Editor’s note: Follow all the action in Week 1 of college football with USA TODAY Sports’ live coverage.
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The time has arrived, college football fans. Sure, we had a little teaser with the abbreviated slate known as Week 0, but now that it’s officially September, everybody else in the sport’s top division is getting their season underway as well.
The Week 1 schedule is actually fairly light on high-profile matchups. But with a full television lineup, which is happily extended a couple of days thanks to the holiday weekend, there should be something worthy of attention going on all the way through Monday night. Some of these won’t have much time-slot competition, but keep that remote handy as always when sitting down to enjoy your Saturday.
Here’s a quick rundown of the weekend’s top games.
No. 5 LSU vs. No. 8 Florida State
TIME/TV: Sunday, 7:30 p.M. ET, ABC.
Why watch: The lone top-10 matchup of the weekend gets the Sunday night spotlight. The Seminoles escaped with a one-point triumph against the Bayou Bengals in New Orleans last season, but there’s an unmistakable vibe that the stakes are much higher this time in Orlando as fans of both proud programs are thinking playoff. Florida State QB Jordan Travis is back and has a lot of talent returning with him, but he might face the tougher challenge against an SEC caliber defense, notwithstanding the absence of LSU DT Maason Smith due to a one-game suspension. But the Seminoles have some stoppers as well like DE Jared Verse that could make life equally difficult for incumbent Tigers QB Jayden Daniels.
Why it could disappoint: Last year’s frantic finish and the high expectations for both teams are a pretty good indicator that it won’t. Each has lot of experience, and there are enough explosive playmakers on both sides to make a blowout highly unlikely.
RECORD PROJECTIONS: How each Power Five team will fare.
CRYSTAL BALL: Season predictions for playoff, Heisman, more.
No. 9 Clemson at Duke
TIME/TV: Monday, 8 p.M. ET, ESPN.
Why watch: Clemson jumps right into ACC competition in the Labor Day night special, and it might not be the walk in the park Tigers’ fans have come to expect when visiting Duke. The Blue Devils won nine games in Mike Elko’s first year at the helm and were within a field goal of winning three more. Granted there was no Clemson on the schedule, and the Tigers didn’t lose to anyone within the conference. Clemson’s offense is now in the hands of QB Cade Klubnik, and he’ll want to reestablish the explosiveness of the attack early on with help from WR Beaux Collins and RB Will Shipley. Duke QB Riley Leonard is also back, and he’ll be just as motivated to demonstrate that last year’s success was not a fluke. His equally battle-tested arsenal includes WR Jalon Calhoun and RB Jordan Waters.
Why it could disappoint: The matchup with the biggest mismatch potential is Clemson’s defensive front. If Duke’s blockers can hold their own and keep the negative plays to a minimum, the Blue Devils will make a game of it. But if enough early drives are snuffed out, the Tigers could take the home crowd out of the game.
No. 20 North Carolina vs. South Carolina
TIME/TV: Saturday, 7:30 p.M. ET, ABC.
Why watch: No, the winner of this contest in Charlotte won’t get to call itself just Carolina for the rest of the season. But make no mistake – there’s no love lost between these one-time ACC rivals from bordering states. South Carolina wrapped up the 2022 regular season by ruining archrival Clemson’s playoff aspirations and would love to start 2023 on another high note. This has all the makings of a track meet. Thanks in large measure to the return of dynamic QB Drake Maye, the Tar Heels are projected to land in the ACC’s upper echelon. But there were enough issues on the defensive side of the ball to make their fans nervous, and Gamecocks QB Spencer Rattler is more than capable of exploiting any unaddressed flaws.
Why it could disappoint: Nine of the Tar Heels 14 games in 2022 were decided by a touchdown or less, so a rout in either direction is unlikely. A spate of early turnovers is always possible, but both Rattler and Maye have worked hard to cut down on mistakes.
Boise State at No. 11 Washington
TIME/TV: Saturday, 3:30 p.M. ET, ABC.
Why watch: Here we have an interesting convergence of programs from the northwest that have for the most part been successful over the years. The Broncos are frequently listed among the top programs from outside the power conferences, though they’ve yet to match their dream 2006 season that culminated in a Fiesta Bowl win for the ages. An opening upset of the Huskies, who have returned to their winning ways with Kalen DeBoer at the helm, would be a huge feather for the Boise State program. But it won’t be easy; Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. Is back with a slew of experienced playmakers around him, and the Huskies’ pass rush should be formidable. But the Broncos might be able to negate that with a strong ground game, led by RB George Holani with QB Taylen Green also contributing.
Why it could disappoint: The Broncos come in with a lot more questions on the defensive side of the ball. If they find themselves in an early hole, a road rally could prove difficult.
No. 4 Ohio State at Indiana
TIME/TV: Saturday, 3:30 p.M. ET, CBS.
Why watch: The Buckeyes will be taking on another team in the Hoosier State in a few weeks that might have a wee bit more intrigue. But for now they’ll kick off their Big Ten slate right out of the gate on the road, where a retooled Indiana hopes to recapture some lost mojo from a couple seasons ago. C.J. Stroud’s successor at QB for the Buckeyes will be Kyle McCord, who will have an embarrassment of riches to throw to but will face a hostile crowd and likely some creative pressure packages from the Hoosiers’ defense in his first start. Indiana counters with QB Tayven Jackson, a transfer from Tennessee who will be working with a much less experienced group of pass catchers.
Why it could disappoint: It probably won’t take long, to be honest. Ohio State handled the Hoosiers in their last two encounters by a combined score of 110-21. The Buckeyes of recent vintage have occasionally had trouble putting away opening-week opponents – think Minnesota from a couple of years ago – but the talent gap here should be more pronounced.
Colorado at No. 16 TCU
TIME/TV: Saturday, noon ET, Fox.
Why watch: It’s not often that a game featuring last season’s national runner-up hosting a team that went 1-11 gets the Big Noon Kickoff treatment. Such is the curiosity factor as the Deion Sanders era at Colorado officially begins. Adding to the hype that always accompanies ‘Coach Prime’ is the lingering question of just how the Buffs’ rebuilt roster will look. The Horned Frogs also have a few holes to fill, but QB Chandler Morris, last year’s opening-day starter before an injury, will be eager to show what he can do when healthy.
Why it could disappoint: Curiosity aside, Rome wasn’t built in a day – or one off-season transfer cycle. Shedeur Sanders and Travis Hunter might hook up a time or two for big gainers for the Buffs, but this isn’t likely to be competitive for long.