We are officially one week away from the first college football games. Week zero only has five games playing so we are looking at the best games in the first official week of the college football season. Normally week one is filled with tune up games but this season looks a little different. The season is getting off to a strong start. Let’s take a look at the best games in week 1!

10: West Virginia vs Maryland – The rivalry between Maryland and West Virginia dates back to 1919. The schools have met 52 times in their history and both are looking to find consistency in their 2021 season. West Virginia finished 6-4 but lacked any marque wins losing to Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Texas, and Texas Tech. Maryland showed flashes of improvement while only playing five games last year. They beat Minnesota and Penn State but in the games they lost, they struggled to move the ball and score points. Maryland wide receiver Rakim Jarrett should be one of the best in the Big Ten.

9: Notre Dame vs Florida State: Notre Dame is coming off a college football playoff appearance and will be breaking in former Wisconsin quarterback Jack Coan. The Fighting Irish should return a strong defense and one of the best rushing attacks in the country with Kyren Williams and Chris Tyree. McKenzie Milton is currently expected to be the starting quarterback for Florida State. Milton has not played in a game since 2018 but was one of the best quarterbacks when he did play. Can Mike Norvell gain momentum for his program in year two?

8: LSU vs UCLA: UCLA quietly improved in 2020. They only went 3-4 but each of their losses were by six points or less. Chip Kelly seems to have the Bruins moving in the right direction and will be looking to get a big win out of the gate this fall. LSU on the other hand is a complete mystery. 2019 was a magical season, 2020 was a forgettable season. The Tigers have recruited well but the sheer amount of players lost after the 2019 season left a very inexperienced team in 2020. Was last season a fluke, or did LSU fall back to earth?

7: Ohio State vs Minnesota: The Justin Fields era at Ohio State is over and Ryan Day is looking for his successor. CJ Stroud is the current favorite to lead the Buckeyes. Ohio State returns a loaded roster with wide receivers such as Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. Ohio State also should have one of the best offensive lines in the country to help protect Stroud. Minnesota is a curious case because two years ago Tanner Morgan was one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten. Last season Morgan saw his completion percentage fall by almost 10 points. He will need to return to his 2019 form in order for Minnesota to have a chance. Top receiver Chris Autman-Bell suffered an injury and camp and his availability for the Ohio State game is currently in question.

Via The Athletic

6: North Carolina vs Virginia Tech: Sam Howell has a chance to be the best quarterback in college football this fall but winning a night game in Blacksburg is never easy. North Carolina will be looking for play makers on the offensive side of the ball to step up after losing most of their production at running back and wide receiver. Wide receiver Khafre Brown is a name to watch. For Virginia Tech, this could be a make or break year for Justin Fuente. Braxon Burmeister has been solidified as the starting quarterback for the Hokies. Virginia Tech allowed 56 points to the Tar Heels last year so improvements on the defensive side of the ball are imperative to competing this year.

5: Indiana vs Iowa: We have an early season top 25 match up in the Big Ten. Indiana is coming off one of its best seasons ever while Iowa quietly had a productive 2020 season. Michael Penix is back at quarterback for Indiana after suffering a season ending injury last year. The Hoosiers also return All-American defensive back Tiawan Mullen to help bolster the defense. Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras will be looking to improve after an underwhelming 2020 season. Petras threw for only nine touchdowns in eight games while completing just 57% of his passes. Petras has a strong arm and can push the ball down the field which will be necessary to test the Indiana defensive backs.

4: Louisiana vs Texas: The Steve Sarkisian era begins with a difficult opponent. Louisiana returns a large portion of their roster after going 10-1 last season including a win over Iowa State. Louisiana is considered to be one of the favorites to receive a New Years Six bowl bid. Levi Lewis returns as the starting quarterback for his third season. Lewis had a down season in 2020 compared to his 2019 numbers. He will need a strong start in order to compete with Texas. The Longhorns have yet to name a starting quarterback. Casey Thompson and Hudson Card are currently battling for the starting spot. No matter who ends up taking snaps, Sarkisian will lean heavily on running back Bijan Robinson. Robinson is expected to be one of the best running backs in the country this fall.

Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford celebrates after the 34-27 win over Indiana on Nov. 16, 2019. Joe Hermitt

3: Penn State vs Wisconsin: James Franklin had his worst season at Penn State in 2020 after starting the season 0-5. He was able to turn it around and win his last four games to have momentum heading into the off season. The biggest question for Penn State this year is Sean Clifford. Clifford has his limitations but is surrounded by talented players such as Jahan Dotson, Noah Cain, and Parker Washington. Can Clifford limit his mistakes and get the ball to his play makers? For Wisconsin, Graham Mertz may be the best quarterback in terms of talent in the last twenty years. Mertz had an up and down season but it may have also been due to him getting Covid. Running back Jalen Berger should have another good offensive line to run behind.

2: Alabama vs Miami FL (in Atlanta): Alabama lost just about every notable player on offense from their National Championship team. Good thing Nick Saban is the best at rebuilding his team. Former five star quarterback Bryce Young is expected to start for the Crimson Tide this year. The Alabama defense should be one of the best in the SEC once again returning players such as Will Anderson and Josh Jobe while also adding transfer Henry To’o To’o. For Miami, they have struggled to get over the hump to be an elite team. D’Eriq King returns after throwing for 26 touchdowns and only five interceptions last year. The Hurricanes will also lean heavily on running back Cam’Ron Harris after he lead the team in rushing yards last season.

1: Georgia vs Clemson (in Charlotte): Rarely do we get a legitimate top five match up this early in the season. Georgia and Clemson will both be attempting to make early claims at the best team in college football. The Bulldogs will have J.T. Daniels solidified as the starting quarterback with a stable of running backs to provide insurance. Georgia will be without tight end Darnell Washington and defensive back Tykee Smith in this game. Clemson’s 2021 offense will look quite different from the 2020 version. D.J. Uiagalelei takes over as the full time starter after two spot starts for Trevor Lawrence last year. The Tigers will also have wide receiver Justyn Ross back from an injury which nearly ended his career. If there is one game to watch opening weekend, make sure to tune into this one.

Honorable Mentions: Miami OH vs Cincinnati, Stanford vs Kansas State, Louisville vs Ole Miss, BYU vs Arizona, Boise State vs UCF

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