Week 1 of the 2022 college football season is here and so is our weekly look at Anxiety Games across the country. For those new here, we’re aware of games where fans and/or coaching staff of specific shows may feel a bit uneasy about things going downhill with a loss.
We pinpointed some of these games for the Week 0 light board last week and saw how they panned out. Nebraska blew not one but two double-digit leads in a 31-28 loss to Northwestern in Ireland and head coach Scott Frost’s seat went from hot to smoldering. The other game saw the Florida Atlantic put the beats on Charlotte for a 43-13 win, setting up the Owls nicely to move forward while putting the 49ers behind the eight ball.
With everyone ready to be in action over Labor Day weekend, we’ll pick a handful of anxiety games/bowls for the board.
Penn State at Purdue, 8 p.m. ET (Thurs.), Fox
In one corner, you have a Penn State program trying to get back into the top echelon of the Big Ten after back-to-back losing seasons. Head coach James Franklin’s name was repeatedly linked to vacancies like USC and LSU and PSU’s top brass responded by giving him a 10-year contract extension last November. While it’s good for the program to secure its successful coach for the future, there is an expectation in Happy Valley to keep up with Ohio State and Michigan in the league. A loss to Purdue in West Lafayette, IN, to open the season wouldn’t be ideal for those aspirations.
In the other corner, you have a Purdue team coming off a 9-4 season, their best since 2003. The Boilermakers were able to pull this off after it looked like the Jeff Brohm era was beginning to fade after an exciting start. . A loss to Penn State wouldn’t be the end of the world, but it would slightly dampen the momentum gained last season.
Memphis at Mississippi State, 7:30 p.m. ET (Saturday), ESPNU
It’s always a risky proposition any time one of Mississippi’s SEC schools plays regional foe Memphis, and Mississippi State remembered that last year. The Bulldogs will welcome the Tigers to Starkville to open Year 3 of the Mike Leach era and this is a season they would like to step up as the players should already be thoroughly familiar with the Air Raid. Another loss to Memphis wouldn’t put Leach on the bench or anything, but it’s one of those things that could be used against him later if things go wrong.
As for Memphis, they’ve regressed from the top tier of the AAC since Mike Norvell left after the 2019 season. They’re a bit of an unknown after a 6-6 campaign last year and there’s added anxiety surrounding the schedule. after missing the Big 12 cut in the last round of conference realignment. If State knocks them out in Starkville to open the year, then questions will be raised about coach Ryan Silverfield’s long-term prospects.
Louisville at Syracuse, 8 p.m. ET (Saturday), ACC Network
Let’s go to the
Conveyor JMA Wireless Dome on a Saturday night for a matchup between two ACC coaching staffs who will be on the chopping block if no progress is made this season.
Louisville is now in the fourth year of the Scott Satterfield experience rollercoaster ride and we’re still not too far from him being caught trying to bail out of South Carolina. He has regained some of the goodwill he lost by already having eight top-tier prospects lined up for the 2023 draft class and has a potential Heisman candidate in Malik Cunningham at quarterback. A season-opening loss could deflate all that and put Satt back in danger.
Meanwhile, we’ve seen continued diminishing returns from Dino Babers and Syracuse since their 10-win campaign in 2018. They were crushed in their last three games last season, putting them at 5-7 and losing a bowl. The reported buyout tied to the Babers contract may be why he is still in charge and higher-ups in upstate may be playing the waiting game. A big loss to open the season could hasten that decision.
Florida State vs. LSU, 7:30 p.m. ET (Sunday), ABC
Outside of Notre Dame-Ohio State, the biggest “helmet” game of the weekend will be Florida State’s meeting with LSU inside the Superdome in New Orleans on Sunday night.
The aforementioned Mike Norvell is 8-13 in his first two years as FSU head coach and is understood to be progressing in Year 3, with bowl eligibility being the benchmark. The upper echelons of Tallahassee, FL, have shown restraint and patience with the former Memphis head coach and that’s a good thing considering the internal instability within the program since Jimbo Fisher’s departure. However, that patience will quickly begin to wear thin if results don’t pan out and a loss at the Dome could create more anxiety as the season progresses.
Meanwhile, LSU is probably the biggest question mark in the SEC heading into the season, as no one can really fathom what Brian Kelly’s LSU will look like in the first year of his tenure in Baton Rouge, LA. No, Kelly won’t be in jeopardy if he loses his first game as Tigers head coach, but how they perform could set the tone for good or bad.