Week 1 of the college football season used to be predictable.

Powerhouses would schedule some cupcakes to get an easy start to the season, and small schools would punch up to get a nice payday without much chance of a win.

But as programs look to improve their shot at a College Football Playoff berth, Week 1 now features some of the most exciting non-conference matchups of the season.

Here’s a look at five games to watch in the opening week of the 2017 season:


Michigan vs. Florida on ABC, 3:30 p.m.

Jim Harbaugh’s third year at Michigan will be telling as the unique coach tries to turn the corner and get his alma mater into the Big Ten and national championship pictures. Michigan was close last year, but a loss to Ohio State and an Orange Bowl defeat to Florida State nearly dropped the Wolverines from the top 10 at year’s end. A re-tooled lineup will have to put that behind them immediately against Florida at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Gators are back-to-back SEC East champs, but coach Jim McElwain has plenty of work to do with lots of turnover on defense, including new coordinator Randy Shannon, and a quarterback still to be determined.

Florida State vs. Alabama on ABC, 8 p.m.

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A game with playoff implications to open the season? It’s become the norm for programs such as these two looking to start off on the right foot with the selection committee. Both of these teams won New Year’s Six bowls last season and both expect to be in the playoff hunt again. Jimbo Fisher’s Seminoles return 11 starters on offense, led by exciting sophomore quarterback Deondre Francois. But Nick Saban has his own young gun in Jalen Hurts to lead a team that was seconds from a national title a year ago. The Crimson Tide hasn’t lost to a non-conference opponent in the regular season since 2007 — Saban’s first year in Tuscaloosa — but this likely will be their toughest test yet.

BYU vs. LSU on ESPN, 9:30 p.m.

Fans of high-scoring, fast-paced, pass-heavy football can change the channel for this one, but they’ll miss an intriguing battle of two potential sleepers. BYU remains a dangerous non-conference opponent for the nation’s elite programs, beating Michigan State, Mississippi State, Boise State, Nebraska and Texas in recent seasons. The Cougars already will have a game under their belt with an opener against Portland State, and junior quarterback Tanner Mangum will provide some veteran leadership. LSU enters the season with a new coach for the first time since 2005 as Ed Orgeron takes over full duties. The Tigers will bring one of the nation’s best running attacks to its season opener, led by junior Derrius Guice.


Texas A&M at UCLA on Fox, 7:30 p.m.

Fortunately for Josh Rosen, he doesn’t have to go back to College Station. Aggies fans took it personally when the UCLA quarterback said crowd noise wouldn’t be an issue at Kyle Field ahead of last year’s meeting. Rosen egged on the crowd and had some strong moments during the game but also threw three interceptions in an overtime loss. Texas A&M heads west to face the Bruins this year without a clear starting quarterback, but the Aggies’ defense is solid and Kevin Sumlin’s squad always comes out of the gate strong.

Virginia Tech vs. West Virginia on ABC, 7:30 p.m.

The Hokies and Mountaineers used to play annually, including each season between 1973 and 2005. But conference realignment put Virginia Tech in the ACC and West Virginia in the Big 12, landing the rivalry on the shelf. The Black Diamond Trophy will be at stake for the first time in over a decade when the programs meet in Landover, Maryland. The Mountaineers lost a ton of players from last year’s 10-3 team, but they also added former Florida quarterback Will Grier. Virginia Tech’s Justin Fuente had a strong debut season replacing longtime coach Frank Beamer in 2016, reaching the ACC title game and going 10-4. A repeat performance will be tough, however, as the Hokies need to replace virtually all of their offensive weapons from a year ago.