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RANKING THE TOP FIVE GAMES OF WEEK ONE


I hope you enjoyed the week zero appetizer. Now, it's time for the main course. College football is back in full swing starting Thursday evening. I cannot wait. Labor Day is one of my favorite holidays of the year because it signals the full return of college football.


I could watch just about any game in week one as I am interested in trying to get a glimpse of every team. New coaches. New players. New schemes. There is so much to take in. For my money though, here are the five best games of the long opening weekend (and five honorable mentions), and one thing I am looking for in each of the games.

 

#1 Ranked Game - #8 Florida State vs. #5 LSU (Neutral Site)

One of the biggest nonconference matchups of the season, LSU and Florida State both have playoff hopes for the 2023 season. Neither is considered a "lock" to reach the playoffs, so this will be a high-anxiety game for both fan bases. The winner has a mulligan that will help overcome in the event of a loss later in the season, which is crucial for both teams as they both have other alpha dogs in their conference that they are competing with (Clemson, Alabama, Georgia, etc.).

One Thing I am Looking For

Which team is better equipped to handle the hype? Last year's game was sloppy. It made for a hugely funny game if you didn't have a rooting interest in the outcome, but I am sure both teams would like to see a crisper performance.

 

#2 Ranked Game - Florida at #14 Utah (Thursday Night)

The second-best game of the opening week is another rematch from week 1 of the 2022 season. Florida's victory in week 1, was one of the more deceiving results of the year. Florida and Anthony Richardson looked like they were going to potentially challenge for the SEC East crown and the Heisman Trophy. Things went sideways in a hurry for the Gators as they struggled in Billy Napier's first season. This time, Utah plays host to Florida, bringing an end to Florida's "official but unofficial" practice of not playing road nonconference games outside the State of Florida. Utah bounced back from its opening week loss to win the Pac-12 and make the Rose Bowl for the second consecutive season. They have high hopes of making it three in a row on both accounts.

One Thing I Am Looking For

Is Cam Rising going to be healthy? He is coming off an ACL tear, and the odds of him being at full capacity seem unlikely. Whittingham has stated that redshirt freshman quarterback Nate Johnson will see reps in the game, indicating there is likely a QB run game package in store for the speedster out of Clovis, CA.

 

#3 Ranked Game - Boise State at #10 Washington

A matchup of northwest-based powers hoping to improve upon promising 2022 seasons. Both teams expect to win their conference in 2023. There were murmurings that Boise State had fallen off as a program at the end of September last year after a dismal 17-point loss at UTEP to fall to 2-2 on the year. The Broncos proceeded to right the ship, thanks in part to the discovery of freshman quarterback Taylen Green, who breathed some life into the offense. Boise State finished the year 10-4 by beating North Texas in the Miami Beach Bowl. For Washington, the Huskies have aspirations of winning the Pac-12 and ending the Pac-12's playoff appearance drought (a drought that started after their 2016 appearance). The Husky's offense is going to be one of the best in the country behind the arm of Michael Penix, Jr., and the receiving due of Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan.

One Thing I Am Looking For

Is Washington's defense going to hold up its end of the bargain? The Huskies stopped a four-year trend of worsening rush defense in 2022 but were still below average in total yards per play allowed (5.6) and points per game (27.5). With eight returning starters, Washington fans will be looking for some improvement.

 

#4 Ranked Game - #21 North Carolina at South Carolina

The battle for Carolina supremacy. These programs last met in the Duke's Mayo Bowl in 2021, a 38-21 victory for the Gamecocks. The big names at quarterback are the main draw for this matchup. North Carolina's Drake Maye is widely expected to be no worse than the second quarterback drafted next spring. The Tar Heels, including Maye, struggled down the stretch in 2022, losing their final four games of the year. They hope to get off to a better start for the 2023 season. For South Carolina, former five-start prospect, Spencer Rattler is hoping his final season can put some shine back on his draft stock. South Carolina is riding high after a strong finish to the 2022 season that included victories over Tennessee and rival Clemson, and a close loss to Notre Dame in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl.


One Thing I Am Looking For

Who is going to play wide receiver for North Carolina? Josh Downs was a beast for the Tar Heels the last two seasons. I am curious to see if transfers Nate McCollum (Ga. Tech) and Devontez Walker (Kent St.) are the next guys up and if they will be able to recreate his production and overall impact on the game.

 

#5 Ranked Game - West Virginia at #7 Penn State

Neal Brown is coaching for his job this season. A week 1 matchup at #7 Penn State is not the ideal start. This appears to be James Franklin's best team during his tenure and they expect to compete for the Big Ten Championship and also a playoff spot. Penn State's defense is loaded and should be one of the best in the country. They have one of the best running back tandems in the sport with Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen. If Drew Allar can live up to the hype in his sophomore season, Penn State is in for a special year. For the Mountaineers, the offense is built around running back CJ Donaldson. With four returning starters on the offensive line, West Virginia should have a good rushing attack. We still don't know if Garrett Greene or Nicco Marchiol will start at quarterback and both of them may see action in the opener. Defensively, West Virginia really struggled in 2022, surrendering 32.9 points per game. They have several returning starters in 2023 and the hope is that the returning production will naturally yield better results on that side of the ball.

One Thing I am Looking For

I want to see how many tricks Neal Brown has up his sleeve. West Virginia, on paper anyway, is overmatched in this game. Brown is on the hot seat. They are traveling to one of the most hostile stadiums in the country. I hope he opens up the playbook and calls everything in the 'trick play' section. Show me fake punts, surprise onside kicks, flea flickers, and everything else they can come up with.

 

Week One Honorable Mentions

  • UTSA at Houston

  • Coastal Carolina at UCLA (how about Ethan Garbers winning the starting job?!)

  • Fresno State at Purdue (did somebody say upset alert?)

  • Colorado at TCU

  • Nebraska at Minnesota

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