The 2020 season officially kicks off in August with an early Week 0 matchup
College football’s 2020 season officially kicks off on Saturday, Aug. 29 with five overall matchups on tap for Week 0. With the matchup between Navy and Notre Dame moved from Ireland and to Labor Day weekend, Hawaii-Arizona and California-UNLV provide the most intrigue for Week 0. Week 1 also features plenty of interesting matchups as the 2020 FBS season gets into full swing with games starting on Thursday, Sept. 3 and concludes with a meeting between Georgia and Virginia in Atlanta on Monday, Sept. 7. Michigan at Washington, USC versus Alabama in Arlington and North Carolina at UCF are just a few of the must-see contests for Week 1.
The CFB Playoff takes place on Jan. 1 for 2020, as the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl will host the semifinal matchups. The season is slated to end on Jan. 11 in Miami Gardens, Fla. at Hard Rock Stadium for the national championship.
It’s never too early to think about the first week of the 2020 season. Here are the matchups on tap in Week 0, five games to watch for Week 1, along with a quick look at the projected top 10 teams for next season:
Week 0 College Football Matchups in 2020
Week 0 – Saturday, Aug. 29
UC Davis at Nevada (Saturday, Aug. 29)
Nevada is 15-11 over the last two years under coach Jay Norvell and has a chance to make a run at the Mountain West’s West Division title with Hawaii, San Diego State and Fresno State each breaking in a new coach for 2020. UC Davis is led by former Boise State and Colorado coach Dan Hawkins and finished 5-7 in 2019.
Idaho State at New Mexico (Saturday, Aug. 29)
First-year New Mexico coach Danny Gonzales should get his tenure in Albuquerque off to a fast start. Idaho State is just 13-21 over the last three years and lost 31-0 at Utah in 2019. The Lobos are likely to be picked at the bottom of the Mountain West’s Mountain Division but should get 2020 started off on the right note with this matchup.
Hawaii at Arizona (Saturday, Aug. 29)
The 2019 opener in Week 0 between these two teams provided plenty of fireworks. The Rainbow Warriors and Wildcats combined for over 1,000 yards of total offense, with Hawaii winning 45-38 thanks to a last-second goal-line stop on defense.
New Mexico State at UCLA (Saturday, Aug. 29)
The 2020 season represents an important year for coach Chip Kelly’s tenure at UCLA. The opener against New Mexico State – a team that’s 5-19 over the last two seasons – is a good chance to get 2020 started off on the right note for the Bruins.
Marshall at East Carolina (Saturday, Aug. 29)
This game was originally scheduled for Sept. 5 but was moved to Aug. 29 to honor and mark the 50th anniversary of the 75 people killed when a plane crashed carrying Marshall's team back from a game at East Carolina in 1970.
California at UNLV (Saturday, Aug. 29)
With most of the two-deep coming back, the Golden Bears will be a sleeper team to watch in the Pac-12 next season. On the other sideline, the opener against California is a good showcase game for new UNLV coach Marcus Arroyo in the program’s first game in Allegiant Stadium.
Notre Dame vs. Navy (Labor Day Weekend)
This matchup was slated to take place in Week 0 and in Ireland, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced this game to move to Annapolis during Labor Day weekend. Look for quarterback play to be under the spotlight when this game kicks off in September. The Fighting Irish return senior quarterback Ian Book, while the Midshipmen are breaking in a new starter after the departure of Malcolm Perry. A new date for this game will be announced later this summer.
College Football’s Five Must-See Games for Week 1 in 2020
Week 1 – Thursday, Sept. 3 – Monday, Sept. 7
Indiana at Wisconsin (Friday, Sept. 4)
It’s rare to have a conference matchup in early September, but the Big Ten slated a solid matchup in the first full weekend of action. Indiana is coming off the program’s highest-win total since 1993 and another step forward is within reach for 2020 under coach Tom Allen. Wisconsin has to replace running back Jonathan Taylor, but coach Paul Chryst’s team returns one of the Big Ten’s top defenses and an experienced quarterback in Jack Coan.
Ole Miss vs. Baylor – Houston, Texas (Saturday, Sept. 5)
Both programs in this neutral site opener are breaking in a new coach, so there’s plenty of uncertainty surrounding the matchup. New Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin inherits a handful of talented pieces on offense to work with, while Dave Aranda faces a massive rebuilding project on defense for Baylor.
North Dakota State at Oregon (Saturday, Sept. 5)
Oregon is a heavy favorite to repeat as the Pac-12 champion, but coach Mario Cristobal’s team faces a brutal start to the 2020 campaign. North Dakota State is the reigning FCS champion and features a dynamic quarterback in Trey Lance. The quarterback position tops the list of question marks for the Ducks this offseason, but Cristobal’s squad features a standout defense and dominant left tackle Penei Sewell.
USC vs. Alabama – Arlington, Texas (Saturday, Sept. 5)
In terms of big-time college football brands, it doesn’t get much better than seeing USC and Alabama meet on same field. Coach Clay Helton needs a big season to avoid the hot seat in Los Angeles, and rising star quarterback Kedon Slovis might be just enough for the Trojans to win the Pac-12 South in 2020. The Crimson Tide enter the offseason with uncertainty at quarterback, but coach Nick Saban will have this team reloaded and primed for another run at the national championship.
Michigan at Washington (Saturday, Sept. 5)
The Huskies open the Jimmy Lake era with a tough non-conference matchup against Michigan. The Wolverines will be breaking in a new quarterback against one of the Pac-12’s top defenses, so this game is a good litmus test for both programs.
Other Intriguing Week 1 Games
BYU at Utah (Thursday, Sept. 3)
Clemson at Georgia Tech (Thursday, Sept. 3)
Oregon State at Oklahoma State (Thursday, Sept. 3)
North Carolina at UCF (Friday, Sept. 4)
Florida State vs. West Virginia (Atlanta – Saturday, Sept. 5)
TCU at California (Saturday, Sept. 5)
Purdue at Nebraska (Saturday, Sept. 5)
Georgia vs. Virginia (Atlanta – Monday, Sept. 7)
College Football’s Very Early Top 10 Teams for 2020
The Tigers fell short of a national title in 2019, but coach Dabo Swinney’s team begins ’20 as the favorite to win it all. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne are back to lead a dynamic offense, while the defense is once again poised to rank among the best in the nation.
2. Ohio State
With a Big Ten title and a trip to the CFB Playoff in the books, Ryan Day’s first season in Columbus was a massive success. The next step? Win a national championship. The defense has some holes to fill and running back J.K. Dobbins will be missed. However, quarterback Justin Fields should have the Buckeyes in contention to win it all in 2020.
As usual, Alabama is losing a handful of talented players. However, coach Nick Saban will keep this team among the contenders to win it all in 2020. Freshman Bryce Young will compete with Mac Jones for the starting quarterback job, but whoever wins the battle can lean on a talented offensive line and ground game until the passing attack develops. The return of linebacker Dylan Moses from injury is a big boost for the defense.
The reigning national champs will look a lot different in 2020. Coach Ed Orgeron has to replace key members of his coaching staff (defensive coordinator Dave Aranda and offensive assistant Joe Brady) and lost nine players early to the NFL. Additionally, quarterback Joe Burrow completed his eligibility after a record-setting 2020 campaign.
Redshirt freshman Spencer Rattler is likely to inherit the controls of coach Lincoln Riley’s high-powered offense, but this unit should rank once again among the best in the nation. Oklahoma’s defense showed progress in coordinator Alex Grinch’s first year and another step forward is within reach for 2020.
6. Penn State
With Ohio State coming to Happy Valley in 2020, Penn State has a chance to play spoiler in the Big Ten East Division. Quarterback Sean Clifford and a deep stable of running backs lead the way on offense, and the defense brings back one of the top players in the nation in junior linebacker Micah Parsons.
It’s a close call between Florida and Georgia for the very early pick to win the SEC East in 2020. Coach Dan Mullen’s team doesn’t have a ton of glaring concerns, but the offensive line and ground game must take a step forward. Despite the loss of a couple of key players at every level, the Gators should rank among the SEC’s best on defense.
Changes on offense are the big storyline this offseason in Athens. The Bulldogs will have a new quarterback (Jamie Newman) after Jake Fromm left early for the NFL, and coach Kirby Smart hired Todd Monken to replace James Coley as the team’s play-caller. A revamped offensive line and a young receiving corps will be under the spotlight in 2020. Georgia will once again have one of the top defenses in the nation.
9. Notre Dame
The Fighting Irish have to reload at the skill positions, but the return of quarterback Ian Book and an experienced offensive line should allow coach Brian Kelly’s team a chance to make a run at the CFB Playoff.
The Badgers have won at least 10 games in four out of coach Paul Chryst’s five years in Madison. Running back Jonathan Taylor headlines the list of key players departing, but there’s enough returning personnel to expect Wisconsin to start 2020 atop the early predictions in the Big Ten West Division.