College Football: Week 0 Matchups
Updated: Aug 23, 2018
It's finally here. College football's infamous week 0, with a grand total of 4 games being played by FBS schools this Saturday. Humid summer is nearly out as the page turns to the 2018 college football season. Although the pickings are slim, I'm here to give you some insight into the games you can watch on August 25th and what you can look out for in those games.
Duquesne at Massachusetts - 5:30 PM ET - No National Broadcast
I told you the cupboard was bare. Did you believe me? The first matchup for the college football season is a showdown at Warren McGuirk Alumni Stadium. Sounds like a snoozer, but there are a few things to watch for in this game. Maybe you're like our Jeff Fidler and live in the Massachusetts area, so there's a chance it's available.
A Draftable Quarterback
It's not often you see a lefty quarterback make the transition to the NFL game, but I love what I've seen from Massachusetts passer Andrew Ford. He's got a slow trigger that hinders him from making throws into tight coverage, but Ford can move around the pocket and throw an accurate football. He will likely dissect an underwhelming Duquesne defense with his precision in the short to intermediate areas of the field.
Don't Sleep on the Blowout
The UMass offense isn't high flying, but it's much more capable than it's given credit for. Senior back Marquis Young has flirted with 1000 yards rushing every year with the program, and now seems the year for him to make the leap from 900. Fellow upperclassman Andy Isabella broke the 1K mark last year as a pass catcher. With a projected scoreline of 25-16 by OddsShark in favor of Massachusetts, I'd put money down on the Minutemen to cover. It should be a good three possession win for the home team.
The Big Matchup
Duquesne has one legitimate NFL prospect out of their senior group it seems. Receiver Nehari Crawford got off to a slow start in his first couple seasons with the team, but he reached 1026 yards with 15 touchdowns last year. He'll likely be taking on Isaiah Rodgers, a junior cornerback who defended 14 passes in 2017. Crawford has never faced an FBS school during his time at Duquesne, so meeting a legitimate draftable prospect in Rodgers will determine a lot for his stock come April.
A Linebacker Under the Radar
Massachusett's Bryton Barr has been an interesting case during his time in college. A transfer from Towson, Barr missed three seasons due to tearing both pectorals and his ACL. After requesting eligibility from the NCAA, Barr was given his shot with a sixth and seventh year of eligibility. In his first season at the FBS level, Barr posted a remarkable 105 tackles, with 9 tackles for a loss, and 5 sacks. He's undersized at 5'11" and 225 pounds, but he'll be the linchpin of that defense as a senior.
Score prediction: Massachusetts wins 35-17.
Hawai'i at Colorado State - 7:30 PM ET - CBSSN
Moving onto a game that seems much more fruitful in terms of NFL talent, the odds seem tilted in the favor of the Rams. Hawai'i lost key offensive lineman Dejon Allen to the NFL, while star quarterback Dru Brown transferred to Oklahoma State as a graduate in search of a starting job.
Rainbow Warriors in My Sights
Although the Hawai'i team isn't gearing up for a run at conference, they've got leaders on both sides of the football to rely upon. On offense, center Asotui Eli brings size at 6'4" and 315 pounds. Eli has 34 starts under his belt, having played a significant role every year since he broke into the lineup as a redshirt freshman. He'll be the key to a successful performance from the offense. On defense, Jahlani Tavai seems to be an NFL linebacker in the making. Tavai has posted over 300 tackles in his three seasons, and has the accolades to back him. He was nominated first team all-Mountain West in 2016, and followed it up with second team in 2017.
A New Group for the Rams' Backfield
The departure of three year starter Nick Stevens and 1399 yard rusher Dalyn Dawkins from the backfield is going to drastically lower the success of the offense if early indications prove true. Now running the show is Washington transfer K.J. Carta-Samuels, who struggled to break into the lineup behind Jake Browning. He has been declared the starter, and will have long time rotational back Izzy Matthews filling in behind him as the top runner. Matthews has posted over 500 yards rushing every year with team despite his biggest workload being 153 carries in 2016. Wideout Olabisi Johnson could make a significant impact in the game if he finds his groove with Carta-Samuels. He's not a particularly special athlete, but seemed a reliable secondary option last year with new Dallas Cowboy Michael Gallup drawing the most attention.
Show Me the Money
OddsShark has the predicted score at 34-6 in favor of Colorado State, with a spread of 14 points. It's a risky move considering the middling talent on the Rams defense and the new face at quarterback. I'd take Hawai'i by a slim margin, but it can't be stressed enough how much that bet rides on the belief (or lack thereof) in Carta-Samuels. His limited action with the Huskies will make his ability to come out firing a judgement call that everyone who puts cash down will have to make.
Score prediction: Colorado State 27-14
Wyoming at New Mexico State - 10:00 PM ET - ESPN2
The marquee matchup of the weekend, although far from a big game, sees the Wyoming Cowboys head south to play at Aggie Memorial Stadium. The storyline is simple to this one. What do the Cowboys look like following the most important departure of a player in school history?
Josh Allen gone? Defense don't give a f***
Wyoming may have lost their most talented player in 7th overall pick Josh Allen, but the team is returning a cesspool of defensive talent. Junior defensive tackle Youhanna Ghaifan posted 7 sacks and 15.5 tackles for a loss last year. Senior defensive end Carl Granderson put up even better numbers with 8.5 sacks and 16 tackles for a loss. Not to mention, the Cowboys have safety Andrew Wingard who has posted an average of 122 tackles over the course of three years. Marcus Epps is no slouch on the back end with him. Epps looks decent in coverage and has his moments in run support. The depth of talent on this defense is sick.
New Mexico State's big producers
The 2018 Draft saw the departure of a quarterback with over 10K career passing yards, a running back with 4.5K yards, and a receiver who cranked out over a thousand yards as a senior. Those players are of course Tyler Rogers, Larry Rose III, and Jaleel Scott. The turnover for the Aggies is staggering on the offensive side of the ball. The defensive side? They're looking at some big time numbers from their starters. Malik Demby is coming off a season with 11 tackles for a loss and 7 sacks. Linebacker Terrill Hanks has posted back to back 100+ tackle seasons and currently sits in sixth place on NFL Draft Scout's senior linebacker rankings. Safety Ron LaForce transferred in last year from College of the Sequoias and posted 104 tackles in his first year of FBS competition. This game has the makings of a defensive bloodbath.
The Big Matchup
The unknown goods at quarterback vs. defenses with sharp teeth is what I'm looking at in this game. It will likely come down to whichever quarterback can avoid the most mental mistakes and avoid turnovers. Wyoming's redshirt freshman Tyler Vander Waal will be going head to head against redshirt senior Nick Jeanty to determine who can sail the ship smoothest through what will surely be tough waters. Vander Waal has the best target with junior Austin Conway, who caught 61 passes last season.
Show Me the Money
Now here's a fun one. New Mexico State is projected winning 19-17 by OddsShark, but the spread is -3.5 in favor of the Cowboys. I would side with the Cowboys here, and I'll side with them to cover. The team is bringing more back on the offensive side of the ball and clearly has more NFL caliber talent on the field. This isn't going to be a fun game to watch for most people. It's going to be a close back and forth fight that should make for big hits and a lot of plays snuffed out. If you bet on this one know the danger you're walking into with two teams that lack any firepower with their offense. But at the end of the night, I expect the more talented team to walk out 1-0 by at least a touchdown.
Score prediction: Wyoming 17-10
Apologies to those loons who want to bet on Rice vs. Prairie View A&M, but I can only think of one potential draft prospect in that game now that most of Rice's talent has transferred out. It's not a game worth mentioning even with a grand total of four games on for FBS teams this weekend.
Hope Nick Jeanty has been declared the backup behind takes off again. Let us all pray the bitter sweet pill of Wyoming vs. New Mexico State goes down smoothly and we move easily to the first real week of action.
Note: Jeanty has been declared the backup behind JUCO transfer Matt Romero.