The true first full week of College Football is here! Five straight days of college football whats better than that? There are three games that I feel standout as “must watch” games. All three are rematches from last years season openers, each one with different implications and story lines going into the season for each team. One is a Prime Time debut of a new look team facing off against a National Championship Runner-Up. Another is two teams looking to start their seasons off with a win as they join new conferences. The final is a rematch between two teams with playoff aspirations. Here are my Three Games to Watch: Week 1.
Colorado at #17 TCU
12:00PM Kickoff on FOX (9/2)
Last Season Records:
TCU: 13-2 (Lost BIG 12 Championship, Won Fiesta Bowl, Lost National Championship
I mean like come on, I couldn’t pic another game here. Deion Sanders makes his coaching debut against the team that lost last years National Championship, there couldn’t be a more intriguing and more hyped game to start the noon slate of games. I’m going to start with TCU first, the Horn Frogs went above and beyond in their first season under Sonny Sykes, BIG 12 Championship appearance, a playoff win, a Championship Game loss (nothing to scoff at), this was a team I had pegged to win at most 8 games and I’m sure others would have had them going 6-6. Coming into this season the Horn Frogs had massive holes to fill throughout the team and coaching staff (one of the many problems of being a successfully program). 10 total returning starters (3 offense | 7 defense) the biggest being the Quarterback position with Heisman Runner-Up Max Duggan gone, all four of the top receivers, AND offensive coordinator Garrett Riley left to go revamp Clemson. Enter Chandler Morris at QB, he actually started last season as the started before being replaced by Duggan after and injury. He looks to take control of new OC Kendall Briles offense which will have a lot of transfer portal plug and play players, Alabama Transfer Duo WR JoJO Earle and RB Trey Sanders), they do have a leader from last year in the WR room, Savion Williams looks to step up this season after at 400 yard/4TD season. The Horn Frog defense was solid last year (minus against Georgia) helping them hold on to win 4 one score games, they will return a lot of the starters/depth from last season. The biggest question mark is all the offense be as explosive? I think they will be a step down but still be one of the BIG 12’s best. Colorado was bad last season, really really really bad. 1-11 (lone win in OT against a bad Cal team). I will give Colorado props they swung for the fences for a coaching hire to completely change the culture around a abysmal program: Enter Coach Prime. Sanders went 27-6 at Jackson State the last 3 seasons, in his final season the Tigers averaged 42.2 points per game compare that to the Buffs last season: 15.4 per game. Deion hope to bring a high flying offense to Boulder and he is doing anything he can to make that happen, that includes hitting the transfer portal, hitting it VERY hard. According to 247Sports the Buffs have 51 players transferring into the program, some of the players to include: both of Sanders sons who played for him at Jackson State, Shilo Sanders (safety), Shedeuar Sanders (the teams new starting QB), and the former class of 2022 #1 overall recruit Travis Hunter (corner) who also played at Jackson State. To run the offense Sean Lewis left his head coaching job at Kent State to be apart of what Deion is cooking. In 4 out of the 5 season at Kent State, Lewis had the Golden Flashes scoring over 30 points per game, something very much needed in an offensively inept Buffs team. Charles Kelly was also swiped from another program to run the defense (associate DC for Alabama, won title with FSU in 2013). The defense will be the weak link I feel, with Travis Hunter playing corner it’ll help the secondary, I just don’t see them stopping the high powered offenses of the PAC 12 (USC, Oregon, Washington) in Sander’s first season, and Colorado is going to be moving to the BIG 12 eventually too. Expect a team in rebuild mode, with a fun offense. Two fun offenses with two equally as fun coaches on the sidelines it’ll be a fun game to kick off the Saturday Slate of games. I see TCU winning though, even with all those transfers/new toys, new coaches Colorado has, I just don’t see the Buff’s defense holding back the Horn Frogs. But hey, I thought the same thing last year with TCU, maybe Colorado can shock the college football world and pull a 2022 TCU.
UTSA at Houston
7:00PM Kickoff on FS1 (9/2)
Last Season Records:
UTSA: 11-3 (Won CUSA Championship Game, Lost Duluth Trading Cure Bowl)
Houston: 8-5 (Won Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl)
You might be asking yourself, “Wil why on earth would I watch UTSA and Houston play when 30 minutes later I could watch WVU vs Penn State or UNC vs South Carolina?” Because unlike those games this game has the chance of being a thriller from start to finish. Oh and it's a rematch from last season, where Houston won 37-35 in 3OT. The 2022 season for Houston had incredibly high expectations. After finishing 2021 with a 12-2 record and finishing rank #17 the goal was a New Years Six Bowl game or bust, I wouldn’t say it ended up a bust but finishing the regular season 7-5 and winning a bowl game to make it 8 wins was very “meh”. The Defense saw a huge regression going from 17th in the nation to 102nd, which led to three One-Score losses and a 77-63 shootout loss to SMU. Their Offense finished 17th in the nation behind one of the nations best QB-WR combos Clayton Tune and Tank Dell. Both Tune and Dell are gone now, in steps true sophomore Texas Tech QB Donovan Smith (Transfer Portal) to lead a young wide receiver room, look for Matthew Golden (38 catches, 584 yards, and 7TDs last season) as Smith’s go to early on. Two other receivers to note are transfer portal signees (former 4 star recruits) Mikal Harrison-Pilot and Jonah Wilson. The big question mark is the Defense, will they return to the 2021 level of success or the 2022 level of giving up 32.2 points per game? I defiantly think they will improve, they return a lot of starters/rotation players from the previous season specifically on the the D-Line, players like Nelson Ceaser of the edge (4 Sacks, 10 TFL in 2022). With all that being said, the Cougars are ALSO entering their first season in a newly revamped BIG 12. UTSA has been on a tear the last two seasons, a combined 23-5 overall and 15-1 in conference with back to back CUSA Championships, their one knock is they can’t get over the win a bowl game hump (0-4). They leave behind CUSA for the green pastures of the AAC and Head Coach Jeff Traylor (4th season) has the Road Runners (Meep meep) in prime position to compete for a championship their first season. Two of the Road Runners (Meep meep) three losses were by one score and Houston was one of them. 4,000 yard passer Frank Harris return at the helm of the an offense that was 12th in the nation in total offense last season, averaged 36.8 points per game, and averaged 300.4 passing yards a game. Harris loses his top target last season, Zachary Franklin (transfer to Ole Miss) so expect Joshua Cephus to be his go to, last season Cephus has 87 catches for 985 yards and 6 TDs (Third most receiving TD’s on the team behind Franklin and De’Corian Clark). On the rushing side team leading rusher Kevorian Barnes will be back too after having 851 yards and 6 TDs last game. The Road Runners will have a very dynamic offense again this season. This is going to be repeat of last seasons opener, lots of scoring, very close, expect an absolute thrill of a game between two teams hoping to start the year off on the right foot entering new conferences.
5 LSU vs #8 FSU
7:30PM Kickoff on ABC (9/3)
Last Season Records:
LSU: 10-4 (Lost SEC Championship Game, Won Cheez-it Citrus Bowl)
FSU: 10-3 (Won Cheez-it Bowl)
This is my “Game of the Week” without a doubt, I know its a copout. Two teams with VERY high expectations, both with very talented and experienced Quarterbacks, two Head Coaches who are hitting their strides in Year 2 and Year 4 at their respective helms, and like UTSA vs Houston this is a rematch from the opening game last season that had probably one the wildest ends to a game I can remember. They are also both Cheez-it Bowl Champions which is something I think not a lot of people are talking about. 2022 was a make or break year I feel for Mike Norvel at FSU, his 3rd year with the program. In 2021 FSU started 0-4 and lost to a FCS School (Jacksonville State) for the first time in program history, 2022 saw the Seminoles start 4-0, finishing 10-3 with a bowl victory (that’s one way to quiet the fanbase and keep your job). This FSU team is a legit team to have a shot at the College Football Playoffs this year, along with winning the ACC. QB Jordan Travis returns to lead an incredibly high-powered offense that was 16th in the nation scoring wise (averaging 36.1 points per game) and 10th in total offense. I’ll go even as far and say he could be in the discussion for the Heisman (pre season wise at least). The offensive line reloaded with a couple of solid transfers, and the wide receiver and running back rooms have a lot of weapons for Travis, leading receiver Johnny Wilson (43 catches, 897 yards, 5 TDS) and leading back Trey Benson (154 carries, 990 yards, 9 TDs) return. Expect a dynamic and high scoring offense again. Last season the Seminole Defense ranked 20th in the nation (allowing 20.6 points per game), they return pretty much everyone from last season, to include; 1st Team All-ACC defensive end Jared Verse (9 sacks), defensive tackle Fabien Lovett Sr, and the returning ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year Patrick Payton (5 sacks). This is a ACC Championship and Playoff team of bust. The goal for LSU I feel is to keep pace with Georgia, which is the goal for most SEC teams trying to get to the playoffs/win the SEC. They gave Georgia all the could last year in the SEC Championship but it wasn’t enough, but I will say season 1 under Brian Kelly was a success. LSU has a total of 12 returning starters this season, 8 on offense | 4 on defense. QB Jayden Daniel being one of those starters. Last season the duel-threat QB passed for 2,913 yards and had 17 TDS to 3 INTS, he was also the team leading rusher with 885 yards. The Tigers running back room last season was lackluster (injury bug) to say the least of the starting QB led the team, Notre Dame transfer Logan Diggs is one of the hopes to solve this problem (882 yard with the Irish) Josh William, John Emery Jr., and Armani Goodwin also return this season (2nd, 4th, and 5th leading rushers last season. Leading receiver Malik Nabers is also returned along with a lot a depth at the position as well. The question mark for LSU isn’t the offense though, its the defense. They were ranked 32nd in the nation last year, but with only 4 returning starters back the Tigers hit the transfer portal hard (11 total transfers). Expect the corner position to be a concern early after LSU lost all three starting corners. Both offenses will put up points thats for sure this game, the score will be a lot higher than last years 24-23. My gut says though FSU will pull through, LSU’s secondary is too young and the receivers of FSU will take full advantage of that. The game will be a blast though, mate it’ll end on a blocked extra point again, who knows.
-Wil Weddington (@wilweddington)