Weekend Planner: Who will be Nos. 3 and 4?

Who will be No. 3 and No. 4? It should be an especially agonizing questions this season. Get ready for the new year and a full slate of games with our Weekend Planner.

It's been 235 days since we witnessed the culmination of one of the more bitter debates in the impressively contentious history of the BCS -- Alabama-LSU II.

CAMPUS CONNECTION

Get updates directly from some of the newsmaking schools of the week straight from our network of publishers.

Campus Connection: Week 1

We argued that debate right into the ground. SEC-is-king believers said the Tide and Tigers were clearly the best in the country and deserved the rematch. Others said two teams from the same conference shouldn't play in the title game, especially when one of them didn't even win its division. Lovers of engaging television pointed out the 9-6 snooze-fest in the first meeting and pleaded for high-octane Oklahoma State to gets its shot instead. Others asked to be woken up when there is a playoff in place.

You know how it ended. Alabama won, which at once proved it did belong in that title game and made the BCS selection process even murkier. If the second-best team in the SEC West can win the national title, shouldn't we consider expanding this thing?

And sure enough, the powers that be did decide over the offseason to expand the postseason format. In two years, the national champion will be crowned via four-team playoff, with teams selected by a committee of humans, rather than the two-team variety, with teams selected by a computer formula. The main difference: We'll now be complaining about how the No. 5 team got spurned instead of the No. 3.


Brandon Weeden and Oklahoma State felt the pain of No. 3 last season.

It's an improvement, to be sure, for the playoff-hungry public. But two years is a long wait for teams that are built to win now. College football is one of the most unforgiving sports -- one loss can sink your season, and one season might be your only good one for years. The coming four-team playoff will be little consolation for teams like last year's Oklahoma State, which would certainly have been included in a four-team playoff a year ago but will likely struggle to return to that form this season after losing two players to the first round of the NFL Draft.

This year, there are plenty of candidates to be the frustrated first teams out. How about No. 8 Michigan? The top-ranked Big Ten team plays No. 2 Alabama on Saturday in the marquee game of the weekend. The Wolverines are widely expected to lose. Even if they run the table afterward, the Wolverines might fall short of the BCS title game behind unbeaten or one-loss Pac-12 and SEC champions. And Denard Robinson won't be around for 2015 bowl games.

Or how about No. 5 Oregon, which will likely have to contend with No. 1 USC twice and might end up with the most excusable one or two losses in the country.

Or maybe No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 7 Florida State, whose relatively manageable schedules probably won't impress the BCS when it counts ... unless they go unbeaten.

Or No. 10 Arkansas, whose four non-bowl losses in the past two seasons all fell into one of two criteria -- they were either playing the nation's No. 1 team or they were playing the eventual national champion. With No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 LSU both on the Razorbacks' schedule, that trend could continue.

The race for Miami has officially begun, but the subplot of "Who's No. 3 and No. 4" will permeate the whole season. It's always a kick in the shins coming so close and falling short. It'll sting even more this year, knowing how close we are to change.

That change can't come soon enough for college football. But at least we know it's coming. For now, let's sit back, relax, and enjoy the first Saturday of the season.

SATURDAY: MOST IMPORTANT GAMES

Notre Dame vs. Navy (in Dublin, Ireland), 9 a.m. ET -- The Irish take their name literally and throw down with the Midshipmen in Dublin. With all the attention surrounding the game, Notre Dame would be wise to avoid a third loss to Navy in the past four seasons.

Miami (OH) at No. 18 Ohio State, 12 p.m. ET, BTN -- Urban Meyer's debut as Ohio State head coach. Worth checking out even though the Buckeyes are still on timeout from the postseason.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS

LonghornDigest's Kevin Flaherty dives deep into the world of stats to shed some light on the weekend in college football.

By the Numbers: Week 1

Ohio at Penn State, 12 p.m. ET -- Penn State's first game since the Jerry Sandusky trial. Reports say the Paterno family intends to be there. With all the tortured feelings in all directions here, it's almost hard to imagine a football game actually being played. This could get interesting.

Marshall at No. 11 West Virginia, 12 p.m. ET, FX -- The last time we saw the Mountaineers, they were flattening Clemson in the Orange Bowl to the tune of 70-33. Now in the higher-profile Big 12, West Virginia's schedule gets harder but also makes them a more intriguing BCS sleeper.

Miami at Boston College, 3:30 p.m. ET -- Not much is expected out of either team this season, but who can resist endless Doug Flutie replays?

No. 14 Clemson vs. Auburn (in Atlanta), 7 p.m. ET -- One of the bigger games on the slate this week. It's a tough early test for Clemson, which is hoping for big things in the ACC once again. It'll also be our first look at Kiehl Frazier, the latest Auburn QB to try his hand at filling the gaping void left by Cam Newton.


Kiehl Frazier takes the QB reins for Auburn this season.

Hawaii at No. 1 USC, 7:30 p.m. ET, FOX -- You've heard the hype. USC is eligible for bowls once again, and the Trojans' starting lineup is probably the best in the country. This will be our first chance to see the presumptive national title favorite in action.

No. 8 Michigan at No. 2 Alabama, 8 p.m. ET -- Michigan would enter the forefront of the national title discussion with a win. Alabama is already there, and would still be there even with a loss, but they'll come out ready to prove they're still the team to beat.

Arkansas State at No. 5 Oregon, 10:30 p.m. ET -- Gus Malzahn was a hot coaching commodity while offensive coordinator at Auburn. His first game as head coach at Arkansas State is a doozy. But Oregon -- as usual, a BCS bowl contender -- shouldn't sleep on the Red Wolves.

FRIDAY AND MONDAY: MAKE A WEEKEND OF IT

Don't forget the electric game Friday night -- No. 24 Boise State at No. 13 Michigan State (8 p.m. ET). Most people don't expect this to be one of those years where Boise goes 12-0 and gets to gripe about not being in the title game, but if they can pull off the East Lansing upset, suddenly the Broncos' schedule is wide open. Michigan State, meanwhile, should be in the mix with Wisconsin and Michigan in the Big Ten title race.

A week before we get the NFL version of Monday night football, we get Georgia Tech at No. 16 Virginia Tech (8 p.m. ET). The Hokies are ranked 16th and are one of the big players in a suddenly robust ACC that features three top 16 teams.

THURSDAY: WHAT YOU MISSED

South Carolina 17, Vanderbilt 13 -- An ugly win for the ninth-ranked Gamecocks. Marcus Lattimore was impressive in his return after missing last season with an injury, but Vanderbilt played tough and left Steve Spurrier's crew feeling lucky to have escaped with a win.

EXPERT BREAKDOWNS

Go inside our team sites to get the rundowns from Thursday's games:

South Carolina: Welcome back!

UCLA: Whole new mindset

Washington St.: Stay confident

UCLA 49, Rice 24 -- Brett Hundley started his UCLA career with a 72-yard touchdown run and also threw for 202 yards and two other touchdowns as UCLA got off to a strong start. Star running back Johnathan Franklin ran for 214 yards and three touchdowns.

BYU 30, Washington State 6 -- Mike Leach's return to coaching ends in a colossal thud as the Cougars failed to score a touchdown. It was just the third time a Leach-coached team has not found the endzone in a game.

Kent State 41, Towson 21 -- A largely unremarkable game except for a fun moment when Kent State's Andre Parker returned a muffed punt 58 yards ... in the wrong direction. To be fair, Towson was just as confused –- Tigers players chased Parker down the field and forced him out of bounds. Muffed punts cannot be advanced, so the play does not officially go down in the record books, but the video evidence is out there.

SUNDAY: A LOOK INTO THE FUTURE

We'll be wondering how we ever thought Alabama might lose this game to Michigan. Nick Saban has had all summer to prepare for Denard Robinson, and just ask LSU what happens when Saban has extra time to get ready. True, the season opener always has an element of randomness since teams aren't usually in form yet, but it's tough to see the Tide dropping this one. Their big D will step up in Big D.

WHO WILL WIN?

CFN takes a look at the biggest games on the slate and picks out the winners.

Fearless Predictions: Week 1

We'll be marveling at the USC machine, perhaps a little prematurely. The last time Matt Barkley faced Hawaii, in 2010, he threw five touchdown passes. The Trojans should be similarly evisceral in this one, but we shouldn't read too much into it just yet. Depth is a concern and Oregon likely looms twice on the schedule.

We'll have to wait until Tuesday for this, but after Virginia Tech's Monday night game, we'll have a good gauge on the ACC race. Both Clemson and Virginia Tech are starting the season with non-cupcakes, which should help us get some clarity on the three-team battle with Florida State. Clemson's playing Auburn, so it won't affect the conference standings, but we'll see how Dabo Swinney's crew responds to a brutal bowl loss as they face the 2010 national champs in a tough SEC environment. Clemson, Virginia Tech and Florida State all play each other once during the season, each with one home game and one away game in the bunch. That's a recipe for a fun battle with BCS implications.


Scout CFB Top Stories