College football teams, conferences and coaches with something to prove in Week 1

This is the thing about college football season. Every week is a critical time for someone, when defeat can feel like a blind cutting block. Moments of Truth. Nebraska had one of those last Saturday in Ireland and look how it turned out.

This week’s selection of Moments of Truth:

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Pittsburgh defensive back Judson Tallandier dives for a pass

West Virginia at Pittsburgh

You’ve got to love a rivalry that draws some of its antipathy from the moment Pitt’s announcer informed visitors from West Virginia that there was no smoking in the stadium, “including corncob pipes.” These two have played 104 times, but haven’t seen each other since the last days of the flip phone era. That was in 2011, when the Mountaineers went for conference affiliation and the Panthers went the other way. But Backyard Brawl comes out of the storage locker on Thursday, as it should.

In addition to a reunion of former USC quarterbacks (Pitt starter Kedon Slovis and West Virginia’s JT Daniels once competed for the Trojans’ job), the game carries the rumor of a rivalry between neighbors. , even if it had to be reheated. Lots of connections between these two, just 80 miles apart. Take Pitt’s offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti Jr. for example. His father was once a West Virginia head coach and his brother was a Mountaineers quarterback. Both teams have promises to keep. Pitt wants to prove that last season’s ACC title was no fluke and start building on that No. 17 preseason ranking. West Virginia coach Neal Brown is 17-18 in three seasons and his program could certainly use a second wind. Thursday night is going to be a really lousy way for the loser to start the season.

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Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford looks to pass

Penn State at Purdue

Penn State is a combined 11-11 the past two seasons and 8-10 in the Big Ten, and that won’t keep Happy Valley too happy. The Nittany Lions try to do better, but the Big Ten don’t make it easy for them. Thursday night marks the seventh consecutive season that they are scheduled to open league play away from home. Did they forget to send in their annual conference dues or something?

At least recent history is on his side. George W. Bush and John Kerry were preparing for the final stretch of the presidential election that day in October 2004 when Purdue beat Penn State in football. We mention that because it hasn’t happened since. Eight wins in a row for Nittany Lion.

A feature of this game is the mileage of the quarterbacks. It will be two sixth-grade boys, Sean Clifford from Penn State and Aidan O’Connell from Purdue, throwing their diplomas at each other. NFL games have had younger quarterback matchups. O’Connell, a former player with a master’s degree, had a great 2021 (13th in the nation in passing efficiency) that could have been even greater had he started a game before October. “It’s unfortunate that his head coach didn’t start him earlier in the year,” Jeff Brohm said, to his own fault. “But we were able to work that out.”

Clifford and O’Connell are two of 28 college graduates on these two teams, 18 of them Boilermakers. Due to COVID, college football is very busy with master’s candidates. More than 3,000 graduates are playing this fall.

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North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Drake Maye makes a pass


Wait a minute, can this be correct? Will North Carolina play at Appalachian State, Virginia Tech at Old Dominion and North Carolina State at East Carolina? Apparently all of these ADs have forgotten about FBS Scheduling 101, where the first rule is to never go on tour against a non-Power 5 opponent who could cause trouble. Just invite them over to your house and write them a check. We’ll see if the ACC gets away with it without bruising.

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Notre Dame running back Chris Tyree runs for a touchdown

Notre Dame in the state of Ohio

It usually takes Michigan winged helmets and a few verses from The Victors to get Columbus hyped for a Buckeyes home game. But Saturday night is special. These two giants have combined to win 1,871 games while producing 14 Heisman winners and a consensus 195 All-Americans. If you count vacant wins, they are 1-2 in all-time winning percentage, with the Irish just barely ahead. They only have six previous meetings, and the last time Notre Dame beat Ohio State, Jesse Owens was winning four gold medals at the Berlin Olympics. That was in 1936.

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The number 2 state of Ohio is considered by many to be equal to Alabama. Notre Dame is considered by some to be overrated in the polls, they voted #5 more in the past than they do today. Much will be said this weekend about both theories.

It’s the first regular-season game as Notre Dame coach for Marcus Freeman, who was once a linebacker for Ohio State. It is also the first time in 36 years that the Buckeyes will open the season against a top 5 opponent and the first time in 32 years that the Irish have started with a top 5 matchup. Plus, Ohio State will borrow the bright lights to honor the 2002 national champions. Plus, this kicks off the 100th anniversary of Ohio Stadium, the sport’s most famous horseshoe.

Could it be more perfect for a first Saturday night in September?

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Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett runs the ball

Oregon in Georgia

So Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning builds a renowned unit that helps lead the Bulldogs to the national title, then takes the head coaching job at Oregon, where his first starting-game assignment is at . . . Georgia. Ah, the great circle of life of FBS. It might seem strange that the Bulldogs could have 15, count ’em, 15, NFL draft picks and still be ranked No. 3 in the preseason. But remember, the SEC only allows reloading, not rebuilding.

Given that Georgia fans consider the regular season to be a long tune-up before the Dawgs can beat Alabama again, they probably assume that any green-clad tourist from the Wild West, even ranked No. 11, is a duck. dead. The commotion in Athens would be terrible if they are wrong. Do you think Kirby Smart mentioned to his guys how Oregon beat Ohio State in Columbus last season?

All of college football awaits the dramatic moment when the Oregon Duck takes on the UGA.

Cincinnati wide receiver Tyler Scott runs with the ball

Cincinnati in Arkansas

Cincinnati lost nine draft picks from last season’s 13-1 sensation, but this is the No. 23 Bearcats’ chance to prove they’re not going anywhere. Later on, the Bengals have that task too. The 2021 season with its CFP and Super Bowl appearances was a great year for football in the city of Cincinnati. The Bearcats have won 22 straight regular-season games and their only losses in two years came to Georgia and Alabama in bowl games.

Keeping those glory days going will take some Saturday. No. 19 Arkansas will open his season with a top-25 matchup in Fayetteville for the first time in program history. That should mean a lot of screaming Woo Pig Sooies!

Utah quarterback Cameron Rising looks to pass

Utah in Florida

That lofty No. 7 ranking in the Associated Press preseason poll is the highest in Utah history, and the Utes have every right to announce their candidacy for the best in the West, especially after scaring the scarlets and grays of the Ohio State at the Rose Bowl. . But now they must bring that shiny new ranking and reputation to one of the most dangerous places in college football. The Swamp has everything to torment guests except live alligators in the visiting team’s showers, which is one of the reasons this will be the first time Florida has been the underdog in a season opener at home. since 1969.

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This is a great contrast for the guys who wear the headphones. Billy Napier will coach his first game in Florida, and an upset would make a great first impression. Utah’s Kyle Whittingham is beginning his 18th season in Utah, making him the second-longest-tenured Division I head coach at the same school. Do you know who he replaced in Utah? Urban Meyer, who has since had time to win three national championships at two schools and then explode like a fireball in the NFL. If the Utes want this season to be truly magical, like in the magical College Football Playoff, it probably has to start on Saturday.

LSU wide receiver Jaray Jenkins celebrates

State of Florida vs. LSU

The identity of LSU’s starting quarterback for Brian Kelly’s first game is strictly necessary. And none of us need to know because he doesn’t say so. The game in New Orleans will be the Tigers faithful’s first official look at their new $95 million coach and they’re hoping for a winning start. Otherwise, Kelly could find out just how fleeting SEC honeymoons can be. They might already be a little nervous coming off LSU’s first losing season this century.

(Memo to Coach Kelly: Nick Saban won his first game at LSU. So did Les Miles. So did Ed Orgeron. Just saying.) What’s hard to believe is that these two weight programs, which are separated by a manageable distance of 440 miles, haven’t played in 30 years.

Florida A&M quarterback Jeremy Moussa makes a pass

Jackson State at Florida A&M

Both teams have already made headlines they could never have seen coming. Deion Sanders said this week how several drinking water problems in flood-ravaged Mississippi have put his Jackson State team in “crisis mode.” Yes, that’s a fair term for no showers, toilets, or drinking water at the practice facility. And no air conditioning. in Mississippi. In August. Meanwhile, Florida A&M put up a respectable fight against North Carolina last Saturday despite losing 26 players due to an eligibility issue. This week, the players have made public their dissatisfaction with how the school administration has handled the matter.

And now the two of them have a soccer game to play. Jackson State was already getting a lot of attention, Sanders in all his Primeness naturally attracts attention as a rising coach, but his son Shedeur is an accomplished quarterback, and cornerback Travis Hunter was a five-star recruit who made history by picking the SWAC on the big dogs of FBS. Now comes a convincing start to the season against Florida A&M, considered Jackson State’s main rival in its division. Put all of the above together and that’s a lot of noise for a SWAC game on September 4th.

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