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Complete college football watch guide: Week 1

A huge weekend for all college football fans.



College football
© Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Week 1 of the college football season is here and here’s what you need to be watching throughout the weekend.

Ah, yes. The first weekend in September. A three-day weekend that coincides with Week 1 of college football. The sport celebrates its return with games from Thursday through Monday.

If you’re struggling with creating your TV lineup, you’ve come to the right place.

I’ll go day by day, window by window to create the optimal viewing schedule for Week 1. As always, game times are in the eastern standard time zone.

Thursday, Aug. 31

  • NC State at UConn – 7:30 p.m. on CBS Sports Network
  • Florida at Utah – 8 p.m. on ESPN
  • Nebraska at Minnesota – 8 p.m. on FOX

We get the weekend started early with a solid lineup of games in the evening.

While waiting for the other two games to start, it’s worth checking in on UConn. The Huskies got to a bowl game last year and now have a real opportunity to take another step forward as they host NC State. The marquee game of the night is on ESPN when Florida travels to Utah. Keep an eye on the health of Cam Rising. Utah’s quarterback is recovering from a knee injury and may not be ready to go. On the other side, former Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz will get the start for the Gators. Simultaneously on FOX, we’ll get our first look at Matt Rhule at Nebraska when the Huskers travel to Minneapolis in a rare week one conference game. While Matt Rhule is a wizard at turning around programs, he went a combined 3-21 in his first year at Temple and Baylor.

Friday, Sept. 1

One of the things I’ve always appreciated about Michigan State opening the season on Friday is that it doesn’t interfere with the ability to watch other games. We’ll get our first look at the Spartans with the entire holiday weekend ahead of us. The moments leading up to kickoff on Friday are unrivaled in terms of anticipation. Outside of East Lansing, line up the game on ESPN to watch during commercial breaks if you can’t make it to Spartan Stadium.

If you are going, you should be home in time to catch the nightcap on the island. This Stanford team could be terrible. Hawaii looked much improved in Week 0. The Cardinal could be on serious upset alert.

Saturday, Sept. 2

Noon window

  • Virginia at Tennessee – 12 p.m. on ABC
  • Colorado at TCU – 12 p.m. on FOX
  • Fresno State at Purdue – 12 p.m. on Big Ten Network

If you’ve got errands or chores to take care of on Saturday, don’t worry about getting them all done in the morning. This slate of games at noon is nothing to savor. Even though it’s an ACC/SEC matchup, Virginia is terrible. It’s worth keeping an eye on in case Joe Milton completely comes apart and gives the Cavaliers a couple scores.

The must watch game of the early window is Colorado and TCU. Whether you love him or hate him, we’re all dying to see what Colorado looks like with Deion Sanders in charge.

Fresno State vs. Purdue is a fun matchup with a tight spread. Both teams lost a lot of talent on offense, so this could be a defensive struggle.

Mid-afternoon window

  • Ohio State at Indiana – 3:30 p.m. on CBS
  • Boise State at Washington – 3:30 p.m. on ABC
  • Cal at North Texas – 4 p.m. on ESPNU

The day continues with some big names and even bigger point spreads. Ohio State should have no problem with Indiana – even on the road. The interesting thing to watch will be Ohio State’s quarterback play. Kyle McCord was recently named the starter, but sophomore Devin Brown isn’t far behind. The play from that position will determine how good the Buckeyes can be this season. I’m also curious to see what the Big Ten will look like on CBS in its debut.

Washington hosts Boise State as two-touchdown favorites. The Broncos have the talent to make this interesting, so this should give MSU fans an idea of where Washington is at. I’m not sure Boise State has the offensive firepower to win this game, but the Broncos will at least force Washington to put meaningful play on tape.

If you’re into upsets, tune in to ESPNU at 4 p.m. This is a rare road trip for a Power Five team to a Group of Five team. At home, North Texas has a great shot to beat a Cal program heading in the wrong direction.

Prime time window

  • Washington State at Colorado State – 7 p.m. on CBS Sports Network
  • UTSA at Houston – 7 p.m. on FS1
  • West Virginia at Penn State – 7:30 p.m. on NBC
  • North Carolina at South Carolina – 7:30 p.m. on ABC
  • Toledo at Illinois – 7:30 p.m. on Big Ten Network
  • Texas Tech at Wyoming – 7:30 p.m. on CBS

Clear your plans for Saturday night. We’ve got a loaded slate of college football games that all have the potential to be fun.

Things get started with another upset special in Fort Collins as Colorado State hosts Washington State. The Rams have a tremendous home field advantage and should be much improved in year two under Jay Norvell. UTSA and Houston played the most entertaining game of Week 1 last season. They meet again with the point spread set around a pick.

Two big names meet in Happy Valley when Penn State hosts West Virginia. The Penn State crowd and the debut of the Big Ten on NBC are the main attractions here. If your NFL team needs a quarterback, make sure you watch Drake Maye at North Carolina. The true sophomore could wind up being the first pick in the draft in 2024. Don’t sleep on Toledo. The Rockets continuously have the best talent in the MAC and are plenty capable of pulling an upset. Illinois lost a lot from their defense last year and can leave themselves susceptible to tight games with their conservative offense.

Finally, be sure to tune in to CBS at 7:30 p.m. I have no idea why executives at CBS wanted to broadcast Wyoming in prime time. But it’s got all the feelings of a game that will get weird.

Sunday, Sept. 3

  • Northwestern at Rutgers – 12 p.m. on CBS
  • LSU vs. Florida State – 7:30 p.m. on ABC

The college football fun continues on Sunday.

What better way to start the day than by watching the two worst teams in the Big Ten on national television? In the wake of the Pat Fitzgerald firing, it will be worth watching how Northwestern responds. The day concludes with the best game of the weekend.

LSU and Florida State are both legitimate College Football Playoff contenders. The loser of this game probably needs to win their final 11 games to keep that dream alive. This game has it all. Big time talent. Big time programs. The best part? You can stay up late watching it with the holiday on Monday.

Monday, Sept. 4

  • Clemson at Duke – 8 p.m. on ESPN

The weekend concludes with an ACC conference game that should be pretty fun. Clemson, favored to win the league, hits the road in week one against a Duke team that surprised a lot of people last year. There have been some indicators that Clemson may be starting to slip from the “elites” within college football. They made some changes in the offseason – particularly on offense. On Labor Day we get to see if those tweaks will make any difference.