No. 9 Auburn faces No. 6 Washington at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Sept. 1 at 2:30 p.m. CT on ABC. Saturday's contest is the first-ever meeting between the Huskies and Tigers. Washington is 1-9 all-time against the SEC, last beating Florida in the 1989 Freedom Bowl.
Auburn vs Washington
Chris Peterson is 37-17 as Washington's coach and 129-29 overall. Last season the Huskies went 10-3 overall and 7-2 in the Pac-12. Important returning players include QB Jake Browning, RB Myles Gaskin, TE Hunter Bryant, LB Ben Burr-Kirven, CB Byron Murphy, and S Taylor Rapp.
Browning and Gaskin are back as fourth-year starters. In 2017, Browning completed 230-of-336 attempts for 2,719 yards with 19 touchdowns and five interceptions. Gaskin had 222 carries for 1,380 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Washington's defense shut down opponent's run game last season but its secondary is probably the strength of the unit. The Huskies allowed just five touchdown passes in Pac-12 play last season, and just 10 touchdown passes on the season, tied for second nationally.
In 2017, Auburn finished 10-4 overall and 7-1 in the SEC. The Tigers are 1-7 all-time in season openers against ranked opponents and 0-3 in season openers when both teams are ranked. Auburn has lost 11 of its last 12 non-home games against top-20 teams.
Quarterback Jarrett Stidham returns after a very productive season last fall for the Tigers. Stidham completed 66 percent of his passes, threw for 3,158 yards and 18 touchdowns with just six interceptions.
Wide receiver Ryan Davis will once again look to be Stidham's favorite target in 2018 after a solid season a year ago. He led the offense with 84 catches, 815 receiving yards and five receiving touchdowns.
After a rocky 2017 season, Auburn's offensive line will be expected to do a better job in the fall of protecting Stidham. In 2017, the Tigers surrendered 2.57 sacks per game, which ranked 101st nationally. Their 6.43 tackles for loss allowed per game also ranked 93rd. If Auburn wants to have success Saturday, the new-look offensive line can't make any mistakes against one of the best defenses in the country.
Kam Martin will get the bulk of the carries in the backfield in 2018. A year ago, Martin had 74 carries for 453 yards with two touchdowns.
Auburn's defense is stout once again along the line. The unit returns three of four defensive line starters from 2017 and eight players that appeared in the two-deeps last fall. That includes standouts Dontavius Russell (46 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and three sacks in 2017), Derrick Brown (56 tackles, 9 TFL, 3.5 sacks) and Marlon Davidson (43 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks).
The secondary has to replace Carlton Davis, Tray Matthews and Stephen Roberts from last year's unit. But the Tigers do have some experience returning in Jamel Dean, Javaris Davis, Jeremiah Dinson and Daniel Thomas. Dean recorded 43 tackles, eight pass breakups and 2.5 TFL in 2017.
Prediction: Auburn 28-20.
Northwestern St at Texas A&M
Prediction: Texas A&M 45-7.
C. Carolina at South Carolina
Prediction: South Carolina 50-13.
Ole Miss vs Texas Tech
Prediction: Texas Tech 20-17.
Austin Peay at Georgia
Prediction: Georgia 55-6.
Tennessee vs West Virginia
Prediction: West Virginia 30-21.
Cent Michigan at Kentucky
Prediction: Kentucky 23-20.
UT Martin at Missouri
Prediction: Missouri 38-7.
E Illinois at Arkansas
Prediction: Arkansas 45-10.
SF Austin at Miss St
Prediction: Miss St 37-9.
Charleston So at Florida
Prediction: Florida 27-6.
Mid Tennessee at Vanderbilt
Prediction: Vanderbilt 34-23.
Louisville vs Alabama
Prediction: Alabama 37-13.
Miami vs LSU
Prediction: Miami 26-20.