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Best opening weekend games

8/15/2010

Today we gave you 20 games to watch this season. Three from opening weekend made the Top 20 list. But there are several others that just missed the cut:

USC at Hawaii, Sept. 2. We have got to know how Lane Kiffin does in his opener with the Trojans, right? So much melodrama has followed this program since Kiffin took over, you can bet he and his players will be thrilled to start playing games -- even though they are ineligible for postseason play. We will get to see what strides QB Matt Barkley has taken, and take a look at the retooled Monte Kiffin defense. USC freshman RB Dillon Baxter won’t be there -- he is suspended for violating team rules.

LSU vs. North Carolina, Sept. 4. Huge game for both teams ranked in the bottom portion of the Top 25. Both teams have great defenses but mediocre offenses. There are some high expectations for North Carolina this season. If the Tar Heels can open with a win against a top-quality SEC team, their confidence will no doubt grow.

Purdue at Notre Dame, Sept. 4. Two intriguing storylines here -- Brian Kelly makes his debut as Irish coach with high expectations and plenty of pressure. We’ll see how his new offense looks with Dayne Crist under center. Michael Floyd could have a tremendous season. For Purdue, Miami transfer Robert Marve makes his debut. If Marve has a good season, the Boilermakers could surprise.

Connecticut at Michigan, Sept. 4. When the Huskies were put on the schedule, a faction of Michigan fans scoffed. But the Huskies come into the Big House with a shot at winning the game. The Michigan defense has been atrocious and is lacking depth in the secondary. The specter of NCAA sanctions loom above the program as well. Could this be the last season opener Rich Rodriguez coaches with the Wolverines?

Washington at BYU, Sept. 4. Steve Sarkisian returns to his alma mater with a quarterback who would fit right in at BYU. Jake Locker is receiving early Heisman and NFL draft buzz. Meanwhile, the Cougars have quite the opposite situation at quarterback, where Jake Heaps and Riley Nelson are competing for the starting job. If coach Bronco Mendenhall doesn’t have his mind made up before the opener, watch for both to play.

Of course, the following weekend is shaping up to be even better, with Michigan-Notre Dame, Florida State-Oklahoma, Miami-Ohio State, Penn State-Alabama, Oregon-Tennessee and Stanford-UCLA all on the schedule.