There are a lot of games to watch Week One, so it’s possible some games will fall through the cracks. Games like Ohio St./Notre Dame and Oregon/Georgia are the headliners, but remote controls exist for a reason. You need something to watch once those games become blowouts. That’s why I – your Buddy, your pal – am here to help. Here are 5 G5 games to keep an eye on. (For entertainment purposes only.)
Central Michigan at Oklahoma St. (Sept. 1) – I’ve never been there, but I’m guessing Stillwater, Oklahoma on a Thursday night is not typically very interesting. But this particular evening could be.
These two teams met before in this very same environment back in 2016. And the situation was very similar to what it is this year. Expectations are/were high for the Cowboys and the Chippewas are/were considered decent, but perhaps in over their head against the mighty Big XII foe. That didn’t go well for OSU then, and it may not this time either.
Central Michigan is considered one of the top teams in the MAC this year, coming off a bowl win over a Power 5 team in Washington St. after receiving a last minute Sun Bowl invitation. They return one of the top running backs in the nation in sophomore Lew Nichols III and fellow sophomore quarterback Daniel Richardson. Not to mention they are coached by former Florida coach Jim McElwain, who will not bring a team intimidated by the night game environment this season opener will provide. The defense will have to show up, and Bad Spencer Sanders probably will have to too, but it’s definitely not outside the realm of possibility.
A lot of eyes will be on the revival of the Backyard Brawl (West Virginia at Pittsburgh) which will be taking place at the exact same time, or even Penn St. vs. Purdue later that evening. But it would be in the best interest of G5 lovers everywhere to focus on this game. (7 p.m. EST, FS1)
Troy at Ole Miss – Before calling me crazy, hear me out.
Things seem to be going well in Oxford now, but anyone who has been a fan of college football over the last decade has seen how quickly things can go off the rails for any Lane Kiffin led team. Maybe that happens this year, maybe it doesn’t. But here is what I know…
Ole Miss is breaking a new (albeit talented) offense with transfers Zach Evans (TCU) Michael Trigg (USC) and likely starter at quarterback Jaxson Dart (also USC). All are extremely talented, but may require some chemistry to develop. They will be facing arguably the top defense in the Sun Belt in Troy. Linebacker Carlton Martial could be the top defensive player in the conference, and he will likely be watching Evans like a Hawk. Meanwhile a defensive line that is quite adept at rushing the passer will be looking to force Dart into some bad decisions. Things could get tricky for the Rebels.
On the other hand, the Trojan offense is going to need to put up points behind quarterback Gunnar Watson. I’m not sure I trust them to be that strong throughout the season (as I mentioned in the Sun Belt “Predicting the Futures” column) but if I am wrong and the Trojans become more than a decent “half team”, Ole Miss could be the first victim. It’s a longshot to be sure, but it’s worth keeping in the afternoon game rotation while channel surfing. (4 p.m. EST, SEC Network)
N.C. State at East Carolina – One of the sexy sleeper picks in preseason polls is North Carolina St. I get why people are high on Devin Leary, but am not in love with the rest of the offense. They remind me of North Carolina last year, and we all remember how that looked. There is a very real chance their expectations are dashed after a trip to Greenville to take on an East Carolina team that is every bit as talented as the Wolfpack, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
The Pirates return four-year starter Holton Ahlers at quarterback and arguably the top rushing tandem in the AAC in Keaton Mitchell and Rahjai Harris. They may need to depend on a passing attack breaking in all new starters at receiver to move the ball against a stingy N.C. State defense, but if they are able to provide balance on offense, they can win this game. (Side note: Going on at the same time in the same state is North Carolina at Appalachian St. It could be a rough day if you are a fan of a North Carolina school in the ACC.) (Noon EST, ESPN)
Georgia St. at South Carolina – Don’t think you are off the hook, other Carolina state.
Ohio St./Notre Dame is going to get the majority of eyeballs during the 7:30 block of games. But there is a very real chance that game is over by 8 p.m. In the meantime, three SEC teams – Alabama, Mississippi St. and South Carolina – will all be playing at the same time. Alabama may be doing Alabama things, so maybe focus your attention on a trendy South Carolina Gamecock team hosting the very dangerous Georgia St. Panthers.
In any other year, GSU would be a trendy pick to win the loaded Sun Belt East. But with the additions of Marshall and James Madison, they may be a bit forgotten about. But they are still very, very dangerous and can beat any opponent on their schedule. That includes both directional Carolinas. They open the season against Spencer Rattler and the new-look Gamecocks. There will obviously be a lot of excitement at Williams-Brice Stadium, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that last year’s squad finished 7-6. (7:30 EST, ESPN+)
Boise St. at Oregon St. – If you don’t end your Week One with a little Pac-12 After Dark, are you even really a college football fan?
Oregon St. is one of those teams that are a bit of a wild card in the Pac-12. They were a bowl team last year and return a lot of talent from last year’s squad, but no one really sees them as a threat to win the conference. Which is exactly the type of team that Boise St. should beat to boost their own resume.
I’m not particularly high on Boise St. They aren’t bad, but let’s just say teams from the Mountain West have gotten on their level. A win on the road at Oregon St. can remind conference foes that they are still a force to be reckoned with. A loss, and they can easily get lose in the shuffle with the likes of San Diego St., Air Force, Fresno St. and Utah St. (10:30 p.m. EST, ESPN)