College football is finally back, sort of. The first day of games is August 26th, but it isn’t the great opening weekend we all want to see. Those games will take place from Thursday August 31st through Labor Day. While there aren’t any marquee matchups in the first slate of games, there are some big things to watch for.
1. How does Bryce Love fill in for McCaffrey?
Christian McCaffrey is now on the Panthers, but Stanford has another potential star at running back. Bryce Love has averaged 7.2 yards per carry in his first two seasons at Stanford and now will be the workhorse running back in the offense. If he can somehow keep up that average, he will be in Heisman contention.
The Cardinal play Rice in Sydney, Australia. Love will be one of the Heisman front runners after this weekend regardless of how well he does because so few teams play this early. Against a rush defense that allowed 217 yards per game on the ground last season, Love will put on a show in Stanford’s first game.
Love has said that he will never be McCaffrey, but he has a chance to carve out his own legacy that starts with Stanford’s game against Rice.
2. USF’s quest to go unbeaten
The Bulls went 11-2 last year and with an easy schedule, have a chance to go unbeaten and end up in a New Year’s Six Bowl Game. Charlie Strong will get the chance to improve the defense this season, while the offense can keep on humming and send them to an AAC Championship Game and beyond.
USF travels across the country to play at San Jose State. The Spartans aren’t that good of a team, but a cross-country trip can create some problems. Quinton Flowers will direct the offense from his quarterback position and help tear up the San Jose State defense on the ground. Flowers will also get a head start on the Heisman race by playing an early game against a bad opponent.
Ultimately this game won’t be that fun to watch, as USF should blow out SJSU, but if you want to watch the Bulls try to go undefeated from start to finish, the start is in San Jose.
3. Oregon State vs. Colorado State
The first game of the college football season features Oregon State and Colorado State. While this may not be the most appealing game, it should be one of the most competitive of the day.
Oregon State went 4-8 last season and is trying to move their way to bowl eligibility for the first time under head coach Gary Anderson. Anderson is 6-18 in his time in Corvallis and a lose to Colorado State could be a bad omen for his future at Oregon State. If the Beavers have improved like they did from year one to year two than they will win this game and be in contention for a bowl.
Colorado State are a solid Mountain West team that is looking to have a great season. Going up against a Power 5 team will give them a chance to show what they can do. They went 7-6 last season, but get a lot of key players back. With quarterback Nick Stevens on the team, the offense will put up points, but the defense does need to improve.
The Rams get a home game in this one, which makes it more interesting, but Oregon State should be able to sneak out of Fort Collins with a close win.
4. Tanner Mangum’s start to the season
Mangum is now the lead man for the Cougars after filling in for the often injured Taysom Hill the past few seasons. He has demonstrated his talent the past few seasons and even has a flare for the dramatic. Now he gets to lead BYU in Kalani Sitake’s second season as head coach.
BYU plays Portland State in its first game, which shouldn’t be too much of a challenge. So, why is it important to see how Mangum starts the season? The Cougars take on LSU on September 2. This is the definition of a tune-up game for BYU. If they play well and get some confidence they can beat LSU.
Against a team like LSU, Mangum is going to have to bring his dramatic tendencies with him because it’s going to take some magic to beat the Tigers, especially with their talented defense. The only way BYU has a shot in their second game is if Mangum is nearly perfect, so getting off to a good start this season is imperative.
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