The college football fan’s guide to Week 1 games

Welcome to the 2020 college football season. Though it will look a little different because of COVID-19 postponements, storylines remain plentiful. There’s still a College Football Playoff scheduled for this year, along with major rivalry games.

The FCS kicks off Division I football on Saturday, Aug. 29 — the FBS starts its season on Thursday, Sept. 3. After that, more leagues begin, such as the ACC and later the SEC.

Here’s a helpful guide for Week 1 of the 2020 season.

The college football fan’s guide to Week 1 games

How it begins:

UAB vs. Central Arkansas | 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 3 | ESPN3
Southern Miss vs. South Alabama | 9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 3 | CBSSN

Expect to get a little familiar with Central Arkansas. An FCS program, the Bears play in the first FCS game and FBS game of the season. After facing Austin Peay on Aug. 29, Central Arkansas plays UAB at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 3 on ESPN3.

The first game between two FBS teams is an hour later: Southern Miss meets South Alabama at 9 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.

These two game give fans a first look at two of the big Conference USA West favorites in UAB and Southern Miss. The Blazers have won the division back-to-back years and should be dominant defensively. Linebacker Kristopher Moll is a star.

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Will there be a rebound in West Point?

Army vs. Middle Tennessee | Saturday, Sept. 5 | 1:30 p.m. | CBSSN

Army won three consecutive national titles in the 1940s and has three Heisman winners. But 2018 was special. The Black Knights won a program-record 11 games and finished ranked No. 19 in the AP Poll. So when Army opened 2019 essentially 27th in the AP Poll and pushed then-No. 7 Michigan into OT, it seemed like another big year was happening.

Instead, Army dropped to 5-8.

Though 2020 won’t be a typical season, the FBS independent Black Knights are playing regular sized, 12-game schedule that still includes the usual meetings with Air Force and Navy. Head coach Jeff Monken should have the Black Knights back to their winning ways, and it will be intriguing to see former Appalachian State/Georgia Tech defensive coordinator and Michigan defensive analyst Nate Woody take over as DC.

How to watch one of the country’s best QBs 

Texas State vs. SMU | 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 5 | ESPN

If you want to watch what should be one of the country’s best quarterbacks this year, tune into this one. After three years at Texas, Shane Buechele transferred to SMU. In his first season as the Mustangs’ starter, Buechele was 307-for-490 for 3,929 yards, 34 touchdowns and 10 interceptions to lead the program to its first 10-win season since 1984.

The yards and touchdowns both ranked in the top 10 a year ago, so Buechele has already proven to be among the best nationally. This first game marks the start of three consecutive road games for SMU to begin the season. The big one is next week: the 100th meeting against TCU for the Iron Skillet.

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Here’s an early game to watch if you love offense

Memphis vs. Arkansas State | 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 5 | ESPN

If you like points, sit back and enjoy the touchdowns.

It doesn’t get more fun than Memphis, which was one of eight teams to average at least 40 points per game in 2019. Ryan Silverfield is the new head coach, taking over for Mike Norvell (now at Florida State) starting with last season’s Cotton Bowl.

QB Brady White returns after a 4,000 yard season that included 33 touchdown passes, but there’s also a lot of excitement because of Kenneth Gainwell. The star running back landed on the AP’s Preseason All-America team after a big 2019 season that had 1,458 rushing yards with 13 touchdowns and 610 receiving yards with three more touchdowns. Add in WR Damonte Coxie (1,276 receiving yard, 9 TDs) and you have the makings of an offensive powerhouse.

But don’t forget about Arkansas State. The Red Wolves went 8-5 last fall, won the Camellia Bowl and averaged at least 30 points for the third year in a row. Yes, losing All-American Omar Bayless is tough, but QBs Logan Bonner and Layne Hatcher return, as does running back Marcel Murray.

Finish off your Labor Day with Navy and BYU

Navy vs. BYU | 8 p.m. Monday, Sept. 7 | ESPN

The Labor Day evening game has become a major showcase for teams in recent years. In the last five years, there were two games between a pair of ranked teams, an overtime game, and the No. 1 team playing on the road.

  • No. 9 Notre Dame 35, Louisville 17
  • No. 20 Virginia Tech 24, No. 19 Florida State 3
  • No. 25 Tennessee 42, Georgia Tech 41 (OT)
  • No. 4 Florida State 45, No. 11 Ole Miss 34
  • No. 1 Ohio State 42, Virginia Tech 24

This year, Navy plays BYU. The Midshipmen and Cougars played in the first Holiday Bowl in 1978 and have played only one other time previously (1989).

After a rare down year in 2018 (3-10), Navy regrouped and went 11-2 to come in No. 20 in the final AP Poll. There’s a chance the Midshipmen could make it back. Though Navy received only 6 votes in the preseason poll, going forward only teams that are playing this season will be ranked. A big Week 1 win against BYU would stand out.

But the big question is at quarterback. Last season, Malcolm Perry set the record for most single-season rushing yards by any FBS QB and by any Navy player at 2,017 yards. In steps Dalen Morris or Perry Olsen.

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