The 2011 college football season officially kicks off tonight with a pair of Top 25 teams in action to highlight the action. Here is a look at each game being played Thursday night as the season finally gets underway.
All times Eastern. Check local listings for games available in your area.
#11 Wisconsin vs. UNLV
8 p.m. ESPN
The Badgers are a favorite in the Big Ten coming off an 11-2 season. The Rebels were just the opposite, going 2-11 last year. The Russell Wilson era of Wisconsin football is officially underway, and Montee Ball could run wild in a romp.
Memphis vs. #20 Mississippi State
8 p.m. Fox Sports Net
Dan Mullen’s Bulldogs enter the season looking to continue an upswing in prominence both in the SEC and nationally. Time will tell if Mississippi State is a legitimate top 25 team, but they should pick up a road win at Memphis on opening night. Memphis returns three offensive starters from a unit that scored just 14.4 points per game in 2011. Will change be good thing for the Tigers?
Utah vs. Montana State
8 p.m. KJZZ
The new Pac-12 member Utes kick off with regional FCS foe Montana State. Utah is 9-0 all-time in the series with the Bobcats and is 31-0 against teams from the Big Sky Conference.
Rutgers vs. NC Central
7:30 p.m. ESPN3
The Scarlet Knights are one of three Big East teams in action Thursday night. Greg Schiano hopes to have his quarterback position in a more stable condition than it was a year ago. Off the field, Eric LeGrand will make his Rutgers radio debut as he joins the broadcast team for the upcoming season. Another interesting stat? Rutgers is 0-2 on September 1.
Georgia Tech vs. Western Carolina
7:30 p.m. ESPN3
The Yellow Jackets will turn to Tevin Washington at quarterback after losing Joshua Nesbitt, but the Paul Johnson play style is still expected to be heavy on the triple option attack on the ground. Look for Georgia Tech to run all over and around Western Carolina tonight.
Temple vs. Villanova
7 p.m. ESPN3
The Mayor’s Cup between the two Philadelphia schools is a unique FBS vs. FCS match-up. The last two years have seen the game go down to the wire, with the teams splitting the decisions in the process. This year Temple looks to have the clear edge with Villanova in a bit of a rebuilding mode, but they will be without starting quarterback Chester Stewart due to a suspension.
Toledo vs. New Hampshire
7 p.m. ESPN3
Toledo is a favorite in the MAC West this season but don’t sleep on New Hampshire, ranked 10th in the FCS entering the 2011 season. No FCS program has won more games against the FBS over the past decade than New Hampshire.
Florida International vs. North Texas
7 p.m. ESPN3
In one of the rare conference games on opening weekend, the defending Sun Belt champion Florida International Golden Panthers look to get off on the right foot against North Texas. Mean Green running back Lance Dunbar rushed for over 1,500 yards in 2010 and is looking to improve on that total this season. Florida International T.Y. Hinton flies under the radar but can potentially put up some big numbers in the passing game as well.
Central Michigan vs. South Carolina State
A young Central Michigan team looks to start building the foundation for a winning program and a possible run for a MAC championship. Quarterback Ryan Radcliff was second in the MAC in passing in 2010 and returns this season with his top target, Cody Wilson and leading rusher, Paris Cotton, by his side.
Syracuse vs. Wake Forest
8 p.m. ESPN3
Doug Marrone and the Syracuse Orange are heading in the right direction, but things will be tougher in 2011. Quarterback Ryan Nassib has his leading receivers back but the running game must replace Delone Carter. Look for Antwon Bailey to be the go-to back. As for Wake Forest, the hope is that experience makes a difference. After going 3-9 in 2010 the Demon Deacons return 17 starters that hope to build off of what they learned last season.
Louisville vs. Murray State
6 p.m. ESPN3
The first official kickoff of the 2011 season will take place in Louisville, Kentucky where head coach Charlie Strong is hoping his team can build on what he started last season. Just three starters return on offense so there are a number of players looking to make an impact, including quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater is second on the depth chart behind junior Will Stein but don’t be surprised to see plenty of the freshman Thursday night.
Idaho vs. Bowling Green
9 p.m. ALT
Rematch of the 2009 Humanitarian Bowl. Idaho shocked Bowling Green with a touchdown with second to spare and converted a two-point conversion for the 43-42 victory. Revenge factor for Bowling Green? Maybe.
Western Kentucky vs. Kentucky
9:15 p.m. ESPNU
The Hilltoppers will be excited to “host” the Wildcats, but the game will be played at LP Field, home of the Tennessee Titans. Don’t count on a home field advantage when Kentucky fans fill more seats. Kentucky is not exactly a powerhouse but they should pick up an easy victory against Western Kentucky, who is still trying to get to a level in which they can compete at the FBS level.
Arizona State vs. UC Davis
10 p.m. ET Fox College Sports
Brock Osweiler takes control of the offense as the starting quarterback, and if Arizona State is going to make a run in the Pac 12 South they will need him to get locked in early. A tune up against UC Davis should allow him to do just that. But some of us just want to get a glimpse of those new Arizona State uniforms!
Connecticut vs. Fordham
Rescheduled for Saturday
The defending Big East champions were scheduled to open their season tonight but the game has been moved to Saturday. The Connecticut National Guard had been using Rentschler Field as a distribution center for storm relief following Tropical Storm Irene this past week. The game will kickoff at noon on Saturday instead.
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