The season officially kicks off with an early Week 0 matchup
The days are counting down. College football’s 2019 season officially kicks off on Saturday, Aug. 24 with two Week 0 matchups. Miami and Florida meet in Orlando, with Arizona and Hawaii set for a high-scoring affair in Honolulu later that night. The full Week 1 college football schedule of matchups is slated to begin on Thursday, Aug. 29. The opening Thursday of action features Utah at BYU, along with defending champion Clemson taking on Georgia Tech. The opening week of games continues on Friday with Oklahoma State at Oregon State and Colorado State meeting Colorado in Denver.
The first full Saturday of college football games in 2019 takes place on Aug. 31. And as expected for the first weekend, there’s no shortage of intriguing matchups. Neutral site games between Auburn-Oregon (Arlington) and Boise State-Florida State (Jacksonville) are among the weekend’s must-see contests. Week 1 also features an intriguing Sunday night game on Sept. 1 between Houston and Oklahoma. The Week 1 slate concludes with a Labor Day showdown between Notre Dame and Louisville on Monday night.
It’s never too early to think about the first week of the 2019 season. Here are the top five games to watch, along with a quick look at the projected top 10 teams for next season:
College Football’s Top Five Games for Week 1 in 2019
1. Auburn vs. Oregon (Arlington, Texas)
Sat., Aug. 31 at 7:30 p.m. ET (ABC)
Oregon won the offseason thanks to the return of quarterback Justin Herbert and a standout recruiting class. But the Ducks’ high-powered offense will have their hands full in the opener against Auburn’s standout defense and one of the top lines in the nation. The Tigers are coming off a disappointing 8-5 season, and coach Gus Malzahn sits squarely on the hot seat for 2019. Finding a quarterback to execute Malzahn’s spread attack is Auburn’s top priority this offseason.
2. Boise State vs. Florida State (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Sat., Aug. 31 at 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Willie Taggart finished 5-7 in its first year at the helm in Tallahassee, so the 2019 opener against Boise State is a good opportunity to show the program is on the right track. The Seminoles had a porous offensive line in 2018, which contributed to the overall struggles on that side of the ball. That unit should be slightly better in ’19, and quarterback James Blackman should be a good fit under new coordinator Kendal Briles. Boise State’s defense ranked among the best in the Mountain West, and a pass rush that accumulated 39 sacks will test Florida State’s revamped offensive line. However, coach Bryan Harsin’s team must break in a new quarterback after Brett Rypien’s departure. A win by the Broncos could help this team for positioning among Group of 5 programs later in the year for the New Year’s Six bowl.
3. Houston at Oklahoma
Sun., Sept. 1 at 7 p.m. ET (ABC)
If you like offense, then this opener in Norman is a must-see matchup for Week 1. Oklahoma’s high-powered attack will look a little different in 2019, as Alabama graduate transfer Jalen Hurts is slated to take control after Kyler Murray departed for the NFL. While Hurts might not be as prolific in the passing department, the Sooners are loaded with talent at running back and won’t miss too much of a beat on offense. Houston made one of the offseason’s top coaching hires by luring Dana Holgorsen away from West Virginia. Holgorsen has plenty of pieces to work with on offense, including quarterback D’Eriq King.
4. Utah at BYU
Thurs., Aug. 29 at 10:15 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Week 1 usually doesn’t feature rivalry games, but 2019 sees Utah and BYU renew the Holy War on Aug. 29. The Utes and Cougars played late in the 2018 season, as Utah rallied for a 35-27 victory. BYU quarterback Zach Wilson is a rising star to watch next fall and will be looking to guide coach Kalani Sitake’s team to its first victory over the Utes since 2009. Utah is primed for a run at the Pac-12 title, as coach Kyle Whittingham’s team features one of the league’s top defenses, along with dynamic quarterback Tyler Huntley.
5. Northwestern at Stanford
Sat., Aug. 31 at 4 p.m. ET (FOX)
This meeting of academic powerhouses also features one of the more intriguing quarterback battles of Week 1. Stanford's K.J. Costello is on the radar for the NFL after earning second-team All-Pac-12 honors last fall. And with the Cardinal reloading at running back and up front, he should be the focal point of coach David Shaw's offense in 2019. With Clayton Thorson out of eligibility, Northwestern is set to hand the reins on offense to Clemson transfer (and former five-star recruit) Hunter Johnson. The Wildcats - anchored by All-America linebacker Paddy Fisher -return one of the Big Ten's top defenses.
Week 0 Matchups for 2019
Florida vs. Miami (Orlando, Fla.)
Sat., Aug. 24 at 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
An all-Florida showdown is set for Aug. 24 in Orlando, as Dan Mullen looks to keep Florida trending up for 2019, while Miami hopes to take a step forward under new coach Manny Diaz. These two teams were stingy on defense in 2018 and should be once again in ’19. Mullen made a big impact on the Gators’ offense in his first year at the helm and more progress is expected with the return of quarterback Feleipe Franks and a solid cast of skill players. Diaz has to fill a few voids on defense, but the Hurricanes desperately need to jumpstart their offense after averaging only 28.8 points a game. The big question surrounding Miami for 2019: Who starts at quarterback? N'Kosi Perry seemed to leave spring with a slight edge, but Ohio State transfer Tate Martell is also in the mix.
Arizona at Hawaii
Sat., Aug. 24 at 10:30 p.m. ET (CBS Sports Network)
If you like offense, then this late-night affair in Honolulu should be must-see television. Arizona finished 5-7 in coach Kevin Sumlin's first year last fall, but a healthy Khalil Tate at quarterback should help this team improve in 2019. Tate and running back J.J. Taylor form a dynamic combination on offense, and this duo figures to be a handful for a Hawaii defense that allowed 35.1 points a game last fall. However, Hawaii has enough firepower behind quarterback Cole McDonald to match Arizona score-for-score on Aug. 24.
College Football’s Top 10 Teams for 2019
Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is back for another run at the Heisman Trophy and a national title.
Can the Tigers go back-to-back?
Coach Kirby Smart is recruiting at a high level and has a wealth of young talent ready to step up on both sides of the ball.
The Wolverines have to retool a bit on defense, but coach Jim Harbaugh's offense should be dynamic behind quarterback Shea Patterson.
5. Ohio State
Replacing Urban Meyer won't be easy, but Ryan Day looks like a great fit in Columbus. The regular season finale versus Michigan will likely decide the winner of the Big Ten East Division.
Kyler Murray is a big loss, but the Sooners are set at quarterback with Jalen Hurts coming in. New coordinator Alex Grinch should help the defense take a step forward.
Despite losing Greedy Williams and Devin White, the Tigers should be strong once again on defense. However, contending for a playoff spot hinges (once again) on the development of the offense.
Gators must reload in the trenches, but coach Dan Mullen should continue to get the most out of this offense, while continuing to lean on one of the SEC’s top defenses.
9. Notre Dame
Another trip to the CFB Playoff will require coach Brian Kelly's team to replace a couple of key cogs on defense and navigate a schedule that features road trips to Georgia and Michigan.
10. Texas A&M
The Aggies return quarterback Kellen Mond but must replace running back Trayveon Williams.