So, it is Labor Day weekend. The end of Summer. Maybe your kids are back in school, but it is the last long weekend for awhile and you figure it is a good time to get away. Maybe get out of town and relax. Perhaps a hotel or a resort is in the plans. Some pool time and relaxing. So now we have a question for you; Have you lost your freaking minds? This weekend means only one thing. The true start to college football weekend. You want to honor labor? Respect all the work the players put in all Summer and during “Fall” camp, plant yourself in front of a tv with an obscene amount of food and beverage and find your relaxation in the remote control. We are here to help by highlighting some of the necessary viewing in the College Football Preview-Week 1.
Washington vs. Auburn Saturday 3:30pm EST ABC; Atlanta
Talk about putting in the work. How crazy is it that if Washington wants to maintain hope for a playoff spot four months from now, they need to win this game. Sure, they could lose and win out and have a chance with an 11-1 record. But the national landscape is not holding the Pac 12 in high regard this season. A win against a SEC powerhouse on national TV seems critical. It’s the first time these two teams have ever faced each other.
Washington comes in as ready as a team could be. The Huskies return 16 starters. The most prominent are on a stacked offense. Quarterback Jake Browning has 9,000 career passing yards and throws at a 64% completion clip. He has lost some of the speed along the sidelines with receivers that are gone but has depth at the position. Also back is running back Myles Gaskin. All he has done is put in the work for 1,300+ yards rushing in each of the last three seasons.
Auburn counters with Jarrett Stidham at quarterback. He has cemented his legacy on The Plains by being only the second quarterback in school history to hit the 3,000 passing yard mark, (3,158). Kam Martin will have to try to replace Kerryon Johnson in the backfield. He had 453 yards rushing last season. The critical element will be the work of the Auburn offensive line, which gave up 36 sacks last season. The Tigers have not beaten a top 20 team away from since Ole Miss in 2014. This one would be worth their labor.
Michigan @ Notre Dame Saturday 7:30pm EST NBC
These two college football bluebloods shut down the rivalry for three years. It was worth the work to put it back together. They need to be on each other’s schedule every year.
Michigan spent the off-season glad it wasn’t Ohio State for a change. The Wolverines were nothing but a football story all Summer for the first time in the Jim Harbaugh era. None the less, this is a big season for the fourth-year head coach. After back-to-back 10-win seasons he slipped to 8-5 last year and is 0-3 against those folks from Columbus. Harbaugh has a big-time quarterback for a change in Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson. He threw for 2,259 yards and 17 touchdowns in seven games for the Rebels last season. He is fully recovered from the knee injury that cut his year short. There is plenty of depth at the receivers with Donovan Peoples-Jones and Nico Collins expected the go-to roles. The Wolverines have one of the deepest groups of tight ends in college football. Zach Gentry and Sean McKeon should give Patterson plenty of help.
Notre Dame had a lot of holes to fill in the off-season and how well they did will come to the forefront right away Saturday night. They lost a pair of offensive linemen to the first day of the NFL draft. Top rusher Josh Adams is gone, as is top receiver Equanimeous St. Brown. Add to that running back Deon McIntosh was kicked off the team during the Summer. There are rumors that Dexter Williams has been suspended, but nothing official from the South Bend on the story.
All of this means the team is going to go as far as quarterback Brandon Wimbush can take it. He is a dual threat quarterback but needs to be more a quarterback who can run, and less of a runner who can throw. Wimbush connected on just 49.5 percent of his throws last season and had only one game of more than 250 passing yards. He’ll have Tony Jones in the backfield replacing Adams. If the Irish are looking for a stat in their favor, Michigan has not beaten a Top 25 team on the road since 2006. Most of the current roster was still in elementary school the last time the Wolverines got that big road win.
LSU vs. Miami Sunday 7:30pm EST ABC; Arlington
Another of the big early season neutral site games featuring Top 25 teams. The Bayou Bengals want to throw a lot of mystery at the Hurricanes and Miami wants to whip out some jewelry in response. If you want an explanation, you could ask LSU head coach Ed Orgeron, but that is not going to get you far either, (Google Ed Orgeron and closed caption, if you are not yet familiar with the story).
LSU is tough to prepare for right now. Ohio State grad transfer Joe Burrow is the new quarterback for the Tigers. He was not in Baton Rouge for the Spring. It’s not like Miami can watch old Ohio State game film to get a read on him. He threw all of 11 passes in 2017. Heck, he threw 39 in his entire Buckeyes career. New LSU offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger probably didn’t even know what to expect any more than anyone else until Burrow showed up at camp a month ago. Whatever LSU is going to get out of him is going to come from a new pro-style offense as they get rid of the motion offense from the departed offensive coordinator Matt Canada.
As for Miami, it is all about the turnover chain. The Canes had their defensive line hit hard by the NFL draft and graduation. But all three starting linebackers are back, and if they are not among the best groups in the country, they are in the conversation. Three of four starters in the defensive secondary are also back. A lot is not going to be asked of quarterback Malik Rosier. Play well. Manage the game. Keep the mistakes to a minimum. Then let our defense open the jewelry box.
Virginia Tech @ Florida State Monday 8pm EST ESPN
Yes, college football on a Monday night. Because it is the holiday weekend. Now you know why we strongly urged you to stay home instead of taking some ridiculous weekend away. You’re welcome.
The Hokie defense stays the Hokie defense. How simple is that. Yeah, they have some holes to fill, but they had depth last year on a team that held three opponents completely scoreless and gave up only 319 yards per game on the season. Yeah, they lost four defensive players to the NFL draft, but the defensive line is stacked and they only gave up 119 yards rushing per game last season.
That leads you the other sideline where first year coach Willie Taggart has quarterback Deondre Francois back. Francois’ season ended last year with an injury in the season opener. Having to shake off the rust and the VA Tech defense at the same time is a lot to ask. He does have Cam Akers back at the running back spot. Akers was a 1,000-yard rusher last year. The challenge comes in an offensive line that struggled most of last year.
It’s not going to be a high scoring. It’s not going to light up the scoreboard. But it is still college football on a Monday night which is better than whatever else you would have been doing.