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College Football 2018 Week 1 Preview
Saturday, 2018 August 25 - 1:27 pm
Gonna give this another go for the 2018 season. How long will it last? Probably until Michigan's first soul-crushing loss, which could come as early as week 1! But hopefully not. Technically we're not even to week 1 yet, but there are a handful of games today (TODAY!) and more coming up Thursday, so I'm getting off to an early start. For a change.

#14 Michigan at #12 Notre Dame, Saturday Sep 1 7:30 PM NBC
It's all very speculative at this point of course, but Michigan's team looks promising with the arrival of messiah quarterback Shea Patterson, who transferred from Ole Miss. Practice hype is high, but of course we haven't seem him play a single down at Michigan yet.

Michigan's biggest question marks remain at offensive line, which needs to improve from a dreadful season last year. The addition of OL coach Ed Warinner (formerly from tOSU) is reportedly huge. The interior line looks solid; right now we're all praying for a couple of offensive tackles who can pass-block.

But literally all the other positions look solid, with returning starters everywhere. The defense once again looks poised to be one of the best in the country, especially up front, where Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich anchor a deep and talented line. That will be important early in the season as the offense may need time to find its rhythm.

Notre Dame looks a bit like Michigan from last year. The defense is young but talented; that will carry them through a lot of games. But the quarterback position is suspect, with presumed starter Brandon Wimbush who has had plenty of accuracy issues. And the offensive line lost two NFL lottery picks from last season. Look for Don Brown to stack heavily against the zone read game and dare Wimbush to throw.

Prediction: Michigan 31, Notre Dame 16.
Michigan Season Prediction: 10-2

NC State vs. James Madison, Saturday Sep 1 12:00 PM ESPNU
This might be the return of the Cardiac Pack, as NCSU returns star quarterback Ryan Finley, and he's surrounded by a stellar cast of wide receivers. So they have the weapons to score plenty... but the defense will likely give up a lot of points too, after last year's already-semi-porous defense lost its entire defensive line and half the secondary to the NFL. I think we can expect a few shootouts this season.

NCSU starts with its usual run of cupcake opponents in weeks 1 and 2, but it gets tougher after that. The top non-conference opponent is West Virginia; that might be an early season-defining game for both teams. (WVU also boasts a high-octane offense and a suspect defense, by the way, so circle this game on your calendar if you're looking for a wild up-and-down game.) Week 4 isn't much of a drop-off, as NCSU is playing at Marshall. Why is this an away game? Who knows. But Marshall might be a tough out this year.

Still, if NCSU can somehow find a way to beat Florida State and Louisville, then only Clemson looms as a almost-certain loss. 11-1 is actually in the realm of possibility. But more likely, defensive woes will mean another exciting but ultimately disappointing year.

Prediction: NC State 51, James Madison 20.
NC State Season Prediction: 7-5

Penn State vs. Appalachian State, Saturday Sep 1 3:30 PM BTN
Not sure if this will become a regular part of my reporting, but since my Penn State friend Dan is one of the only guys who reads this stuff (hi Dan!) it seems only fair to talk about the Nittany Lions a bit.

This is another promising year for Penn State, coming off a season where they should have won the Big Ten and maybe even the national championship. Trace McSorley returns and will be perhaps the top quarterback in the conference, and despite the loss of Saquon Barkley at running back, the offense has plenty of weapons. The biggest unknown on offense is the turnover from stellar offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead to Ricky Rahne, newly promoted from the TE coach position. Rahne has never been a coordinator before, and running Penn State's intricate offense might be a challenge. But he looked up the task running the show in the bowl game against Washington.

Meanwhile, though, the defense is a question mark, where nearly the entire starting lineup from last season is gone, but there's plenty of young talent there. If there's a drop-off, it'll probably be a small one. But it still might spell the difference between a close win and a close loss, particularly in the loaded Big Ten East.

The Week 1 opponent is Appalachian State. Michigan's advice to all Big Ten teams? Don't schedule Appalachian State.

Prediction: Penn State 38, Appalachian State 21.
Penn State Season Prediction: 10-2

Games to Watch on TV

Saturday August 25
Your pre-season taste of College Football 2018 starts tonight. The game to watch is Hawaii at Colorado State at 7:30 PM on CBSSN, because there's not really much else. Plus it's Hawaii, and I'm sure those guys are glad to be out of the state right now, what with Hurricane Lane and all. (Good luck to everyone who's toughing it out in Hawaii right now.)

Thursday August 30
Huh, there's actually a Big Ten conference game on the slate, as Northwestern plays at Purdue at 8:00 PM on ESPN. That looks to be the highlight, unless you're interested in State schools that don't have a state in their name (Ball State, Kennesaw State, Savannah State, Weber State, Northwestern State, San Jose State).

Friday August 31
Friday games too! Both Eastern and Western Michigan play, but the better game to watch will be Western Michigan vs. Syracuse at 6:00 PM on CBSSN. Michigan State's opener is at 7:00 PM on BTN, but it's against Utah State, so eh. Ditto for Wisconsin (vs. Western Kentucky at 9:00 PM on ESPN) and Stanford (vs. San Diego State at 9:00 PM on FS1); you should only watch those if you're looking for exhibition-level football.

Saturday September 1
NCSU is at noon on ESPNU, and even though it's just James Madison, you might as well watch that because there aren't many other competitive Power 5 games on the early docket. Maybe Texas vs. Maryland might be slightly interesting (if for nothing else but the "justice for Jordan McNair" narrative). That's at noon on FS1.

Your Game of the Week is at 3:30, where #6 Washington plays #9 Auburn on ABC. While of course I'm personally more invested in the Michigan-Notre Dame game, there's no question that this matchup has enormous implications for the playoff race. Also at 3:30: App State plays at Penn State on BTN; Tennessee vs WVU is on CBS.

The big night game is, of course, Michigan at Notre Dame at 7:30 PM on NBC. But during commercials you can flip over to Louisville vs Alabama, which starts at 8:00 PM on ABC. Louisville is at home, and Alabama is depleted by injuries... this one might actually be closer than the 24.5-point spread suggests.

Sunday September 2
What? College football on Sunday? You betcha, with a top-25 game to boot. #8 Miami vs. #25 LSU at 7:30 PM on ABC.

Monday September 3
Rounding out the 10-day week 1 schedule is another good matchup and a conference game to boot. #20 Virginia Tech plays at #19 Florida State at 8:00 PM on ESPN.
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