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Wayne Staats | | September 7, 2019

College football Week 1 preview: Top games, what to watch, rankings

Here's 5 FBS games to watch in week one

The first big college football Saturday of the season should have plenty of thrills — and maybe some upsets. Check out our Week 1 preview below as we look at some of Saturday's top games and also recap Friday's results.

No. 2 Alabama defeated Duke, while No. 16 Auburn defeated No. 11 Oregon in the final seconds in Texas in what was a fun first weekend. All FBS rankings are from the AP. All FCS rankings are from the FCS Coaches Poll.

College football Week 1 preview: Top games


Sunday, Sept. 1

No. 4 Oklahoma vs. Houston | 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 1 | ABC

Expect points, more points and even more points in Norman. Oklahoma quarterbacks have won the Heisman Trophy the last two seasons — and now OU gets 'Bama transfer Jalen Hurts at quarterback. However, Houston might be able to keep pace for a bit. QB D'Eriq King passed for 2,982 yards and 36 touchdowns while rushing for 674 more and 14 scores last season. Houston stunned the Sooners to open the 2016 season, too.

Saturday, Aug. 31

Boise State at Florida State | 12 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31 | ESPNews

If UCF's two-year run as the Group of 5 participant in the New Year's Six ends, Boise State might be one of the top options. Florida State may not come in with a gaudy national raking, but it would still be a big name to conquer. If there are no undefeated Group of 5 teams, a one-loss Broncos team could stand out from the pack if it beats the 'Noles. This game has been moved from Jacksonville to Tallahassee, with the opening kick now at noon ET, because of Hurricane Dorian.

No. 5 Ohio State vs. Florida Atlantic | 12 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31 | FOX

The Ryan Day era officially starts when the Buckeyes hit the field against Lane Kiffin and the Owls. Though it will be strange not seeing Urban Meyer on the sidelines, Day and the Buckeyes are expected to be in the mix again. But most eyes will be on Georgia transfer QB Justin Fields in his first start for Ohio State.

No. 2 Alabama vs. Duke (Atlanta) | 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31 | ABC

No. 1 Clemson dominated in its season opener. What is Alabama going to show? The Tide are familiar to Atlanta, winning the program's most recent national title there and beating Georgia there (again) for the SEC crown in 2018. Duke might be overmatched against the Tide, but it's always worth seeing what highlights Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa and WR Jerry Jeudy can come up with.

Northwestern at No. 25 Stanford | 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31 | FOX

Northwestern upset the Cardinal in the first game of 2015, a win that likely kept Stanford out of the College Football Playoff — Stanford finished No. 3 in the final major rankings. This year, AP No. 25 Stanford meets Coaches No. 25 Northwestern as both teams hope the nonconference game springboards what could be a big season.

RANKINGS: Preseason Top 25 polls

No. 11 Oregon vs. No. 16 Auburn (Arlington, TX) | 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31 | ABC

A showdown between two top-25 teams that will likely push one toward the top 10. Oregon starts closer at No. 11 in the AP Poll, plus the Ducks bring back QB Justin Herbert. If Herbert can stay healthy, Oregon is an obvious Rose Bowl contender. As for Auburn, the Tigers still have Texas A&M, Florida, LSU, Georgia and Alabama on the schedule after this one. Whew.

Fresno State at Southern California | 10:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31 | ESPN

Fresno State went only 4-20 in 2015 and 2016 before Jeff Tedford took over. Since then, the Bulldogs are 22-6, including a huge 2018 season that saw them go 12-2, win the Mountain West title game and finish No. 18. But 2018 wasn't so kind to the Trojans, as Southern California struggled to 5-7 under coach Clay Helton. After this game, Southern California will then have to navigate Stanford, BYU, Utah, Washington and Notre Dame in its next five games.


FCS No. 16 Indiana State at Kansas (FBS) | 12 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31

Indiana State is one of five Missouri Valley Football Conference teams to start ranked, as the Sycamores are No. 16 in the rankings. But Kansas probably thinks it's ready for a turnaround by bringing in former LSU coach Les Miles.

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FCS No. 20 Northern Iowa at FBS No. 21 Iowa State | 12 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31 | FS1

There are big expectations in Ames this year. Iowa State is No. 21 in the AP Poll and has posted back-to-back eight-win seasons under coach Matt Campbell. Oklahoma is Oklahoma and Texas might be Texas again, but there's room for ISU to make a move now. However, Northern Iowa is ranked in the FCS preseason and beat Iowa State in 2016.

FCS No. 2 James Madison at West Virginia | 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31 | AT&T Sportsnet

The Mountaineers got as high as No. 6 in the country before ending 8-4 as QB Will Grier finished fifth in the Heisman voting (3,864 passing yards, 37 TDs). But coach Dana Holgorsen is now at Houston, allowing Troy coach Neal Brown to take over at WVU. He'll have a tough FCS foe for his first game: No. 2 James Madison.

FCS No. 3 Eastern Washington at FBS No. 13 Washington | 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31 | Pac-12 Network

The Eagles came up short in the FCS title game, falling to North Dakota State to end up 12-3. QB Eric Barriere is back to lead an offense that averaged 43.1 points per game. He totaled 2,450 passing yards and 24 touchdowns and added 613 rushing yards and eight scores. The FCS preseason No. 3, EWU won't be intimidated; Eastern Washington beat Washington State in 2016 and is used to playing FBS programs. This won't be an easy opener for Rose Bowl contender Washington.

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Butler at FCS No. 1 North Dakota State (Minneapolis, MN) | 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31 | ESPN+

The Bison have won six of the last seven FCS titles, though they have a new coach and quarterback. Coach Chris Klieman is at Kansas State and QB Easton Stick is on the Los Angeles Chargers. Still, NDSU is the preseason No. 1 (like there could be anyone else) as coach Matt Entz takes over. Redshirt freshman Trey Lance will be the new starting QB.

College football Week 1 preview: What to watch out for

1. How will Clemson handle being preseason No. 1?

Though Clemson is coming off winning national championship No. 3, this is the first time in program history the Tigers are the preseason No. 1. So it's never dealt with this level of expectations before. But part of that optimism is sophomore QB Trevor Lawrence, even if that ridiculously dominant defensive line has turnover. Save for a close call against Syracuse last season, the Tigers were so far ahead of the ACC that it would be surprising to see them falter.

Answer: Clemson had some turnovers, but Travis Etienne rushed for 200-plus yards and three touchdowns in a 52-14 romp.

2. Which big-name second-year coaches will show signs of seeing the most improvement?

There is a big bucket of coaches starting their second seasons with their teams. But the biggest ones hoping — and expecting — for a rebound season are probably UCLA's Chip Kelly, Nebraska's Scott Frost, Tennessee's Jeremy Pruitt and Florida State's Willie Taggart.

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Of that group, Frost is likely in the best spot, even with the Huskers going 4-8 last season. QB Adrian Martinez passed for 2,617 yards and rushed for 629 yards as a freshmen, plus the Big Ten West is there for the taking. Of all the teams to post losing records last season, Nebraska is the only one to start ranked. The Huskers are No. 24 in the AP Poll.

Here's how these want-to-improve programs open this season:

3. How will new-look Ohio State look?

Ryan Day was the Buckeyes' acting coach for three games while Urban Meyer was placed on administrative leave, but this is the first time where Day is the full-time head coach. Though QB Dwayne Haskins and his 50 passing touchdowns left for the NFL, the Buckeyes should be potent on offense with Georgia QB transfer Justin Fields and RB J.K. Dobbins. The defense also brings back a bunch of talent like LB Malik Harrison, and should be better.

But is this the year "That team up North" finally solves the Ohio State riddle? OSU put up 62 on the Wolverines in Columbus last year. This season, Day's bunch opens up with Florida Atlantic.

4. Alabama-Clemson watch: Can anyone threaten the pair's grip at the top?

Georgia has been close the last two seasons, with the Bulldogs losing to Alabama in the CFP title game and then the SEC Championship Game. So UGA is an obvious candidate — and the Bulldogs are No. 3 in the preseason poll.

Ohio State is probably next, though the 31-0 drubbing to Clemson in its previous CFP appearance hovers over things.

Oklahoma has been getting the chance to challenge the duo. The problem is the Sooners haven't delivered. They lost to Clemson in the 2015 CFP semifinals, dropped another semifinal to Georgia in the 2017 season and then again dropped a semifinal game to Alabama this past season.

But because of how close it's been recently, Georgia is likely the closest to asserting itself into what's the Big Two.

5. Who are the darkhorse Heisman hopefuls?

The top contenders are obvious. Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence and Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa are the clear preseason favorites.

After those two, it's best to look at which quarterbacks will likely be in the title chase. Georgia's Jake Fromm, Texas' Sam Ehlinger and Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts must be mentioned.

If you're looking at other big names that could find their way to New York: Oregon QB Justin Herbert, Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor (would likely need another 2,000 yard season), Michigan QB Shea Patterson and Nebraska QB Adrian Martinez. Finally, if you're looking at a player who could gain traction even on a 7- or 8-win team, look at Purdue's do-it-all star Rondale Moore.

Week 1 college football rankings: Preseason

The top 10 is the same for both the AP and Coaches Polls. There are 24 teams with spots in both Top 25s. The only difference? Nebraska is ranked in the AP and Northwestern is ranked in the Coaches Poll.

Rank Associated Press Coaches Poll
No. 1

Clemson (52)

Clemson (59)

No. 2

Alabama (10)

Alabama (6)

No. 3



No. 4



No. 5

Ohio State

Ohio State

No. 6



No. 7



No. 8



No. 9

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

No. 10



No. 11

Texas A&M

No. 12

Texas A&M


No. 13



No. 14


Penn State

No. 15

Penn State


No. 16



No. 17




No. 18

Michigan State

No. 19



No. 20


Michigan State

No. 21

Iowa State

Washington State

No. 22



No. 23

Washington State


No. 24


Iowa State

No. 25



Week 1 college football schedule

All times Eastern. All schedules and networks subject to change.

Saturday, August 31

Indiana State at Kansas | 12 p.m.
Northern Iowa at Iowa State | 12 p.m. | FS1
Florida Atlantic at Ohio State | 12 p.m. | FOX
South Alabama at Nebraska | 12 p.m. | ESPN
Howard at Maryland | 12 p.m. | Big Ten Network
Toledo at Kentucky | 12 p.m. | SEC Network
Ole Miss at Memphis | 12 p.m. | ABC
Mississippi State vs. Louisiana (New Orleans, LA) | 12 p.m. | ESPNU
East Carolina at NC State | 12 p.m. | ACC Network
Akron at Illinois | 12 p.m. | Big Ten Network
Indiana vs. Ball State (Indianapolis, IN) | 12 p.m. | CBSSN
Rhode Island at Ohio | 2 p.m. | ESPN+
James Madison at West Virginia | 2 p.m. | AT&T Sportsnet
Eastern Washington at Washington | 3 p.m. | Pac-12 Network
Bucknell at Temple | 3 p.m. | ESPN3
Colgate at Air Force | 3:30 p.m. | CBSSN
Alabama vs. Duke (Atlanta, GA) | 3:30 p.m. | ABC
Holy Cross at Navy | 3:30 p.m. | CBSSN
Idaho at Penn State | 3:30 p.m. | Big Ten Network
South Carolina vs. North Carolina (Charlotte, NC) | 3:30 p.m. | ESPN
Georgia State at Tennessee | 3:30 p.m. | ESPNU
Eastern Michigan at Coastal Carolina | 3:30 p.m. | ESPN+
East Tennessee State at Appalachian State | 3:30 p.m. | ESPN+
Northwestern at Stanford | 4 p.m. | FOX
Portland State at Arkansas | 4 p.m. | SEC Network
Virginia Tech at Boston College | 4 p.m. | ACC Network
Montana State at Texas Tech | 4 p.m. | FSN
Incarnate Word at UTSA | 6 p.m. | ESPN3
Syracuse at Liberty | 6 p.m. | ESPN+
Campbell at Troy | 6 p.m. | ESPN+
Sam Houston State at New Mexico | 6 p.m.
UC Davis at California | 6:30 p.m, | Pac-12 Networks
VMI at Marshall | 6:30 p.m. | Stadium
Florida State vs. Boise State (Jacksonville, FL) | 7 p.m. | ESPN
Norfolk State at Old Dominion | 7 p.m. | ESPN3
Alcorn State at Southern Miss | 7 p.m. | ESPN+
SMU at Arkansas State | 7 p.m. | ESPN+
Illinois State at Northern Illinois | 7 p.m. | ESPN+
Monmouth at Western Michigan | 7 p.m. | ESPN3
Nicholls at Kansas State | 7 p.m. | ESPN+
Stephen F. Austin at Baylor | 7 p.m. | ESPN+
Virginia at Pitt | 7:30 p.m. | ACC Network
Auburn vs. Oregon (Arlington, TX) | 7:30 p.m. | ABC
Missouri at Wyoming | 7:30 p.m. | CBSSN
Abilene Christian at North Texas | 7:30 p.m. | ESPN+
Miami (OH) at Iowa | 7:30 p.m. | FS1
Middle Tennessee at Michigan | 7:30 p.m. | Big Ten Network
Georgia at Vanderbilt | 7:30 p.m. | SEC Network
Georgia Southern at LSU | 7:30 p.m. | ESPNU
Arkansas-Pine Bluff at TCU | 8 p.m. | FSN
Louisiana Tech at Texas | 8 p.m. | Longhorn Network
Houston Baptist at UTEP | 8 p.m. | ESPN+
Grambling at UL Monroe | 8 p.m. | ESPN3
Weber State at San Diego State | 9 p.m. | Facebook
New Mexico State at Washington State | 10 p.m. | Pac-12 Network
Southern Utah at UNLV | 10 p.m. | MW Network (stream)
Fresno State at Southern California | 10:30 p.m. | ESPN

Sunday, Sept. 1

Houston at Oklahoma | 7:30 p.m. | ABC

Monday, Sept. 2

Notre Dame at Louisville | 8 p.m. | ESPN

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