The best games of next year's opening weekend

Familiar faces atop 2018's early rankings (0:58)

2017's College Football Playoff teams are joined by Ohio State in the top five of ESPN's Way-Too-Early Top 25 for 2018. (0:58)

Great news, college football fans! There are only 235 days before Labor Day weekend marks the full return of your favorite pastime.

A full Saturday slate may seem impossibly far away, but the sport's opening weekend is stuffed with matchups that should once again make it worth the wait. To help take the sting out of your first day of college football withdrawal, here's a look at a few of the Week 1 games in 2018 that are worth marking down on your brand-new calendars.

Alabama vs. Louisville (Orlando, Florida)

The champs are back, and they just might have a new frontman. What will next year bring for instant hero Tua Tagovailoa? What about the 25-2 talented starter he replaced, Jalen Hurts? There may not be a more interesting question in the college football offseason for a team that will likely be a preseason favorite to win another title. The first hints will come in Orlando against a Lousiville team that will be getting its first taste of life after Lamar Jackson.

Michigan at Notre Dame

This rivalry went on hiatus in 2014 on somewhat bitter terms thanks to the Chicken Dance and a blowout. The revival starts in South Bend on Sept. 1, when both Brian Kelly and Jim Harbaugh will get a chance to jump-start the season with a quality win. At the end of what is shaping up to be an angsty offseason for both fan bases, may God and Twitter have mercy on the man who coaches the losing team in this one.

Auburn vs. Washington (Atlanta)

The Tigers got some good news last week when 3,000-yard passer Jarrett Stidham announced that he'd be back for another year at Auburn. Washington is still waiting to hear if its offensive standout -- running back Myles Gaskin -- makes the same call or heads off to the NFL. Either way this game features an interesting clash of styles between the fast-paced offense that took down both championship contenders in 2017 and a Washington defense that should once again be stingy against the run.

LSU vs. Miami (Arlington, Texas)

Miami may have the turnover chain, but no one is flashing more bling on defense this year than LSU. The Tigers recently agreed to pay defensive coordinator Dave Aranda $2.5 million per year to keep him in Baton Rouge. Both groups will have to stop a healthy dose of speed and talent in their season-opening matchup at Jerry World next September.

Florida Atlantic at Oklahoma

The Sooners have to replace Heisman winner Baker Mayfield, but quarterbacking heir apparent Kyler Murray should get some significant help from wide receivers Marquise Brown and CeeDee Lamb. That pairing could post some big numbers against the Owls' secondary. Of course, the lead-up to this game may be as fun as the product on the field as the Lane Train starts rolling again for Lane Kiffin's second season at FAU.

Virginia Tech at Florida State (Monday, Sept. 3)

Willie Taggart makes his Seminoles coaching debut in a home conference game in prime time on Labor Day. The two ACC foes haven't played each other since 2012. Virginia Tech should be one of Clemson's biggest threats in the league in 2018 and will provide an interesting, immediate measuring stick for Taggart's new team. We'll see how many knots Taggart has left to untangle after Florida State's disappointing 2017.

Tennesee vs. West Virginia (Charlotte, North Carolina)

Next up in the coaching debut category is former Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. His first test will be against a West Virginia team that returns veteran quarterback Will Grier and his favorite target, David Sills. Will the Volunteers find reason for optimism to start the year? Either way, they'll likely be happy when the offseason officially ends.

Cincinnati at UCLA

Chip Kelly turned the Pac-12 North on its head a decade ago. Can he do the same in the South Division now that he's back in the college game after a six-year hiatus? Drawing the curtains open on the Kelly era against Cincinnati might not provide for a huge opening statement, but you'll want to see what he has cooked up in the laboratory during the past year spent away from the sidelines.

James Madison at NC State

How about a little love for the little guys? James Madison has won 26 of its past 27 games playing at the FCS level. Even if that one loss was in this year's national championship game (against the North Dakota State dynasty), the Dukes have the best shot at providing an epic upset to ring in the new season. Any team that is willing to dial up a fake punt with three minutes left in a national championship game -- and pull it off successfully -- is worthy of some of your television screen real estate on what will be a crowded market when college football returns in eight long months.