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August 30, 2006

Cal-Tennessee among big Week 1 matchups

Game week is here.

The 2006 season will begin Thursday at 6 p.m. Eastern when Boston College takes on Central Michigan.

This game kicks off the season and an interesting opening week of college football.

Part of Week One could be called the SEC-Pac-10 Challenge, with three games between the two conferences. Washington State will go to Auburn, and Southern Cal plays at Arkansas. The top matchup will be between Cal and Tennessee at Neyland Stadium.

California Heisman hopeful Marshawn Lynch will test himself against a top SEC defense, and the Volunteers will look to reassert themselves on the national scene after a disappointing 2005 campaign.

The ACC again will start its season on Labor Day with Florida State visiting Miami. The Hurricanes hope a pair of suspensions won't derail their aspirations for in-state dominance.

Preseason No. 2 Notre Dame will have an instant test on the road against Georgia Tech, which beat Auburn in its season opener last year.

Here are Rivals.com's top five games of Week 1 (all times Eastern):

Week 1 Games to Watch
1. Cal at Tennessee, 5:30 p.m., Saturday, ESPN
Series: Tied 1-1.
Last meeting: Tennessee won 38-12 in 1987.
The significance: One team is a dark horse for the national championship. The other is coming off a 5-6 season, but is optimistic that it can earn a spot in the SEC title game. If Cal is ready to take the next step and become part of the nation's elite, the Bears will have to do so against a largely inexperienced but talented defense. Tennessee is still trying to find answers on offense under new coordinator David Cutcliffe. The Vols will find out in a hurry if they improved. Cal's defense is led by a pair of Rivals.com preseason All-Americans, tackle Brandon Mebane and cornerback Daymeion Hughes.
2. Florida State at Miami, 8 p.m., Monday, ESPN
Series: Miami leads 29-21.
Last meeting: Florida State won 10-7 in 2005.
The significance: Miami is 6-1 in its last seven games against FSU, but the Hurricanes could face their toughest task this year even with home field advantage. Miami will be without starting running back Tyrone Moss and wide receiver Ryan Moore, who were both suspended. Fans shouldn't have expected much offense even with Moss and Moore. Neither team has topped 16 points in the last three meetings.
3. Notre Dame at Georgia Tech, 8 p.m., Saturday, ABC
Series: Notre Dame leads 26-5-1.
Last meeting: Georgia Tech won 35-28 in 1999.
The significance: The hype machine is working overtime for Notre Dame, a preseason darling for the national championship and a Heisman Trophy. The Georgia Tech offense, led by wide receiver Calvin Johnson and quarterback Reggie Ball, will have to be on top of its game to keep up with the Irish offense. Last year, Auburn (see below) found out how dangerous Georgia Tech can be in the first game of the season.
4. Washington State at Auburn, 7:45 p.m., Saturday, ESPN2
Series: First meeting.
The significance: Here's a surprising stat: Auburn has lost three of its last four season openers. Granted, two of those were against Southern Cal, but last year's loss was to Georgia Tech, 23-14. Auburn will have to avoid another slow start if it wants to deliver on its national-title aspirations. Washington State is looking to return to a bowl game after going 4-7 last year. The Cougars will be prepared for a close one after losing five games by four or fewer points last season
5. Southern Cal at Arkansas, 8:45, Saturday, ESPN
Series: USC leads 3-1.
Last meeting: USC won 70-17 in 2005.
The significance:Arkansas is catching Southern Cal at the right time, if there that's possible. Quarterback John David Booty will make his first career start and running back Chauncey Washington will play his first game in two seasons against a defense that returns eight starters. The Razorbacks will probably have to play without star running back Darren McFadden, who will likely miss the game because of an injured toe. The Hogs would like revenge for last year's whipping, but can they get it?
Other top games:
Thursday: South Carolina at Mississippi State, Northwestern at Miami (Ohio), UTEP at San Diego State
Saturday: Virginia at Pittsburgh, Stanford at Oregon, Hawaii at Alabama, Utah at UCLA, BYU at Arizona

Click here for more Countdown to Kickoff '06 coverage

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