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College football Week 1 viewing guide: From new quarterbacks to Clemson-Georgia

The first full weekend of the season has arrived. Here’s our big-picture look at Week 1.
McKenzie Milton and the Florida State Seminoles will host Notre Dame on Sunday in one of the weekend's marquee games.
McKenzie Milton and the Florida State Seminoles will host Notre Dame on Sunday in one of the weekend's marquee games. [ Orlando Sentinel ]
Published Sep. 2
Updated Sep. 2

Lamest time window: Friday. There are games Thursday-Monday, so if you need to pace yourselves, take Friday night off. Enjoy the rest.

Thursday

Boise State at UCF (7 p.m.) is a juicy Group of Five matchup. Keep an eye on USF at North Carolina State (7:30) to open Jeff Scott’s second year and what No. 4 Ohio State looks like at tricky Minnesota (8).

Friday

6: No. 10 North Carolina at Virginia Tech will help us see whether the Tar Heels are legitimate playoff contenders and how hot Justin Fuente’s seat is about to get for the Hokies.

Related: Q&A: What to know and expect in college football’s second season of COVID

Saturday

Will D'Eriq King be able to lead the Miami Hurricanes to a win over mighty Alabama on Saturday?
Will D'Eriq King be able to lead the Miami Hurricanes to a win over mighty Alabama on Saturday? [ LYNNE SLADKY | AP ]

Noon: No. 19 Penn State will try to show No. 12 Wisconsin last year’s 4-5 season was an anomaly.

3:30: No. 1 Alabama can improve to 16-1 in Atlanta under Nick Saban with a win over D’Eriq King and No. 14 Miami.

4:30: Don’t call it an upset if No. 23 Louisiana Lafayette spoils Steve Sarkisian’s debut at No. 21 Texas. The Ragin’ Cajuns knocked off a ranked Iowa State team by 17 in last year’s opener.

7:30: No. 3 Clemson against No. 5 Georgia in Charlotte should be the best game of the regular season.

8:30: Will Chip Kelly’s Bruins be able to build off last week’s blowout win over Hawaii by toppling No. 16 LSU?

Sunday

7:30: No. 9 Notre Dame is a great measuring stick to start Florida State coach Mike Norvell’s second season.

Related: McKenzie Milton’s comeback is ‘miraculous,’ even to his Mayo Clinic surgeon

Monday

8: Louisville-Mississippi doesn’t have marquee name recognition, but this is a fun matchup destined for weirdness, like anything Lane Kiffin touches.

New QBs to know

Bryce Young is the latest big name to start for Alabama.
Bryce Young is the latest big name to start for Alabama. [ VASHA HUNT | AP ]

A quick look at the up-and-comers who will replace some of last year’s top passers:

Clemson

Out: Trevor Lawrence, the Jaguars’ No. 1 overall pick who led the Tigers to the 2018 national title.

In: D.J. Uiagalelei. The California native was the No. 10 overall recruit in 2020 and was 59-of-85 for 781 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions in two starts last year.

Alabama

Out: Mac Jones, who led the Tide to last season’s national title and is now the Patriots’ starter.

In: Bryce Young. The No. 2 overall recruit in 2020 was California’s Gatorade high school player of the year. He threw 22 passes (13 completions, one touchdown) last fall.

Notre Dame

Out: Ian Book, the winningest quarterback in program history.

In: Jack Coan. The grad transfer went 12-6 as Wisconsin’s starter and ranks third in Badgers history in completion percentage and passing efficiency.

Ohio State

Out: Justin Fields, who led the Buckeyes to a pair of Big Ten titles before being drafted 11th overall by Chicago.

In: C.J. Stroud. The California native was a top-50 national recruit in 2020, and his lone college statistic is a 48-yard touchdown rush against Michigan State.

GameDay breakdown

Former Plant High lineman Will Putnam is a player to watch for Clemson in Saturday's blockbuster game against Georgia.
Former Plant High lineman Will Putnam is a player to watch for Clemson in Saturday's blockbuster game against Georgia. [ SCOTT PURKS ]

As great as No. 3 Clemson was last year, its offensive line was merely fine. But fine won’t be good enough against No. 5 Georgia, which has one of the country’s best defensive fronts. The game could hinge on how well Will Putnam (Plant High) and the rest of Clemson’s interior line block Georgia’s elite tackles, Devonte Wyatt and Jordan Davis.

Local of the week

Michael Penix has returned from a knee injury and will lead the Hoosiers against the Hawkeyes in a top-20 matchup.
Michael Penix has returned from a knee injury and will lead the Hoosiers against the Hawkeyes in a top-20 matchup. [ JAY LAPRETE | AP ]

Indiana quarterback Michael Penix (Tampa Bay Tech)

The breakout star of last year’s breakout team has recovered from the torn ACL he suffered in November. Penix and the No. 17 Hoosiers will try to show last year wasn’t a fluke when they open at No. 18 Iowa.

Related: How a now-defunct Hillsborough school sparked Indiana coach Tom Allen’s rise

By the numbers: Week 1

Alabama's recent run of neutral-site dominance includes a 24-7 win over Florida State in Atlanta in 2017.
Alabama's recent run of neutral-site dominance includes a 24-7 win over Florida State in Atlanta in 2017. [ Times (2017) ]

313-91 — Combined score of Alabama’s last eight neutral-site openers. The closest game: FSU’s 24-7 loss at Atlanta in ‘17.

2-0 — Jim McElwain’s record against Missouri at UF (he and the Gators parted ways at the start of Mizzou week in his third season). He’ll lead Central Michigan to Mizzou on Saturday, if he recovers quickly enough from an appendectomy Wednesday.

1,299 — Games in No. 2 Oklahoma history. No. 1,300 will be against Tulane in Norman after Hurricane Ida forced it to move from New Orleans.

3-0 — Josh Heupel’s record in season openers at UCF. Surely his new team, Tennessee, is good enough to make it 4-0 against Bowling Green, right?

Related: Can former UCF coach Josh Heupel turn Tennessee around? Don’t bet on it.

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