Skip to main content

College Football: Ranking All 83 Games in Week 1 (2022)

College football’s long offseason officially ended on Saturday with 11 games to kick off the 2022 season. Northwestern knocked off Nebraska in a big upset, Vanderbilt easily defeated Hawaii and Florida State took care of business in a convincing victory over Duquesne. The first full week of games begins on Thursday, Sept. 1, and continues into Labor Day on Monday night with Georgia Tech and Clemson meeting in Atlanta. The Week 1 NCAAF slate features 83 games, including huge showdowns between Notre Dame and Ohio State, Utah-Florida and Oregon-Georgia.

With 83 games on the slate — and too many starting at the same time — Athlon Sports wants to help your channel surfing for Week 1. In addition to a quick preview, we have ranked every game based upon watchability for the first full Saturday of action. It’s not easy ranking one-sided FBS matchups or FCS versus FBS teams, but we’ve tried to weigh everything for all 83 matchups. Many factors went into this subjective ranking. But most importantly, the 2022 college football season is underway and there are plenty of excellent matchups to take in this week.

Here’s your complete viewer’s guide for Week 1 of the 2022 season:

C.J. Stroud, Ohio State Buckeyes Football

College Football: Ranking All 83 Games in Week 1 of 2022 Season

83. Bryant at FIU – Thursday, Sept. 1 at 7 p.m. ET
Mike MacIntyre should be a good hire for FIU considering his success at turning around San Jose State and Colorado. The Panthers are fully in rebuild mode with just four returning starters but should get off to a good start against FCS Bryant (picked fifth in the Big South for 2022).

82. Morgan State at Georgia Southern – Saturday, Sept. 3 at 6 p.m. ET
A pair of new coaches – Clay Helton at Georgia Southern and Damon Wilson at FCS Morgan State – are the top storyline in this one. How will the Eagles' new-look offense perform with Buffalo transfer Kyle Vantrease at the controls? Morgan State went 2-9 last season under former coach Tyrone Wheatley, who returned to the NFL to work as an assistant in Denver.

81. Grambling at Arkansas State – Saturday, Sept. 3 at 7 p.m. ET
Will a new season bring improvement for Butch Jones at Arkansas State? The Red Wolves went 2-10 last year and ranked at the bottom of the Sun Belt in scoring defense (38.6 points allowed) and averaged only 25.2 points a contest. A standout recruiting class, plus a few portal additions, should help this team be more competitive in Sun Belt play. This matchup also marks the debut of former NFL head coach Hue Jackson in charge at FCS Grambling.

80. Maine at New Mexico – Saturday, Sept. 3 at 8 p.m. ET
The Lobos are just 5-14 under coach Danny Gonzales, but a step forward is likely coming with 11 starters back and a transfer addition (Miles Kendrick from Kansas) at quarterback. FCS Maine is under the direction of a new coach (Jordan Stevens) after Nick Charlton left to be the offensive coordinator at UConn. The Black Bears finished 6-5 last year.

79. Central Connecticut State at UConn – Saturday, Sept. 3 at Noon ET
UConn lost 31-20 at Utah State in Week 0, but there were plenty of positives for a team that was a 24-point underdog. However, two starters – quarterback Ta’Quan Roberson and receiver Keelan Marion – were lost due to injury. True freshman Zion Turner (12 of 31 for 109 yards) is expected to be the starting quarterback the rest of the way for Mora’s squad. FCS Central Connecticut State has not played UConn since 1995 and is 0-3 in the all-time series.

78. St. Francis (Pa.) at Akron – Thursday, Sept. 1 at 6 p.m. ET
Week 1 officially starts with this game. The Zips are just 3-27 since ’19, but this program should show marked improvement in 2022 behind new coach Joe Moorhead and a handful of Power 5 transfers. FCS St. Francis (Pa.) went 5-6 last year and is projected to finish third in the Northeast Conference preseason coaches poll.

77. Eastern Illinois at Northern Illinois – Thursday, Sept. 1 at 8 p.m. ET
Just over 300 miles separate these two campuses, but only two matchups since 1999 have been played between the Huskies and Panthers. FCS Eastern Illinois has a new coach (Chris Wilkerson) after going 3-26 from 2019-21. Northern Illinois is the reigning MAC champion and should easily get ’22 started with a 1-0 mark.

76. Portland State at San Jose State – Thursday, Sept. 1 at 10:30 p.m. ET
The Spartans averaged only 20 points a game last year but expect a much-improved group behind transfers in quarterback Chevan Cordeiro (Hawaii) and receivers Justin Lockhart and Elijah Cooks (Nevada). Getting off to a fast start against FCS Portland State (picked ninth in the Big Sky) is a key for San Jose State with Auburn up next.

75. LIU at Toledo – Thursday, Sept. 1 at 7 p.m. ET
Toledo quarterback Dequan Finn (2,549 total yards in ’21) is primed for a breakout year with a full season of starts. The Rockets should cruise to an easy win against FCS LIU, which is led by long-time FBS head coach/assistant Ron Cooper and went 2-12 over the last two years.

74. William & Mary at Charlotte – Friday, Sept. 2 at 7 p.m. ET
The 49ers look to get back on track after a disappointing showing in a 43-13 loss at FAU on Saturday. Quarterback Chris Reynolds was banged up early but returned to connect on 14 of 19 throws for 196 yards and two scores. Although Charlotte hopes to take out some of their frustration from the opening week loss, William & Mary isn’t the easiest FCS draw, as it ranked No. 23 in the Athlon Sports’ FCS Top 25 for 2022.

73. Norfolk State at Marshall – Saturday, Sept. 3 at 3:30 p.m. ET
A trip to Notre Dame is on tap next for Marshall, so expect coach Charles Huff to get plenty of work for his offense. Running back Rasheen Ali is away from the team, and this unit has to break in a new quarterback (Henry Colombi) and four starters on the line. FCS Norfolk State finished 6-5 under first-year coach Dawson Odums last year and was picked third in the MEAC preseason poll.

72. Alabama A&M at UAB – Thursday, Sept. 1 at 8 p.m. ET
UAB’s offseason took an unexpected turn when head coach Bill Clark retired in late June. Offensive coordinator Bryant Vincent will handle the interim duties for a team that returns 12 starters and is projected to finish near the top of Conference USA. Although FCS Alabama A&M went 7-3 last fall, UAB is a heavy favorite on Thursday night.

71. Nicholls at South Alabama – Saturday, Sept. 3 at 5 p.m. ET
FCS Nicholls nearly defeated Louisiana (27-24) last season, so South Alabama needs to be on upset alert. The Jaguars are trending up under second-year coach Kane Wommack and should have one of the Sun Belt’s top defenses. If Carter Bradley settles in at quarterback, USA could push for the Sun Belt’s West Division title.

70. UMass at Tulane – Saturday, Sept. 3 at 7 p.m. ET
The Minutemen and Green Wave combined for a 4-21 mark last season, but look for both teams to improve in 2022. Tulane returns one of the AAC’s top quarterbacks in Michael Pratt, while a struggling defense (34.8 points a game in ’21) hopes to carry over its late-season improvement into ’22. Don Brown is back in charge at UMass (head coach from 2004-08) and tasked with making this program more competitive right away. The Minutemen brought in a handful of transfers, but running back Ellis Merriweather (1,138 yards last year) is the team’s best player.

69. Cal Poly at Fresno State – Thursday, Sept. 1 at 10:30 p.m. ET
Jeff Tedford’s return to the sidelines at Fresno should be successful against an FCS Cal Poly team coming off a 2-9 season. Quarterback Jake Haener should have no trouble putting up points on Thursday night, as he knocks off the offseason rust before back-to-back games against Pac-12 teams (Oregon State and at USC).

68. South Carolina State at UCF – Thursday, Sept. 1 at 7 p.m. ET
The Knights went 9-4 in coach Gus Malzahn’s debut last year, and there’s plenty of intrigue for the ’22 squad featuring Ole Miss transfer John Rhys Plumlee at quarterback. UCF defeated FCS South Carolina State 38-0 in ’18, and the Bulldogs have lost two out of their last three games against FBS opponents by at least 39 points.

67. Colgate at Stanford – Saturday, Sept. 3 at 8 p.m. ET
Stanford is coming off a disappointing 3-9 season, and with USC, Washington, Oregon, Oregon State and Notre Dame up next, an easy opener against FCS Colgate (5-6 last year) is a good way for coach David Shaw’s team to start 2022.

66. Delaware at Navy – Saturday, Sept. 1 at Noon ET
The Midshipmen have slipped recently with four or fewer wins in three out of the last four seasons. However, there’s hope coach Ken Niumatalolo’s team can get back on track this fall, especially with Tai Lavatai returning at quarterback and six starters back from a solid ’21 defense Delaware went 5-6 last season but was picked second in the preseason poll for the CAA and ranked No. 20 in Athlon Sports’ FCS Top 25 for 2022.

65. Eastern Kentucky at Eastern Michigan – Friday, Sept. 2 at 7 p.m. ET
Led by former Missouri and Troy signal-caller Taylor Powell, Eastern Michigan’s offense should boast one of the MAC’s top passing attacks in ’22. However, Eastern Kentucky won’t be the easiest of Week 1 opponents. The Colonels ranked No. 24 in Athlon Sports' FCS Top 25 for 2022 and was picked in a tie for second in the ASUN preseason poll.

64. Elon at Vanderbilt – Saturday, Sept. 3 at 7 p.m. ET
A year after a disastrous opener against FCS East Tennessee State, Vanderbilt looked like a different team in a 63-10 win at Hawaii on Saturday night. Quarterback Mike Wright (309 total yards and four touchdowns) looks poised to take a step forward in his development after a strong performance versus the Rainbow Warriors. Considering last season’s loss to ETSU, the Commodores can’t take this one for granted, but it’s a favorable matchup considering Elon was picked sixth in the CAA after a 6-5 finish last fall.

63. Tennessee Tech at Kansas – Friday, Sept. 2 at 8 p.m. ET
Kansas had a close call (17-14 against South Dakota) in coach Lance Leipold’s debut last year. Don’t expect a repeat performance against another FCS opponent in this season’s opener, as the Jayhawks are trending up following a November that saw Leipold’s team upset Kansas and nearly defeat TCU and West Virginia.

62. UAlbany at Baylor – Saturday, Sept. 3 at 7 p.m. ET
Baylor’s quest to repeat as Big 12 champions should begin with an easy win over Albany. The FCS Great Danes went 2-9 last year and starting quarterback Jeff Undercuffler transferred to Akron. The favorable matchup should allow Baylor quarterback Blake Shapen to get comfortable with a receiving corps that lost their top three targets from ’21.

61. Southeast Missouri State at Iowa State – Saturday, Sept. 3 at 2 p.m. ET
Slow starts have been a problem for Iowa State in recent years, and coach Matt Campbell’s team has won its last three games against FCS opponents by six points or less. With eight starters back, the Cyclones will be breaking in a handful of new faces on Saturday, including quarterback Hunter Dekkers in his first start replacing Brock Purdy. Southeast Missouri State finished 4-7 last year and was picked second in the preseason OVC poll.

60. Illinois State at Wisconsin – Saturday, Sept. 3 at 7 p.m. ET
Running back Braelon Allen is back and poised for an All-America-caliber season behind one of the Big Ten’s best offensive lines. However, the Badgers need quarterback Graham Mertz to play much better to get back to the top of the West Division. With FCS Illinois State (4-7 last year) coming to Madison, the opener is a chance for Mertz to get ’22 started off on the right path.

59. Northern Arizona at Arizona State – Thursday, Sept. 1 at 10 p.m. ET
After another offseason of turmoil and change, the start of 2022 is probably a welcomed respite for Arizona State coach Herm Edwards. The Sun Devils have a trip to Oklahoma State on tap for Week 2, so FCS Northern Arizona – a team that went 5-6 last year – is a good opportunity to break in key transfers like quarterback Emory Jones for a team that returns only four starters.

58. Bethune-Cookman at Miami – Saturday, Sept. 3 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Mario Cristobal’s debut at Miami shouldn’t be in doubt for too long. FCS Bethune-Cookman went 2-9 last year, and the Hurricanes will be highly motivated behind quarterback Tyler Van Dyke to make a statement in the ’22 opener.

57. Richmond at Virginia – Saturday, Sept. 3 at 12:30 p.m. ET
Virginia is 29-3-2 against Richmond, so the odds are heavily in favor of new coach Tony Elliott starting his tenure with a victory here. Quarterback Brennan Armstrong (427.3 total yards a game) is back and has one of the nation’s top receiving corps at his disposal. A revamped defense and offensive line are the biggest concerns for Elliott. The FCS Spiders were picked fourth in the CAA preseason poll and brought aboard intriguing transfer Reece Udinski from Maryland/VMI.

56. UC Davis at California – Saturday, Sept. 3 at 4 p.m. ET
The Golden Bears are 10-0 all-time against FCS UC Davis and won the last two matchups by a combined score of 79-16. There’s little doubt coach Justin Wilcox will build another standout defense in Berkeley, but the offense remains a concern (23.8 points a game) in ’21 and has a new quarterback (Jack Plummer).

55. Murray State at Texas Tech – Saturday, Sept. 3 at 8 p.m. ET
The Joey McGuire era officially begins on Saturday night in Lubbock. The Red Raiders had close calls against Houston Baptist (35-33 in 2020) and Stephen F. Austin (28-22 in ’21) in recent years against FCS opponents, but there should be plenty of motivation to get McGuire’s tenure started off in a big way. Tyler Shough won the quarterback battle over Behren Morton and Donovan Smith, but all three quarterbacks could see time for Texas Tech on Saturday. Murray State is 11-7 under coach Dean Hood in the last two seasons and lost 42-7 at Cincinnati in ’21.

54. FAU at Ohio – Saturday, Sept. 3 at 6 p.m. ET
The Owls impressed in Week 0 with a convincing 43-13 victory over Charlotte. Quarterback N’Kosi Perry was solid through the air (256 yards), and the ground game churned out 218 yards over 49 attempts. Last season was all about change for Ohio. Frank Solich retired prior to ’21, which prompted Tim Albin to be promoted to head coach. The Bobcats started slow but won two out of their last four games and lost four other matchups by one score. Just three starters return on offense for Albin, so quarterback Kurtis Rourke will have to carry this unit in order to keep pace with FAU.

53. Texas State at Nevada – Saturday, Sept. 3 at 5:30 p.m. ET
New Nevada coach Ken Wilson was a winner in his debut. The Wolf Pack generated five turnovers to knock off New Mexico State 23-12 in Week 0. Although the defensive effort was strong, Nevada’s offense has work to do after mustering just 257 yards in the opener. It’s a critical year for Texas State coach Jake Spavital after a 9-27 start to his tenure. The Bobcats brought in another handful of transfers to bolster the roster, including Arkansas State signal-caller Layne Hatcher. This should be Spavital’s best overall team in San Marcos. A win at Nevada would certainly mark a step forward for Texas State.

52. Northern Iowa at Air Force – Saturday, Sept. 3 at 1 p.m. ET
Air Force is a dangerous team (and probably underrated this preseason) with 14 starters back after winning 10 games last year. Northern Iowa finished 6-5 in ’21 but is a projected FCS playoff team by Athlon Sports. Former Michigan State quarterback Theo Day threw for 2,316 yards for the Panthers last year.

51. WKU at Hawaii – Saturday, Sept. 3 at 11:59 p.m. ET
Staying up late for Hawaii is always a must during college football season, but what better way to close out the first full Saturday of games than a potentially high-scoring affair? WKU’s high-powered offense got off to a good start against Austin Peay in Week 0, with new quarterback Austin Reed connecting on 20 passes for 280 yards and four scores. The Rainbow Warriors have work to do on both sides of the ball after giving up 8.3 yards per play to Vanderbilt, and the offense managed only three points after scoring a touchdown on the opening drive.

50. Idaho at Washington State – Saturday, Sept. 3 at 9:30 p.m. ET
Washington State quarterback (and Incarnate Word transfer) Cameron Ward is among the nation’s most intriguing players for 2022. If Ward is a dynamic addition as expected, the Cougars should possess one of the Pac-12’s top offenses. FCS Idaho lost 42-0 to Oregon State last year, so new coach Jason Eck has a tough assignment getting his team ready for the short trek to Pullman.

49. Mercer at Auburn – Saturday, Sept. 3 at 7 p.m. ET
Considering everything that transpired this offseason after a 6-7 record last year, Auburn coach Bryan Harsin could use a convincing (and easy win) to start 2022. FCS Mercer finished 7-3 last season (with a 48-14 loss to Alabama) and was picked third in the SoCon this fall. T.J. Finley will get the nod at quarterback for the Tigers, and the junior has two games (Mercer and San Jose State) to get ready for the showdown against Penn State in Week 3.

48. Southeastern Louisiana at Louisiana – Saturday, Sept. 3 at 7 p.m. ET
New Louisiana coach Michael Desormeaux’s tenure started with a bowl win over Marshall, but the former Ragin’ Cajun quarterback is tasked with keeping this program atop the Sun Belt’s West Division with just 11 returning starters in ’22. Louisiana nearly lost to Nicholls (27-24) last year, so Southeastern Louisiana – a team that finished 9-3 and is ranked in Athlon Sports’ FCS Top 25 – is a dangerous opponent with so much turnover on the roster.

47. Temple at Duke – Friday, Sept. 2 at 7:30 p.m. ET
A pair of new coaches – Mike Elko at Duke and Stan Drayton at Temple – hope to get their tenure started off on the right foot with a win on Friday night. Both coaches have their work cut out for them in 2022, as Elko inherits a team on a nine-game losing streak and one that lost five out of their last six contests by 30 or more points. Drayton’s new team lost its last seven matchups last year and did not score more than 14 points in any of those contests. Former Georgia signal-caller D’Wan Mathis won the starting quarterback job again for the Owls. The Blue Devils are likely to play two signal-callers – Riley Leonard and Jordan Moore – on Friday night.

46. South Dakota at Kansas State – Saturday, Sept. 3 at 7 p.m. ET
K-State is a sleeper team to watch in the Big 12 this year. Running back Deuce Vaughn is one of the conference’s top playmakers, and Nebraska transfer Adrian Martinez should be a good fit for coach Chris Klieman’s offense. South Dakota pushed Kansas (17-14) last year and only lost by three to K-State in ’18. The Coyotes went 7-4 in ’21 but did not earn a spot in the preseason FCS Top 25.

45. VMI at Wake Forest – Thursday, Sept. 1 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Even though VMI has improved recently (12-7 since ’20), Wake Forest shouldn’t have to sweat much against the FCS program on Thursday night. However, there is some intrigue here with quarterback Sam Hartman sidelined indefinitely. How does new starter Mitch Griffis perform?

44. Tulsa at Wyoming – Saturday, Sept. 3 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Wyoming’s season got off to a rough start with a 38-6 loss at Illinois in Week 0. The Cowboys entered the year with concerns on offense and nothing against the Fighting Illini minimized those issues after they recorded only 212 total yards. Also, running back Titus Swen was banged up to put his status in jeopardy for Tulsa in Week 1. The Golden Hurricane are rebuilding with a defense returning only three starters, but the offense is a strength with some of the AAC’s top skill talent and quarterback Davis Brin back after throwing for 3,244 yards and 18 touchdowns last fall.

43. Buffalo at Maryland – Saturday, Sept. 3 at Noon ET
The Terrapins are favored by more than three touchdowns (-23.5), so the scoreboard is expected to be a one-sided affair. However, Maryland’s offense is worth tuning into, as quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa and receivers Rakim Jarrett and Dontay Demus are back for a unit that averaged 29.3 points a game last fall. Buffalo is rebuilding under second-year coach Maurice Linguist with only nine starters returning from a team that went 4-8 in ’21. Rutgers transfer Cole Snyder will start at quarterback for the Bulls.

42. Kent State at Washington – Saturday, Sept. 3 at 10:30 p.m. ET
Kent State takes the honor for arguably the nation’s most difficult September slate. The Golden Flashes start at Washington, head to Oklahoma in Week 2, and take on Georgia in Athens on Sept. 24. The Huskies lost to FCS Montana in last year’s opener, but a program reset under new coach Kalen DeBoer should get an anemic offense back on track. Indiana transfer Michael Penix Jr. worked under DeBoer for one year in Bloomington and won the battle to start at quarterback over Dylan Morris and Sam Huard.

41. Rice at USC – Saturday, Sept. 3 at 6 p.m. ET
It’s Lincoln Riley’s debut and the first game for quarterback Caleb Williams and receiver Jordan Addison at USC. The scoreboard is going to be a one-sided affair with the Trojans a 30-plus point favorite but seeing how Riley’s team looks is worth a peek on Saturday.

40. Liberty at Southern Miss – Saturday, Sept. 3 at 7 p.m. ET
Quarterback play is in the spotlight here. Former Utah and Baylor signal-caller Charlie Brewer won the battle to replace Malik Willis at Liberty, while Southern Miss hopes for better injury luck here after six signal-callers got into the game last fall, and running back Frank Gore Jr. worked as the starter in November. If the Golden Eagles get better quarterback play, marked improvement in coach Will Hall’s second year should be a reasonable expectation. The Flames return just five starters, but a good foundation is still in place on both sides of the ball for coach Hugh Freeze.

39. Ball State at Tennessee – Thursday, Sept. 1 at 7 p.m. ET
Optimism is running high in Knoxville after a successful 2021 in coach Josh Heupel’s debut. Exceeding last year’s win total (seven) is also within reach with quarterback Hendon Hooker and receiver Cedric Tillman leading an explosive offense. Ball State went 6-7 and was picked last in the MAC West by Athlon Sports for ’22. The Cardinals are overmatched on Rocky Top, especially with a question mark at quarterback coming into the year.

38. North Dakota at Nebraska – Saturday, Sept. 3 at 3:30 p.m. ET
The Cornhuskers won’t have much time to lick their wounds from the loss in Ireland against Northwestern. But coach Scott Frost’s team should be able to take out their frustration against a North Dakota team that went 5-6 in the FCS ranks last year. The short turnaround time isn’t enough to fix all of the issues from the opener, but Nebraska has to shore up its running game and fix some concerns along the offensive line before the showdown against Oklahoma on Sept. 17.

37. ULM at Texas – Saturday, Sept. 3 at 8 p.m. ET
The Longhorns are a big favorite here (-38.5), but after a disappointing debut for coach Steve Sarkisian in 2021 (5-7) and a looming showdown with Alabama in Week 2, there’s intrigue to see how this team performs in the opener. Also, this is the first chance to get an extended look at how the offense operates with talented (but raw) redshirt freshman Quinn Ewers at quarterback. ULM showed progress under coach Terry Bowden last fall but ranked ninth in the Sun Belt in scoring offense and defense. The Warhawks face an uphill battle to keep this one close.

36. New Mexico State at Minnesota – Thursday, Sept. 1 at 9 p.m. ET
Minnesota is a sneaky team to watch in the Big Ten West this year. The return of coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca should help the offense get back on track after averaging only 25.5 points a contest in 2021. Also, quarterback Tanner Morgan had his best season in ’19 under Ciarrocca, so his return is good news for a sluggish passing game. Running back Mohamed Ibrahim also returns from a torn Achilles to lead the backfield for the Golden Gophers. This game marks a homecoming for New Mexico State coach Jerry Kill, who worked as the coach in Minneapolis from 2011-15. The Aggies lost five turnovers in a 23-12 loss to Nevada in Week 0.

35. Middle Tennessee at James Madison – Saturday, Sept. 3 at 6 p.m. ET
James Madison makes its debut at the FBS level as nearly a touchdown favorite over Middle Tennessee. The Dukes had one of the top offenses in FCS last year, but quarterback Cole Johnson is gone, and standout Antwane Wells transferred to South Carolina. Colorado State transfer Todd Centeio is expected to get the nod at quarterback for JMU, but the defense also is under construction with just four starters back. The Blue Raiders finished ’21 on a high note by winning five out of their last seven games. Quarterback Chase Cunningham is back after missing the final five contests due to injury, and his play is key with Middle Tennessee breaking in a new scheme on offense with just two starters back.

34. Western Michigan at Michigan State – Friday, Sept. 2 at 7 p.m. ET
The Spartans have never lost (11-0) to Western Michigan and that streak shouldn’t end in ’22. Replacing dynamic running back Kenneth Walker III won’t be easy, but Michigan State’s offense still returns quarterback Payton Thorne and receiver Jayden Reed. Coach Mel Tucker’s defense should improve with eight starters back. The opener in East Lansing is a tough spot for Western Michigan as it tries to fill the void left behind by quarterback Kaleb Eleby and receiver Skyy Moore. Redshirt freshman Jack Salopek is expected to make his first start under center for the Broncos.

33. Bowling Green at UCLA – Saturday, Sept. 3 at 2:30 p.m. ET
With Bowling Green, Alabama State and South Alabama to start, UCLA should have an easy path to a 3-0 record before Pac-12 play hits. Also, the favorable stretch is critical for the Bruins as they look to fill in new pieces at receiver, along the offensive line, and reload a defense returning just two starters. Scot Loeffler enters a crucial fourth season at Bowling Green with just a 7-22 mark. The Falcons upset Minnesota (14-10) last September, but big questions remain about a sluggish offense (21.4 points a game). The defense was solid last year (5.3 yards per play allowed) but keeping Dorian Thompson-Robinson and Zach Charbonnet in check is a tough ask.

32. Louisiana Tech at Missouri – Thursday, Sept. 1 at 8 p.m. ET
Louisiana Tech nearly upset Mississippi State (35-34) last year, and even with a chunk of turnover in personnel and a new coach (Sonny Cumbie), Missouri can’t take this one too lightly. With a road trip to Kansas State up next, a Bulldogs defense that allowed 34 points a game in ’21 should allow new quarterback Brady Cook and five-star freshman Luther Burden plenty of opportunities to connect.

31. UTEP at Oklahoma – Saturday, Sept. 3 at 3:30 p.m. ET
The Brent Venables era should get off to a 1-0 start with UTEP coming to Norman. The Miners fell 31-13 at home to North Texas in Week 0. Coach Dana Dimel’s team will be overmatched here, as the Sooners should be motivated to give Venables a victory in his debut. Quarterback Dillon Gabriel’s first game at Oklahoma is a reason to tune into this matchup.

30. Rutgers at Boston College – Saturday, Sept. 3 at Noon ET
Boston College’s 2021 season was derailed by an early injury to quarterback Phil Jurkovec, but coach Jeff Hafley’s squad still found a way to get to six wins. Provided the Eagles solidify a line that lost all five starters, Jurkovec and receiver Zay Flowers will return to one of the ACC’s top connections. Rutgers took a step forward in coach Greg Schiano’s second year (3-6 to 5-8) but only 10 starters are back and big questions remain along the line of scrimmage. There’s also intrigue at quarterback with talented redshirt freshman Gavin Wimsatt battling Noah Vedral for the starting nod.

29. Sam Houston at Texas A&M – Saturday, Sept. 3 at Noon ET
Texas A&M is 12-0 all-time against FCS Sam Houston, so while the final outcome isn’t really in doubt on Saturday, watching this one is all about catching a glimpse of coach Jimbo Fisher’s team. Haynes King edged Max Johnson for the starting quarterback job, and this matchup is an opportunity for the sophomore to have a fast start to 2022. And how many players from the nation’s best recruiting class will make a quick impression in their first game at Kyle Field?

28. Colorado State at Michigan – Saturday, Sept. 3 at Noon ET
The Wolverines finally got over the hump and won the Big Ten title under coach Jim Harbaugh last season. A repeat of the conference championship is within reach, especially if Michigan restocks a defense losing ends Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo. That unit was the strength of the ’21 squad, but the offense should carry that mantle this fall. Whether it’s Cade McNamara or J.J. McCarthy under center, the Wolverines will be explosive on offense. Jay Norvell was a strong hire at Colorado State, but the Rams will have their hands full in Ann Arbor as they break in a new quarterback (Clay Millen) and five new starters up front.

27. SMU at North Texas – Saturday, Sept. 3 at 7:30 p.m. ET
This is the second all-Texas showdown between Group of 5 teams in Week 1. North Texas is coming off a solid showing in Week 0, as coach Seth Littrell’s squad beat UTEP 31-13 in El Paso. The Mean Green will have to step up their play to win against the Mustangs, however. SMU has defeated North Texas by at least 22 points in each of their last three matchups (2019-21). New coach Rhett Lashlee worked as the Mustangs’ offensive coordinator under Sonny Dykes from 2018-19, so there should be a smooth transition between the staffs. He also inherits a high-powered Mustangs’ attack with quarterback Tanner Mordecai and big-play receiver Rashee Rice on the outside.

26. TCU at Colorado – Friday, Sept. 2 at 10 p.m. ET
After a promising 2020 season, Colorado regressed significantly in coach Karl Dorrell’s second year with a 4-8 mark. The Buffaloes struggled mightily on offense (18.8 points a game) and brought aboard former Minnesota play-caller Mike Sanford to call plays in ’22. Barring major improvement over the offseason, Colorado’s offensive woes will be a problem in this game. New TCU coach Sonny Dykes produced some of the nation’s top offenses at SMU and inherits a couple of proven quarterbacks (Chandler Morris and Max Duggan), along with a talented group of skill players, including receiver Quentin Johnston.

25. Utah State at Alabama – Saturday, Sept. 3 at 7 p.m. ET
In a scheduling quirk, this is the first time since 2011 Alabama opens a season at home. Seeing how the receiving corps fills in for quarterback Bryce Young, along with a revamped offensive line, are two areas to watch for the Crimson Tide – especially with a trip to Texas on tap next Saturday. There’s also intrigue in Tuscaloosa for the debut of Georgia Tech transfer Jahmyr Gibbs at running back. Utah State started its season on Saturday, defeating UConn in a closer-than-expected 31-20 matchup. The Aggies averaged 6.4 yards per play behind quarterback Logan Bonner but gave up 245 rushing yards and lost two turnovers.

24. Miami (Ohio) at Kentucky – Saturday, Sept. 3 at 7 p.m. ET
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops can move one step closer to history on Saturday night, as he needs just two victories to pass Bear Bryant as the program’s all-time winningest coach. Despite having only nine returning starters, expectations are high for the Wildcats to not miss much of a beat after last year’s 10-win campaign. The offense has to transition successfully to a new coordinator (Rich Scangarello), and there are three new starters up front. However, quarterback Will Levis is back after a standout debut (33 total TDs last year), and a group of talented receivers is ready to step up to replace Wan’Dale Robinson. Led by quarterback Brett Gabbert, Miami (Ohio) is Athlon’s pick to win the MAC East this year. He’s one of 12 starters back off a team that pushed Minnesota (31-26) last fall.