Top 25 Preview Capsules

Line: Ohio State by 28 1/2.

Series Record: Ohio State leads 1-0.

Last Meeting: 2004, Ohio State 24-21.

What’s at Stake

Marshall wants to get off to a good start under new head coach Doc Holliday. Ohio State is out to preserve its lofty ranking heading into a showdown with No. 13 Miami on Sept. 11 at Ohio Stadium.

Key Matchup

Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor against Marshall’s defense, led by LB Mario Harvey. The Thundering Herd return six starters from last year’s 7-6 team that surrendered 52 points apiece to Virginia Tech and UTEP. Pryor believes he’s more mature, makes better decisions and has refined his throwing motion. Marshall’s hopes ride on whether all that is true.

Players to Watch

Marshall: Lee Smith, 6-foot-6 and 267 pounds, is one of the top tight ends in America. Can QB Brian Anderson avoid Ohio State’s pressure by dumping the ball off to the SUV-sized receiver?

Ohio State: Tyler Moeller gets the start at the “star” spot, a hybrid of linebacker and safety. Moeller missed all of last season after he was punched in a Florida bar and suffered a fractured skull and brain injuries. He’s been inflicting some big hits in practice and now wants to make up for all that lost time.

Facts & Figures

Marshall beat Ohio _ a distinctly different proposition from upstate bully Ohio State _ in its most recent game, last year’s Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. … It’ll be crowded for the coin flip when Ohio State sends out six captains _ matching its most in 121 years of intercollegiate football. … Marshall is observing the 40th anniversary this season of the tragic plane crash that took the lives of 75 people, mostly players, on Nov. 14, 1970. … This is the first time Ohio State has played a home game on a non-Saturday since beating Wyoming 24-10 in 1997, also a Thursday night season opener. … Thundering Herd backup LB George Carpenter is the younger brother of former Ohio State star Bobby Carpenter. In addition, Marshall assistant coach Zack Smith is the grandson of ex-Ohio State head coach Earle Bruce.

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Florida A&M (0-0) at No. 13 Miami (0-0), 7:30 p.m. EDT (ESPN3.com)

Line: No line.

Series Record: Miami leads 7-1.

Last Meeting: 2009, Miami 48-16.

What’s at Stake

Bragging rights, mostly. Florida A&M believes it was far more competitive in last season’s matchup than the final score, and with a roster loaded with players from the Sunshine State, it seems like a rivalry game for the Rattlers. Miami’s goal for Week 1 is far more obvious. The Hurricanes want to see what they have from their second-stringers _ and hope to get them plenty of action _ plus see development from the tight ends and defensive front four.

Key Matchup

Miami vs. Ohio State. It would be easy to say that the key matchup is how the Hurricanes load up against Florida A&M running back Philip Sylvester, who’ll likely be in some Wildcat formations and get more touches than just about anyone for the Rattlers. The true test for the Hurricanes will instead be keeping their minds on Week 1, and not looking ahead to No. 2 Ohio State. The long-awaited rematch in Week 2 pits two programs who met nearly eight years ago in a national title game that Miami felt it gave away.

Players to watch

Florida A&M: Sylvester. A 3.0 student, a leader on and off the field, the slight running back _ he might be generously listed at 5-foot-9 _ could be the sort of game-changer that gives the Rattlers some hope of a supreme upset.

Miami: QB Jacory Harris. All eyes will be on Miami’s junior leader, especially after offseason thumb surgery. Harris had 17 interceptions last season, second-most in major college football, and his biggest point of emphasis this season is to stop making the harried, hurried throws that led to giveaways in 2009.

Facts & Figures

The Hurricanes opened last season against ranked teams Florida State, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Oklahoma. They won three of four. … The Rattlers are replacing QB Curtis Pulley, who had 2,705 total yards and 18 touchdowns as a senior. … The Hurricanes have won seven straight since the first meeting between the schools in 1979. The Rattlers have been outscored 219-46 over the last four meetings.

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No. 14 Southern California (0-0) at Hawaii (0-0), 11 p.m. EDT (ESPN)

Line: USC by 21 1/2

Series Record: USC 6-0

Last Meeting: 2005, USC 62-7

What’s at Stake

With the Rose Bowl out of the picture because of NCAA sanctions, Southern California is looking to go undefeated this year. The Trojans finished 9-4 last season, the most losses since 2001, and were fifth in the Pac-10. The game marks the debut of coach and former USC assistant Lane Kiffin, who rejoined the program after a year with Tennessee and 20 games with the Oakland Raiders. Hawaii, meanwhile, is trying to get back to a bowl game after missing the postseason for the first time since 2005.

Key Matchup

USC defensive line vs. Hawaii offensive line. The Trojans should be able to score points in bunches, so it will be a matter if the Warriors can keep up. The Warriors will be challenged up front after losing four starters. The young line will need to give QB Bryant Moniz time to throw and keep the chains moving. Despite the loss of DE Everson Griffen to the NFL, USC still has a talented, physical line led by DT Jurrell Casey and DE Armond Armstead.

Players to watch

USC QB Matt Barkley and RB Marc Tyler. Everyone wants to know how will Barkley will follow up his freshman campaign. Last year, he showed plenty of potential in throwing for 2,735 yards, 15 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Tyler earned the starting spot after beating out the team’s top returning rusher in senior Allen Bradford.

Hawaii WR Greg Salas is the Warriors’ biggest weapon. He averaged 122.3 yards and 8.15 receptions per game last year.

Facts & Figures

USC is 29-1 against the Western Athletic Conference … This is the third time since 1999 that the schools have opened against each other … USC has outscored Hawaii 297-67 in six meetings … Hawaii has defeated its last two Pac-10 opponents at home (Washington State in 2008 and Washington in 2007) … USC has a 20-10-3 record on Thursdays … USC has four players from Hawaii, while the Warriors feature 33 players from California.

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No. 15 Pittsburgh (0-0) at Utah (0-0), 8:30 p.m. EDT (Versus)

Line: Utah by 3.

Series Record: Utah leads 1-0.

Last meeting: 2005 Fiesta Bowl, Utah 35-7.

What’s at Stake

Utah has won its last 17 home games and needs No. 18 on Thursday to avoid an early knockout in the fight for an at-large BCS berth. Pittsburgh is trying to hang on to its highest preseason ranking since the Panthers were No. 10 entering the 2003 season.

Key Matchup

Utah’s defensive line vs. Pitt’s offense. The Utes have more depth on the defensive front than anywhere else entering the season. Pitt has three new offensive linemen and a new quarterback in Tino Sunseri.

Players to Watch

Pittsburgh: RB Dion Lewis, whose 1,799 yards rushing last season were the second-most in school history. Only Tony Dorsett ran for more in a season at Pittsburgh, gaining 2,150 yards when he won the Heisman Trophy in 1976. The Panthers will rely on Lewis to offset inexperience up front and at quarterback.

Utah: QB Jordan Wynn took over the starting job midway through his freshman season, but is locked in at No. 1 for the Utes entering his sophomore year. Wynn completed 58 percent of his passes and threw for 1,329 yards with eight touchdowns and four interceptions in six games.

Facts & Figures

Although Kyle Whittingham was co-head coach with Urban Meyer when the Utes capped an unbeaten 2004 season by beating the Panthers in the Fiesta Bowl, the game is officially the first coaching victory of Whittingham’s career. … Utah is 7-0 against members of the Big East. … Pitt is 3-2 in season openers under coach Dave Wannstedt. … The Panthers last opened the season on the road in 1993, when they beat Southern Mississippi 14-10.

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