both sides of this matchup, but this possible de facto Sun Belt championship game will be decided on whether the Red Wolves can force Troy quarterback to defy his season statistics to this point and actually throw more incompletions than touchdowns.
10. Derek Mason vs. Ian Shields – I don’t think Army has a realistic chance of beating Stanford, but I am fascinated by the environment surrounding this game. Perhaps the header should read “Derek Mason vs. the Elements”. The Stanford coaching staff takes pride in challenging its players, and flying across country for a 9 a.m. kickoff to defend an offense unlike you’ve seen before or will see again is certainly a special type of challenge.