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Mark Edwards: It should be a good opening weekend for Tide, Tigers, Gamecocks

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Head coach John Grass watches the Gamecocks practice. JSU started fall football camp with a hot practice session Wednesday at their campus practice field. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)

It’s a long weekend with plenty of college football, beginning tonight and continuing through Labor Day on Monday.

Locals should look forward to another sweep by Alabama, Auburn and Jacksonville State. The most vulnerable of those three? Maybe Auburn, based on having to play the nation’s No. 11-ranked team.

Let’s get to the picks:


Jacksonville State at Southeastern Louisiana: Today’s game is the first meeting between these two teams since 1978 when JSU won 10-7 at home. The Gamecocks won 14-10 in 1977 in Hammond, La. The two teams will play at JSU on Sept. 19, 2020.

Southeastern Louisiana was 4-7 a year ago, and it’s hard to imagine the Lions handling the Gamecocks’ passing attack, led by junior Zerrick Cooper, who’s in his second year as a starter. ... Jacksonville State 30, Southeastern Louisiana 20.

Georgia Tech at No. 1 Clemson: Who’ll win bigger this week against overmatched Atlantic Coast Conference opponents, Clemson or Alabama? The Tigers are 36½-point favorites. Clemson won a national title in 2016 with a team built by good but not great recruiting classes. Now, Clemson is the new Goliath, and the Tigers are pulling in better and better talent. ... Clemson 44, Georgia Tech 10.


No. 2 Alabama vs. Duke: Tua Tagovailoa and his band of speedy receivers will be fine in this Kickoff Game in Atlanta. So will the offensive line and the running backs, even with the reported suspensions of Najee Harris and Brian Robinson Jr.

The freshman kicker will be in good shape, and the defense will play well enough, too. The problem from 2018 that Alabama must fix, starting Saturday, is turnovers. The Crimson Tide forced zero turnovers last year in its last three games (Georgia, Oklahoma and Clemson). In its last eight games, Alabama intercepted two passes — linebacker Anfernee Jennings had one against Auburn and linebacker Mack Wilson had one against LSU. The Tide is a 35½-point favorite. ... Alabama 42, Duke 13.

No. 16 Auburn vs. No. 11 Oregon: Playing in Arlington, Texas, Auburn and Oregon will stage a rematch of their national title game from nine years ago. With freshman Bo Nix quarterbacking, the Tigers should win this one, too, although Oregon’s Justin Herbert is a good passer.

Keep in mind, however, that Nix will face a much more suspect defense than Herbert will. ... Auburn 31, Oregon 24.

Eastern Washington at No. 13 Washington: Former Georgia quarterback Jacob Eason won the starting job for Washington, while Jake Haener has announced he will transfer. Eastern Washington will travel to Jacksonville to face the Gamecocks in two weeks. ... Washington 38, Eastern Washington 14.

No. 3 Georgia at Vanderbilt: That abysmal performance Georgia put up in last season’s Sugar Bowl loss to Texas makes it easy to forget about the Bulldogs, but they’ll have another great defense, another great offense, and a great quarterback in Jake Fromm. ... Georgia 45, Vanderbilt 20.

Ole Miss at Memphis: Memphis has had some pretty good teams lately, but in the last four years, it seems as if the Tigers barf on themselves whenever they face a decent team. They’re at home and favored (5½ points), but we just can’t pick them. ... Ole Miss 31, Memphis 30.

Missouri at Wyoming: They met for the first time last year with Missouri winning 40-13 at home. Don’t forget that this is former Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant’s debut with Mizzou. ... Missouri 38, Wyoming 18.


Houston at No. 4 Oklahoma: Jalen Hurts will wear No. 1 in his first game as the Sooners’ starting quarterback. In the defense-less Big 12, he should post excellent numbers, probably better than Tagovailoa at Alabama. ... Oklahoma 47, Houston 31.


No. 9 Notre Dame at Louisville: This is the second meeting between these two teams. Louisville won 31-28 at Notre Dame in 2014. Probably would make a better basketball matchup. ... Notre Dame 33, Louisville 17.

Sports Editor Mark Edwards: 256-235-3570. On Twitter: @MarkSportsStar.