Tennessee football coach Butch Jones talks on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017, about the season opening game with Georgia Tech on Labor Day in Atlanta.
Caitie McMekin / News Sentinel
You never know what strides a college football player will make from one season to the next. That’s one reason the sport is so popular.
Last season’s backup can become this season’s star. It happens all the time.
That will add to the intrigue of Tennessee’s season opener against Georgia Tech. The Vols will have a new starting quarterback, a new lead running back and a couple of wide receivers who could blossom with more playing time.
More: Tennessee football preseason highs, lows, Butch Jones analysis and the QB question
How good will they be? After a preseason of relentless hype and conjecture, you can decide for yourself Monday night.
Tennessee 34, Georgia Tech 24: Any discussion of Georgia Tech football invariably turns to its option-oriented offense, known as the flexbone. Its defense doesn’t get nearly as much attention – for good reason.
Last season, the Yellow Jackets were middle of the road or worse in virtually every defensive category. The most glaring stat: 18 sacks, which ranked 114th nationally.
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Unless Georgia Tech is markedly better in that area, Tennessee shouldn’t have trouble breaking in a new quarterback.
Florida 27, Michigan 24: The Gators will be without suspended star wide receiver Antonio Callaway. But the Wolverines will be without 10 starters from last season’s defense.
Wonder what kind of illegal activity Callaway will partake in to celebrate the upset?
Alabama 30, Florida State 20: Like most Nick Saban former assistants, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher learned a lot. And like most of them, he didn’t learn enough to beat Saban.
Cajuns 30, Mormons 13: This unusual matchup between BYU and LSU will feature contrasting styles. Mormons don’t drink alcohol; LSU fans drink enough for two fan bases.
Division I college football programs are pulling in big money by scheduling non-conference opponents in ‘guarantee’ games.
USA TODAY Sports
Vanderbilt 34, MTSU 30: The Blue Raiders have been preparing for two Commodores quarterbacks: The Kyle Shurmur they saw against Tennessee and Ole Miss, and the Kyle Shurmur they saw against almost everybody else.
Auburn 52, Georgia Southern 20: After Georgia Southern struggled to a 5-7 season, coach Tyson Summers hired Georgia Tech’s Bryan Cook to install the flexbone. But when it came to offseason acquisitions, no one topped Auburn, which signed Baylor quarterback transfer Jarrett Stidham.
Georgia 30, Appalachian State 17: The Bulldogs’ Nick Chubb and Sony Michel won’t be the only proven running backs on display. Jalin Moore, who began last season as Marcus Cox’s backup, led the Mountaineers with 1,402 yards rushing and was named Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year.
USA TODAY Sports released its projections for all 130 FBS teams and here are some highlights.
USA TODAY Sports
Arkansas 44, Florida A&M 13: The Razorbacks now have two reasons to be ashamed of themselves. Scheduling the Rattlers, who lost their last game against a Power 5 conference team 70-3, is almost as embarrassing as blowing a 24-0 lead against Virginia Tech in the Belk Bowl.
Kentucky 45, Southern Mississippi 27: The Wildcats frittered away an 18-point halftime lead in losing to the Golden Eagles in 2016. But USM has lost quarterback Nick Mullens and could have even less defense than last season when it gave up a combined 106 points to the likes of Old Dominion and UTSA.
Ole Miss 41, South Alabama 20: Although coach Hugh Freeze has been escorted from the premises, Rebels fans still can look forward to something other than what’s cooking in The Grove. Quarterback Shea Patterson will be fun to watch, whether he’s throwing to a talented group of receivers or scrambling from the pocket.
UCLA 37, Texas A&M 36: Aggies fans are fed up with coach Kevin Sumlin’s teams starting fast, then fading down the stretch. Big-armed, big-mouth UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen should help put an end to the fast starts.
N.C. State 30, South Carolina 20: Wolfpack fans will be taunting the Gamecocks with “S-E-C” chants after this matchup. In fact, N.C. State actually looks more like an SEC team with its formidable, all-senior defensive front, led by All-ACC end Bradley Chubb.
Missouri 45, Missouri State 23: The Tigers keep bucking the SEC trend of scheduling a big-name nonconference opponent in September.
Mississippi State 38, Charleston Southern 13: So do the Bulldogs.
Reach John Adams at email@example.com or 865-342-6284 and on Twitter @johnadamskns.
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