Why you should watch: BYU makes its debut as an independent. BYU will visit Texas, then play archrival Utah at home in the first three weeks of the season. Behind QB Jake Heaps, BYU's offense showed some signs of life late last season. The Cougars averaged 469 yards per game over the final five games, though that came against weaker competition. While Ole Miss does not appear to be a contender in the SEC West, a win in Oxford still would mean some attention for BYU. The same could be said with a good performance from the Rebels. Houston Nutt's teams have surprised in the past, especially when expectations are low. Ole Miss welcomes another transfer quarterback in Barry Brunetti from West Virginia, but the star of the offense is RB Brandon Bolden.
EAST CAROLINA VS. SOUTH CAROLINA
(In Charlotte, N.C.)
When: 7 p.m., Fox Sports Net regional/ESPN GamePlan
Broadcasters: Bob Rathbun play-by-play, Tim Couch analyst
The line: South Carolina by 20.5
Why you should watch: To be clear, this isn't the most intriguing non-conference game involving an SEC contender. East Carolina is coming off a 6-7 season, and South Carolina is a top-15 team with SEC title aspirations. But let's look ahead a week: South Carolina visits Georgia in the second week of the season in a critical SEC East matchup. One of the major questions for South Carolina this season is how the Gamecocks handle being a frontrunner. This game could give an indication of how that story will unfold. ECU has a formidable passing attack led by QB Dominique Davis (3,967 passing yards and 37 touchdowns) and WR Lance Lewis (1,116 receiving yards, 14 touchdowns). South Carolina has a considerable talent advantage, particularly in the matchup with East Carolina's defense, which struggled even by Conference USA standards. That said, East Carolina's offense is good enough to give South Carolina fits if the Gamecocks aren't prepared.
LSU VS. OREGON
(In Arlington, Texas)
When: 6 p.m., ABC
Broadcasters: Brent Musburger play-by-play, Kirk Herbstreit analyst
The line: Oregon by 3
Why you should watch: LSU is expected to be without starting QB Jordan Jefferson, who has been suspended following an arrest stemming from a fight outside a Baton Rouge bar. WR Russell Shepard also has been suspended, for an NCAA rules violation. After spending part of the offseason embroiled in the Willie Lyles controversy, Oregon will be short-handed, too, without star CB/punt returner Cliff Harris, who had six interceptions and four punt-return touchdowns last season. Quarterback was the major question for LSU regardless, so Oregon should expect a steady diet of RB Spencer Ware. Oregon has a formidable offense led by TB LaMichael James and RB Darron Thomas, but the Ducks' have questions along both lines. LSU is uncharacteristically short on established stars on defense (only one player on the coaches' first-team preseason all-conference squad), but the Tigers' defensive prowess should not be doubted.
BOISE STATE VS. GEORGIA
When: 6 p.m., ESPN
Broadcasters: Brad Nessler play-by-play, Todd Blackledge analyst
The line: Boise State by 3.5
Why you should watch: The last time these teams met and the last time Boise State faced an SEC team Georgia rolled 48-13 loss in 2005. That was the only season since 2002 that Boise State failed to win 10 games. Since then, Boise State has played in two BCS games and finished undefeated twice. Georgia has been to one BCS game but is coming off its first losing season in 14 years. This is the third season in a row Boise State has opened with a marquee opponent. The Broncos defeated BCS-bound Oregon and BCS-bound Virginia Tech in the past two seasons. Mark Richt's job security may depend on Georgia contending in the SEC East, and the Bulldogs have questions at tailback, wide receiver and in the offensive line.
SMU AT TEXAS A&M
When: 6 p.m., Fox Sports Net
Broadcasters: Joel Meyers play-by-play, Joel Klatt analyst
The line: Texas A&M by 16
Why you should watch: As Texas A&M flirts with the SEC, the Aggies will open with a former Southwest Conference rival. The Aggies and SMU have played only once since the demise of the SWC, resulting in a 66-8 A&M rout in 2005. This meeting should be more competitive. The Aggies are a top-15 team with legitimate hopes of winning the Big 12, and SMU is a Conference USA contender (the Mustangs lost to UCF in the C-USA title game a year ago). The Aggies' defense, which has improved by leaps and bounds under Tim DeRuyter, will be tested in the opener by SMU's run-and-shoot offense led by QB Kyle Padron.
MIAMI AT MARYLAND
When: 6 p.m., ESPN
Broadcasters: Sean McDonough play-by-play, Matt Millen analyst
The line: Miami by 5.5
Why you should watch: A major question is what new Miami coach Al Golden has left for this game. Seven potential starters have been suspended at least for the opener: QB Jacory Harris (who was in competition with Stephen Morris for the starting job), WR Travis Benjamin, LB Sean Spence, DT Marcus Forston, DEs Adewale Ojomo and Olivier Vernon and SS Ray-Ray Armstrong. The team likely will rely heavily on TB Lamar Miller, who had two 100-yard games late last season, and a big, experienced offensive line. Maryland went 9-4 last season behind redshirt freshman QB Danny O'Brien, then fired coach Ralph Friedgen. Few new coaches would want to make their conference debut in a game against Miami, but Randy Edsall who led Connecticut to a BCS berth last season — looks to have caught a break here.
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