After what seemed like an endless offseason dominated by wrangling over the transfer portal, NIL’s “protective barriers,” conference realignment and now TV media rights deals, the real football is here.
We got a taste of Week 0, but there’s a five-day football feast coming up. Here’s a guide for early viewers of week 1 of the college football season.
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Thursday, September 1
Big Screen TV: West Virginia at Pitt, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Backyard Brawl returns after an 11-year hiatus, and the quarterback matchup is a battle of former USC quarterbacks in Kedon Slovis and JT Daniels. The Mountaineers have lost their first game against a Power 5 opponent each of the last three years.
Second TV Choice: Penn State at Purdue, 8 p.m. (FOX)
The Big Ten have had success powering the Week 1 conference starts, and this should be a fun matchup with veteran QBs Aidan O’Connell and Sean Clifford. The Nittany Lions have won the last nine meetings in the series; a streak dating back to 2004.
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Ball State at Tennessee, 7 p.m. (SEC Network)
Central Michigan in the state of Oklahoma, 7 pm (FS1)
Louisiana Tech in Missouri, 8 p.m. (ESPNU)
Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker may generate some early Heisman hype against the Cardinals. Central Michigan and Oklahoma State are meeting for the first time since the infamous Ave Maria in 2016 gave the Chippewas a last-second win. Sonny Cumbie makes his coaching debut with Louisiana Tech.
Friday, September 2
Big Screen TV Game: Illinois at Indiana, 8 p.m. (FS1)
Another fun Big Ten starter is the best bet on a light Friday night schedule. The Illini defeated Nebraska on the road in the first game last season. Can Bret Bielema do it again at Big Ten Lay? Indiana was the feel-good story of 2020 before hitting rock bottom last season. Tom Allen will try to get Indiana back into the Big Ten mix.
TV 2nd Choice: Western Michigan at Michigan State (ESPN)
The Spartans have made Friday night openers a tradition since 2011, and are 9-0 in those games. Transfer running backs Jalen Berger and Jarek Broussard will be the focus as Kenneth Walker III’s replacement. West Michigan running backs Sean Tyler and La’darius Jefferson combined for 1,986 yards and 19 TDs in 2021.
Virginia Tech at Old Dominion, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
Duke Temple, 7:30 p.m. (ACC Network)
TCU in Colorado, 10:00 p.m. (ESPN)
Brent Pry and Mike Elko make their respective debuts for the Hokies and Blue Devils, and Sonny Dykes leads the Horned Frogs into a nightly showdown with the Buffaloes. When you play Friday night football for the first time, you take it.
Saturday, September 3
Big screen TV: North Carolina at Appalachian State, 12 pm (ESPNU)
Mack Brown began his coaching career at Appalachian State in 1983. Now, he returns to Boone, NC. The Mountaineers have a chance to play spoilsport, and the Tar Heels look to bounce back after a tough 2021 season.
TV Choice 2: Colorado State at Michigan, 12pm (ABC)
Jay Norvell is making his Colorado State coaching debut, and the Rams are hoping for better things. Michigan begins its Big Ten title defense under Jim Harbaugh. How will representatives in the Big House divide quarterbacks Cade McNamara and JJ McCarthy?
Sam Houston State at Texas A&M, 12 p.m. (SEC Network)
North Carolina State at East Carolina, 12 p.m. (ESPN)
Buffalo in Maryland, 12 p.m. (BTN)
The Aggies open a trial season with Jimbo Fisher against a quality FCS opponent in Sam Houston State. Expectations are high for quarterback Devin Leary at NC State, and they open against an upgraded ECU program. Maryland’s Taulia Tagovailoa will be looking to get Maryland off to a fast start against the Bulls.
Big Screen TV: Oregon vs. Georgia, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN)
The Chick-fil-A Kickoff game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta has stories. Former Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning takes over at Oregon, and former Auburn quarterback Bo Nix could be his starter. The Ducks are big underdogs against defending national champion Georgia. Kirby Smart recovers a charged defense around Nolan Smith, Jalen Carter and Kelee Ringo. Quarterback Stetson Bennett also has Brock Bowers as his favorite target.
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Second TV choice: Cincinnati at Arkansas, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN)
It’s a top 25 matchup in Fayetteville. The Bearcats sent a school record nine players to last year’s College Football Playoff Team NFL Draft. Now, Cincinnati has its biggest non-conference game on the road against Arkansas, which returns with one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC in KJ Jefferson.
Half-time option: Rice at USC, 6 p.m. (Pac-12 Network)
No team generated more buzz this offseason than the Trojans, who could bring a top-10 ranking to new coach Lincoln Riley’s debut. The transfer trio of quarterback Caleb Williams (Oklahoma), running back Travis Dye (Oregon) and receiver Jordan Addison (Pitt) come into focus against the Owls.
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UTEP in Oklahoma, 3:30 p.m. (FOX)
North Dakota at Nebraska, 3:30 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
Arizona at San Diego State, 3:30 p.m. (CBS)
Brent Venables and Dillon Gabriel make their debuts for the new Sooners. Nebraska will make the long trip back from Dublin. Yes, that’s the Wildcats and Aztecs on CBS in the afternoon window.
prime time games
Big Screen TV: Notre Dame at Ohio State, 7:30 p.m. (ABC)
The Buckeyes and Irish meet for the first time in the regular season since the legendary 1995-1996 home-and-home series. Former Ohio State linebacker Marcus Freeman returns as the Irish’s head coach with a talented roster that includes American tight end Michael Mayer. Ohio State coach Ryan Day hired Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles to rebuild a shaky defense. How will the Irish stop the Buckeyes’ powerful offense featuring Heisman contenders CJ Stroud and Jaxon Smith-Njigba?
BENDER: Big Ten should stop playing Notre Dame
TV’s Second Choice: Utah at Florida, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Billy Napier makes his Florida debut, but this is no easy beatdown in The Swamp. Utah, the defending Pac-12 champions, is a CFP contender with a roster that features quarterback Cam Rising with a strong running game and defense. This is a big game for Kyle Whittingham, the Utes and the Pac-12. Will quarterback Anthony Richardson fight back with a strong opening statement for the Gators?
Halftime Option: Utah State at Alabama, 7:30 p.m. (SEC Network)
The Crimson Tide are not in one of those first neutral site matches this year under Nick Saban. Instead, the Crimson Tide will be at home. Heisman Trophy contenders Bryce Young and Will Anderson are part of another charged machine. Saban will not take these Aggies (or any Aggie) lightly. Utah State won the Mountain West Conference in 2021 under Blake Anderson.
UL-Monroe in Texas, 8 p.m. (LHN)
Memphis in the state of Mississippi, 7:30 pm, (ESPNU)
Boise State at Oregon State, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Speaking of Texas, all eyes will be on Quinn Ewers against UL-Monroe. Memphis beat Mississippi State 31-29 last season. Will the last six minutes be crazy? The Broncos and Beavers close out Saturday’s schedule with that late-night fix.
Sunday, September 4
Big screen TV: Florida State vs. LSU, 7:30 p.m. (ABC)
Brian Kelly makes his LSU debut at Caesars Superdome in New Orleans. Will Arizona State transfer Jayden Daniels be the starting quarterback? The Seminoles started 0-2 in Mike Norvell’s first season and 0-4 last year. Florida State hasn’t won its first game since 2016.
Monday, September 5
Big Screen TV: Clemson vs. Georgia Tech, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)
This Labor Day matchup is at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The Tigers needed a goal-line position to pull off a 14-8 victory against the Yellow Jackets in 2021. Clemson has won the last seven meetings, and all eyes will be on DJ Uiagalelei to see what has changed after a inconsistent 2021 season.