North Texas at No. 1 LSU
Kickoff: Saturday, 7 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Spread: LSU by 43
Watchability: LSU coaches have been talking up a more diversified offense led by strong-armed QB Zach Mettenberger. It will be fun seeing the first-time starter air it out to sophomore speedster Odell Beckham Jr.
Shining stars: LSU: RB Kenny Hilliard. Just named a co-starter with Alfred Blue, the sophomore Hilliard has a nose for the end zone; he scored eight TDs on just 62 carries last year. Coach Les Miles calls Hilliard (6-0, 231) “a physical back with a great first step.” North Texas: QB Derek Thompson. The fourth-year junior accounted for 14 TDs last season (11 passing) against six INTs. He's capable of a big game, as he showed going 31 of 38 for 331 yards and two scores in the school's first-ever win at Troy. Thompson (6-4, 226) has an experienced group of receivers but little running game to lean on.
Who could steal the show: LSU: CB Tharold Simon. The Mean Green will have to throw to have any chance of moving the ball, so Simon will be busy. No longer overshadowed by Tyrann Mathieu, Simon (6-3, 193) will emerge as one of the nation's top cover corners. He has 13 pass breakups and three INTs in 21 games. North Texas: LB Zachary Orr. Despite missing three games to injury last year, he led the team with 74 tackles and also had seven tackles for loss, two sacks, an INT, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.
You going? Ranking the road trip: Night game in Death Valley? We're there. No matter the opponent, it's an event. It gets so loud the stadium once caused a tremor that registered on the Richter Scale. Night games enable the raucous fan base to spend all day in Baton Rouge getting, ahem, prepared. Fans will notice improvements to Tiger Stadium, including a new lighting system that turns the upper archways on the north end purple and gold.
Magic number for LSU: 9. LSU has won nine straight openers since a 26-8 loss to Virginia Tech in 2002. All-time, the Tigers are 85-28-5 in season openers.
Magic number for North Texas: 18. North Texas has lost 18 straight games to SEC opponents since beating Tennessee in 1975. Last year, the Mean Green got buried 41-0 by Alabama.
The game comes down to: LSU can name its score, even with leading returning rusher Michael Ford and LB Tahj Jones possibly unavailable due to academic eligibility issues. The top-ranked Tigers are facing a team picked to finish eighth in the Sun Belt.
Prediction: LSU 51, North Texas 10
For more up-to-the minute news and analysis from SEC bloggers Larry Hartstein and Daniel Lewis, follow @CBSSportsSEC.