Our intent here is to identify the 10 best games in College football’s kick-off weekend! That said, it was not an easy task and in fact, you may not agree with our list. So we will begin with “Almost a top ten game” and go from there!
In identifying the best game, we will count down from 10 to 1, 1 being the best game of week one! But first, the almost Top 10 Games!
August 30 Games
Kennesaw State (FCS/Big South) @ Georgia State (FBS/Sun Belt): This is a very dangerous game for Georgia State, as they are 2-5 against FCS opponents since they made the jump from the FCS to the FBS in 2013. This includes last year’s, 2017, lost to Tennessee State (FCS/Ohio Valley Conference), 17-10! Kennesaw State (12-2 in 2017) is one of the best FCS programs and do not be surprised to see the FCS pick up one of a handful of annual FCS wins vs FBS opponents!
Central Florida @ UConn: UCF enters the 2018 season as the #1 ranked Group of 5 (G5) team on SCFP (see Top 25 on site), remember, we rank Power 5 (P5) and G5 independent of one another, this is unique, as far as I know, to Sully’s College Football Page! The Knights return 12 starters, including Heisman hopeful, McKenzie Milton, arguably, one of the best QB’s in the country! UCF coach Scott Frost is gone and UConn coach, Randy Edsall, will be, if he does not start to improve on the Huskies 3-9 season in 2017! Enjoy watching Milton, he is a true dual threat!
September 1 Games
Boise State @ Troy: On SCFP, Boise State is ranked 2nd in the Group of 5 and Troy is ranked 10th! In 2017, Troy (11-2) won the Sun Belt Conference (SBC) and hammered C-USA, West Division Champion, North Texas in the New Orleans Bowl, 50-30! Meanwhile Boise State (11-3) won the Mountain West Conference (MWC) and outscored Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl, 38-28! These teams met a year ago, on the Blue Turf, with the Broncos beating the Men of Troy, 24-13! This year’s game is in Troy, Alabama and should be one of the opening week’s best! A final point, Boise State is the #1 recruiting program in the G5, while Troy is ranked as the 39th best G5 recruiting program!
Texas @ Maryland: This game was hard to keep out of the Top 10 battles of opening week! Last year, the Terps went down to Texas and shocked the Longhorns, 51-41, in Tom Herman’s debut. This year, Texas comes north, to College Park, MD, looking to “set things a right”! Texas is the 9th best recruiting program in the country and based solely on that, at least arguably, the #1 underachieving program in all of college football! Maryland, while recruiting better under DJ Durkin, is a long way from where Texas is ranked, holding down the 33rd recruiting spot! On SCFP, Texas’ pre-season top 25 ranking is 17th, while Maryland is not ranked! Texas’ talent needs to ‘show up’, on the road, in their 2018 opener!
BYU @ Arizona: The Kevin Sumlin Era begins in Arizona, and, if it is anything like his experience @ Texas A&M, it will begin with a bang! Sumlin’s A&M teams start fast and finish wondering in the abyss! In 2013, started 5-1 in the 1st 6 games (finished 9-4); in 2014, 5-1 (8-5); 2015, 5-1 (8-5); 2016, 6-0 (8-5); 2017, 4-2 (7-6). While their early schedule has some challenges, if Sumlin gets the Wildcats to play to their potential, only one team in their 1st 6 games, has a better roster USC! BYU has won 10 of their last 11 season openers and is 4-1 vs Arizona, including their last meeting, in 2016, a 18-16 victory @ Glendale’s University of Phoenix Stadium. BYU coach, Kalani Sitake, is 13-13 in his first 2 years in Provo, given what Lavell Edwards & to a lesser extent, Bronco Mendenhall accomplished at BYU, the Cougars need to be the real ‘wildcats’ in Tucson!
James Madison @ NC State: Dave Doeren’s Wolfpack needs to be ready as James Madison may have the best starting line up in all of the FCS. In the past 2 years, the Dukes have won 28 of 30 games! JM won the FCS championship in 2016, beating North Dakota State, 27-17, in the Semi’s and then stopping Youngstown St. in the Final, 28-14! In 2017, James Madison entered the FCS Championship Game, 14-0, before falling to North Dakota State, 17-13! NC State will counter with the best QB in the ACC, Ryan Finley and WR, Kevin Harmon, who passed the 100 yard mark in 6 games in 2017! The ‘Pack’ has only 3 starters back on D, this could be interesting to say the least!
Army @ Duke: This marks the 26th meeting between these teams, the Blue Devils lead the series which began in 1944, 13-11-1. Their last meeting in Durham, 2016, Duke won, 13-6, in a torrential downpour! That said, the teams met last year, 2017, with Army opening a 21-3 lead and then holding off the Devils for a 21-16 win! The coaches in this game make watching worth the time, Duke’s Coach, David Cutcliffe, is one of the best kept secrets in all of college football and Jeff Monken has won 18 games the past 2 seasons with a program that had won only 14 in the previous 5 years!
Cincinnati @ UCLA: It may surprise you that Cincy is the 2nd best recruiting program in the group of 5 (G5) over the past 4 years, 2nd to only Boise State! It certainly did me, in fact, I doubled and tripled checked 247 sports, which is the only site that I have access to that tracts all 130 FBS teams! Bearcat Coach, Luke Fickell has done a really good job in the “living room”, he now needs to translate those recruiting successes onto the playing field. He went 4-8 in his first year and needs to get his very good roster in gear! Especially, when one considers Fickell’s Cincy team welcomes UCLA’s new coach, Chip Kelly, back to college football! Kelly guided the Oregon Ducks to a 46-7 record and a trip to the BCS Championship Game vs Auburn! This is the 1st meeting between UCLA and Cincinnati. Given Cincy’s young talent and Kelly return to college football, this game is absolutely worth a look see!
South Dakota State @ Iowa State: Will the real Cyclones please stand up! The question to be answered is who will show up at Jack Trice Stadium on Sept. 1st when South Dakota State arrives in Ames? The team that beat OU (12-2), 38-31 & TCU (11-3), 14-7 or the team, that in the past 5 years, is 2-3 vs FCS opponents (losing in 2013 to Northern Iowa, 28-20, in 2014 to North Dakota State, 34-14, and again to Northern Iowa, 25-20, in 2016). Matty Campbell has the Cyclones headed in the right direction, finishing 8-5 in 2017 with several impressive wins. The Jackrabbits are one of the top teams in all of the FCS and the Cyclones, that is, the real Cyclones, had better be ready!
Saint Francis (IL) @ Sacramento State: Finally, a game that I may be the only person in the entire country, outside of the schools involved, would mention as must see college football. I am a proud graduate of the University of Saint Francis and the last time the Saints stepped up to take on an FCS team (USF is an NAIA Affiliate) they beat Georgia State, 30-27, in 2011! My brother Pat was the AD @ USF at the time and the players awarded him the game ball! Bring on the Hornets & Go Saints!!!
And now the Countdown to the 10 Best games during week One!
Florida Atlantic @ Oklahoma: Lane Kiffin has moved from Problem Child to Rock Star in a few short years. His time in Alabama, in spite of what he says about it, I believe is the primary reason for the perceptual change of how Kiffin is thought of, in and around college football. Last year, FAU began the season 1-3 and then ran off 10 straight wins. They won the East Division of C-USA, won the championship game, beat North Texas, 41-17, and then won the Boca Raton Bowl, beating Akron, 50-3! FAU enters the 2018 season ready to take another step up and this game is made to order. OU is losing the Heisman Trophy winner, QB, Baker Mayfield, WR, Dede Westbook, the Biletnikoff winner (2016), TE, Mark Andrews, the John Mackey Award winner, & 2 All-Americans from the O-Line, LT Orlando Brown (twice recognized AA 1st team) & Center Erick Wren (AA 3rd team). A lot to replace and at critical positions! One more note, FAU QB will likely be Chris Robinson, an OU transfer! Let the fun begin! OU -21; take FAU and the points! Later in the season, I would say take OU and give the points, when the Sooners very good, but inexperienced, talent has had time to develop!
North Carolina @ California: Last year UNC had the season from Hades (3-9) anything that could go wrong, usually did, as they started the season 1-8, including a 35-30 lost to Cal in the 2017 opener. This year, Larry Fedora, UNC Coach is determined to right the ship against the team, California, they were a double digit favorite @ home in 2017! The Tar Heels travel to California (longest road trip in school history) fully intent to wake up and end this past year’s nightmare. Cal’s Coach, Justin Wilcox (Wisconsin DC) has other ideas! In his 1st year @ Cal, 5-7, he was within an eyelash of getting the Bears bowl eligible, losing to Arizona, 45-44 and their final 2 games, they lost close games to Stanford, 17-14 & UCLA, 30-27. A win in any of these games and the Golden Bears would have been bowling. Both teams & coaches are “chomping at the bit” to get the 2018 season started on the right foot! Cal -5.5; take UNC and give the points!
Tennessee vs West Virginia (@ Charlotte): This game has a little bit of everything, SEC vs B-12, (Revenge … Georgia, SEC beat OU, B-12 in semi’s, 54-48 in double OT) A new coach (Tennessee’s, Jeremy Pruitt, Alabama DC in 2017), an All-American at QB, (WV’s Will Grier), Mountaineers vs Volunteers (sounds like the Civil War battle), & yet, it is the 1st meeting between these schools! The game will be played at a neutral site, Bank of America Stadium, in Charlotte, NC. This could be bad news for WV as the Volunteers are 7-0 in neutral site games and Tennessee has won their opening game in 9 straight seasons! The Mountaineers have played 3 neutral site openers in the last five years, going 1-2, lost to Alabama, 33-23, beat Missouri, 26-11, and lost to Virginia Tech, 31-24, in last year’s opener! Look for a lot of fireworks from QB, Will Grier, to WR, David Stills, in this game! WV -9.5; take West Virginia and give the points!
Ole Miss Vs Texas Tech (Houston): An SEC/B-12 match-up at a neutral site (Houston) and the 6th overall meeting between these teams! Three of the 6 meeting have been in bowl games, the last being in 2009 @ the Cotton Bowl, Ole Miss won, 47-34, over a Mike Leach TT team! The Rebels are 11-2 in season openers and 1-1 in @ Neutral site games, beating Boise State, 35-13 (Atlanta) & losing to Florida State, 45-34 (Orlando). TT has played 6 straight Neutral Site games (all vs Baylor, losing the 1st four and winning the past 2). There can be no doubt that Kliff Kingsbury, saved his job by beating Texas, 27-23, in their season finale. That win got the Red Raiders bowl eligible and of course, beating Texas is always a huge plus in job security @ Tech! Texas Tech -2.5; Give the points and bet the house on Ole Miss!
Northwestern @ Purdue: This is the 1st of many battles for 2nd place in the B-10 West! Five teams are going to be locked in behind the Badgers (Purdue, Northwestern, Iowa, Minnesota & Nebraska) and this is the opening salvo! Shocking to some, when told that the Boilers have won 14 straight home openers. Last time the Cats were in town, they trailed 10-0, before going on a 45 to 7 run to close out the victory. Jeff Brohm has Purdue headed in the right direction as he enters his 2nd year and Pat Fitzgerald brings Northwestern into the 2018 season off a 10 win campaign a year ago! Last year (2017), Purdue hit the Windy City to face the Wildcats, who were coming off 3 straight OT wins, the Boilermakers could not force a forth, losing in regulation, 23-13, to the Wildcats! Purdue -3; Northwestern has won four straight, Purdue lost 8 starters on Defense and Brohm has not had enough time (2nd year HC) to replenish the ranks … take the points and the Wildcats!
Alabama vs Louisville (Orlando): These teams have not met since 1977 and Bama leads the series, 2-1! The most interesting element of this game is Saban vs Petrino and that’s about it! While Louisville returns seven starters on offense, the one who would have given them a glimmer of hope against a talented, but inexperienced (3 starters back on D), Tide defense, Lamar Jackson, is off to the NFL. The strength of Alabama, at least early, is on the offense side of the ball and Louisville returns only 4 starters on D! Alabama is coming off a national Championship and Louisville, a 31-27, loss to Mississippi State in the Taxslayer Bowl! Alabama -25.5 … Bama is going to score and score often, while Louisville’s identity offensively, along with Lamar Jackson, is in the wind. Take Bama & give the points!
Virginia Tech @ Florida State (Monday Sept. 3rd): An ACC showdown between the Atlantic Division’s, FSU and the Coastal’s, Virginia Tech. This is Willie Taggart’s first game as the Seminoles HC, replacing Jimbo Fisher (Off to Texas A&M). This fact, coupled with a disastrous season in 2017 (7-6), this 2017 disappointment was especially difficult as the Seminoles entered the 2017 season ranked 1st or 2nd in the preseason! As a result, look for FSU to come out with an attitude and a determination to ‘get it right’ in their 1st game in 2018! I am very interested to see Deondre Francois, Seminole QB, back under center. He was injured in their opener vs Alabama, he never showed back up on the field in 2017 and neither did FSU! Virginia Tech QB, Josh Jackson, passed for 2991 yards, completed 58.6% of his passes, and had a 20-9 ratio, TD’s to INT’s as a red shirt freshman. VT returns 7 starters on offense & 5 on D! FSU -5.5: The simple truth here is FSU has a superior roster, Take the Seminoles and give VT the 5.5!
LSU vs Miami (Arlington TX): This is a fun one! Both these team’s players have ‘little men who live behind the ears’ and when they hit the field, these ‘little guys’ pull a cord and all their mouths start running! I have to say, I am so looking forward to the entertainment value of player interactions in this game. That said, LSU has the better roster (6th best recruiting program to the Canes 17th on SCFP Recruiting Rankings) yet Miami has the better QB, Malik Rosier. Miami returns 14 starters (7 0n Offense & 7 on D) to the Tigers 10 (5 & 5) and while Miami is 3-9 all time vs LSU, 3 of the wins have come in the last 5 meetings! The Canes are 3-0 in neutral site games! This is the 4th time LSU is opening the season at a neutral site in the past 5 years, they are 3-1, losing to only Wisconsin, 16-14, @ Lambeau! The last time these teams played was in the Peach Bowl, LSU won, 40-3! Miami -3; I ain’t buying it, Ohio State QB, Joe Burrow, transferred to LSU and should provide the more wide open passing attack Tiger HC, Ed Orgeron, is looking to establish; take LSU and the points!
Michigan @ Notre Dame: Why Michigan wants to play ND is a mystery to me! They are already engaged to ‘2 bloodbath rivalries’ vs Ohio State & Michigan State. So why get involved with ND? Michigan does not need to play the Irish, win the B-10 and in all likelihood , you are in the CFP! True, the last 2 B-10 Champions have not made the playoffs, yet I would suggest this is an anomaly not the norm! That said, Game Day will be at Notre Dame to kick off the 2018 season & it should be noted, the home team has won the last 4 games. Michigan is loaded on D, they return 9 starters on that side of the ball and have outstanding talent at all three levels! Defensive Ends Rashan Gary & Chase Winovich are the 2nd best tadun @ that position in the nation, behind only Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell & Austin Bryant. Their LB’s are led by Devin Bush, an All-American & Khaleke Hudson, a player who is headed towards All-American status! In the secondary Lavert Hill is one of the best cover corners in the B-10! The Irish are also very good on D, just not as good as the Wolverines! Jerry Tillery & Jonathan Bonner are good up front, Linebackers, Te’von Coney (arguably the best LB in the game … sorry Bush) and Drue Tranquill provide very good play at this level of the Irish D, and ND’s secondary is slightly better than Michigan’s, with CB’s Julian Love & Troy Pride leading the way. On Offense, I am not buying all the hype around, Shea Patterson (ratio of 17 TD’s to 9 INT’s). We always hear about what a good athlete Patterson is, yet @ Ole Miss in 17′ he rushed 47 times for -3 yards (sacks included) & 1 TD. Compare that to ND’s QB, Brandon Wimbush’s numbers (16 TDs to 6 INTs) and Wimbush rushed 141 times for 803 yards, 5.7 YPC and 14 TD! What Wolverine advantage? The concern with Wimbush is accuracy, 49.5 % will not cut it and this number needs to be at 60%! At WR, Michigan is led by Donovan Peoples-Jones, a highly talented receiver, who has been victimized by Michigan QB’s inability to throw the ball accurately, while ND counters with size at the WR, Chase Claypoole is 6’5” & Miles Boykin is 6’4”. ND’s O-line is superior in every way to what Michigan will field! I believe the key to this game will be at RB, Michigan’s Karan Higdon (994 Yards / 6.1 YPC, & 11 TD’s) & Chris Evans (685 Yards, 5.1 YPC, & 6 TD’s) are really good, while the Irish counter with Dexter Williams (361 Yards, 9.2 YPC, & 5 TD’s)! That said, the real determinate is Williams, he has the ability to make that terrific Michigan front miss, he had a total of 1 negative yard on 39 carries in 2017, a clear indicator of vision & quickness. Last year, Williams would have led the nation in yards per carry if he had 3 more caries (39 carries, for 361 yards, 9.2 Yards per carry)! Williams & Wimbush equals nightmare! Michigan -1; Take ND and the point @ home … hold on … up date!!! While Kelly has not announced it, practice reports indicate that Dexter Williams will not play in the game due to off-field transgressions! Given that, Take Michigan and give the point!
Auburn vs Washington (Atlanta): This is the day’s best game and will have CFP implications, not for the SEC, yet the outcome will absolutely impact the PAC-12! If Washington wins the North Division of the P-12 and then the championship game vs the South, it had better have won this game. An Auburn loss is easily overcome, by winning the SEC West Division (Best in College Football) and the SEC championship Game, likely against Georgia. The PAC -12 needs a win in Atlanta! Let’s start unit comparisons (QB, RB, WR, O-Line, D-Line, LB, & DB). First the QB’s, Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham 6’3 / 214 & Washington’s Jake Browning 6’2 / 206! In 2017, Stidham passed for 3158 yards on 370 attempts completing 246 for a 66.5% completion rate, with a ratio of 3 to 1 (18 TD’s to 6 INT’s)! While Browning put up the following numbers; 2719 yards on 336 attempts completing 230 for a 68.5% completion rate, with a ratio of 3.8 to 1 (19 TD’s to 5 INT’s)! As runners, Stidham ran (sacks count as carries) 103 times for 383 yards gained to 230 yards lost for a net gain of 135 yards, 4 TD’s, & 1.5 YPC; while Browning has carried the ball (sacks count as carries) 56 times for 197 yards gained to 172 yards lost for a net gain of 25 yards, 7 TD’s, & 0.4 YPC! Given the different offensive philosophies of the HC’s, Gus Malzahn @ Auburn & Chris Peterson at Washington, the numbers are both consistent and impressive! At RB, Washington’s Miles Gaskin leads the way! Last year (2017), he ran for 1380 yards on 222 caries, 6.2 YPC, & 21 TDS! Auburn will counter by committee, Kam Martin, will more than likely start, but JaTarvious Whitlow may have the most talent in a group that goes, at least, 4 deep! Auburn has their top five leading receivers back, led by Ryan Davis, 5’9 / 175 (84 receptions, 815 yards, 9.7 YPR & 5 TDs) & Darius Slayton 6’2 / 190 (29 Receptions, 643 yards, 22.2 YPR, & 5 TDs). Not mentioned is Nate Craig-Myers, a 5 star talent ready to break in to stardom in 2018! Washington lost their all everything, Dante Pettis (3rd year in a row the Huskies lose their top receiver) but return two of their top three from a year ago; Arron Fuller 5’10 / 190 (26 receptions, 291 yards, 11.2 YPR, & 1 TD) & TE, Hunter Bryant 6’2 / 245 (22 receptions, 331 yards, 15.0 YPR, & 1 TD). It should be noted that Chico McClatcher 5’8 / 176 will return from a season ending in 2017! On the O-Line Washington has a clear advantage as they have one of the nations best, anchored by LT, Trey Adams, 6’8 / 331 & RT, Kaleb McGary, 6’8 / 325, and P-12 Honorable Mention, center, Nick Harris 6’1 297! Auburn O-Line can best be thought of as 4 journeymen, they had no one selected to the SEC first four teams in/by Phil Steele’s Preview! They do have back 4 players who started 6 or more games and lose 4 with essentially the same credentials. Auburn D-Line features DE, Marian Davidson 6’3 / 282 & DT, Derrick Brown 6’5 / 316, while the LB’s are led by Deshawn Davis 5’11 / 246, and the Secondary’s best player is CB, Javaris Davis! Washington lost Vita Vea, a beast in the middle of their D-Line, but return NT Greg Gaines 6/2 / 313, DT Jaylen Johnson 6’3 / 294, while the LB’s are led by Ben Burr-Kirven 6’0 / 221, and finally, Washington has one of the best secondaries in the country, Safety, Taylor Rapp leads the way with plenty of help from JoJo McIntosh, also a Safety, and CB, Byron Murphy! Auburn -3 … Take Auburn and the give points; In a comparison of the 7 units, Washington comes out the stronger Team! Auburn has a slight edge at QB, while the Huskies have the best runner on the field and a measurable advantage in the run game, the WR situation is that neither team has elite talent (proven, but Auburn’s Craig-Myers may emerge) yet for now, no real distinction here! The O-Line is a clear advantage for the Huskies! On Defense, the picture is not much different, Auburn will field the better D-Line, yet Washington has quality up front, as they are projected to have the best D-Line in the PAC 12! Give Washington a slight edge at LB and and a big edge in the secondary goes to the Huskies! So on paper, unit by unit, Washington has the edge, but there are other factors to be considered! Auburn beat Alabama & Georgia a year ago and plays in the best league, in the best division, in all of college football. They see teams like Washington all the time, Washington simply does not play teams like Auburn very often, given that, and the game being in Atlanta, is all the edge the Tigers will need!