One of the more interesting week one matchups is Washington State's visit to the Plains to take on Auburn. It just kind of feels like an odd pairing, and when you go beyond the names, it stays odd. Both of these teams like to run exotic offenses, but just how effective either one will be is something we'll have to wait and see on.
Gus Malzahn returns to Auburn, but this time as head coach, and he'll have a lot of work to do to turn around the Tigers from their disastrous 3-9 season last year. As for Washington State, they enter year two of the Mike Leach era, but after a 3-9 season of their own last year, even the most optimistic fans will need to see some real improvement this year if they're going to remain that way.
Rankings and records: By virtue of both teams' abysmal 2012 seasons, they both enter the 2013 season unranked. These two programs have only played once before, with Auburn coming away with a 40-14 win in 2006.
Vegas: The Tigers are 16 point favorites over the Cougars, according to oddsshark.com. The over/under for the game sits at 60.
Weather: Mid-80s with isolated thunderstorms and a thirty percent chance of rain.
Three names to know
Gus Malzahn. The architect of Auburn's 2010 national championship offense has returned after a stint at Arkansas State, and he has a lot of work to do. The program fell flat on its face last year en route to a 3-9 record, and the offense was unspeakably bad. He'll have a new quarterback this year in Nick Marshall, but it's probably foolish to expect a top level offense right away.
Nick Marshall. Speaking of Marshall, his path from Auburn has been long and winding. He broke records as a high school quarterback in Georgia, but signed on to play with Georgia as a defensive back. He was dismissed from the team after allegedly stealing money from teammates, and came to Auburn after playing for a year at a JUCO. He has a great arm and loads of athleticism, so he should fit right in with what Malzahn wants to do on offense.
Connor Halladay. The ideal triggerman in a Mike Leach offense can make reads quickly and deliver the ball accurately on short and medium passes. Connor Halladay has a lot of endearing qualities about him, but as Bill C. notes in his Washington State preview, he just may not be a great fit for Leach's system. If Halladay can come out and show that he can make the quick and smart decisions while keeping the chains moving, he'll do a lot to cement himself as the guy at quarterback.
Two things at stake
A good second impression for Gus Malzahn. The man may have a lot of goodwill left from his time as offensive coordinator, but a loss at home to a team that lost to Colorado last year would be a disastrous way to get the season started. I'm not saying he'd go right onto the hot seat, but someone will call into Finebaum and demand that he be fired, tarred, and possibly feathered.
A marquee win for Mike Leach. Outside of an improbable Apple Cup win over Washington, the only two teams the Cougars beat in 2012 were UNLV and Eastern Washington. The Washington win will give Leach a good deal more breathing room, but a name win over an out of conference team would be a substantial thing to point at and say, "Hey, we really are making progress." Expectations are low once again in 2013, but it's always nice to be able to put a big win on your mantle.
How to witness
TV: This game can be seen nationally at 7 p.m. ET on ESPNU
Online streaming: You can stream this game online via WatchESPN, depending on your cable or satellite provider.
For more on Washington State, check out Coug Center
For more on Auburn, head over to College and Magnolia