Our appetite for college football was briefly teased with a handful of games last Saturday, but the season is officially back in full swing this weekend. But before the big time contests begin on Saturday, there is plenty of football — 23 games, to be exact — to watch on Thursday and Friday.
It might not be the most compelling action, but there’s a way to appreciate just about any college football game. So before we tell you the best games to watch over the jam-packed weekend (that carries over all the way to Monday!), let’s dive into the best games to tune into on Thursday and Friday.
Oh, and we’ll be doing “What to Watch” a little differently this year. We’ll still be highlighting the best games of the upcoming week, but we’ll rank the games we are most intrigued by. Everybody likes rankings and we like ranking things, so why not?
5. No. 8 Washington at Rutgers (Friday, Sept. 1 – 8 p.m. FS1)
Here’s your first glimpse at Jake Browning and Washington’s efforts to replace all of the talent it lost to the NFL. UW’s first test, Rutgers, shouldn’t be much of a test, unless you account for the cross-country trip to New Jersey. The Scarlet Knights do have Louisville grad transfer Kyle Bolin at QB this year, so perhaps they’ll be a bit more competitive than last year’s 48-13 decision in Seattle.
Expect a similar result this time around, but with Rutgers students watching from jacuzzis atop the student section. Yes, Rutgers really installed jacuzzis atop the student section for this game. You should definitely watch this game for that alone.
— Rutgers Athletics (@RUAthletics) August 31, 2017
4. Navy at Florida Atlantic (Friday, Sept. 1 – 8 p.m. ESPNU)
Oh yes, this is the good stuff. After his drama-filled tenure as offensive coordinator at Alabama, Lane Kiffin is finally back in a head-coaching role at Florida Atlantic. Whether it’s with weird promotional videos or adding an array of high-profile transfers, Kiffin has kept FAU in the headlines throughout the offseason more than it has ever been in the past. To be blunt, FAU wasn’t even on the radar before Kiffin’s hire. Now we’ll get a chance to see how all of the off-field, um, stuff, translates onto the field.
Kiffin’s first game with the Owls will be a tough one with Navy rolling into Boca Raton. Navy has combined for 20 wins over the last two seasons. FAU has won six games during the same span. This one probably won’t be close, but we’re intrigued nonetheless to see what Kiffin’s group, which has 37 new players since the conclusion of the 2016 season, brings to the table against Navy’s option attack.
3. Tulsa at No. 10 Oklahoma State (Thursday, Aug. 31 – 7:30 p.m FS1)
Expectations are sky-high for Oklahoma State in 2017 as the Cowboys should boast one of the most explosive offenses in the country. That unit is led by quarterback Mason Rudolph and a deep, talented group of receivers headlined by James Washington, one of the best deep threats in the nation.
Oklahoma State, which has been a sleeper College Football Playoff pick for many, has struggled on defense in recent years. With in-state rival Tulsa coming to town, the OSU defense — the secondary, especially — will be put to the test early. Tulsa averaged a whopping 42.5 points per game in 2016, but has to replace quarterback Dane Evans. Even with a first-time starter, Philip Montgomery’s offense has the chance to put up big numbers.
Above all, the Cowboys need to avoid an early season slip-up if they want to live up to their preseason hype.
2. No. 2 Ohio State at Indiana (Thursday, Aug. 31 – 8 p.m., ESPN)
College Gameday has finally made its way to Bloomington, Indiana, for what new Hoosiers coach Tom Allen said is “the biggest opener in the history of Indiana football.” Memorial Stadium will be rocking on Thursday night with the second-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes in town in a game that also presents an awkward reunion of sorts. Allen is replacing Kevin Wilson, who was let go following allegations of player mistreatment, as well as apparent “philosophical differences” with the athletic department.
Where did Wilson land after his departure from IU? Ohio State, of course. Wilson is tasked with re-tooling J.T. Barrett and the lackluster Buckeyes passing attack that struggled mightily throughout the 2016 campaign, even as OSU marched toward another College Football Playoff berth. Wilson gets his first chance to showcase the revamped Buckeyes offense against his old team, which should have a pretty solid defense.
This game has storylines galore.
1. Colorado State vs. Colorado (Friday, Sept. 1 – 8 p.m. Pac-12 Network)
Colorado State has already beaten one Pac-12 team this season and looked really good doing it. Things were close going into halftime, but the Rams exploded for 34 second half points to blow out Oregon State, 58-27, in the opening of brand new Colorado State Stadium. Now the Rams will head to Denver to face another Pac-12 opponent, in-state rival Colorado.
The Buffs are coming off a Pac-12 South title and should present a much bigger challenge for the Rams. CU lost QB Sefo Liufau, but should not see any drop-off with Steven Montez stepping in as the starter, Phillip Lindsay returning at running back and the team’s top five pass-catchers from 2016 returning. However, CU could have trouble handling CSU’s high-powered attack. Nick Stevens was great in the opener, throwing for 334 yards and three touchdowns. His connection with wideout Michael Gallup (11 catches for 134 yards) will cause fits for the Colorado secondary.
This should be a really close game. Hopefully you get Pac-12 Network or can find another way to watch.
Channel surf through…
Florida International at UCF (Thursday, Aug. 31 – 6 p.m., CBS Sports Network): This game marks the miraculous return of Butch Davis to the sideline as he takes over FIU. The former Miami and North Carolina coach is already creating some controversy, too. He reportedly won’t allow UCF, the home team, to wear all-white for this game for some reason. Welcome back, Butch!
Buffalo at Minnesota (Thursday, Aug. 31 – 7 p.m., Big Ten Network): P.J. Fleck’s debut at Minnesota could be mildly interesting, though Buffalo is expected to be one of the worst teams in the MAC in 2017. Still, this one gives us our first glimpse at the Fleck-led Gophers are his triumphant season at Western Michigan.
Utah State at Wisconsin (Friday, Sept. 1 – 9 p.m., ESPN): Shoutout to Gary Andersen.
Boston College at Northern Illinois (Friday, Sept. 1 – 9:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network): NIU reached the MAC title game six years in a row and hadn’t had a losing record since 2007 before a down year in 2016. Rod Carey’s Huskies can start on the right note with Boston College, which somehow won seven games last year, making the trip to DeKalb. Don’t expect a lot of points in this one.
More college football from Yahoo Sports:
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