Welcome to week zero! College football how we have missed you! After the last two years with COVID, it felt like this offseason took forever, it will be great to see some live games again, even if its not a full slate of games.
There are no games involving teams ranked in the Top 25, but this will be a nice warmup week for week one. This week’s group of games features UCLA, some Mountain West contenders, and one Big-10 matchup.
Here is your Week Zero College Football 2021 preview.
Week Zero Best Matchup
Nebraska at Illinois
- Game Info: Saturday, 1 p.m. ET (Fox)
- Prediction: Nebraska 31, Illinois 28
It was tough to find a great matchup this week, but I went with the one big conference game from the Big-10. The big storyline for this game is on the coaches. First you have Bret Bielema making his return to the Big-10 with Illinois after spending the last eight years at Arkansas or with an NFL team. Bielema had great success at Wisconsin before bolting to Arkansas, which turned out not to be the great choice.
Nebraska’s Scott Frost is entering with his seat firmly on fire. We all knew that turning around Nebraska was going to be a challenge, but a 12-20 record over his first three years hasn’t expired a lot of optimism. You add to that an investigation for possible NCAA violations, and Frost must have this win.
Last year, Illinois smacked Nebraska 41-23. Will the same thing happen again? I’m thinking this game will be much closer as Nebraska has brought in USC running back Markese Stepp, Montana receiver Samori Toure, and junior college wideout Omar Manning to bolster the offense. Another big difference from last year, Adrian Martinez will start and should be healthy.
With those additions in place and the pressure on, I expect Nebraska to get the victory.
Week Zero Upset Alert
New Mexico State at UTEP
- Game Info: Saturday, 9:30 p.m. ET (Bally Sports AZ, FloFootball)
- Prediction: New Mexico State 42, UTEP 41
With only a couple of games scheduled for this weekend, it was pretty tough to find a potential upset. I went with New Mexico over UTEP. The unknown here is with New Mexico State as they opted not to take the field last year due to COVID. They could be amazing this year and this is not an upset or they could be terrible.
At least with UTEP you know what you are getting as it returns nearly the entire offense with wideouts Jacob Cowing and Justin Garrett leading the way. They will have an unproven quarterback with Gavin Hardison but he seems to have a pretty big skillset.
San Jose State at Southern Utah
- Game Info: Saturday, 10 p.m. ET (CBSSN)
- Prediction: San Jose State 48, Southern Utah 14
Every week I will look for potential blowouts, I think this week in particular will not have a lot of close games. I went with San Joe State here for the blowout due to the strengths of QB Nick Starkel. Not only is he coming back, he brings with him five experienced offensive linemen. But San Jose State is losing key wideouts Bailey Gaither and Tre Walker. But Nick Starkel should make up for that along with a defense loaded with experience.
On the Southern Utah front, they ended the spring season 1-5, but the silver lining is they dropped those games by a combined 15 points, so they could turn things around this year. I’m just not seeing it in this matchup.
Connecticut at Fresno State
- Game Info: Saturday, 2 p.m. ET (CBSSN)
- Prediction: Fresno State 38, UCONN 28
This is another game where I have to guess the matchup as UConn opted out of the 20202 season as well. The last we saw UConn they had a terrible defense and only scored 18.9 points a game. But in 21 months they may have fixed that! Who knows!?!
On the other side, Fresno State had a decent 3-3 season with a terrific passing game and nearly the entire offense is back. I think Fresno State may roll here but I’ll predict a closer game for now.
Hawaii at UCLA
- Game Info: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
- Prediction: UCLA 48, Hawaii 31
Does Chip Kelly finally get this UCLA team rolling? I’m thinking the offense should be trending up still but the defense will remain a challenge.
I think this game comes down to the Bruins containing QB Chevan Cordeiro on his ground game. If they do they should roll, if not, it may be a long night.
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