- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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We almost had quite the quarterback matchup on our hands this fall.
According to ESPN's Brett McMurphy, Texas A&M and Louisville were in discussions to open the 2013 season at Houston's Reliant Stadium. That would have given us Johnny Manziel vs. Teddy Bridgewater. Or, Johnny Football vs. Teddy Ballgame.
Unfortunately, things just didn't get worked out between the two parties, so we're left with the Aggies taking on Rice at home on Aug. 31. It just won't be the same as seeing the Aggies take on what should be another talented Charlie Strong-led Louisville squad. And after what the Cardinals did to Florida in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, Louisville is a hot ticket and qualifies as must-see TV.
Oh, the early Heisman talk that would come out of that game, too.
"It would have been a great experience to play against last year's Heisman Trophy winner and arguably the best player in college football," Bridgewater said. "He lays it on the line like I do. It would have been a great matchup."
Louisville is clearly looking to sit at the big boys' table, because the Cards not only tried to play the Aggies, but they also wanted a neutral-site game with the defending champs ... and almost got it.
According to McMurphy's report, Louisville almost played Alabama in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta. Virginia Tech, which will face Alabama on Aug. 31 at 5:30 p.m. ET inside the Georgia Dome instead, was ready to back out of the game if quarterback Logan Thomas made an early jump to the NFL. If Logan had skipped his senior year, the Cardinals would have replaced the Hokies in Atlanta.
However, Thomas opted to stay, so Alabama will start the season against Virginia Tech, which isn't a bad matchup at all.
We might get to watch Johnny Football take on Teddy Ballgame, but there are some pretty exciting nonconference games that SEC teams are involved in this fall. Here are five (outside of Alabama-Virginia Tech) that I'm most excited about:
LSU vs. TCU (Arlington, Texas), Aug. 31: The Tigers did just fine last time they were in this building, but after losing a chunk of defensive talent, LSU has to face a TCU team that returns nine offensive starters and will be less than 20 miles from campus.
Georgia at Clemson, Aug. 31: The Bulldogs will be without 12 players who either started or saw significant time on defense in 2012. Clemson, led by quarterback Tajh Boyd and wide receiver Sammy Watkins, should provide problems with its offense. However, Georgia should like its offensive matchup with a Tigers defense that surrendered nearly 400 yards a game last season.
Mississippi State vs. Oklahoma State (Houston), Aug. 31: Mississippi State's defense has a lot of questions to answer up front and in the secondary, and its first test comes against the Big 12's top scoring offense from a season ago. Seven OSU starters return on an offense that averaged 547 yards last season.
Florida at Miami, Sept. 7: Miami isn't close to the power it once was, but taking an offense that has a lot of questions surrounding it on the road early will make this quite the test for the Gators. The good news for Florida is that Miami returns nine starters on a defense that was last in the ACC in total defense, passing defense and rushing defense in 2012.
Ole Miss at Texas, Sept. 14: Players in Oxford are already talking revenge after getting blown out by 35 against the Longhorns at home last season. Both sides of the ball should be improved for the Rebels this fall, and even though the jury is still out on Texas, the Horns return 19 total starters.
22hDavid M. Hale