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What to Watch: Week 1

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Hey, it’s football!

NCAA Football: Austin Peay vs Central Arkansas Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, we were treated to an absolutely wild Week 0 game between Central Arkansas and Austin Peay. There was a touchdown on the first play, a team with no long snapper, a quarterback who punted seven times, a guy running over a box fan, and, of course, the Crampton Bowl.

The Bears pulled out a last minute win against the Governors, and while it a lone FCS game in August doesn’t a season make, it was a nice treat for those who watched it. And if you’re like me, your itch was scratched, and now you just can’t stop scratching.

College football is back, baby.

This week, we have nine college football games on tap. While there aren’t any marquee matchups or P5 teams playing, there’s still plenty on the menu if you know where to look.

Thursday, September 3

Thursday Night

Time (CST) Game Channel
Time (CST) Game Channel
7:00 Central Arkansas @ UAB ESPN3
8:00 South Alabama @ Southern Miss CBSSN

I told you, it’s no feast, but two of Alabama’s five FBS programs are taking the field tonight.

Central Arkansas, the nation’s only 1-0 team, heads to Birmingham to play UAB, The Blazers have been a force to be reckoned with since their return from purgatory. Bill Clark’s squad sported a top 30 SP+ defense last season, and returns practically everyone. With any kind of offense this season, they’ll be a strong contender for the CUSA crown.

The FBS-only game of the night pits Southern Miss at USA on CBSSN, and I’m already feeling like this has a chance to get weird. Southern Miss is a two touchdown favorite, and an 8:00 local kick means this thing might become our first #AfterDark game of the year.

If you have ways of watching both ESPN3 and CBSSN, I recommend flipping between the two matchups. There isn’t a ton of national appeal here, but two home-state schools is something.

Verdict - Channel Flip

Saturday, September 5th

Saturday

Time (CST) Game Channel
Time (CST) Game Channel
Noon EKU @ Marshall ESPN
12:30 MTSU @ Army CBSSN
3:30 SMU @ Texas State ESPN
6:00 ULM @ Troy ESPN3
6:30 Houston Baptist @ North Texas ESPN3
7:00 Arkansas State @ Memphis ESPN
8:00 SFA @ UTEP ESPN3

Again, this Saturday isn’t really about quality, but football is football, right?

Thanks to tv deals, the game I want to see most isn’t on ESPN, but instead CBSSN. Randy Stockstill is in his 15th season as head coach of the Blue Raiders, making him the 6th longest tenure head coach in college football. He has a chance to have his best offense to date this season, returning his QB (who passed for 2,600 and ran for 1,100 last year), four of five starting OL, and eight of the top nine receiving targets, on top of a pair of grad transfer running backs from West Virginia and Florida State. If you value experience in an offense, these guys have it in spades.

Meanwhile, Army is one of everyone’s favorite teams to root for. They replace a lot of talent on both sides of the ball this year, although QB Jabari Laws (a great Army name) shined in limited action last season.

ESPN has a triple header on deck, although you can effectively skip EKU @ Marshall unless your cravings just can’t wait. SMU was one of the most fun teams in the G5 to watch last season, with Shane Buechele throwing the ball all over the yard and hitting on a ton of deep balls. They return most of their offense but lose a lot on the defensive front, but Texas State shouldn’t put up much of a fight to the Pony Express. Expect a lot of points from Dallas’s hometown squad.

NCAA Football: SMU at Texas Christian Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

In the night slot, the only option really is the Red Wolves heading down I-555 to take on Memphis. Memphis has been one of the best G5 programs of the last five years or so, but Saturday begins the Ryan Silverfield era. Silverfield, now only 40, has been coaching football for 21 years. You read that right - he never played college football, instead jumping immediately into coaching as a freshman in college. He’s been all over the place - high schools in Florida and Georgia, a DIII college in Virginia, an FCS team, UCF, the NFL for seven years, a few months at Arizona State, and Memphis since 2016. Mind you, he’s never been a head coach before. None of that necessarily means much when it comes to on-field product, and the Tigers will be going into the season having recently had their star running back Kenneth Gainwell opt out. Still, I’m interested to see how Silverfield handles his first season as a head coach.

Verdict - Without a marquee game, just keep football on in the background. MTSU-Army in the afternoon, SMU-Texas State during dinner, and Arkansas State-Memphis at bed time.

Monday, September 7th

Monday Night

Time (CST) Game Channel
Time (CST) Game Channel
7:00 BYU @ Navy ESPN

After a few years on the decline in a post-Keenan Reynolds world, Navy came roaring back to life last season, sneaking into the SP+ top 20. The Middies will have to suffer quite a bit of turnover, specifically at QB and LB, but Navy has shown they are uniquely evolved to withstand a certain amount of turnover due to their system. Meanwhile BYU has been on a slow decline since moving to independent football, to the point where they’re barely still a top 60 SP+ program. The offense graded out as consistently average last year, and a young and disastrous defense from 2019 should have some experience under its belt now.

If you close your eyes and squint hard enough, this is can be a prime-time showdown for week 1. But like I said... squint.