College football schedule Week 0 kicks off the season
There are only seven games on the board to open up the college football season in Week 0, but we do have two conference games and a few matchups with some interesting travel. I’ll be taking a look each week at the situational spots that are present on the schedule, which could include lookahead and letdown spots, revenge spots, bad travel situations, rivalry games, and other things that could potentially hurt a team’s focus and/or preparation.
It is the start of the season, so every team should be prepared, but there are some games that do stand out in Week 0.
(Games sorted by Kickoff Time)
Navy Midshipmen vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (-21, 50.5)
Saturday, 2:30 p.m. ET
Navy and Notre Dame played last November and the Fighting Irish won 35-32, as they had to hold on for dear life in the second half. The Fighting Irish led 35-13 at half, but were shutout by the Middies in the second half and needed to recover an onside kick to preserve the victory. At that time, Navy was still fighting for head coach Ken Niumatalolo, who will not be on the sidelines for the first time since 2002, as first-year head coach and former defensive coordinator Brian Newberry takes over.
I guess I buried the most important part here – this game will be played in Dublin, Ireland, so it is a long trip for both teams, although, they’ve been able to get there and get acclimated since this is the season opener.
UTEP Miners (-1, 53.5) at Jacksonville State Gamecocks
Saturday, 5:30 p.m. ET
Jacksonville State will play as an FBS member for the first time in this one and it will also be a conference game for the new-look Conference USA. The Gamecocks are in Alabama, not Florida, and Burgess-Snow Field at JSU Stadium will be a packed house with upwards of 24,000 in attendance. This will be an hour and 15 minutes northeast of Birmingham, a place the Miners know well from playing at UAB when they were in the conference. Both teams will obviously be fired up for the start of the season, but only one is playing its first game at the FBS level.
UMass Minutemen at New Mexico State Aggies (-6.5, 45)
Saturday, 7 p.m. ET
Travel is nothing new for UMass, as they have to use the football team to fund the athletic department, which means traveling all over the place as an Independent program. This year’s itinerary includes a trip to Las Cruces to take on New Mexico State. The Minutemen lost 23-13 at home to the Aggies, who went bowling under first-year head coach Jerry Kill. While it is a dry heat, forecasted highs in Las Cruces on Saturday are calling for 96 degrees and that 3-6 p.m. local time window is typically the height of the heat in the desert. Keep heat and humidity in mind early in the season with traveling teams that may not be used to it.
Ohio Bobcats at San Diego State Aztecs (-2.5, 49)
Saturday, 7 p.m. ET
The travel doesn’t seem to really worry early-week bettors, as the Bobcats were one of the teams bet pretty heavily on Monday morning as game week arrived. Ohio did participate in the Arizona Bowl lost year against Wyoming, but has not played a regular season game west of Ames, Iowa since the 2015 season with an opener against Idaho. The long travel is really the only notable element to this game, but it is something to think about, even if the placement in Week 0 makes the travel way easier than it would any other week.
Hawaii Rainbow Warriors at Vanderbilt Commodores (-17.5, 55.5)
Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET
Speaking of travel, Hawaii makes the long trek from Honolulu to Nashville to open the season against Vanderbilt. Long travel is nothing new for the Rainbow Warriors, as even conference games are a hassle, but this game does cover a five-hour time difference and a 10.5-hour flight with layovers, assuming Hawaii is flying commercial. Vanderbilt made the trip last year and embarrassed the Rainbow Warriors by a 63-10 score in the first games as head coach for Clark Lea and Timmy Chang. It was a 21-10 game at half, but Vandy scored five TDs in the third quarter to turn it into a laugher. We’ll see if the Warriors can keep it closer this time.
San Jose State Spartans at USC Trojans (-30.5, 66.5)
Saturday 8 p.m. ET
I’m always fascinated by Little Brother vs. Big Brother games. This one adds a little more intrigue because San Jose State head coach Brent Brennan played his college ball at rival UCLA. You always wonder how bad Big Brother wants to embarrass Little Brother when there is a clear mismatch like what we have here. You also wonder if somebody like Caleb Williams will play the whole game in hopes of getting his Heisman Trophy campaign started on the right foot or if Lincoln Riley may want to see what the backup has in a lopsided affair. Little Brother usually has a lot of fight under the bright lights, though, and that can bring the spread into play in a big way.