Jacksonville State won its debut FBS and CUSA game over UTEP, Wake Forest transfer QB Sam Hartman threw 4 TD passes in Notre Dame's rout of Navy, and UMass ended a road losing streak that had lasted nearly 5 years.
We'll get back to Notre Dame and Jax State, but let's first point out that 41-30 UMass win at New Mexico State was the first time the Minutemen won a true road contest since October 27, 2018 when they downed UConn 22-17. The Huskies were 1-6 at the time while UMass was 2-6.
Let's also report that USC doubled-up San Jose State 56-28 for a win that failed to beat the 31.5-point spread, just as the Congrove Computer Rankings predicted. The Spartans cut the lead to 21-14 with 8 seconds left in the first half and still only trailed 35-21 late in the 3rd before Zacharia Branch had a 96-yard kick-off return for the Trojans and a 42-21 advantage. Caleb Williams, who is looking to become the second player in history to repeat as the Heisman winner, was 18-of-25 for 278 yards and 4 TD's with 0 INT's for USC.
Overall, the computer was 6-1 on the moneyline and 5-2 against the spread on Saturday, while our Feature Picks were 2-0 outright and ATS.
Jacksonville State, led by former West Virginia, Michigan and Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez, played its FBS and CUSA debut game as the Gamecocks hosted UTEP as a 1.5-point underdog at most sportsbooks, but a 7.5-point favorite in the Congrove Computer Rankings at CollegeFootballPoll.com.
The computer was right as Jax State won a tight one, 17-14.
That was just one of the 7 "Week Zero" games that took place before the rest of the crowd shows up for the party over the Labor Day weekend when 87 games are on the docket. Every game this week paired FBS teams against each other, as opposed to Week 1 when nearly half of those matchups - 42 to be exact - will pit a FBS school against a FCS program.
There were also 3 games this week between FCS schools as a precursor to next week's 91-game slate.
The very first game of the 2023 season was also the head coaching debut for Brian Newberry who jumped straight into the fire when Navy faced Notre Dame in the Aer Lingus College Football Classic in Dublin, Ireland. His team was a hefty 20.5-point underdog at FanDuel, and an even-wider 26.16-point computer underdog. That game was originally scheduled to take place in 2020, but Covid blew up those plans.
Notre Dame strolled to a 42-3 win as Wake Forest transfer QB Sam Hartman shined, tossing 4 TD passes. Hartman, who began his college career way back in 2018 with the Demon Deacons, now has 111 career TD passes with 77 of those coming in his last two seasons at Wake. The Irish held Navy to just 126 yards rushing and 169 total, and their 3 points came with just 3:33 to play in the game as the averted the shutout with a 31-yard field goal.
In all, 25 programs will begin the 2023 season with a different head coach than the guy who was in that position at the start of the 2022 campaign.
Newberry was the defensive coordinator under his former boss, Ken Niumatalolo, who was fired after the Midshipmen lost to Army in overtime to fall to 2-5 in the last 7 meetings with their arch-rival. Newberry was the DC and secondary coach at FCS member Kennesaw State from 2015-18. He has been widely considered to be one of the best DC's in the nation over the last several years. The odd thing in this move is that the offense will keep the same triple-option attack that it has been running for years. Paul Johnson was the architect and Niumatalolo had perfected it. But it now seems like most teams have figured out how to defend it.
Including Saturday's loss to Notre Dame, the Middies are now 11-24 over the last 3 seasons.
Louisiana Tech, ranked 128th by the computer, hosted No. 129 FIU in another Conference USA clash. The computer has this as the only conference win for the Bulldogs this season as they are projected to finish 2-10 over-all and 1-7 in league action. The Panthers are picked to go 1-11, 0-8. Louisiana Tech had to rally to do so, but won 22-17.
Louisiana Tech was 3-9 in 2022 and FIU was 4-8. Both schools went 2-6 in CUSA games.
The Bulldogs are in their second year under head coach Sonny Cumbie, the 2004 Texas Tech quarterback who led the nation in passing that season. The Panthers also have a second-year head coach in Mike MacIntyre who, in 1992, was the head coach of the German American Football League's Deggendorf Blackhawks - a fact that is somehow omitted from his FIU athletics website bio.
On paper, one of more interesting matchups this week sent the MAC's Ohio Bobcats to face the San Diego State Aztecs. Odds closed with the home team favored by 2.5, dropping slightly from 3.5. The computer had SDSU by 3.52 and, indeed, the Aztecs covered with a 20-13 win. The non-conference clash doesn't effect the computer's season picks that have Ohio capturing the MAC East, and San Diego State in a tie for 3rd with Wyoming in the Mountain West which drops divisions this year. Only three conferences continue to use a divisional model - the MAC, the SEC and the Sun Belt.
No FBS-FCS games 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
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).
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.
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.
Last: Won 41-30 at New Mexico State on Saturday, August 26.
Next: Visits Auburn on Saturday, September 2.