Central Florida vs. South Carolina St., 6 p.m.
The Knights begin Year 2 in Bright House Networks Stadium searching to replace several key players, including an All-America running back and experienced passer. Kevin Smith left for the NFL after a junior season in which he led the nation with 2,567 rushing yards and scored 29 touchdowns. And the Knights need to replace Kyle Israel, who threw for 2,173 yards and 15 touchdowns. UCF recently named junior transfer Michael Greco — the only experienced quarterback — the starter over redshirt freshman Joe Weatherford, a Land O'Lakes High graduate. The backfield remains unproven with four freshman running backs.
Florida A&M vs. Alabama St., 6 p.m.
The Joe Taylor era begins as the Rattlers try to rebound from a season that spiraled downward after starting quarterback Albert Chester quit and led to coach Rubin Carter being fired. FAMU finished 3-8 after dropping six of its last seven, including the Florida Classic. Taylor, who left Hampton after 16 seasons, has built a winning reputation through running the football.
Florida Atlantic AT No. 11 Texas, 7 p.m.
The confident defending Sun Belt champions head to Austin for what Owls coach Howard Schnellenberger hopes can be the start of a great season. An upset of Texas would certainly help. The Owls look at last season's Longhorns opener against Arkansas State as a good barometer of what to expect. Texas managed to sneak out with a 21-13 victory. The Owls have a bona fide quarterback in junior Rusty Smith, who threw for 3,688 yards and 32 touchdowns in 2007.
Florida international AT No. 14 Kansas, 7 p.m.
The Golden Panthers have a one-game win streak dating to last season's 38-19 victory against North Texas. That's a big deal when you consider FIU held the nation's longest losing streak to that point at 23. But second-year coach Mario Cristobol will have plenty of convincing to do to get the Golden Panthers in upset mode. The Jayhawks are coming off a 12-win season — the most in school history — that included an Orange Bowl victory against Virginia Tech. Kansas won last season's matchup 55-3.
Izzy Gould, Times staff writer