Oh, man, it’s finally HERE! We’ve waited long enough and the college football season will finally kickoff in a few hours. There are only three ranked teams taking the field on Thursday evening but none playing each other. But, college football’s back! So, revel in that a little bit as I give you some Keys to the the Thursday night games and some score predictions.

North Carolina v. South Carolina (Charlotte)

When North Carolina has the ball...WR Ryan Switzer is the biggest thorn in the side for the Gamecocks. Quick as a hiccup in space and a whale of a returner, he could be THE major problem for new defensive coordinator Jon Hoke

When South Carolina has the ball...likewise, WR/ATH Pharoh Cooper is one of the most versatile and dynamic players in the nation. Give him the rock and let him go. I’d expect the ‘ol head ball coach will find a multitude of ways to get him the ball.

Pro Prospect Matchup - North Carolina G Landon Turner v. South Carolina DT Gerald Dixon Jr. - I think Turner is a bit overrated, although he hits with heavy hands. Dixon isn’t a draftable prospect at this point, in my opinion. With a solid performance against Turner, that could help move him up boards into the draftable category.

Conclusion - I’m just not a believer in the North Carolina defense at all, even with former Auburn head coach Gene Chizik leading that unit. Then again, the South Carolina defense is a mystery, now under the leadership of Hoke. North Carolina is more complete offensively, but the Gamecocks will eventually get a few stops in a high scoring game.

Prediction - South Carolina - 41 vs. North Carolina - 35

TCU v. Minnesota

When TCU has the ball...it’s clear that Minnesota must find a way to contain TCU QB Trevone Boykin. A huge key in that task will be Minnesota DE Theiren Cockran and OLB De’Vondre Campbell. Other than Minnesota’s talented secondary, those are the team’s two best athletes and the only two that can handle such a job on Boykin.

When Minnesota has the ball...the hopes of the Gopher offense rests in the hands (and arm) of QB Mitch Leidner. He doesn’t have David Cobb in the backfield this year so expect senior RB Rodrick Williams Jr. to shoulder some of the offensive load. If he doesn’t and offensive success is solely reliant on Leidner...uh oh. TCU’s two inside linebackers are “rookies” so expect the Gophers to attack them early and often.

Pro Prospect Matchup - TCU WR Josh Doctson v. Minnesota CB Eric Murray - I don’t think the talented Gopher cover corner gets enough acclaim, but facing Doctson and company is as stern a test as could be to start the season.

Conclusion - TCU is the number two team in the nation for a reason. Well, a few different reasons, to be honest. Boykin is the major one, but keep an eye on the impact of RB Aaron Green. The Gophers run defense will be on major alert when he’s in the backfield, but it’s his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, matched up on linebackers, that could really blow this one wide open.

Prediction - TCU - 37 vs. Minnesota - 23

Other Thursday Score Predictions (Home team in Bold)

UCF - 34 v. FIU - 14

Oklahoma State - 28 v. Central Michigan - 20

Wake Forest - 24 v. Elon - 16

Ball State - 30 vs. VMI - 10

Toledo - 54 vs. Stony Brook - 21

Georgia Tech - 51 vs. Alcorn State - 7

Villanova - 37 vs. U Conn - 29

Vanderbilt - 24 vs. Western Kentucky - 20

Utah - 31 vs. Michigan - 21

Ohio - 35 vs. Idaho - 20

Utah State - 38 vs. Southern Utah - 13

Duke - 29 vs. Tulane - 23

Arizona - 41 vs. UTSA - 21

Nevada - 26 vs. UC Davis - 23

San Jose State - 31 vs. New Hampshire - 30

Fresno State - 49 vs. Abilene Christian - 14

Colorado - 42 vs. Hawai’i - 34

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