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What to watch: Week 1 primer

Posted by ESPN.com

Here's the final word on what you need to know heading into the first weekend of the 2008 season:

1. Clemson has everything you need among its ball-handlers. But expect Alabama to test an inexperienced offensive line with an array of blitzes. Just to make sure, the Crimson Tide may play keep away, too. With two very good tight ends framing a veteran offensive line, look for Alabama to run the ball a lot. -- Ivan Maisel

2. This isn't hype, this is the truth: welcome to the biggest season opener in Missouri football history, and perhaps not far behind that in importance for Illinois. The Tigers have exceedingly rare national title aspirations, plus a legit Heisman campaign to run for quarterback Chase Daniel. The Illini could have a quarterback award campaign of their own if Juice Williams outplays Daniel and they pull the upset. But even an Illinois loss cannot be considered catastrophic: the last two times they've gone to the Rose Bowl (1984 and last year) they began the season by losing to Missouri. -- Pat Forde

3. Georgia and Florida, which are expected to be the top two teams in the SEC East this season, shouldn't have much trouble in their home openers -- against FCS opponent Georgia Southern and rebuilding Hawaii, respectively. But the Bulldogs would like to gauge where they're at with their offensive line, with Kiante Tripp replacing injured left tackle Trinton Sturdivant and freshman Cordy Glenn taking over at right guard. The Gators are in search of a tailback who can take the load off quarterback Tim Tebow, who ran 210 times last season, most ever by an SEC quarterback. -- Mark Schlabach

4. Keep a close eye on the two quarterback positions Saturday in Tiger Stadium. Appalachian State's Armanti Edwards was one of the stars of the Mountaineers' upset at Michigan a year ago. If they're going to have any chance of doing it again, he'll need to keep LSU's defensive front off balance with his ability to run and make things happen when everything else breaks down. With so much uncertainty at quarterback for the Tigers, look for the Mountaineers to gamble and go after Andrew Hatch, Jarrett Lee or whoever's back there with everything they've got. -- Chris Low

5. East Carolina walked into an emotionally charged mine field in last year's season opener, which helped contribute to the 17-7 loss. But 16 of those players are back and wiser for the experience. However, running back Chris Johnson is gone and the Pirates have been struggling all camp to fill the void. Virginia Tech will be looking for a quick start to quell any momentum or emotion the Pirates might have. VT quarterback Sean Glennon has a streak of 149 passes without an interception going and will use consistency to control the game. -- Graham Watson

6. No position group benefited more from Michigan's much-publicized strength program than the defensive line, which returns all four starters. The line must buy time for a transitioning Wolverines offense by containing versatile Utah quarterback Brian Johnson and bruising running backs Darrell Mack and Matt Asiata. Defensive tackles Terrance Taylor and Will Johnson should force the Utes to run to the outside. -- Adam Rittenberg

7. It will be tough for Virginia to match the Trojans' plethora of playmakers on offense, but the Cavaliers' 3-4 defense will present some unfamiliar looks to USC's inexperienced O-line. The Trojans need to protect quarterback Mark Sanchez, who will be playing with a brace on his knee. -- Heather Dinich

8. It's the start of a new era in Morgantown, as Bill Stewart coaches his first regular-season game for the Mountaineers. And possibly the start of a new offense, as quarterback Pat White will be asked to air it out instead of just running the belly option. West Virginia should have plenty of opportunities for experimentation and celebration against a team from the FCS in Villanova. -- Brian Bennett

9. In 2007, what was termed "Washington's defense" yielded 661 total yards to Oregon, and the Ducks piled up 465 yards on the ground, a new school record. That was embarrassing for the Huskies, but it will be even worse to lose five in a row for the first time in the history of the Northwest's nastiest rivalry. The defense will need a stouter showing against new Ducks QB Justin Roper, and the Huskies offense will need QB Jake Locker to put on a show. An upset win will go a long way toward quieting UW coach Tyrone Willingham's myriad of critics. -- Ted Miller

10. Many Texas fans are fretting about the Texas secondary and especially a pair of freshmen safeties who will be tested against Florida Atlantic QB Rusty Smith. But expect Texas' defensive front to provide enough pressure against an injury-riddled offensive line to keep the secondary from too much harm. -- Tim Griffin