While Georgia State kicked off the FBS season Wednesday night with a last-second comeback win over FCS newcomer Abilene Christian, for most fans South Carolina and Texas A&M teeing it up on the SEC network Thursday night marked the beginning of the season.
Check in every Thursday as we examine 10 games on the slate, always with an eye on the larger context of which teams' stock is rising and falling in the ever-shifting landscape. We'll show you when to buy the hype and when to sell, and how to separate the pretenders from the contenders down the stretch.
Week 1 sees us backing an uncharacteristically high number of favorites, taking aim at two first-year coaches we plan to fade this season, and supporting a pair of SEC teams with legitimate title aspirations.
Thursday night games
ATS pick: South Carolina 42, Texas A&M 28
ATS pick: Tulsa 24, Tulane 10
ATS pick: Vanderbilt 17, Temple 16
ATS pick: Washington State 42, Rutgers 28
North Texas Mean Green (plus-25) at Texas Longhorns
There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical about the Longhorns' chances for immediate success as coach Charlie Strong attempts to "put the 'T' back in Texas." The roster has been depleted by transfers, suspensions and dismissals, and the dynamic among the coaching staff is untested, particularly on the offensive side. Texas does not yet have a defined identity on either side of the ball, and while its man-for-man talent level is certainly higher than that of opening foe North Texas, this is not a team we should be counting on to deliver as a big favorite against any decent opponent.
The Mean Green certainly qualify, as coach Dan McCarney's fourth team is missing a few of last season's key playmakers but retains an established identity and culture. This is a tough outfit led by Conference USA's best offensive line. Despite a new quarterback, the North Texas offense is capable enough to deny Texas easy points off turnovers or constant quick three-and-outs, while the seasoned secondary isn't prone to allowing big plays.