Our picks for the biggest Week 1 games
Wes Huber previews the biggest season openers from around the country.
Our picks for the biggest Week 1 games
Week 1 of the college football season has finally arrived. Here are our picks for the weekend’s biggest games:
Friday, September 4th
Washington at No. 23 Boise State
The Broncos 14th-rated offense from ‘14 took down Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl with a decisive 28-14 victory. The 2015 offense, led by QB Ryan Finley, will look to spoil the return of former BSU, new Washington HC Chris Peterson. All eyes will be on the Huskies’ decision at quarterback, where Folsom High School superstar Jake Browning could make his much-anticipated debut.
Prediction: Both defenses allowed less than 30 PPG last season, but Boise State should hold the advantage on offense. Boise State 35, Washington 24.
Saturday, September 5th
Louisville at No. 6 Auburn
The Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Classic at the Georgia Dome will pit two teams that haven’t faced-off since 1974. Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino coordinated the Auburn offense in 2002 and last seasons sixth-rated total defense will face off against Gus Malzahn’s 16th-rated total offense led by new QB Jeremy Johnson.
Prediction: Subpar quarterback play for the Cardinals and superior recruiting on defense for the Tigers will be the difference. Auburn 33, Louisville 27.
Virginia at No. 13 UCLA
UCLA will see a big advantage playing in front of their home crowd and forcing the Cavaliers to travel across the country. Freshman-phenom Josh Rosen will lead the Bruins offense and the defense is simply loaded with talent. Virginia will hope for continued growth from QB Matt Johns and more of the same from last seasons 28th-ranked total defense.
Prediction: Even if we see early struggles from Rosen, the rushing attack led by Paul Perkins the and multi-dimensional impact by Myles Jack will be too much for the Cavaliers. UCLA 29, Virginia 17.
BYU at Nebraska
In what should be an exciting clash of well-rounded squads, head coach Bronco Mendenhall’s Cougars will enter Memorial Stadium to face the Cornhuskers in the debut of head coach Mike Riley. QB Taysom Hill will direct BYUs modern veer-option attack, countered by Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong’s 31s-ranked total offense from 2014, sans superstar RB Ameer Abdullah.
Prediction: It boils down to whether the BYU defense can maintain its composure in the secondary and the Nebraska offense displays an improved run defense. With the latter a greater concern, look for the Cougars in a minor upset. BYU 35, Nebraska 32.
No. 15 Arizona State at Texas A&M
In what could be the biggest shootout on the Saturday slate, the Sun Devils QB Mike Bercovici’s passing attack will face off against Kevin Sumlin’s spread offense with QB Kyle Allen under center. Both teams excel on offense and the game will be decided by the play on defense.
Prediction: The defenses show contrasting weaknesses, with Arizona State vulnerable to the pass and the Aggies to the run. This game could boil down to who holds the last possession. ASU 42, Texas A&M 39.
Texas at No. 11 Notre Dame
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly doesn’t receive enough credit for the job he’s done the last five years in South Bend. QB Malik Zaire will direct a dynamic squad of athletes against a tough Longhorn defense that has simply been held back by a disparaging offense.
Prediction: Despite the name value of Texas, Notre Dame is simply on another level on offense. Look for a comfortable victory by the home team. Notre Dame 30, Texas 17.
No. 20 Wisconsin vs. No. 3 Alabama (Arlington, Texas)
This matchup should have everyone’s full attention, as both teams were sent packing during Ohio State’s championship run, and will be ready to provide a hard-hitting clash. We are lavishly gifted with two of the top-12 total defenses from last season, but packaged with plenty of questions at quarterback.
Prediction: Even a neutral location cannot hide the inadequacies of Wisconsin QB Joel Stave. Without the ability to attack the Alabama secondary, the Crimson Tide will roll. Alabama 28, Wisconsin 17.
Monday, September 7th
No. 1 Ohio State at Virginia Tech
Does it get any better than a Monday night matchup between the defending College Football Playoff champions and the last team to take them down? A great finish to opening weekend will see an embarrassment of riches from the Buckeyes, as head coach Urban Meyer has his first opportunity to show off his new toys.
Prediction: Despite playing Blacksburg, the Hokies will simply be overmatched by an overwhelmingly different team than they faced in 2014. Ohio State 45, Virginia Tech 24.
Wes Huber | Analyst
Wes is an analyst and fantasy correspondent at Pro Football Focus. He's been with the company since 2014, and his work has been featured on DraftKings Playbook and FantasyPros.