The REAL kick-off week takes place over the Labor Day holiday after we were teased with 7 games this past Saturday. The schedule balloons to 87 contests this week, but only one of those features a Top 25 matchup as LSU and FSU collide in Sunday's Camping World Kickoff. Navy is the lone FBS team, out of 133, that has the weekend off after getting blown out 42-3 by Notre Dame in "week zero".
The 'Noles and Bayou Bengals came down to a blocked extra point for FSU's upset in New Orleans last year. The oddsmakers have LSU (-2.5) favored again, even though this year's game is in Orlando. The computer goes with the 'Noles by 2.8 after correctly picking the FSU upset win last year as a 3-point dog.
A whopping 42 of the 87 games feature a FBS-FCS matchup. Over the past 20 years, only 8% of those have resulted in an upset. This week's spreads in the Congrove Computer Rankings range from a high of 57.68 for Georgia over UT-Martin, to a low of 8.29 for Western Michigan over St. Francis (PA). Three other FBS-FCS games have a projected margin of less than 10 points with UNLV favored by 9.81 over Bryant, UAB by 9.81 over NC A&T, and Charlotte by 9.98 over South Carolina State.
That doesn't mean that there aren't ANY other interesting matchups this week. Here are few that stand out:
This game will catch a lot of eyeballs as Deion Sanders makes his debut as head coach of the Buffaloes. No one can claim to have a real clue as to how Colorado will look after the entire roster was basically ran off. Key positions will likely be filled by either the 8 players that Deion brought with him from Jackson State, or the 51 he recruited from the transfer portal that includes 5 players from his alma mater, Florida State. The oddsmakers have the Horned Frogs favored by 20.5, and the computer likes them by 33.93, but the fact that they have lost over half of their starters is sufficient reason to put this game on "Upset Watch".
Cam Rising was listed as the starter on Utah's two-deep that was released last Thursday. Bryson Barnes has apparently overtaken Nate Johnson as the backup and could still find himself starting against the Gators as Rising's ACL tear suffered last January is still a concern. Florida will put Wisconsin transfer Graham Mertz under center to replace 2023 Indianapolis Colts draft pick Anthony Richardson. Mertz did not fare well in big games for the Badgers as he tossed 5 TD passes and 12 INT's versus ranked opponents. Florida was a 2.5-point underdog at home a year ago, but won 29-26. The reciprocal game in Salt Lake City finds the Gators as a 6.5-point underdog. The computer likes Utah by an even wider margin of 20.85.
Nebraska at Minnesota: Debut game for Matt Rhule as head coach of Nebraska.
East Carolina at Michigan: Can Michigan beat the Pirates without Jim Harbaugh on the sideline? Uhhhh, yeah.
Ohio State at Indiana: Will it be Devin Brown or Kyle McCord at QB? There are big shoes to fill after CJ Stroud went to the Houston Texans with the No. 2 over-all pick, and Ryan Day has said that he wishes there was a clear choice between Brown and McCord. The spread to us seems surprisingly low in favor of Ohio State (-29.5), while the computer pus the spread at 36.67.
Virginia vs. Tennessee in Nashville: UVa's first game after canceling the final two contests last season following the deadly shooting of three players. The Cavs named Tony Muskett, a transfer from FCS member Monmouth, as the starting QB to face Joe Milton and the Volunteers. The computer puts Virginia at the bottom of the ACC while placing Tennessee at the top of the SEC.
Louisville vs. Georgia Tech at Atlanta: Jeff Brohm's debut is also an ACC game. The former star quarterback of the Cardinals from 1989-1993 returns home after going 30-10 at Western Kentucky, and 36-34 at Purdue. Brent Key took over at Georgia Tech as interim head coach in week 4 and had the "interim" tag removed after going 4-4.
Clemson at Duke: On the way to winning ACC Coach of the Year honors in his debut season, Duke's Mike Elko gets to showcase his team on Monday night in a home game against perennial conference favorite Clemson. The Tigers are only a 12.5-point favorite in the sportsbooks, and the computer puts the margin at just 3.61 points.
Boise State at Washington
Coastal Carolina at UCLA
Fresno State at Purdue
UTSA at Houston
South Carolina vs. North Carolina in Charlotte
West Virginia at Penn State
USF at Western Kentucky
Sam Houston, the national champions of the FCS during the 2020-21 Covid-delayed spring season, begins its foray into the FBS with a visit to BYU as 20.5-point underdog and a 27.66-point gap in the computer rankings.
Meanwhile, the Cougars begin their first season as a member of the Big 12 and hope to be 3-0 when they visit Kansas for their conference opener on September 23. BYU hosts FCS member Southern Utah next week before heading to Fayetteville for a rematch with Arkansas which dumped the Cougs 52-35 last October in Lavell Edwards Stadium.
Sam Houston is one of two teams moving up from the FCS as members of Conference USA. Jax State, led by former West Virginia, Michigan and Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez, made a successful FBS debut with a 17-14 conference home win over UTEP this past Saturday. The computer called that upset.
(SEE: Coaching Changes)
There are 25 teams in the FBS that will kick off the season with a different head coach than the one they had at the start of the 2022 season.
Navy's Brian Newberry has his debut this past Saturday, and two others made their debut at various stages of the 2022 campaign. Brent Key has 8 games under his belt at Georgia Tech (4-4), and Zach Arnett has a bowl win after taking over at Mississippi State following the tragic passing of Mike Leach.
That leaves 22 head coaching debuts this week and they're picked to go 12-10.
Arizona State: There will be no bowl game in Kenny Dillingham's first season as the school self-imposed a one-year postseason ban in hopes of staving off bigger NCAA penalties from alleged violations during Herm Edwards' tenure.
Favored by 13.89 vs. Southern Utah (FCS).
Auburn: Hugh Freeze returns to the SEC after a successful resurrection of his career at Liberty.
Favored by 30.66 vs. UMass
Charlotte: Biff Poggi has never been a head coach for a college game.
Favored by 9.98 vs. South Carolina State (FCS)
Cincinnati: Scott Satterfield moves from Louisville to Cincinnati to replace Luke Fickell who went to Wisconsin. The Bearcats move to the Big 12.
Favored by 18.7 vs. Eastern Kentucky (FCS)
Coastal Carolina: Tim Beck makes his college head coaching debut at UCLA. Fortunately for Beck, he has Grayson McCall at quarterback. UCLA doesn't have Dorian Thompson-Robinson as the primary starter at quarterback for the first time since 2017.
Underdog by 20.89 at UCLA
Colorado: Deion Sanders' debut comes on the road at TCU. The Buffs will be joining TCU in the Big 12 next year.
Underdog by 33.93 at TCU
FAU: Tom Herman, who is 54-22 as a head coach, replaces Willie Taggart. The Owls move to the AAC.
Favored by 29.73 vs. Monmouth (FCS)
Kent State: Kenni Burns doesn't have a single returning starter as he takes over for Sean Lewis after a 5-7 season.
Underdog by 47.37 at UCF
Liberty: On the surface, this seems like a lateral move by Jamey Chadwell, but his pay gets elevated from $900,000 at Coastal to $4 mil at Liberty. That's only $1 mil less than the Flames were set to pay Hugh Freeze after he signed a new contract and then left for Auburn. Liberty enters CUSA.
Underdog by 7.88 at home vs. Bowling Green
Louisville: Jeff Brohm has a successful return home.
Favored by 13.34 over Georgia Tech in Atlanta
Nebraska: Matt Rhule had 27 players transfer out of the program, and he only managed to lure 12 to the 'Huskers.
Underdog by 26.71 at Minnesota
North Texas: Eric Morris replaces the Seth Littrell, who was fired after a 7-6 season and a conference championship game appearance. The Mean Green move to the AAC.
Underdog by 4.65 at home to Cal
Northwestern: The school had to try to save its reputation and put bad news behind it, even it didn't really want to fire Pat Fitzgerald just weeks before the season begins. Defensive coordinator David Braun takes the reins on an interim basis and will preside over a team that would be forecast to go winless were it not for a midseason home game with FCS member Howard.
Underdog by 16.45 at Rutgers
Purdue: Jeff Brohm goes to Louisville and gets replaced by Illinois' defensive coordinator Ryan Walters, the former Colorado safety (2004-2008). This is his first head coachng gig.
Favored by 7.1 over Fresno State
Stanford: Stanford became a school without a conference after Troy Taylor moved over from Sacramento State to replace David Shaw. Every PAC-12 team except the Cardinal, Cal, Oregon State and Washington State have found a new home for 2024. These are down times for the Stanford football team which finds itself ranked 127th out of 133 teams while Hawaii is actually six spots higher at No. 121. At the time this article was published, the ACC was still considering adding Stanford and Cal, along with SMU from the American Athletic Conference.
Underdog by 9.85 at Hawaii
Texas State: After just one very successful season at Incarnate Word, for Tulsa quarterback GJ Kinne takes over in San Marcos.
Underdog by 28.36 at Baylor
Tulsa: Former Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson (2011-2016) gets a second chance at head coach in the FBS after serving as OC and tight ends coach at Ohio State for 6 seasons.
Favored by 28.22 vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff (FCS)
UAB: 14-year NFL veteran and Super Bowl XXXV winning QB Trent Dilfer gets his first college head coaching gig.
Favored by 9.91 vs. North Carolina A&T (FCS)
UNLV: The Runnin' Rebels dumped Marcus Arroyo and hired former Missouri head coach Barry Odom (2016-2019) whop spent the last 3 seasons at Arkansas ast the assistant head coach and defensive coordinator. UNLV hasn't had a winning season 2013.
Favored by 9.81 vs. Bryant (FCS)
USF: Russian-born Alex Golesh leaves his OC post at Tennessee to begin his head coaching career at a program that has been a lost cause since firing Jim Leavitt after the 2010 season. Golesh will become the 7th interim or permanent head coach in just 13 seasons, during which the program is 66-91. Leaviitt was 95-57. USF owns 3 of the NCAA's longest current losing of 13 straight conference games, 16 straight FBS games, and 18 straight road games.
Underdog by 15.64 at Western Kentucky
Western Michigan: Apparently, the Broncos have no shame and will fire anyone, including their former star QB who, as a head caoch, led the team to its second bowl win in history and had a respectable 6-year mark of 37-32, including 26-20 in MAC games. Lance Taylor seems overly qualified for the job with a coaching a background that includes Louisville offensive coordinator (2022), Notre Dame running game coach (2020-2022), and previous stints with NFL's Panthers and Jets. At Stanford, he coached running backs Christian McCaffery and Bryce Love.
Favored by 8.29 over St. Francis, PA (FCS)
Wisconsin: Luke Fickell takes a Big 10 head coaching gig and it's not at Ohio State. With a record of 53-10 in his last 5 seasons, he is one of the most successful head coaches in the FBS at any level over that period. Now, he'll try to change the Badgers into a pass-happy team.
Favored by 29.27 over Buffalo
Let's drive the announcers nuts. They'll have to be careful to say "Hurricanes" or "RedHawks", and leave "Miami" out of it. The spread is surprisingly close with the oddsmakers giving the 'Canes 17 points and the computer telling us to take the points with "The U" favored by 15.96.
This season has 117 of the 133 FBS schools facing one FCS opponent, and Army playing two such games for a total of 118 FBS-FCS matchups.
Of the 16 schools that do NOT play a FCS program, 7 are in the B1G (Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Purdue, Wisconsin). 6 more are evenly split between the Big 12 (Houston, Oklahoma, Texas) and Pac-12 (Colorado, USC, Washington). The other three are Liberty (CUSA) , UTSA (American), and Virginia Tech (ACC).
This week, 42 games will feature a FBS-FCS matchup after none were played in week zero.
The FBS was 112-8 (.933) vs. the FCS last year, and is 1,686-148 (.919) since we began tracking this in 2003. 116 of the 131 FBS schools played at least one such game while Appalachian State, Army, Marshall and New Mexico State each played two.
Here are the FCS wins in 2022:
September 2: William & Mary 41, Charlotte 24
September 3: Delaware14, Navy 7
September 10: Weber State 35, Utah State 7
September 10: Incarnate Word 55, Nevada 41
September 10: Holy Cross 37, Buffalo 31
September 10: Eastern Kentucky 59, Bowling Green 57 (7 OT's)
September 17: Southern Illinois 31, Northwestern 24
September 24: Sacramento State 41, Colorado State 10
GEORGIA - Won 17 straight over-all. Won 11 straight true road games.
Last: Won 65-7 over TCU in the College Football Playoff National Championship game in Inglewood, California on Monday, January 9.
Next: Hosts FCS member UT-Martin on Saturday, Sept. 2 to kick-off 2023 season.
ALABAMA - Won 20 straight home games.
Last: Won 45-20 over Kansas State in Sugar Bowl on December 31.
Next: Hosts Middle Tennessee on Saturday, Sept. 2 to kick-off 2023 season.
NORTHWESTERN - Lost 11 straight over-all, and 8 straight at home.
Last: Lost 41-3 at home to Illinois on Saturday, November 26.
Next: Visits Rutgers on Saturday, Sept. 2 to kick-off 2023 season.
USF - Lost 13 straight conference games, 16 straight FBS games, and 18 straight road games.
Last: Lost 46-39 at home to UCF on Saturday, November 26.
Next: Visits Western Kentucky on Saturday, Sept. 2 to kick-off 2023 season.
MASSACHUSETTS - Had lost 15 straight to FBS schools, and 24 straight road games, but won season-opener on Saturday. USF now has the longest current road losing streak at 18 straight.
Last: Won 41-30 at New Mexico State on Saturday, August 26.
Next: Visits Auburn on Saturday, September 2.