We have finally arrived. Our long, national football-less nightmare is over and real live college football is back on the docket for the day. Let’s take a look at our football menu, shall we?
Appetizer: Duquesne at UMass, 5:30 ET
This should be a pretty light fare. Duquesne and UMass both had fairly middling seasons last year, but a below-average FBS team should still handle a below-average FCS program.
On paper, this will get UMass one win closer to bowl eligibility but not tell us a terrible ton about this team that we didn’t already know.
Unless, somehow, UMass is unable to pull out this victory, or really struggles in doing so, ala all of their close games in recent past? Watch out for the rest of the schedule.
A team that is 4-16 in one-possession games under Mark Whipple and hasn’t won a season opener or home opener since 2011 could use a different start to this season to suggest that the rest might be different, too.
First Course: Prairie View A&M at Rice, 7:00 ET
This course will taste rather similar in its lightness, but should have some more interesting notes. Rice is breaking in a completely different coaching staff against a team that is middle of the road even by SWAC standards, so this should net them a victory.
One thing to watch here is how Mike Bloomgren’s brand of football plays here at Rice. He has talked about being very physical, and how cleanly they can execute his vision against PVAMU will give us an idea of how far along he is in his process.
Of the three CUSA bottom-dwellers from last season, the Owls return the most and best talent, and now have the best coaching staff. This game will give us some clues about how quickly they can separate from that pack.
Main Course: Hawaii at Colorado State, 7:30 ET
Sorry for serving your dinner so close to that previous course, folks. We figured you’d finish it pretty quickly and be ready for something heartier.
This one will probably take a little while to get going, as these two teams combined are returning only 18 starters from last season.
Colorado State is obviously the team with better talent on paper, but they are replacing all of their best skill position players from last season. Hawaii, meanwhile, should finally start unveiling the pass offense that head coach Nick Rolovich has always aimed for but delayed a year because he had Diocemy Saint-Juste to rely on.
This will be a good warm-up for both clubs; I anticipate Colorado State winning this game, but how much difficulty they have in doing so will give us a good glimpse at the possible trajectory for both of these teams.
Dessert: Wyoming at New Mexico State, 10:00 ET
Hope you stayed up long enough to get your dessert, because boy is it a tasty one.
Both of these teams feature defenses that were better than expected last season and return darn near everybody from those squads.
Expect that to be the defining characteristic of this game, since both teams were better defensively than offensively last year and return more talent on that side of the ball.
Wyoming’s offense will likely struggle early, considering they’ll have a redshirt freshman under center and the two returning starters on the offensive line make up about half the starting experience of the entire o-line two-deep.
New Mexico State will also likely have their struggles, because while they do return mearly their entire offensive line, their skill positions turn over. New quarterback Matt Romero will have weapons, but starts the season against the best defense he’ll see all season.
This is another nice matchup that will tell us a lot about where each team is headed for the season, regardless of the final score. That said, I think New Mexico State creeps a game closer to bowl eligibility today.