Things to watch in Week 1 in the Southeastern Conference:
GAME OF THE WEEK
No. 5 LSU at No. 8 Florida State in the country’s only opening matchup featuring top 10 teams. While two-time defending national champion Georgia starts with UT Martin and Alabama hosts Middle Tennessee, the defending SEC West champions get the chance for a marquee win — the kind that can gain teams a spot in the College Football Playoff — against the Seminoles on Saturday night.
The Tigers feature experience on offense led by quarterback Jayden Daniels, who is third among active players with 43 career starts behind center. Daniels has had 15 games where he’s rushed and thrown for a TD. The Tigers are 6-0 when he’s done it. Florida State has steadily risen under fourth-year head coach Mike Norvell. The Seminoles, like their great teams of the past, have strength on the defensive line with Jerad Verse, who had nine sacks among his 17 tackles for loss.
SECOND BEST MATCHUP
Tennessee will try to build on the promise of an 11-2 season, starting with a game against Virginia in Nashville, Tennessee, on Saturday. The Cavaliers return to the field for the first time since the fatal shooting of three players last November. Virginia’s season, the first under coach Tony Elliott, ended after the shooting deaths of Lavel Davis Jr., Devin Chandler and D’Sean Perry. Vols coach Josh Heupel had his team knocking on the door of the College Football Playoff before a late stumble at South Carolina.
Florida, minus star quarterback Anthony Richardson (now in the NFL), could have its hands full at No. 14 Utah, the two-time Pac 12 champion that is a slight favorite in Thursday night’s game. The Gators have yet to find their footing, going 6-7 in coach Billy Napier’s first season. Things started hopefully a year ago with a 29-26 win over the Utes. Then the Gators lost four of their first five SEC games.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
The SEC opens with the season with six teams in the preseason Top 25 including three top 10 teams (two-time defending national champion Georgia at No. 1, Alabama at No. 4 and LSU at No. 5). … Florida is playing its third true road opener in 38 years. … Kentucky receiver Barrion Brown set a school freshman record with 628 yards last season. … Tennessee has outscored opponents 331-123 in the first quarters since coach Josh Heupel took over two seasons ago. … Auburn has scored in 129 straight games, the second-longest streak in school history. … Mississippi State quarterback Will Rogers returns as the only quarterback in SEC history with 1,000 or more career completions (1,159).
Arkansas QB KJ Jefferson accounted for more than 298 yards a game last season, second most in the SEC behind Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker.
Jefferson, a third-year starter, helped the Hogs put up 6,128 yards, second most in program history. Jefferson put up 2,648 yards and 24 touchdowns to help the Razorbacks go 7-6. Arkansas opens Saturday against FCS opponent Western Carolina.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll