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Saturday, August 31, 2013 12:15 AM

Associated Press

Toledo at No. 10 Florida, 12:21 p.m. ET (SEC Network)

Line: Florida by 23 1-2.

Series record: First meeting.

WHAT’S AT STAKE

Florida has won 23 consecutive season openers, the second-longest current streak in the country. Only Nebraska (27) has a longer active winning streak to open the season. Last year’s 27-14 victory against Bowling Green was the closest during Florida’s run.

KEY MATCHUP

Florida’s retooled defense against Toledo’s senior-laden offense. The Gators return just three starters from a unit that ranked fifth in the nation in 2012. Although Florida has several talented guys seemingly ready for starring roles, they could get a tough test against Toledo’s spread offense, which features three senior playmakers — QB Terrance Owens, RB David Fluellen and WR Bernard Reedy.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Toledo: Reedy, the all-everything receiver who ranked sixth in the nation last season in all-purpose yards. The senior from St. Petersburg, Fla., had 88 receptions for 1,113 yards and six touchdowns in 2012. He also had three kickoff returns for touchdowns and a punt return for a score.

Florida: RB Mack Brown, filling in for Matt Jones, gets his first career start. Jones will miss the opener while recovering from a viral infection. Brown has 40 carries for 167 yards in three seasons and likely will share time with former walk-on Mark Herndon and converted safety Valdez Showers.

FACTS & FIGURES

Toledo is 7-12 all-time against ranked team, including a 29-23 win over No. 18 Cincinnati last season. The Rockets are 1-6 against teams ranked in the top 10, with the lone victory coming against No. 9 Pittsburgh in 2003. … Toledo, which plays four of its first five games on the road, has made three consecutive bowl games. … Florida hasn’t dropped a season-opener since 1989, when Mississippi won 24-19 in Gainesville. … The Gators have won their last seven season openers by a combined score of 303-52.

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No. 12 LSU vs. No. 20 TCU, at Arlington, Texas, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Line: LSU by 4 1/2.

Series Record: LSU leads 5-2-1.

WHAT’S AT STAKE: LSU, which has won a nation’s-best 41 consecutive nonconference regular season games since 2002, gets a big opening test after eight defensive players were NFL draft picks. The Tigers have won a school-record 10 consecutive season openers, including wins over Top 25 teams at neutral sites in 2010 and 2011. TCU begins its second Big 12 season with a chance to make a big statement against the SEC. Six SEC teams ranked above the Big 12’s highest-ranked team, No. 13 Oklahoma State, in the preseason poll.

KEY MATCHUP

Experienced TCU defense that led the Big 12 against LSU offense with returning skill players and a new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, the long-time NFL and college coach. While the Tigers return quarterback Zach Mettenberger and their top four receivers, they had one of the nation’s worst passing offenses last season. The Horned Frogs had a Big 12-high 21 interceptions, and return all five starting defensive backs in their 4-2-5 scheme.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

LSU: With the uncertain status of leading rusher Jeremy Hill because of pending discipline for an offseason arrest, Mettenberger may have to depend on his arm. He threw for 2,609 yards with 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions last season.

TCU: DBs Elisha Olabode, Sam Carter, Jason Verrett and Chris Hackett are the top returning tacklers, all with 61-71 stops last season. They combined for 16 of the team’s 21 picks and 16 tackles for losses.

FACTS & FIGURES

The teams haven’t played each other since 1968. … Both TCU victories over LSU came in the 1930s — 3-0 at home in 1931 and 3-2 in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day 1936. … This is the second time for both teams to play in the Cowboys Classic in the opening-weekend game at the NFL team’s stadium. TCU beat Oregon State in 2010, and LSU beat Oregon the following year.

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Mississippi State vs. No. 13 Oklahoma State, 3:35 p.m. (ABC)

Line: Oklahoma State by 12 1/2.

Series record: Tied 2-2.

WHAT’S AT STAKE

Oklahoma State and Mississippi State open with an intriguing matchup on a neutral field at Reliant Stadium in Houston. The Cowboys are the preseason favorite to win the Big 12 after finishing last season with an 8-5 record. The Bulldogs have been to three straight bowl games for only the second time in school history and have won four straight season openers.

KEY MATCHUP

Oklahoma State’s passing game against Mississippi State’s secondary. The Cowboys will likely use two quarterbacks — senior Clint Chelf and sophomore J.W. Walsh — and both had success last season. The Bulldogs have three new starters in the secondary, including both cornerbacks.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Oklahoma State: WR Josh Stewart is back after a stellar 2012 season that included 101 receptions for 1,210 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s the Big 12’s leading returning receiver.

Mississippi State: QB Tyler Russell is already among the best quarterbacks in school history after throwing for 2,897 yards, 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 2012. He needs less than 1,800 passing yards this season to become the school’s all-time leader.

FACTS & FIGURES

Oklahoma State is averaging 46.2 points per game over the past three seasons and ranked in the top three nationally each year. … The Cowboys will have two new coordinators for the first time since 2005. Mike Yurcich will lead the offense and Glenn Spencer is in charge of the defense. … Oklahoma State’s defense has forced 130 turnovers since 2009, which ranks second nationally. … Mississippi State has won its four season openers under coach Dan Mullen by an average of 43.8 points. … Mullen ranks fourth in Mississippi State history with 29 career wins. He needs eight more to tie Emory Bellard for third place.

———

Temple at No. 14 Notre Dame, 3:30 p.m. (NBC)

Line: Notre Dame by 29 1-2.

Series record: First meeting.

WHAT’S AT STAKE

Notre Dame wants to build on last season’s 12-0 regular season and hopes to put an embarrassing 42-14 loss to Alabama in the national championship game and an offseason of turmoil behind it. A victory by Temple would go down as one of the biggest upset losses in Notre Dame history — and one of the biggest wins for the Owls. Temple has only two victories over ranked opponents in its history, against No. 14 Virginia Tech in 1998 and No. 16 Pittsburgh in 1987.

KEY MATCHUP

Notre Dame QB Tommy Rees vs. the Temple pass defense. QB Tommy Rees showed last season he could make key plays when teams weren’t gearing up for him, but needs to show he can do it when defensive coordinators are game-planning against him. Temple last season had the nation’s sixth-worst pass efficiency defense.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Temple: QB Connor Reilly is making his first start and coach Matt Rhule is counting on him to provide a spark after the Owls averaged the fifth-fewest passing yards in FBS last year at 120.8 per game.

Notre Dame: DE Stephon Tuitt, who was slowed by a sports hernia for the second half of last season, started practice in August about 15 pounds heavier than last season and some questioned whether he had worked hard in the offseason. Kelly defended him, saying Tuitt couldn’t do much core work over after undergoing surgery after spring practice. Tuitt had a team-high 12 sacks last season.

FACTS & FIGURES

The Fighting Irish are 57-12-1 against teams making their first visits to Notre Dame Stadium. But three of those victories have come in the past four seasons: Connecticut in 2009, Tulsa in 2010 and South Florida in 2011. The lone first-time visitor last season was Wake Forest and the Irish won 38-0. … Temple has won three straight season-openers. … Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly is seeking his 200th victory as a college coach. His overall record is 199-68-2 at Grand Valley State, Central Michigan, Cincinnati and Notre Dame (28-11).

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New Mexico State at No. 15 Texas, 7 p.m. CST (LHN)

Line: Texas by 42

Series record: Texas 4-0

WHAT’S AT STAKE

For Texas, a tuneup before a trip to BYU and a chance to settle into the Longhorns’ new hurry-up offense. For a heavy underdog like New Mexico State, it’s a $950,000 paycheck for a road trip in a season the Aggies are playing as independents before joining the Sun Belt Conference next season.

KEY MATCHUP

New Mexico State LT Davonte Wallace against Texas DE Jackson Jeffcoat. Wallace must protect new starting QB Andrew McDonald from Jeffcoat, who missed much of last season with a pectoral muscle injury and is one of the best pass rushers in the Big 12 when healthy.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

New Mexico State: McDonald is a senior getting his first start in front of a hostile crowd of about 100,000 in the Texas summer heat. A junior college transfer, McDonald attempted just three passes last season.

Texas: WR Daje Johnson is the player the Longhorns expect to be one of the season’s breakout stars. Johnson is extremely fast and if the Longhorns can get him in space, big plays happen. Touchdowns of 84 and 45 yards last season proved that.

FACTS & FIGURES: Texas coach Mack Brown turned 62 on Tuesday. With 150 wins, Brown is 17 shy of tying Darrell Royal for the most in school history… New Mexico State is 1-18 against ranked opponents since 1999 … Texas honoring 1963 national championship team by placing helmet numbers over the Longhorn symbol. Players will vote if they want to keep it all season.

 

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