ESPN, in partnership with ABC, has announced its first three primetime showdown games to air during the first month of the 2018 college football season, matchups sure to receive national interest and unrivaled billing.

Alabama's season opener vs. Louisville in Orlando, Penn State's Week 2 clash at Pittsburgh and Week 3's neutral-site affair pitting Ohio State vs. TCU will all get evening billing across ABC's Saturday Night Football broadcasts. Alabama-Louisville kicks off Sept. 1 at Camping World Stadium at 8 p.m. EST with the Tua Tagovailoa era expected to officially kick off for the defending national champions and likely preseason No. 1.

Penn State and Pitt haven't met in primetime since the 1980s, and it was made possible after the Pittsburgh Pirates agreed to move a scheduled night game that day to an early afternoon first pitch.

TCU-Ohio State will meet on Sept. 15 inside AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys. The two schools originally had agreed to a home-and-home series but squashed that in favor of a one-game, winner-take-all tilt in Texas. This game will likely be the most important of ABC's trifecta in terms of College Football Playoff relevance at season's end and will mark Dwayne Haskins' first career start at quarterback.

The Buckeyes bring back a litany of starters off last season's Big Ten Championship team that barely missed out on a Playoff berth to fourth-seeded Alabama. Penn State embarks on its first campaign in three years without the services of all-everything tailback Saquon Barkley, the No. 2 pick in last month's NFL Draft. James Franklin and the Nittany Lions are confident Miles Sanders, the next man up in a talented backfield, is ready to become a breakout performer on a new-look offense.

Under the direction of Pat Narduzzi, Pitt is hoping to reverse its fortunes after a disappointing 5-7 finish last season that followed consecutive 8-win campaigns. The Panthers face arguably the nation's toughest non-conference slate this season, battling Penn State, UCF and Notre Dame prior to a midseason bye week.

ESPN hasn't yet announced the broadcast crews for each game, but Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit anchored the network's Saturday night coverage last season, in association with ABC.

Alabama has never lost a season opener under Nick Saban, despite several of those matchups coming against preseason nationally-ranked opponents. Saban says spotlight games against Power 5 competition helps in recruiting and exposure for the university.

“Our administration is working really hard on (scheduling),” Saban said in March. “So, consequently we’ve played in a lot of the neutral-site games." 

The Crimson Tide will receive $4.5 million for September's opener against Louisville and the same figure for 2019's first game vs. Duke, played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Alabama returns to Atlanta for its 2021 opener vs. Mark Richt's Miami Hurricanes for a $5 million payout.