It’s finally here. That seemingly endless wait until toe hits leather is here. The dog day’s of summer are gone and the crispness of fall is in the air. College Football is back. Whether you compare it to Christmas morning, New Year’s Day, or even your birthday, there’s something magical about football starting again. Many of us are so excited for the season to begin that we jump at the opportunity to partake in the pigskin action. Now, with the plethora of viewing options of about 15 or so networks and streaming options, having a plan is critical. From Thursday morning to Monday night block your calendar and remove all obstacles in your way. Here, we present to the very best opening weekend college football guide.
The differing methods of preparations are vast. In fact, no two people take in a college football weekend the same way. Some enjoy the tailgate atmosphere. And, some just love the stadium atmosphere and spend their time there. Or, others just enjoy the comfort of their own living room. However, you decide to take in the magic of this football weekend is your prerogative. The most important thing is to have a plan. There’s not going to be much downtime, so take this opportunity to stock your tailgate or refrigerator with all the necessities to get through this weekend.
Have you completed the preparatory work? Good! Now, we have some time to kill. But, use that time wisely to pregame only the way that you, a crazy college football enthusiast, knows how. There are many options here. Certainly, through the ESPN family of networks, there are replays of classics from the 2018 season to tickle your fancies. Or, you can take the time to watch a football-related series to get those juices flowing. Netflix series such as Last Chance U or All American are great choices as well to get you ready for the evenings’ festivities.
Soup and Salad
Now, throughout this article, you will notice a food theme. Well, much like a quarterback and his offensive coordinator, food and football are joined at the hip. Now, let’s get to the action. We’re finally there where we can get to some live action. As a note to our readers, all times will be in central standard time.
6:00 PM UCLA at Cincinnati: ESPN
We have a very intriguing matchup to kick off the festivities. UCLA will be under second-year coach Chip Kelly. The Bruins were one of the youngest teams in college football a year ago. How big of a step will they take this season? Meanwhile, Cincinnati was one of the most improved teams in the country last year as they went 11-2 under third-year coach Luke Fickell. The running game will be the key for the Bearcats and they have an outstanding back in Michael Warren.
7:00 PM Georgia Tech at Clemson ACC Network
The defending national champs begin their title defense at home on Thursday night. The Tigers are absolutely loaded, particularly on the offensive side of the ball with Trevor Lawrence one of the Heisman frontrunners to begin the season. Now, Georgia Tech is bringing in a new era to their program. They have ditched the option in favor of a pro-style attack under first-year coach Geoff Collins. Getting acclimated to a new offense and a new coach is not optimal when facing the Tigers on the road to begin the season.
9:15 PM Utah at BYU: ESPN
We end the first night with the Holy War. Utah is certainly one of the leaders of the Pac 12 conference. But, could the Utes be a darkhorse playoff contender? They have a solid 1-2 punch in Tyler Huntley and Zack Moss. However, they could be on upset watch as they travel to Provo to take on the Cougs. BYU returns nine starters off of a much improved offensive unit which features sophomore Zach Wilson. This could be a battle into the fourth quarter.
We’ve made it through the first leg of our marathon. With a late start in our finale on Thursday night, you might not have been able to hang on. Don’t fret, the preparation here is to ensure you get yourself caught up on what happened before the evening games begin. Arguably, the set of games is better here on Friday night. But, let’s dive right in and you can decide for yourself.
5:00 PM Rice at Army: CBS Sports Network
Army was one of the best football teams in the country last year. This season, they will be attempting to win double-digit games for the third consecutive year. Kelvin Hopkins returns as the leader of the option attack who threw and ran for over 1,000 yards a year ago. Rice is a struggling program so this should be a tune-up for the Black Knights who travel to face Michigan in week two.
6:00 PM Wisconsin at South Florida: ESPN
Perhaps the best running back in the country in Jonathan Taylor will be on display for the Badgers. But, the most important position will be at quarterback. Surprisingly, Wisconsin has tabbed Jack Coan as the starter ahead of heralded freshman Graham Mertz at quarterback. Wisconsin, like Utah, should be on upset alert as they face South Florida. The Bulls were very inconsistent a year ago, but Alabama transfer Blake Barnett returns for his second season as the starter. Overall, South Florida returns nine starters off an offense that averaged over 28 points per game.
7:00 PM Utah State at Wake Forest: ACC Network
Utah State was one of the cinderella stories of a year ago. So much so that it landed Matt Wells with a job promotion to Texas Tech as their head coach. The Aggies return only two starters from last years 11-win team. But, one of those is Jordan Love who is one of the best quarterbacks in the country. Meanwhile, Wake Forest brings back seven from an offense that averaged nearly 33 a game. Sam Hartman must improve on his completion percentage, but is an efficient thrower.
9:10 PM Colorado vs Colorado State: ESPN
The annual rivalry gets our late-night sessions starter. First, Colorado has one of the most explosive players in the country in Laviska Shenault. He, alone, is worth the price of admission. Meanwhile, Colorado State had just their first losing season since 2012. However, they should be much improved this season.
9:30 PM Oklahoma State at Oregon State: FS1
Last on our appetizer plate is battle of orange. The Cowboys make a rare trip to the pacific northwest to take on the Beavers. Oklahoma State will be breaking in a new quarterback, likely Spencer Sanders. And, Oregon State only won two a year ago but do return 16 starters.
The Main Course
Now, you’ve made it to the big show. However, this may test your endurance. Today, we go wall to wall in college football coverage. We’ll start at 8:00 AM and won’t finish until the early hours of the morning. Let’s not waste any more energy and get started.
8:00 AM College Gameday: ESPN
This is a rite of passage for all college football fans. Like it or love it, any football Saturday is incomplete without it.
11:00 AM Florida Atlantic at Ohio State: FOX
Lane Kiffin’s Florida Atlantic squad had a down year in 2018. But, they add transfer quarterback Deondre Francois which should add consistency to a position that struggled last year. The Ryan Day era gets started in Columbus with uncertainty at quarterback as well. But, barring a major upset, we’ll see the Justin Fields era begin in the Horseshoe.
11:00 AM Ole Miss at Memphis: ABC
This promises to be an offensive slugfest. Brady White returns for Memphis. But, Darrell Henderson is gone. However, 1,000-yard rusher Patrick Taylor is more than serviceable. Ole Miss should be much improved on defense but only returns two offensive starters. Redshirt Freshman Matt Corral will be pivotal to the offensive success.
11:00 AM Toledo at Kentucky: SEC Network
This could very well be the best of the early games. Can Kentucky sustain the level of play of last year? How the Wildcats operate without Benny Snell will be key. Toledo had somewhat of a down year last season in going 7-6. However, head coach Jason Candle always brings a dangerous offense to the table.
2:30 PM Alabama vs Duke: ABC
Alabama comes into the 2019 season with an unfamiliar feeling. Not only did they lose the national championship, but they did so in convincing fashion. The mindset will be critical in this contest against Duke. If the Tide come out with a chip on their shoulder, they could name the score. But, if Nick Saban’s club still has the sting of the national championship game in their crawls, this could be interesting.
2:30 PM North Carolina vs South Carolina: ESPN
The Tar Heels usher in a blast from the past as Mack Brown returns for his second stint in Chapel Hill. Brown has a reclamation project on his hands as North Carolina only won twice a year ago. Meanwhile, the Gamecocks will bolster an exciting offensive team in 2019. The trio of Jake Bentley, Bryan Edwards, and Tavien Feaster take a backseat to nobody.
3:00 PM Northwestern at Stanford: FOX
The Cardinal return only four on the offensive which includes the loss of Bryce Love. However, K.J. Costello had an excellent 2018 and will return the lead the Stanford offense. Northwestern had a strange 2018. They went 0-3 in non-conference but managed to win the Big Ten West division. Clemson transfer Hunter Johnson could be the wildcard for the wildcats at quarterback.
3:00 PM Virginia Tech at Boston College: ACC Network
This year will be the swan song for longtime defensive coordinator, Bud Foster at Virginia Tech. That defense was uncharacteristically bad last season in allowing 31 points per game. They do return 10 starters this season and should be much improved. Boston College returns one of the best running backs in the nation in AJ Dillon. Conversely, the Eagles only return three starters on defense.
6:00 PM Boise State vs Florida State: ESPN
This will be a huge game for both teams. Florida State is trying to return back to validity under second-year coach Willie Taggart. The time is now with Clemson at the top of the ACC and national mountain. Comparatively, this is a golden opportunity for the Broncos. However, to take advantage of that opportunity, newcomers will need to grow up in a hurry as they lose 47 touchdowns and over 5,100 yards of total offense are gone in Brett Rypien and Alex Mattison.
6:30 PM Auburn vs Oregon: ABC
A stark difference in philosophies collides in this early season monster matchup. Auburn will return to Gus Malzahn being the play-caller this season. But, they must do so with a new starter at quarterback. The Tigers will probably rely on their defense early in this one. Whereas, Oregon will have an explosive offense with returning quarterback Justin Herbert. This will be an extremely important game as the Ducks are a darkhorse playoff contender this season.
6:30 PM Georgia at Vanderbilt: SEC Network
The Bulldogs are conceivably on a collision course with Alabama for the SEC championship. But, this loaded Georgia team has an interesting beginning to the season as they begin the season with an SEC road matchup. Vanderbilt is coming off a bowl season last year and very nearly upset Notre Dame as well. The Commodores welcome graduate transfer Riley Neal from Ball State.
9:00 PM New Mexico State at Washington State: PAC 12 Network
Another year and another transfer quarterback for the Cougars. Gone is Gardner Minshew with his one-year stint in Wazzu. Most thought Eastern Washington transfer Gage Gubrud would get the nod. However, Mike Leach has elected to go with Anthony Gordon. He should have a chance to put up yards and points in bunches against New Mexico State.
9:30 PM Fresno State at USC: ESPN
The nightcap gives us a coach and a team on the brink early on. USC and head coach Clay Helton are in a precarious position as the season begins. The Trojans have one of the toughest schedules in the country so getting off to a good start is critical. Conversely, Fresno State had an outstanding season in 2018 and would like nothing more for an upset in the coliseum to begin 2019.
Admittedly, a relaxing start to the day might be just what the doctor ordered after hours of football consumed on Saturday. Get your rest early on in both days as we have some interesting finishing touches in store for our football feast.
Sunday, 6:30 PM Houston at Oklahoma: ABC
This is the first time that Oklahoma has hosted a game on Sunday in program history. There is a lot to be excited about in Norman for the Sooners. Five conference championships, four Heisman trophy awards, and three consecutive playoff berths will be chased this season. Outside of the debut of Jalen Hurts, all eyes will be on Alex Grinch and the defense. A solid defensive performance could be difficult as Houston will bring in one of the best quarterbacks you may not have heard about in D’Eriq King. I’m sure Dana Holgorsen will have some tricks up his sleeve in Norman.
Monday, 7:00 PM Notre Dame at Louisville: ESPN
Notre Dame is falling under the radar a bit in the preseason. Most pundits have the Irish towards the back half of the top 10. Brian Kelly will use that as motivation as he brings his squad into Louisville. Ian Book could be a darkhorse Heisman contender this season. Meanwhile, Louisville had an atrocious 2018. Could the last game of our opening weekend provide the biggest shock of the weekend?