We were given a small taste of college football with the Week Zero slate, though, now our appetites can be fully satisfied with one of the most loaded Week One college football weekends in recent memory. Rivalries will be renewed as we get an early look into what teams were overrated and underrated during the offseason. I hope you enjoy the next four days of college football because I sure will.
5. Florida State vs LSU – 7:30 EST (SUN), ABC
LSU -3, O/U 51.5
Florida State and LSU are set to meet in New Orleans on Sunday night in what is a pseudo-home game for the Tigers. Both programs are looking to get back on track after underachieving 2021 campaigns.
The Seminoles took down Duquesne 47-7 in Week Zero in what may not have been much more useful than an intrasquad scrimmage. Although not much was proven in the win, the Noles are in a lot better position than last year when they lost their opener to FCS Jacksonville State.
Third-year starting quarterback Jordan Travis needs to show improved decision-making if the Noles want to reach their ceiling in 2022. The run game will be a strength for Florida State as they roll with a three-headed monster in the backfield. This unit will be tested against the odd-man front of LSU which returns most of its production from a season ago. If Florida State gets behind the chains, Travis and this offense will have trouble scoring points in New Orleans.
Brian Kelly has yet to announce a starting quarterback, hoping to gang an edge on the Seminole defense before a snap is taken. With that said, Arizona State transfer Jayden Daniels should be the guy on Monday night. If Daniels can return to his 2019 form, this LSU offense could turn some heads. Junior wide receiver Kayshon Boutte has All-American potential and will be a problem for the Florida State secondary.
In what will be a very pro-LSU crowd in New Orleans, I see the Tigers creating some separation in in the second half en route to a solid start to the Brian Kelly era.
Prediction: LSU 34 Florida State 23
4. #23 Cincinnati vs #19 Arkansas – 3:30 EST, ESPN
Arkansas -6, O/U 52
Coming off of the best season in program history, Cincinnati looks to ride momentum into 2022 despite losing 11 starters from last year’s team.
With Desmond Ridder, Jerome Ford, and Alex Pierce having moved onto the NFL, this Bearcat offense will look much different in 2022. Head coach Luke Fickell has still not named a starting quarterback. Regardless of who gets the nod, this offense will be predicated on a balanced rushing attack as all five Bearcat offensive linemen return. Fickell will want to slow this game down and take the raucous Razorback crowd out of it. This, however, is easier said than done.
On the Arkansas side, head coach Sam Pittman will look to ride the veteran leadership of quarterback KJ Jefferson to another successful season. The 6-foot-3, 245-pound Jefferson epitomizes the physicality and toughness Pittman wants his team to play with. The loss of safety blanket wide receiver Treylon Burks will definitely hurt this offense, but I think the falloff will marginal.
These two teams are going to smack each other in the mouth early and often. I expect the home crowd and stability of Jefferson to carry Arkansas to a win.
Prediction: Arkansas 30 Cincinnati 23
3. #7 Utah vs Florida – 7:00 EST, ESPN
Utah -3, O/U 51
The Utah Utes head down to Gainesville to take on the Florida Gators in what will be a rockin’ night crowd in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Sitting at 7th in the AP Poll, the Utes hold their highest preseason ranking in program history. Their Rose Bowl performance against Ohio State, though a loss, has given Utah rightful momentum ahead of the 2022 season.
In year one under Billy Napier, the Gators will go as quarterback Anthony Richardson goes. With that said, Florida will be very volatile because Richardson is a such boom or bust quarterback. Appearing in eight games last season, Richardson flashed the arm strength and athleticism for some to consider him a future first-round draft pick. However, his decision-making and accuracy were very inconsistent. Napier also has to replace running back Dameon Pierce, a key cog in last year’s offense.
Cameron Rising had his first offseason as the clear QB1 in Salt Lake City which should go a long way for the cohesion of this offense. Five of Utah’s six pass-catchers are back as well as running back Tavion Thomas. I expect this offense to be sneakily one of the best in the country.
Playing in ‘The Swamp’ under the lights is no easy task. With that said, Kyle Whittingham will have his veteran squad ready from the jump. The Utes experience will lead them to a victory in Gainesville.
Prediction: Utah 41 Florida 27
2. #11 Oregon vs #3 Georgia – 3:30 EST, ABC (in Atlanta)
Georgia -17, O/U 53
New Oregon head coach Dan Lanning is up against his former team, the Georgia Bulldogs, just nine months after he led the Bulldog defense to a National Title.
This pseudo-home game for Georgia will be a must-watch to see how Kirby Smart’s squad responds in their first game after hoisting the National Championship trophy. Georgia returns nine starters from that championship team, including quarterback Stetson Bennett and tight end Brock Bowers. This offense will not be a ceiling raiser, but the consistency of Bennett and the ground game have already proven they have the ability to win a National Title.
This Georgia defense will once again be dominant. Junior defensive tackle Jalen Carter is entering his first starting season and may be the best defensive linemen to come through this Georgia program in the Kirby Smart era (yes, that is very high praise).
Oregon has some defensive wreckers of their own in linebackers Justin Flowe and Noah Sewell. Flowe and Sewell are the best linebacker duo in the nation and will have no problem matching up with the physicality of the Bulldogs up front. That said, I do not think the Oregon offense has any chance to put up points against Georgia. Former Auburn quarterback Bo Nix is 0-3 against the Bulldogs in his career, having thrown just one touchdown in those three games.
Prediction: Georgia 30 Oregon 13
1. #5 Notre Dame vs #2 Ohio State – 7:30 EST, ABC
Ohio State -17, O/U 59
Notre Dame travels to Columbus, Ohio on Saturday night in a battle of top-five ranked foes. Considering the magnitude of a top-five matchup, I do not see this game being particularly close.
Ohio State, after missing out on the College Football Playoff last season for the first time since 2019, will be on a revenge tour in 2022. This Buckeye offense is scary and explosive. Sporting arguably the best quarterback, running back, and wide receiver in the country, this team gives me strong 2019 LSU vibes. I expect them to average 45+ points per game this season.
The Notre Dame offense, on the other hand, is undergoing a quarterback and running back change. Though offensive coordinator Tommy Rees stayed in place with the regime change, I do not think Tyler Buchner or Drew Pyne has the current ability to avoid turnovers in ‘The Shoe’.
Notre Dame may hang around for a quarter, or even a half, but when this one is all said and done I see the Buckeyes winning handily.
Prediction: Ohio State 48 Notre Dame 23