Every Friday, the Friday Five will rank something in the world of college football — anything and everything from the logical to the illogical. This week, we rank the opening weekend games that will be the biggest nail-biters.
You’re ready for Week 1 of the 2016 college football season. You know this. We know this. You know that we know that you know this.
Alabama-USC; Georgia-North Carolina; Florida State-Ole Miss; Notre Dame-Texas… that’s only part of the action in what ranks among the best opening weekends on paper.
On paper — maybe that’s an important distinction. The most college football thing ever would be for Week 1 to be a historic dud. We can’t have nice things in this sport, I’m convinced of it sometimes. Still, there’s part of me that believes this weekend can live up to the hype in some sort of way.
Here are five of the games featuring at least one Power Five program that can make that happen. Heck, it happened Thursday night with Appalachian State and Tennessee.
Let’s get to it.
5.UCLA at Texas A&M. The Aggies have a knack for starting the season fast before fading late. Last year, they pulled away late from Arizona State in Houston, eventually winning 38-17. This year, A&M hosts UCLA — but the Bruins, on paper, look like a much tougher opponent than Arizona State was.
At the very least, UCLA has a better quarterback, Josh Rosen. A&M got to Sun Devils quarterback Mike Bercovici nine times last year — nine! — and will need to be similarly disruptive to Rosen. Otherwise, the sophomore has the tools to carve up the Aggies defense. Rosen is supremely confident, too, downplaying what road stadium noise really does to an offense.
Don’t be surprised if the Aggies get off to a quick, early lead — it’s what they’re known for — but UCLA has the firepower to close the gap. This one could be a lot of fun.
4. Arizona vs. BYU (Glendale). This one has classic #Pac12AfterDark written all over it with an underrated quarterback duel to boot. Redshirt senior Taysom Hill is back and healthy for the Cougars. When Hill is on, he’s a tough dual-threat to stop, mainly because of his powerful running style. On the other side, Arizona’s Anu Solomon (if he starts) is now a seasoned veteran who’s passed for nearly 6,500 yards in two years.
The Wildcats are breaking in a new defensive staff while BYU is entering a new era post-Bronco Mendenhall. With a lot of unanswered questions on both sides — and a flair for the dramatic — this could provide a fun ending.
3. Missouri at West Virginia. At first glance, it would appear the Mountaineers have this one in the bag. The Tigers have a first-year coach, struggled on offense a year ago and lost two key players along the defensive line — the bright spot on the team.
However, West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen always makes things interesting. The running game should be fine, but there are still questions about Mountaineers quarterback Skyler Howard’s consistency. Additionally, WVU is breaking in a new defense and already lost arguably its best player, safety Dravon Askew-Henry, to a season-ending injury. West Virginia should still win, but this one could very well come down to the wire.
2. Western Michigan at Northwestern. The revitalization of Western Michigan’s football program is bad news for any Power Five team who scheduled the Broncos in non-conference. The quarterback-wide receiver combo of Zach Terrell and Corey Davis is going to put Northwestern’s stout defense to the test. The question then becomes whether the Wildcats have their own offensive firepower to keep up if the Broncos put up points early. For what it’s worth, Western Michigan was one of the worst teams in the country against the run last year. This game is a clash of styles and strengths, and should be a lot of fun.
1. Florida State vs. Ole Miss (Orlando). It could be the fact that this is a stand-alone game on Monday, but Florida State-Ole Miss should be a great one. There are fun matchups across the board. From Rebels quarterback Chad Kelly vs. an experienced, big, deep and athletic FSU secondary, to Seminoles running back Dalvin Cook against the Ole Miss defensive front.
Both teams have key questions to answer, however. Has FSU’s passing attack improved? Can Ole Miss reload after major departures? This is an exciting matchup of talent and we’re going to find out a lot about both teams.
Source: CBS Sports / Friday Five: Predicting the most likely nail-biters for Week 1 of college football