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College Football 2019: Week 1 Preview
Thursday, 2019 August 29 - 6:34 pm
Hope springs eternal. Michigan plays the One-Legged Pirates of Middle Tennessee State University; NCSU takes on the Actual Pirates of East Carolina; Penn State plays the Boiling Potatoes of Idaho.

Michigan vs MTSU, 7:30 PM BTN
Expectations are high for Michigan this year, thanks to a ton of returning talent on the offense and the promise of a new wide-open attack. Shea Patterson may be the best quarterback in the conference and among the top five in the country, and there's a ton of receiving talent around him. New offensive coordinator Josh Gattis intends to take advantage of all that talent with his philosophy of "speed in space".

There are question marks, though. The starting offensive line is experienced and talented, but depth at the tackle spot is questionable after Andrew Steuber went out with an ACL injury during practice. The defense has to replace a bunch of NFL talent, and while practice hype has been high on the newcomers, I'm a bit skeptical that this year's defense can perform at the same level as last year's.

So while a lot of people are murmuring that this is The Year that Michigan breaks through against Ohio State and maybe even goes to the national championship game, I'm not ready to predict that yet. Injuries are a huge randomizing factor this year. Ohio State isn't immune to that factor either, of course; an injury to transfer quarterback Justin Fields might prove devastating, as OSU's top two backups both transferred in the offseason.

But the outlook is bright. I'd put the over-under on Michigan's season at ten wins; the games against Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State will as usual be brutal tests.

Oh, and as for Middle Tennessee State, they were kinda okay last year but everyone graduated so... they are probably not kinda okay this year.

Prediction: Michigan 56, MTSU 6.

N.C. State vs ECU, 12:00 PM ACCN
This is kind of a rebuilding year for the Wolfpack, what with Ryan Finley off to the NFL. Gone as well are the top receivers, the top running back, three offensive linemen, and the offensive coordinator. Oof.

The defense returns eight starters, but they weren't great last season. They might need contribution from some incoming freshmen to shore things up, but that's always a shaky proposition.

I'd put the over-under at six wins. The schedule is, as usual, full of cupcakes and winnable conference games. Games against ECU, Western Carolina, and Ball State shouldn't be a terrible challenge, and there should be three wins among the likes of Wake Forest, Boston College, Louisville, and Georgia Tech. But it's hard to see how State stays at all competitive against Clemson, and games against FSU, UNC, WVU, and Syracuse look difficult too.

ECU, for their part, is breaking in a new coach, who will look to improve a miserable offense from last year. There's some talent on defense, perhaps enough to make trouble for an inexperienced NCSU offense. I'm predicting a mistake-riddled sloppy game for this opener.

Prediction: NCSU 23, ECU 8.

Penn State vs Idaho, 3:30 PM BTN
Penn State had high hopes for a smooth transition after Trace McSorley's graduation, but then Tommy Stevens transferred to Mississippi State, so now the offense rests in the hands of Sean Clifford, who only has seven career pass attempts. Combined with Miles Sanders' early exit for the NFL and a pile of transfer exits, there are a lot of new faces to digest, particularly on offense. Penn State is going to rely a lot on the defense, which should still be solid.

Fortunately there's time for the offense to find their footing, as the non-conference schedule is soft. The meat of the schedule is in October, with a run of games versus Purdue, Iowa, Michigan, and Michigan State; by then, maybe Clifford will have found some chemistry with star receiver K.J. Hamler.

The over-under is probably around 9 wins this year, thanks to the soft schedule. But a conference title doesn't seem likely; the Big Ten East will be brutal, as usual.

Meanwhile, Idaho! They are, uh, not going to be good. Maybe they'll score off a trick play or two?

Prediction: Penn State 44, Idaho 0.

Games to Watch on TV
Not much in the Thursday and Friday slate to get excited about. We'll get an early look at the #1 team Clemson in conference action against Georgia Tech. That's Thursday at 8:00 PM on ACCN. On Friday, #18 Michigan State plays Tulsa on FS1, and #19 Wisconsin plays South Florida on ESPN. The latter game seems more likely to be interesting.

At noon on Saturday, the NCSU game is on ACCN. Not much else of interest in that time slot; #5 Ohio State plays Florida Atlantic, and they're only a four-touchdown favorite in that game.

At 3:30 PM, Penn State plays Idaho on BTN. Duke plays #2 Alabama on ABC, which should be entertaining for all of about three minutes. South Carolina plays North Carolina on ESPN.

At 4:00 PM, Northwestern plays #25 Stanford on Fox, and I'm gonna call this the Game of the Week. Both of these teams are in outside contention for divisional titles in their conferences, and the game might be pretty competitive.

At 7:30 PM, Michigan plays MTSU on BTN. #11 Oregon plays #16 Auburn on ABC; that's the only game with two ranked teams this week.
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