At long last, football is back! Granted, it’s only a handful of games in this quasi opening weekend, but college football has been missed and... [wipes tear]... I’m just glad to have you back, old friend!
Fitting for this time of year, but this weekend involves some heavy travel. Navy and Notre Dame kick things off for the day in the midafternoon with a tilt in Dublin, Ireland. It will be the first game for Navy’s new head man, Brian Newberry.
Speaking of firsts, Jacksonville State will play the first game in program history as an FBS member when they host UTEP. It also happens to be their first conference game in Conference USA. For those who forgot, Jacksonville State is led by Rich Rodriguez. UTEP has gone 12-13 over the last two years, which sounds entirely unimpressive until you realize that two-year mark hasn’t been topped by the program in over a decade. The Miners return a lot of production on both sides of the ball, including their starting QB, best RB, and top WR, so UTEP could be heading to their second bowl game in the last three years, a mark that hasn’t been topped in almost two decades.
SP+ would tell you that the UMass-NMSU game is pretty closely matched, but Jerry Kill, the coaching wizard, is leading New Mexico State while UMass is coming off a 1-11 campaign in Don Brown’s first year. The Minutemen have won only three total games over the last four years.
Getting back to the travel theme, Ohio is heading to California to take on San Diego State in what should be the best game of the weekend. Bobcats QB Kurtis Rourke blew out his knee in mid-November last year, costing him the rest of that year and likely costing Ohio a MAC championship in the process. If he plays on Saturday, he’s well worth watching. A very accurate and efficient passer with deceptive wheels - or at least he had that.
For SDSU, that program is rolling under Brady Hoke. Not counting the 2020 season, the Aztecs have played in 12 straight bowl games. They have a lot to replace on defense, but the program is in solid health and it would be a shock to not see them make it a bakers’ dozen consecutive bowl games this year.
Again with the travel theme, Hawaii heads all the way to Tennessee to take on Vanderbilt. First and most importantly, prayers for all those who died, those who are still missing, and those whose lives have been impacted by the fires in Hawaii. It’s absolutely tragic and those events - those lives - are greater than football.
The Rainbow Warriors will kick off the second season under former star QB Timmy Chang, and the offense seemed to click in their last few games last year, but they have to replace a ton of production from a year ago. Vanderbilt showed a lot of progress in their second season under Clark Lea, a 5-7 campaign last year, with four of those losses coming at the hands of Top 10 ranked teams.
Looking at the Trojan War in Los Angeles, San Jose State has to replace their best defender from a year ago and gets the fun task of trying to figure that out against Caleb Williams running Lincoln Riley’s offense. Cool beans. The Spartans return Chevan Cordeiro at QB and could make it interesting for a half or so.
Because apparently Conference USA believes in putting your worst foot forward, they have not one but two conference games in Week 0. FIU bottomed out under Butch Davis, going 2-19 over his last 21 games and leading to his rightful path straight through the door. Mike MacIntyre led them to four wins last year, and they should be better this year, even if the final record doesn’t show it.
Louisiana Tech is a bit of a different story. The Bulldogs had four 9+ win seasons in nine years under Skip Holtz, but the administration inexplicably fired him after an injury-riddled 3-9 season in 2021. Sonny Cumbie came in last year and... went 3-9. They should be better this year, but that defense was every bit as bad as FIU’s last year, so this could be a fun game after all.
Welcome back, Football! We’ve missed you!
102/90 Navy @ 11/13 Notre Dame - 2:30pm - NBC
118/120 UTEP @ 123/164 Jacksonville State - 5:30pm - CBSSN
133/206 UMass @ 126/144 New Mexico State - 7:00pm - ESPN
93/79 Ohio @ 80/71 San Diego State - 7:00pm - FS1
120/134 Hawaii @ 76/112 Vanderbilt - 7:30pm - SECN
94/91 San Jose State @ 10/10 USC - 8:00pm - PAC12N
130/166 FIU @ 112/125 Louisiana Tech - 9:30pm - CBSSN