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CFB Week One

College Football TV-Watching Guide – Week 1

You got your appetizer last week in Week 0, an Irish dish and maybe some (southern) california rolls to share. But now it’s time for the big entree. 

Labor Day weekend brings with it the beginning of a brand new college football season, and there are FIVE (!) straight days of games involving Power 5 teams going Thursday through Monday.

Like any football team, in order to maximize your football watching ability you need a game plan. So here’s our first of a new weekly installment, the College Football TV-Watching Guide for Week 1.

I’ll tell you what you need to watch in each game window with the big screen, which you can throw on your laptop or phone in the background, and which you can ignore every week. So let’s dive in. 

Thursday, August 31

College football on Thursday? College football on Thursday. And some real games at that.

MUST-WATCH

Florida Gators @ #14 Utah Utes (-6.5) – 8:00 PM/ESPN

The Gators and Utes delivered an excellent Week 1 matchup in 2022 in Gainesville, and I expect another one to kick off the slate in 2023. 

Utah is hosting a team from the big bad SEC for the first time in program history, and will be looking to win its third consecutive Pac-12 championship this season despite being only the fourth-best betting favorite to win the conference. 

The Utes have uncertainty at quarterback, as returning signal-caller Cam Rising has spent the offseason recovering from a torn ACL in the team’s Rose Bowl loss to Penn State last January. If Rising can’t suit up, head coach Kyle Wittingham will likely turn to junior Bryson Barnes to make his second career start.

As for second-year head man Billy Napier and the Florida Gators, the pressure is on this season following a 6-6 regular season and a shellacking in the Las Vegas Bowl against Oregon State to cap a disappointing 2022 campaign. 

With Anthony Richardson off to the NFL, Napier snagged former Wisconsin QB Graham Mertz out of the transfer portal to lead the offense. Hopefully for Gators fans, Mertz can benefit from a change of scenery in Gainesville as he never quite found his footing for the Badgers. 

I expect the scene in Salt Lake City to be electric, but being possibly without Rising and all-conference tight end Brand Kuithe due to injury as well I expect Florida to pick up a big road win to build confidence headed into this season.

BACKGROUND NOISE

Nebraska Cornhuskers @ Minnesota Golden Gophers (-7) – 8:00 PM/FOX

  • Matt Rhule’s first game comes in a conference tilt against a talented Minnesota team with eyes on Indianapolis. With Rhule’s track record of turning around programs,  eventually this matchup will be no issue for the Huskers. But Thursday, I don’t see how Minnesota doesn’t run all over the field and roll to a win at home.

Friday September 1

Friday is definitely the weakest selection of the week, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a couple games worth keeping track of.

MUST WATCH

None

Want to take a night off to catch a local high school game or have a date night with your significant other? Friday night could be your option as no preseason top-25 teams take the field and only one Power 5 matchup is on the docket. Save your best game day food for Saturday.

BACKGROUND NOISE

Louisville Cardinals @ Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (+8.5) – 7:30 PM/ESPN

  • The first year of the Jeff Brohm era begins in Atlanta, and with a workable schedule that doesn’t include Clemson or Florida State the Cards are a popular sleeper pick in the ACC. Look for them to win and cover in Tech’s backyard.

Miami (OH) RedHawks @ Miami (FL) Hurricanes (-17.5) – 7:00 PM/ACC Network

  • Put it on just to see who can truly claim the Miami moniker. The Canes have brought in new offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson to try and spark what was a brutally stagnant offense at times last season. How do you get on the right track after missing a bowl game a season ago? You bring in a Miami (OH) team that lost a third of its offensive production to serve on a silver platter. Canes over the RedHawks in this one.

Saturday September 2

Thursday and Friday might as well be preseason for finding the best seat on your couch, because you’ll want to be strapped in for the first glorious Saturday of 12 straight hours of college football

MUST WATCH

12:00 PM: Virginia Cavaliers @ #12 Tennessee Volunteers (-27.5) – ABC

I can’t sit here and tell you that this game will be close or even competitive. Virginia might lay claim to the worst Power 5 team this season and the Vols are on the rise after an impressive 2022. 

However, if you want to earn points at the water cooler on Monday morning, you tell your coworkers that you watched the next Anthony Richardson-level riser up NFL Draft boards in the form of Tennessee QB Joe Milton.

After losing his job at Michigan to Shea Patterson, moving on to Rocky Top and losing the QB1 spot again to Hendon Hooker, it’s the last dance for Milton and his rocket ship of a right arm. He can let it rip with the best of them, but how well Milton will be able to locate, use his legs, and manage games will decide whether or not he’s a future top 5 NFL draft pick.

I’ve got Tennessee winning and covering in front of a Vol-friendly crowd in Nashville.

7:30 PM: #21 North Carolina Tar Heels @ South Carolina Gamecocks (+2.5) – ABC

Not only do Shane Beamer and the Gamecocks have one of the hardest schedules in the nation in 2023, they kick it off at a neutral site in Charlotte against nationally-ranked North Carolina and its Heisman-contender QB Drake Maye.

USC has reason to believe it’s still on the way up in the SEC East, especially with its two season-defining wins to finish the 2022 season. The Gamecocks derailed Tennessee’s playoff hopes with a 63-38 win at Williams-Brice Stadium, then went on the road to beat Clemson for the first time since 2013. Add on another year of Spencer Rattler at QB, and this is the best quarterback matchup of the day.  

North Carolina has no questions on offense with Maye returning to lead the way. On the other side of the ball, they have nothing *but* questions. The Tar Heels were in the bottom 30 of FBS in opponents points per game and didn’t plug the gaps with much out of the transfer portal. 

South Carolina wins outright in a shootout and keeps the momentum up from the end of 2022 into 2023. 

BACKGROUND NOISE

12:00 PM: Colorado Buffaloes @ #17 TCU Horned Frogs (-20.5) – FOX

  • It’s Prime Time in Boulder as Deion Sanders and his completely flipped Buffs team visit Sonny Dykes and TCU coming off of a national title game appearance. Let’s not forget, Colorado went 1-11 a season ago and have nowhere near the talent to compete with the Horned Frogs here. But former top-ranked recruit Travis Hunter might play two-ways at corner and wideout, so I guess that’s cool.

3:30 PM: Boise State Broncos @ #10 Washington Huskies (-15) – ABC

  • Michael Penix Jr. represents another one of the quarterbacks that hope to find their way to the Heisman ceremony out of the Pac-12, as the Huskies return the third most production in the league. Penix can light up the scoreboard, and the Huskies win at home in a game closer than expected.

7:30 PM: West Virginia Mountaineers @ #7 Penn State Nittany Lions (-20.5) – NBC

  • The Nittany Lions hand over the offense to former five-star quarterback Drew Allar after what felt like thirty years of Sean Clifford manning the huddle in Happy Valley. James Franklin might have his most talented team yet with returning skill position players and multiple future first round picks on defense. The Neal Brown seat gets hot after the Mountaineers get drubbed out of town. 

Sunday September 3

MUST WATCH

#5 LSU Tigers @ #8 Florida State Seminoles (+2.5) – 7:30 PM/ABC

The reason why UNC/USC is the best quarterback matchup of the day and not week is because this game exists. 

Remember back to last year when the Tigers dropped this game in New Orleans on a blocked extra point with no time left on the clock in Brian Kelly’s first game. Now we get the return matchup in Orlando between two quarterbacks that meet for a second time (and might meet a third time in New York at the Heisman). 

Jordan Travis and the ‘Noles return the most production in college football this season off of a team that went 10-3 and finished with a bowl win over Oklahoma. There might not be bigger hype for any team out there than the one in Tallahassee, and the expectation is that Florida State gives Clemson a true challenge in the ACC for the first time in years. 

LSU will always have a talented group, and the defending SEC West champs (you didn’t forget they beat Alabama did you?) should feel like the road to Atlanta runs through Baton Rouge again. The Tigers also could have the best offensive player in the country in QB Jayden Daniels as well as best defensive player with LB Harold Perkins. 

LSU gets its revenge after last year’s shocker, but Florida State covers the 2.5 point spread in the best game of the weekend. 

Monday September 4

BACKGROUND NOISE

#9 Clemson Tigers @ Duke Blue Devils (+12.5) – 8:00 PM/ESPN

  • Just because there’s only one game in a night doesn’t mean you have to clear your schedule. After a surprise 9-4 campaign that finished with a bowl win over UCF, the Blue Devils have become a popular upset pick to knock off Dabo Swinney and the Tigers in Durham. Sure, Clemson did not look good in an Orange Bowl loss to Tennessee. But give sophomore quarterback Cade Klubnik an entire offseason as the starter, as well as the best assistant hire in the nation in new offensive coordinator Garrett Riley, and the result is a comfortable Tigers win.

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