College Football Picks: Week 0 Predictions for Every Game
The long college football offseason is finally over, folks.
While most programs officially begin their season on Labor Day weekend, there is a slate of games each year the week before Week 1. It's known as Week Zero, and there are 11 games this year slated as our tune-up for the 2022 season.
The Week Zero slate of games includes a number of smaller matchups between FCS and FBS teams. But there are some intriguing matchups like Nebraska-Northwestern, Wyoming at Illinois and Vanderbilt opening on the road against Hawaii.
Let's run through Week Zero's games in order of their potential watchability.
Nebraska vs. Northwestern
Game Info: Saturday at 12:30 p.m. ET in Dublin, Ireland (Fox)
Head coach Scott Frost is firmly on the hot seat as he enters his fifth season with Nebraska. The Cornhuskers have gone 15-29 over the last four seasons and haven't had a winning season since Frost's arrival in 2018.
Nebraska will have plenty of new coaches on the sidelines on Saturday, as Frost overhauled his staff following last year's 3-9 campaign. He fired four assistants, including offensive coordinator Matt Lubick, whom he replaced with Mark Whipple. Whipple spent the last two seasons with Pitt.
The Cornhuskers will also have a new face under center after longtime quarterback Adrian Martinez transferred to Kansas State this offseason. Nebraska's new starting quarterback is Casey Thompson, who started the last 10 games last season at Texas and threw for 2,113 yards, 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions in total.
Meanwhile, Northwestern finished 3-9 last season under longtime head coach Pat Fitzgerald. The Wildcats return nine starters on offense, including quarterback Ryan Hilinski and running back Evan Neal.
Nebraska is a 13-point favorite to win on Saturday. It's tough to open the season on the road, but I think the Cornhuskers can get an important win for Frost to remain in Lincoln.
Prediction: Nebraska 28, Northwestern 10
Wyoming at Illinois
Game Info: Saturday, 4 p.m. ET (Big Ten Network)
College football isn't truly back until we see Illinois head coach Bret Bielema on the sidelines. Luckily, the Fighting Illini open the season at home against Wyoming on Saturday afternoon in the first-ever meeting between these two teams.
At home, the Fighting Illini have a 61-27-4 all-time record in season openers. But against current Mountain West opponents, Illinois is only 5-4-1, which should make this an entertaining matchup.
Wyoming finished last season with a 7-6 record, which it capped off with a Potato Bowl win over Kent State. Illinois went 5-7 last season and missed out on a bowl game for the second straight year.
Wyoming returns only eight starters from last season, whereas Illinois gets back seven on offense and six on defense. The Illini are getting back leading rusher Chase Brown, who rushed for 1,005 yards rushing and five touchdowns last season.
Wyoming's defense, which returns four starters, finished 99th in rushing yards per game allowed last year. Wyoming also lost some key starters on offense, including its starting quarterback, running back and three offensive linemen.
I like Bielema's team at home here.
Prediction: Illinois 24, Wyoming 17
Vanderbilt at Hawaii
Game Info: Saturday at 10:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
If you're looking for a Week Zero nightcap to watch before you head to bed Saturday, look no further than Vanderbilt-Hawaii. Nothing signals the start of college football more than watching live Hawaii football at midnight ET, right?
In the first-ever meeting between these two schools, both will be looking to start their seasons on a high note. Hawaii is 3-9-1 against current SEC teams, while Vanderbilt is 3-9 in season openers dating back to 2010. The Commodores are currently 6.5-point favorites to get a win on the road.
Vanderbilt finished 2-10 last season, but it returns seven starters on offense, including quarterback Mike Wright, running back Rocko Griffin and receiver Will Sheppard. Wright mostly played behind Ken Seals last season, but he started the last three games and threw for 1,042 yards and eight touchdowns while rushing for 376 yards on the year.
Hawaii returns only six total starters after going 6-7 last season. After former head coach Todd Graham resigned in mid-January amid misconduct allegations, Hawaii hired former quarterback Timmy Chang as its new head coach.
Vanderbilt arrived in Hawaii on Aug. 21, a full six days before kickoff, so the team can get acclimated to the time change (and hopefully catch some rays). I like Vandy to get a big win on the road here.
Prediction: Vanderbilt 35, Hawaii 28
North Texas at UTEP
Game Info: Saturday, 9 p.m ET (Stadium)
How about a conference matchup to spice up Week Zero? Oddsmakers think this one will be pretty close, as North Texas is only a 1-point favorite on the road.
This will mark the first time since 2011 that North Texas opens against a conference opponent on the road. These two C-USA opponents have played one another every year dating back to 2013.
Although North Texas has won the last five matchups between the two, UTEP looks to be on the up-and-up under fifth-year head coach Dana Dimel. He led UTEP to its first winning season since 2014 last year. The Miners also went 7-2 at home over the past two years, which is a drastic improvement from their 1-11 home record during his first two seasons.
UTEP returns seven starters on offense, including starting quarterback Gavin Hardison, and another eight on defense. Mean Green head coach Seth Littrell, who is entering his seventh year at North Texas, will look to avoid a fourth straight losing season in 2022.
I like the way UTEP has been trending up over the last two seasons. That makes the Miners the pick here.
Prediction: UTEP 27, North Texas 10
UConn at Utah State
Game Info: Saturday, 4 p.m. ET (Fox Sports 1)
For the first time since 2016, Utah State will be opening the season at home. Last year, the Aggies finished the season 11-3 and won the Mountain West in Blake Anderson's first year as head coach.
Meanwhile, UConn has been struggling consistently over the last decade. Last season, head coach Randy Edsall stepped down in early September after the Huskies lost their first two games by a combined margin of 83-28.
It's no surprise, then, Utah State is a 27-point favorite to win at home against the Huskies.
The Aggies return seven starters on offense from last year, including quarterback Logan Bonner, who threw for 3,628 yards, 36 touchdowns and 12 interceptions Logan Bonner. They also return four starters along the offensive line.
Utah State will have too much firepower for a struggling UConn to handle on the road.
Prediction: Utah State 45, UConn 10
Games You Can Probably Have on as Background Noise
Nevada at New Mexico State 10 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
New Mexico State starts a new era under head coach Jerry Kill on Saturday. Nevada is a 9-point favorite, but I like the Aggies to pull off a win at home.
Prediction: NMSU 38, Nevada 30
Charlotte at FAU: 7 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
FAU has won its last three meetings against Charlotte, including a 38-9 victory last season. Charlotte, meanwhile, has lost its last six road openers.
Prediction: FAU 38, Charlotte 20
Florida A&M at North Carolina: 8:15 p.m. ET (ACC Network)
Remember when North Carolina was the No. 10-ranked team last preseason, only to finish 6-7? Replacing Sam Howell at quarterback will be a tough task. We'll see how head coach Mack Brown can reload.
Prediction: UNC 35, Florida A&M 14
Austin Peay at Western Kentucky: Noon ET (CBS Sports Network)
Western Kentucky will begin life without star quarterback Bailey Zappe, who set FBS single-season records for passing yards and passing touchdowns last year. But I still think WKU head coach Tyson Helton can keep the offense humming with new quarterback Austin Reed.
Prediction: Western Kentucky 43, Austin Peay 20
Idaho State at UNLV 3:30 p.m. ET (CBS Sports Network)
UNLV is 5-3 all-time against Idaho State. The last time these two met in 2015, the Rebels won 80-8, shattering the single-game school record for points scored.
Prediction: UNLV 30, Idaho State 14
Duquesne at Florida State: 5 p.m. ET (ACC Network)
Florida State will be looking to avoid to a loss to an FCS foe at home like it had against Jacksonville State last season. The loss marked the first time in school history that FSU dropped a game against an FCS team at home.
Prediction: Florida State 35, Duquesne 3
All information about returning starters and all-time records via Phil Steele's 2022 College Football Preview.
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