College football kicks off in earnest with a loaded slate of games featuring Notre Dame at Ohio St., Oregon at Georgia, and Utah at Florida. Beyond the potential playoff implications, storylines abound with new Notre Dame coach Marcus Freeman visiting his alma mater and new Oregon coach Dan Lanning facing the team he helped lead to the national championship as defensive coordinator. The action extends through Monday night, with Florida St. at LSU and Clemson visiting Georgia Tech. We asked our staff what games they are watching and to give us players to keep an eye on.
What Game Are You Looking Forward To?
#7 Utah at Florida
Christian Williams: The Week 1 slate is loaded with fantastic matchups, but Utah heading to Florida is the most appealing and holds the most ramifications. The last time the Utes took the field, they were hanging with Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. They enter 2022 with heightened expectations, returning impact players on both sides of the ball and looking like the team to beat in the Pac-12. Meanwhile, Florida went through a coaching change this offseason, and the program is in a rebuilding stage. But with dynamic, athletic quarterback Anthony Richardson and a slew of highly-recruited athletes, they could present matchup nightmares for Utah. Richardson has a chance to establish himself as the No. 3 quarterback in the 2023 NFL Draft with a big game, but Utah's experience may make that difficult.
Kevin Coleman: This game was circled on my calendar since the Week 1 schedule was announced. There are so many underrated storylines in this one. PAC-12 VS SEC. The debut of new Florida head coach Billy Napier. Utah’s playoff chances hinge on them winning this game. Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson could use this game to storm out into the front of the Heisman race and make a case for why he should be as high as #3 in this quarterback draft class. These are the types of underrated games that college football is all about, and it could shape up to be the most competitive game of the weekend.
Jonathan Morris: I love an early matchup where we see a team from out west who is used to playing in high altitude be forced to come down south into a muggy and hot environment like the swamp. I'm curious to see how quick of a start we will see from the Gators. Anthony Richardson has all of the talents in the world, but with a new coaching staff and being pitted against a gritty Utah defense, I'm skeptical of how quickly the Billy Napier era can get started. The Utes return the nucleus of their offense and shouldn't be rattled despite the hostile environment. At the end of the day, Florida still boasts a ton of talent, but they face a tall task against an experienced and well-coached Utah squad.
Sam Wagman: Besides being a big Gators homer, a few storylines intrigue me. How Florida handles installing an entirely new offensive scheme with head coach Billy Napier, how new quarterback Anthony Richardson adjusts, and also this is a great preview between two teams that could heavily factor into the premiere bowl schedule in four months.
#23 Cincinnati at #19 Arkansas
Kyle Bellefeuil: Cincinnati had a remarkable 2021 season and became the first Group of Five team to make the College Football Playoff. The Bearcats lost considerable talents on both sides of the ball to the NFL (Desmond Ridder, Sauce Gardner, Jerome Ford, and Myjai Sanders, to name a few) and have a tough road game against Arkansas in Week 1. I'm particularly intrigued with how Cincinnati's 3-3-5 defense holds up against Arkansas' offense led by quarterback K.J. Jefferson and a solid rushing attack.
Florida St. at LSU
Matt Bitonti: Two unranked teams, but there's something about seeing these traditional uniforms on my television that lets my brain know college football is back. The big-game history of the Superdome combined with the LSU fanbase should be an insane environment. Look out for LSU sophomore edge #0 Maason Smith, who has Myles Garrett-type physical measurables and could be an elite draft pick after the 2023 season.
#5 Notre Dame at #2 Ohio St.
Jason Wood: As Christian said, it's a solid slate and feels even more packed because it's the first full week. But, for me, I don't know how any game is more exciting than No. 2-ranked Ohio State against No. 5-ranked Notre Dame. While Ohio State is favored by 17.5 points, it doesn't change the fact that both of these teams could be deep in the playoff mix at season's end. Notre Dame begins the Marcus Freeman era with its most difficult opponent of the year and will need to show the offense can live up to its preseason national ranking. There are questions at receiver after Avery Davis' season-ending injury and running back where the depth chart was dealt multiple blows in the preseason. And Ohio State is laden with future NFL stars, but can the defense return to elite form? If it doesn't, OSU will fall short of preseason hype again.
Dan Hindery: I am with Jason that the game of the weekend is Ohio State hosting Notre Dame. This game has a little bit of everything... History. The 100th anniversary of the opening of The Horseshoe. Novelty. A pair of midwestern rivals who very rarely match up against each other. A first-time head coach, Marcus Freeman, makes his debut on the road at night against his alma mater. There are great individual storylines as well. Ohio State left tackle Paris Johnson Jr. trying to block Notre Dame defensive end Isaiah Foskey is a battle of projected first-round picks. Ohio State is absolutely loaded with established offensive star power with C.J. Stroud, Treyveon Henderson, and Jaxson Smith-Njigba but also has exciting potential future stars like Marvin Harrison Jr.
#11 Oregon at #3 Georgia
Craig Lakins: I'm excited to see #11 Oregon at #3 Georgia on Saturday afternoon. In his first game outside of the SEC, former Auburn quarterback Bo Nix is back in the southeast to take on the defending champions in Athens. He'll lead the Ducks against a completely reloaded Georgia defense. Though they lost a ton of starters to the NFL, Georgia is led by top 2023 draft prospects in defensive tackle Jalen Carter, cornerback Kelee Ringo, and edge rusher Nolan Smith. Nix will need to play with his typical moxie to lead his team to an upset.
Continue reading this content with a 100% free Insider subscription.
"Footballguys is the best premium
fantasy football only site on the planet."
Matthew Berry, ESPN