Two teams with national title ambitions will face off in Saturday’s marquee matchup, as Georgia and Clemson take top billing in a jam-packed opening weekend for the 2021 college football season.
Clemson will host Georgia and currently stands as a 2.5-point favorite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
No. 5 Georgia at No. 3 Clemson (-2.5)
Losing won’t eliminate either team from playoff contention. But it will make things very difficult, as there’s still a long season ahead and – especially for Georgia – more tough games to come. Still, it’s better to drop a game now than further down the line.
“When it’s all said and done, I don’t think you can judge either team based on one game,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney told reporters. “A lot can happen in one game, especially in an opener. Nobody’s going to be declared national champion if you win this game.”
Clemson has made the last six College Football Playoffs, losing to Ohio State in the semifinals last year. Georgia made its only appearance in 2017, losing to fellow SEC school Alabama in the final.
While all eyes will be on that matchup of top-five teams, there are a few other mouthwatering matchups on the Saturday college football slate.
No. 1 Alabama (-19.5) at No. 14 Miami
The Alabama Crimson Tide are coming off of yet another national championship season, their third such triumph since 2015. They will head to Miami as nearly a three-touchdown favorite. And yet there are plenty of questions about just how good Alabama will be this year, and some pundits have gone so far as to pick the Hurricanes to pull off a massive upset on Saturday afternoon.
Bryce Young will take over as the starting quarterback for Alabama, and the Crimson Tide are also dealing with a largely new coaching staff after the departure of former offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian to Texas. Meanwhile, Miami brings back nine defensive starters. That’s a combination that could spell trouble for the Alabama offense, though it’s hard to pick against the SEC powerhouse outright.
No. 19 Penn State at No. 12 Wisconsin (-5.5)
Two potential challengers to Ohio State’s Big Ten dominance will face off in Madison on Saturday. The Nittany Lions are hoping to rebound from a very disappointing 4-5 season in 2020, and a matchup with Wisconsin will serve as quite the litmus test for Penn State.
Wisconsin has won 25 straight home openers dating back to 1996, though most of those games have come against cupcake opponents. The player to watch for the badgers may be Clemson transfer Chez Mellusi, who backed up Travis Etienne before heading to Wisconsin. Meanwhile, both teams feature quarterbacks looking to improve on mediocre 2020 campaigns: Graham Mertz for Wisconsin, and Sean Clifford for Penn State.