College Football officially starts up in one week with every conference on board to play this season. as far as we all know, COVID is not a primary concern for teams moving forward, and all 130 programs in Div-1 FBS are slated for 12 games this season giving us a full schedule of college football for the first time in two years.
To make matters weird, the FBS actually kicks off with a Week 0 slot of games that occur a week before the designated start of Week 1. While these games are not particularly interesting when dealing with the playoffs or competition among conference play, they are at least an appetizer for the start of 2021’s football season.
GAME OF THE WEEK:
Nebraska (0-0) @ Illinois (0-0)
Few games on the Week 0 lineup have any real bite to them, but this one at the very least is a conference matchup that could have some level (albeit minute) of significance in the Big Ten placement. Neither team possess any level of respectable passing attack, so this game could come down to who’s rushing attack is better.
Funny thought, whoever wins this game will be the Big Ten leader for an entire week, which will probably be the only time either of these teams will be at the top of their divisions.
Illinois looks to set the tone early giving the ball to RB Chase Brown and running behind that strong Oline. with C Alex Palczewski and OTs Doug Kramer and Vederian Lowe returning, Illinois is in a position to improve their rushing attack beyond what it managed last season.
Nebraska is looking at a similar situation, albeit with less known talent. Most of Nebraska’s returning players are on the defensive side of the ball. While Nebraska managed to rank 28th in rushing offense last season, it was QB Adrian Martinez who amounted to a majority of those attempts. Starting RB Dedrick Mills left for the NFL, and who the lead rusher is going to be is still in question. Luke McCaffrey has been a name that has made rounds as he was the third main rusher on the team last season, though Ronald Thompkins has also been in discussions for more snaps.
It is unclear what teams will look like compared to their 2020 predecessors, but this game could be a positive moment for one of these programs.
UConn (0-0) @ Fresno State (0-0)
There is little to no reason to watch this game. UConn hasn’t played a game since 2019 as they chose to opt out of the 2020 season and actually stayed opted out for the entire year. Give credit to the Huskies, they didn’t go back on their word like the Big Ten and Pac-12 did when public opinion came down hard. That being said, Fresno State is coming off a mediocre 2020 campaign that ended in a 3-3 record that included dropping their last two against Nevada and New Mexico. 20 of Fresno’s 22 starters are returning to attempt a better run at the MWC Championship, and that alone should tell the story. In one corner, a team whose entire starting lineup is coming back for another run. In the other, a team that has not played a down in two years.
Hawai’i (0-0) @ UCLA (0-0)
A potential fun watch here, Hawai’i featured a rollercoaster of a season in 2020 as they ebbed and flowed through the season before finishing with a win in the New Mexico Bowl against Houston. While it may not have been apparent at the time, Hawai’i actually featured an elite Top-25 passing defense, even if the rest was barely serviceable to capitalize.
UCLA was in a similar situation, starting their 2020 season with a 1-2 record out the gate before winning two straight before dropping the last two games which included a nail biter loss in 2OT to Stanford. This is important to note because both of these programs are in similar situations; lackluster programs in a position to compete within their conferences. While no one is arguing the Mountain West is superior to the Pac-12, this cross-conference matchup may be fascinating to watch as the MWC featured some pretty intriguing teams.
UTEP (0-0) @ New Mexico State (0-0)
A matchup between UTEP, a team that finished among the Bottom-10 last season, and NM State, who ranked 130th out of 130. The expression “there is no reason to watch this game” is so brutally honest I feel there does not need to be much more to speak of.
Southern Utah (FCS) @ San Jose State (0-0)
FCS versus FBS. Most fans do not even watch these games and this is no different. San Jose State did well last season, finishing 7-1 and capping off the season as MWC Champions after defeating Boise State. Unfortunately they were unable to transfer that to Bowl Season, as they lost the Arizona Bowl to Ball State in a rather underwhelming 13-34 loss. The only reason to watch this game is to see how San Jose State is looking heading into the 2021 campaign.