College Football Picks: Week 1 Predictions for Every Game
Six teams have already opened the 2018 season, but the remainder of the Football Bowl Subdivision kicks off this week.
We missed you, college football.
Although the opening week is riddled with nonconference games against lower-division opponents, Labor Day weekend still has several matchups between Top 25 teams and even a few conference games sprinkled in. Plus, the classic rivalry between Michigan and Notre Dame will be renewed following a brief hiatus.
There are 86 matchups involving FBS teams on the slate, and we've offered a prediction for every single one. You're welcome.
Note: AP Top 25 teams are highlighted first within a specific time slot.
No. 21 UCF (0-0) at Connecticut (0-0), 7 p.m. ET
McKenzie Milton accounted for 363 yards and three touchdowns in UCF's 49-24 victory over UConn last season. Even after a coaching-staff overhaul that brought Josh Heupel to the program, the result shouldn't be much different this season. Connecticut needs to rebuild its entire defense.
Prediction: UCF 45, UConn 17
New Mexico State (0-1) at Minnesota (0-0), 7 p.m. ET
One of the most interesting stories of Week 1 is quarterback Zack Annexstad, a true freshman walk-on who is starting for Minnesota. Granted, the Golden Gophers will lean on Rodney Smith and the running game anyway. New Mexico State's revamped offense won't be able to keep up.
Prediction: Minnesota 27, New Mexico State 13
Central Connecticut (0-0) at Ball State (0-0), 7 p.m. ET
Ball State finished 2-10 last year but has a more favorable outlook for 2018. Injuries limited quarterback Riley Neal and running back James Gilbert to six combined games, but they're healthy again. The duo will carry the Cardinals to a painless win.
Prediction: Ball State 38, Central Connecticut 10
Kennesaw State (0-0) at Georgia State (0-0), 7 p.m. ET
In 2017, Kennesaw State finished 12-2 and won the Big South. Georgia State better not overlook its in-state foe. Avoiding an upset is dependent on containing Chandler Burks, who accounted for 27 touchdowns last season. Very cautiously, thanks to an experienced front seven, we'll give the edge to Georgia State.
Prediction: Georgia State 23, Kennesaw State 21
Northwestern (0-0) at Purdue (0-0), 8 p.m. ET
West Lafayette will host a battle between quarterbacks who recently recovered from serious injuries. Clayton Thorson and Northwestern have the full-season advantage, but the program's ugly trend of slow starts is concerning. Elijah Sindelar will lead Purdue's experienced, balanced attack to a narrow Big Ten triumph.
Prediction: Purdue 24, Northwestern 20
Wake Forest (0-0) at Tulane (0-0), 8 p.m. ET
Willie Fritz has Tulane moving in the right direction, but the Green Wave are still vulnerable defensively. Wake Forest running back Matt Colburn II is an under-the-radar standout, and he'll shoulder a heavy load to help the Demon Deacons grind out a win.
Prediction: Wake Forest 31, Tulane 23
Missouri State (0-0) at Oklahoma State (0-0), 8 p.m. ET
Oklahoma State has serious questions to answer about its offense, but those can be delayed for at least another week. Justice Hill, a potential All-American running back, will guide the Pokes past Missouri State in quarterback Taylor Cornelius' starting debut.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 51, Missouri State 20
Weber State (0-0) at Utah (0-0), 8 p.m. ET
Give the ball to Zack Moss, and let him thrive. In 2017, the running back piled up 1,173 yards and 10 touchdowns. Cal pounded Weber State for 231 yards and four touchdowns on the ground last year, and more of the same should be expected for Utah.
Prediction: Utah 38, Weber State 17
Savannah State (0-0) at UAB (0-0), 8 p.m. ET
Over the last six seasons, Savannah State has played 13 FBS opponents. The closest margin was 43 points. Since UAB returns practically its entire offense in 2018, there's a better-than-good chance that hideous streak continues in Birmingham.
Prediction: UAB 52, Savannah State 7
Southeastern Louisiana (0-0) at UL Monroe (0-0), 8 p.m. ET
Southeastern Louisiana boasts a pair of FBS transfers in the quarterback room. This isn't a typical FCS vs. FBS matchup. Fortunately for Louisiana-Monroe, it has an electric dual-threat leader in Caleb Evans. The Warhawks must be prepared for a shootout on the scoreboard, but they'll escape with a win.
Prediction: UL Monroe 45, SE Louisiana 34
Northwestern State (0-0) at Texas A&M (0-0), 8:30 p.m. ET
Jimbo Fisher's debut at Texas A&M will be a memorable one. Northwestern State should be improved from its 4-7 campaign a year ago, but the Aggies simply have more talent and will pull away in the second half.
Prediction: Texas A&M 37, Northwestern State 19
UC Davis (0-0) at San Jose State (0-0), 10 p.m. ET
San Jose State is stuck in rebuilding mode, and UC Davis certainly isn't a pushover. Junior quarterback Jake Maier threw 26 touchdowns and earned Big Sky Newcomer of the Year last season. San Jose State will need a complete defensive effort from an unsteady group, but we'll not-so-confidently tab the Spartans to survive.
Prediction: San Jose State 23, UC Davis 20
Syracuse (0-0) at Western Michigan (0-0), 6 p.m. ET
The ever-present question for Syracuse is whether Eric Dungey will be healthy. Now a senior, the dual-threat quarterback is exciting to watch and hugely productive when at full strength. Western Michigan will struggle to match Syracuse's scoring pace.
Prediction: Syracuse 38, Western Michigan 24
Monmouth (0-0) at Eastern Michigan (0-0), 6:30 p.m. ET
Circumstance sets up Monmouth for a potential FBS upset. The Hawks return an outstanding QB-RB-WR trio in Kenji Bahar, Pete Guerriero and Reggie White Jr., so they're capable of scoring often. The concern is Monmouth's defense, which could get rolled by Eastern Michigan's veteran offensive line.
Prediction: Eastern Michigan 37, Monmouth 28
Utah State (0-0) at No. 11 Michigan State (0-0), 7 p.m. ET
Both programs are quiet contenders in their conferences. That doesn't mean this meeting should be tight, though. Michigan State will take control of the game in the trenches, and Utah State won't be able to muster a comeback opposite a stout secondary.
Prediction: Michigan State 38, Utah State 20
Army (0-0) at Duke (0-0), 7 p.m. ET
Although the Black Knights should return to bowl season, breaking in a new quarterback won't be a one-week proposition. Plus, while the triple-option often gives Army an advantage, Duke sees it every year against Georgia Tech and typically defends it well. The Blue Devils will open the 2018 season with a win.
Prediction: Duke 27, Army 17
Western Kentucky (0-0) at No. 4 Wisconsin (0-0), 9 p.m. ET
In 2017, Western Kentucky was merely average defending the run. The front seven must replace a handful of key contributors this year, and that is the opposite of what teams opening the season against Wisconsin want to be doing.
Prediction: Wisconsin 41, Western Kentucky 10
San Diego State (0-0) at No. 13 Stanford (0-0), 9 p.m. ET
Calling it a chance at revenge would be a little much, but San Diego State toppled Stanford in 2017. The Cardinal have championship dreams, so they cannot afford a loss to a non-Power Five team. Good thing their offensive line is arguably the best blocking unit in the nation. SDSU has a formidable defense, yet Bryce Love still might hit 200 yards in this one.
Prediction: Stanford 31, San Diego State 20
Portland State (0-0) at Nevada (0-0), 9 p.m. ET
The visiting FCS school failed to win a football game in 2017. Sorry, Portland State. We're not envisioning a redemption tour that begins in Nevada. Ty Gangi and Co. will waltz to 1-0 if the Wolf Pack defense doesn't implode against the run.
Prediction: Nevada 35, Portland State 16
Colorado (0-0) vs. Colorado State (0-1), 9:30 p.m. ET
The in-state clash will be played at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, home of the NFL's Denver Broncos. Colorado takes a three-game winning streak into the matchup after holding an impressive CSU offense to three points last season. And now, unfortunately for the Rams, much of that talent is gone. Make it four straight.
Prediction: Colorado 27, Colorado State 10
Top Saturday Early Games
Oregon State (0-0) at No. 5 Ohio State (0-0), Noon ET
With or without Urban Meyer, the Buckeyes would've had little issues dispatching Oregon State. However, the official verdict is the head coach will be suspended for three games. Ryan Day will lead Ohio State on a temporary basis, and the offensive coordinator should know he can control this matchup on the ground.
Prediction: Ohio State 41, Oregon State 6
Florida Atlantic (0-0) at No. 7 Oklahoma (0-0), Noon ET
Let's begin here: Oklahoma will protect home field thanks to its explosive offense. Kyler Murray will make his first start as the full-time quarterback, and he's surrounded by tremendous skill-position weapons. But a major storyline is how FAU performs after the surprise retirement of Jason Driskel. Lane Kiffin's team is a New Year's Six bowl contender if the offense has a reliable quarterback.
Prediction: Oklahoma 47, FAU 20
Southern (0-0) at No. 16 TCU (0-0), Noon ET
On the bright side for Southern, TCU has a new quarterback. Shawn Robinson will be making his first start as the full-time signal-caller. Unfortunately for the SWAC program, Robinson took down Texas Tech as an injury replacement last season. He'll be confident and backed by one of the Big 12's best defenses.
Prediction: TCU 42, Southern 9
No. 23 Texas (0-0) vs. Maryland (0-0), Noon ET
One year ago, Maryland went into Austin and stunned Texas 51-41 in Tom Herman's debut. The programs will reconvene for Round 2, this time at FedExField. Although the Longhorns will have a new-to-Maryland starting quarterback in Sam Ehlinger, the bigger difference will be a much-improved defense.
Prediction: Texas 31, Maryland 16
Ole Miss (0-0) vs. Texas Tech (0-0), Noon ET
This SEC/Big 12 clash will take place at NRG Stadium in Houston, and history suggests there will be tons of scoring. Texas Tech, though, might actually be competent on defense in 2018! We're still riding the more proven offense in Ole Miss, but a low-60s total is much different than somewhere in the 80s or 90s.
Prediction: Ole Miss 34, Texas Tech 29
Furman (0-0) at No. 2 Clemson (0-0), 12:20 p.m. ET
Kelly Bryant or Trevor Lawrence? That question will linger for a few weeks, especially because both quarterbacks should receive significant snaps in a blowout victory. Furman won't enjoy trying to move the ball against Clemson's NFL-bound defensive line.
Prediction: Clemson 51, Furman 7
Other Saturday Early Games
Coastal Carolina (0-0) at South Carolina (0-0), Noon ET
In what otherwise won't be a competitive game, one exciting note is the return of Deebo Samuel. The versatile weapon totaled six touchdowns in three different ways during three appearances last season. He'll send the South Carolina crowd into a frenzy if he scores Saturday afternoon.
Prediction: South Carolina 44, Coastal Carolina 13
Kent State (0-0) at Illinois (0-0), Noon ET
2018 is a pivotal season for Lovie Smith, who's probably running thin on patience. Illinois is a combined 5-19 during his tenure so far. Graduate transfer A.J. Bush will oversee the offense, which has a bit of promise thanks to running back Mike Epstein and a decent receiving corps. Big Ten play won't be friendly, but a win's a win.
Prediction: Illinois 28, Kent State 18
Texas State (0-0) at Rutgers (0-0), Noon ET
Rutgers probably won't be scoring many points in 2018. If you're a fan of the Scarlet Knights, take solace that Texas State is effectively in the same predicament. Rutgers has the clear advantage on the defensive side of the ball, so Go Big Red, I guess.
Prediction: Rutgers 23, Texas State 9
James Madison (0-0) at NC State (0-0), Noon ET
The FCS powerhouse won't be underestimated, that's for sure. James Madison has reached the national championship in two straight seasons, winning the title in 2016. North Carolina State is a different level of competition, though. The defense won't be as fearsome, but the Wolfpack offense is explosive.
Prediction: NC State 38, James Madison 23
Villanova (0-0) at Temple (0-0), Noon ET
Temple's offense surged down the stretch in 2017, so the major unknown is whether it can recapture that production to begin 2018. Quarterback Frank Nutile, who settled the unit during its 4-2 finish, will encounter a respectable Villanova back seven, so don't expect the Owls to run away on the scoreboard immediately.
Prediction: Temple 33, Villanova 20
Houston (0-0) at Rice (1-0), Noon ET
Rice has an intriguing future. That storyline is still at least one offseason away, though. In the meantime, the Owls will try to survive as an overmatched team. Houston smashed Rice 38-3 last year, and a rebuilt offensive line will prevent the Owls from closing that gap.
Prediction: Houston 45, Rice 7
Alcorn State (0-0) at Georgia Tech (0-0), 12:30 p.m. ET
Alcorn State is a force in the SWAC, but Georgia Tech has a distinct talent advantage with an experienced man to run the triple-option. TaQuon Marshall should lead the Yellow Jackets to a massive day on the ground and painless opening-day win.
Prediction: Georgia Tech 51, Alcorn State 17
UMass (1-0) at Boston College (0-0), 1 p.m. ET
One of six FBS schools to play in Week 0, UMass opened its campaign with a 63-15 triumph over Duquesne. Now comes a major challenge against Boston College and its running game. The Minutemen will be competitive, but stopping running back AJ Dillon for four quarters is a near-impossible task for a new-look front seven.
Prediction: Boston College 42, UMass 31
Stony Brook (0-0) at Air Force (0-0), 2 p.m. ET
Expectations are rightly tempered for Air Force in 2018. At least for one weekend, however, the Falcons will be flying high behind quarterback Arion Worthman. Still, a patchy defense could leave Stony Brook within striking distance entering the fourth quarter.
Prediction: Air Force 34, Stony Brook 16
Howard (0-0) at Ohio (0-0), 2 p.m. ET
In 2017, Howard pulled off a legendary upset. The Bison were 45-point underdogs but stunned UNLV 43-40. Don't expect a repeat when they travel to Ohio, which boasts a dual-threat star in quarterback Nathan Rourke and is a front-runner in the MAC.
Prediction: Ohio 41, Howard 16
Top Saturday Afternoon Games
Austin Peay (0-0) at No. 3 Georgia (0-0), 3:30 p.m. ET
Will Healy has engineered a remarkable turnaround at Austin Peay, helping the Governors win eight games in 2017 after the program totaled one in the previous four seasons. But there's still a chasm between Austin Peay and the reigning national runner-up.
Prediction: Georgia 58, Austin Peay 10
No. 6 Washington (0-0) vs. No. 9 Auburn (0-0), 3:30 p.m. ET
Though not exactly neutral—an Atlanta crowd should obviously be pro-Auburn—this showdown will be decided up front. Both defensive lines are good-to-great, so the razor-thin difference will be Washington's experience on the offensive side of the trenches.
Prediction: Washington 28, Auburn 27
Appalachian State (0-0) at No. 10 Penn State (0-0), 3:30 p.m. ET
Offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead left to coach Mississippi State, and the impact of his departure is important to watch this season. Penn State has CFP potential if the Trace McSorley-led offense matches its billing. Appalachian State will likely be favored in most games this season, but breaking in a new quarterback in Happy Valley isn't conducive to an upset.
Prediction: Penn State 41, Appalachian State 13
Tennessee (0-0) vs. No. 17 West Virginia (0-0), 3:30 p.m. ET
How quickly can Jeremy Pruitt turn around Tennessee? His defensive mind will be valuable as the Volunteers prepare for West Virginia's scoring powerhouse. If the safeties snag a couple of interceptions, Tennessee has a chance. Otherwise, the Vols don't have the offense necessary to keep up.
Prediction: West Virginia 30, Tennessee 20
Northern Illinois (0-0) at Iowa (0-0), 3:30 p.m. ET
There's a whole lot to like about Northern Illinois, most notably All-American defensive end Sutton Smith. Could the Huskies pull off another Power Five upset after defeating Nebraska last year? If they disrupt Nate Stanley, it's possible. But we're leaning toward the Hawkeyes thanks to their quarterback.
Prediction: Iowa 27, Northern Illinois 22
UNLV (0-0) at No. 15 USC (0-0), 4 p.m. ET
We'll likely see multiple quarterbacks for USC, which probably won't have a settled starter until mid-September. Depending on the substitution pattern, the Trojans might not smash UNLV. Behind a quality defense, though, the outcome will never be in doubt.
Prediction: USC 44, UNLV 16
Other Saturday Afternoon Games
Washington State (0-0) at Wyoming (1-0), 3:30 p.m. ET
Wyoming opened its season with a 29-7 victory over New Mexico State, racking up 312 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. We're not sold on Washington State's ability to contain the run, and widespread personnel changes on offense make this a precarious road trip for Mike Leach's crew.
Prediction: Wyoming 30, Washington State 24
Central Michigan (0-0) at Kentucky (0-0), 3:30 p.m. ET
Let the Tony Poljan party begin! Unfortunately, Central Michigan needed to overhaul both its offensive line and receiving corps this offseason, and defense will be Kentucky's strength. Don't expect an upset in Lexington unless CMU can handle a seasoned offensive line and shuts down running back Benny Snell Jr.
Prediction: Kentucky 28, Central Michigan 18
Marshall (0-0) at Miami (Ohio) (0-0), 3:30 p.m. ET
Entering the season, both programs are second-tier contenders in their conference. Wagner transfer Alex Thomson will make his Marshall debut, and the quarterback's transition to the FBS creates a bit of an unknown. Ever so slightly, we favor home-field advantage and a known commodity in Gus Ragland. But not by much.
Prediction: Miami 31, Marshall 27
Albany (0-0) at Pitt (0-0), 3:30 p.m. ET
Quarterback Kenny Pickett led the Panthers to an upset of then-No. 2 Miami last season and has garnered praise all offseason. He'll face a respectable defense in Albany, and there will be legitimate takeaways about his performance. Still, the offensively challenged Great Danes won't be much of an obstacle for Pitt.
Prediction: Pitt 38, Albany 14
North Carolina (0-0) at Cal (0-0), 4 p.m. ET
Between 11 suspended players for this game and a cross-country trip, North Carolina enters this nonconference tilt at a clear disadvantage. While there shouldn't be concern about the Tar Heels' competitiveness—a blowout is unlikely—Cal quarterback Ross Bowers ought to outduel UNC's backup, Nathan Elliott.
Prediction: Cal 34, UNC 28
UT Martin (0-0) at Missouri (0-0), 4 p.m. ET
Missouri has the talent on offense to excel. However, we're concerned about its direction under coordinator Derek Dooley, who hasn't been a play-caller at this level. UT Martin shouldn't post much of a threat, but the performance of Drew Lock and Co. in the first game post-Josh Heupel will be monitored closely.
Prediction: Missouri 37, UT Martin 17
Eastern Illinois (0-0) at Arkansas (0-0), 4 p.m. ET
Chad Morris entered a mini-rebuild at Arkansas, but the offense should be tolerable in 2018. Razorbacks fans are justified in being somewhat excited about the unit. The uptempo attack should wear down Eastern Illinois by the fourth quarter and give Morris a victory in his program debut.
Prediction: Arkansas 40, Eastern Illinois 13
Top Saturday Evening Games
No. 22 Boise State (0-0) at Troy (0-0), 6 p.m. ET
Most attention for the Group of Five's spot in a New Year's Six bowl is devoted to Florida Atlantic and UCF. Boise State will likely be the biggest challenger. Although Troy should compete for the Sun Belt crown, a new quarterback and rebuilt defensive line will be a problem when senior QB Brett Rypien and the Broncos come to town.
Prediction: Boise State 27, Troy 16
Cincinnati (0-0) at UCLA (0-0), 7 p.m. ET
The long-awaited debut of Chip Kelly gets a tidy evening slot. As comfortable as we are picking UCLA simply based on a talent advantage, the Bruins' performance is relatively tough to predict. It's a new offense with a new quarterback opposite an experienced front seven. UCLA might not run away on the scoreboard.
Prediction: UCLA 34, Cincinnati 21
No. 14 Michigan (0-0) at No. 12 Notre Dame (0-0), 7:30 p.m. ET
The classic rivalry is going under the lights in South Bend, and the showdown also marks the much-anticipated Michigan debut of signal-caller Shea Patterson. Notre Dame presents a serious challenge, but the Irish's bigger concern should be how they'll score on Michigan's elite unit. That won't happen often unless the receivers turn quick passes into explosive gains or win downfield.
Prediction: Michigan 27, Notre Dame 17
Stephen F. Austin (0-0) at No. 18 Mississippi State (0-0), 7:30 p.m. ET
Mississippi State will be without quarterback Nick Fitzgerald after he violated team rules, but that's not going to change the outcome. Keytaon Thompson will step into the lineup as he did during bowl season, and he'll help the Bulldogs cruise past their FCS foe.
Prediction: Mississippi State 42, Stephen F. Austin 10
Charleston Southern (0-0) at Florida (0-0), 7:30 p.m. ET
Dan Mullen has returned to Gainesville. After four years with Florida as the offensive coordinator, he spent nine years at Mississippi State. Charleston Southern is a quality opponent, but Florida's talent level will compensate for any initial struggles from quarterback Feleipe Franks.
Prediction: Florida 38, Charleston Southern 6
Middle Tennessee (0-0) at Vanderbilt (0-0), 7:30 p.m. ET
Vanderbilt knocked off the Blue Raiders, 28-6, on the road in 2017, and the series heads to SEC country this season. Since the Commodores defense is revamped, it must respect a quick-hitting attack led by quarterback Brent Stockstill. But we'll trust senior QB Kyle Shurmur and a more physical offense to eke out a tight win.
Prediction: Vanderbilt 27, Middle Tennessee 20
SMU (0-0) at North Texas (0-0), 7:30 p.m. ET
If you're looking for an under-the-radar program with a fun offense, keep an eye on North Texas. Junior quarterback Mason Fine has an opportunity to smash school records. SMU is somewhat of a wild card following former head coach Chad Morris' departure to Arkansas, but we're not expecting a major drop-off from the Mustangs.
Prediction: North Texas 38, SMU 31
Other Saturday Evening Games
Richmond (0-0) at Virginia (0-0), 6 p.m. ET
Virginia is fighting to emerge from the cellar of the ACC, and Bronco Mendenhall's club should open the campaign with a victory. Richmond lost Kyle Lauletta to the NFL, and upsets of this caliber typically don't happen without terrific quarterback play.
Prediction: Virginia 31, Richmond 14
Elon (0-0) at South Florida (0-0), 6 p.m. ET
Last season, Elon put together a remarkable turnaround and improved from two wins to eight. Historically, though, the Phoenix have been overwhelmed by FBS competition. South Florida has a fascinating story with two-time transfer QB Blake Barnett making his debut, but that'll probably be the only headline worth remembering.
Prediction: South Florida 48, Elon 6
Old Dominion (0-0) at Liberty (0-0), 6 p.m. ET
Former Buffalo and Kansas coach Turner Gill is helping Liberty make the transition to the FBS. His first matchup is a clash with Old Dominion, which is full of experience but short on efficient quarterback play. Liberty's Stephen Calvert, on the other hand, threw for 29 touchdowns with only six picks last year. Advantage, Flames.
Prediction: Liberty 28, Old Dominion 24
North Carolina A&T (1-0) at East Carolina (0-0), 6 p.m. ET
Not only did North Carolina A&T kick off 2018 with a 20-17 win over Jacksonville State, but the program defeated Kent State in 2016 and Charlotte last year. This isn't an automatic win for East Carolina. In fact, we're riding with the FCS power over the shaky FBS squad because of quarterback Lamar Raynard and the loaded offense.
Prediction: North Carolina A&T 30, East Carolina 23
Fordham (0-0) at Charlotte (0-0), 6 p.m. ET
Honestly? No idea what to expect from Charlotte. The saving grace for the 49ers in Week 1 is that Fordham struggled immensely on defense last season and might not improve a whole lot. Charlotte needs to run the ball effectively to escape with a win.
Prediction: Charlotte 23, Fordham 20
Delaware State (0-0) at Buffalo (0-0), 6 p.m. ET
Trapped in this monstrously dull 6 p.m. slate is the season opener for Buffalo, a quietly fun roster. Delaware State allowed a combined 138 points to Missouri and West Virginia over the last two seasons, and Buffalo uses a similar attack. Expect plenty of points from quarterback Tyree Jackson, wideout Anthony Johnson and the Bulls.
Prediction: Buffalo 56, Delaware State 7
South Carolina State (0-0) at Georgia Southern (0-0), 6 p.m. ET
Historically, Georgia Southern has been most successful while running a triple-option offense. The current staff wants to run it from shotgun rather than under center, and it should help the Eagles get past South Carolina State. But this season as a whole? We'll see how Game 1 goes.
Prediction: Georgia Southern 28, South Carolina State 14
Grambling (0-0) at Louisiana (0-0), 7 p.m. ET
Get ready for a whole lot of offense from Louisiana, which has a new coach in Billy Napier and a plethora of returning skill-position talent. Grambling certainly has the talent to spring an upset, but its overhauled secondary will likely be a problem against Napier's balanced, uptempo spread.
Prediction: Louisiana 37, Grambling 24
VMI (0-0) at Toledo (0-0), 7 p.m. ET
Toledo boasts an impressive receiving corps, so the season-long question is whether Mitch Guadagni can adequately replace Logan Woodside. In the short term, that pass-catching group should waltz past a VMI program that has lost 17 straight games.
Prediction: Toledo 56, VMI 7
SE Missouri State (0-0) at Arkansas State (0-0), 7 p.m. ET
This isn't an ideal time for Southeast Missouri State to be rebuilding its defense. Arkansas State quarterback Justice Hansen threw for 37 touchdowns last year, and Warren Wand has more than 2,000 career rushing yards. Make sure the lights on the scoreboard are working in Jonesboro.
Prediction: Arkansas State 48, SE Missouri State 20
Mercer (0-0) at Memphis (0-0), 7 p.m. ET
Arizona State transfer Brady White won the starting quarterback job in Memphis, which should know better than to overlook Mercer. The Bears only lost 24-10 at Auburn early last year. Memphis' offensive talent will win the day, but Mercer will hang around for a while.
Prediction: Memphis 41, Mercer 21
Central Arkansas (0-0) at Tulsa (0-0), 7 p.m. ET
Tulsa is a wild card, and the offense's inconsistency makes the opener interesting. Central Arkansas, though it has a new quarterback in Breylin Smith, is loaded at running back. Contain that three-headed monster, and the Golden Hurricane win. If not, they'll be the victims of an FCS upset.
Prediction: Tulsa 30, Central Arkansas 24
Louisiana Tech (0-0) at South Alabama (0-0), 7 p.m. ET
Florida Atlantic is the C-USA favorite, but Louisiana Tech shouldn't be far behind if the rushing attack overcomes two major losses. That's also the story in this contest, since South Alabama has an experienced secondary but concerns up front.
Prediction: Louisiana Tech 35, South Alabama 23
Jackson State (0-0) at Southern Miss (0-0), 7 p.m. ET
Southern Miss lost a trio of dynamic producers in running back Ito Smith and wide receivers Korey Robertson and Allenzae Staggers, quarterback Kwadra Griggs is suspended and quarterback Keon Howard transferred. There's a whole lot of uncertainty surrounding the Golden Eagles, so even an average Jackson State team should be able to stay within striking distance.
Prediction: Southern Miss 27, Jackson State 20
Indiana (0-0) at Florida International (0-0), 7 p.m. ET
Butch Davis has FIU heading in the right direction, and a home date with Indiana is interesting. As one would expect, the Hoosiers still have a clear talent advantage. That, combined with FIU's uncertain QB and overhauled back seven, will be the difference, but the Panthers are capable of turning some heads in this tilt.
Prediction: Indiana 28, FIU 20
Nicholls (0-0) at Kansas (0-0), 7 p.m. ET
Ah, yes, another year of Kansas fielding a football team. The defense should be competent enough to give the Jayhawks multiple cracks at an early lead, but who trusts this offense? Nicholls nearly beat Georgia in 2016, gave Texas A&M a four-quarter fight last season and returns 16 starters. There's an upset brewing.
Prediction: Nicholls 24, Kansas 19
South Dakota (0-0) at Kansas State (0-0), 7 p.m. ET
Kansas State is never flashy. The season opener might not look great, either. But as the game drags on, the Wildcats should wear down South Dakota and slowly break it open. Their running game will be too much for the visitors to handle.
Prediction: Kansas State 37, South Dakota 17
Northern Arizona (0-0) at UTEP (0-0), 7:30 p.m. ET
UTEP supporters hope first-year coach Dana Dimel can bring some of that Bill Snyder magic to town. It appears Ryan Metz and Kai Locksley will be sharing the offense, and that two-quarterback system can survive Northern Arizona's mediocre defense. But moving forward, the Miners will need some clarity at the position.
Prediction: UTEP 38, Northern Arizona 21
Saturday Night Games
Louisville (0-0) vs. No. 1 Alabama (0-0), 8 p.m. ET
Alabama is more than a three-touchdown favorite, according to OddsShark. This neutral-site contest sure would've been enjoyable with Lamar Jackson under center. Instead, Louisville will trot out first-time starter Jawon Pass, whose potential is enticing!...beginning in Week 2.
Prediction: Alabama 38, Louisville 14
Bowling Green (0-0) at No. 24 Oregon (0-0), 8 p.m. ET
To begin the most laughable nonconference schedule of 2018, Oregon hosts Bowling Green. But hey, the Ducks can only play who's on their schedule, and quarterback Justin Herbert will hang a couple of crooked numbers on the scoreboard.
Prediction: Oregon 52, Bowling Green 17
Akron (0-0) at Nebraska (0-0), 8 p.m. ET
Scott Frost has returned to his alma mater, and Nebraska fans are rightfully thrilled for his debut. Opponent be darned, they'll be excited to celebrate a victory. Akron's only chance at hanging around is a low-scoring slog, and that's unlikely opposite Frost.
Prediction: Nebraska 40, Akron 16
Abilene Christian (0-0) at Baylor (0-0), 8 p.m. ET
Abilene Christian doesn't present much of a roadblock for Baylor, which is hoping Matt Rhule's intentional focus on youth in 2017 pays dividends this season. Granted, we're not going to discover much in Week 1 as the Bears meet Abilene Christian, an FCS program, that mustered a 2-9 record last year.
Prediction: Baylor 52, Abilene Christian 6
South Dakota State (0-0) at Iowa State (0-0), 8 p.m. ET
If this were Iowa State of 2015, an upset pick would be tempting. South Dakota State has reached the FCS playoffs in six straight years. However, head coach Matt Campbell has put the Cyclones on a path toward relevance. The Jackrabbits should hang tight through halftime, but stopping running back David Montgomery all night won't happen.
Prediction: Iowa State 37, South Dakota State 20
Incarnate Word (0-0) at New Mexico (0-0), 8 p.m. ET
Although the team's outlook in 2018 and beyond isn't promising, New Mexico will at least open the campaign 1-0. Incarnate Word went 1-10 last season, which included a 66-point beatdown at the hands of Fresno State and five losses of 34-plus points.
Prediction: New Mexico 42, Incarnate Word 7
Idaho (0-0) at Fresno State (0-0), 10 p.m. ET
Idaho has dipped into the Football Championship Subdivision, but its season opener is still against FBS competition. And it's a doozy. Fresno State, the Mountain West runner-up one year ago, will control the game thanks to quarterback Marcus McMaryion.
Prediction: Fresno State 41, Idaho 17
UTSA (0-0) at Arizona State (0-0), 10:30 p.m. ET
Oh, buddy. The debut of Herm Edwards. Good, bad or indifferent, this is a fascinating story. Who knows what to expect, beyond Manny Wilkins throwing to N'Keal Harry? UTSA basically has to remake the offense, so a Pac-12 road trip won't be kind.
Prediction: Arizona State 38, UTSA 6
BYU (0-0) at Arizona (0-0), 10:45 p.m. ET
Welcome back, #Pac-12AfterDark! The late-night kickoff will showcase Arizona's dual-threat star Khalil Tate against a balanced defense. His progression as a passer in 2018 will be important to the Wildcats' ceiling, but his running ability will be what separates Arizona from BYU at night.
Prediction: Arizona 37, BYU 24
Navy (0-0) at Hawaii (1-0), 11 p.m. ET
Hawaii ranked 113th in yards per carry allowed last season, and the defensive line lost three of its most effective run-stoppers. That doesn't bode well opposite Navy. New full-time starting QB Malcolm Perry, who amassed 728 yards and eight touchdowns in his last four appearances of 2017, will run all over the Warriors.
Prediction: Navy 45, Hawaii 28
Sunday and Monday Games
No. 8 Miami (0-0) vs. No. 25 LSU (0-0), Sunday, 7:30 p.m. ET
Malik Rosier might need to quarterback-draw LSU into submission, because nothing will come easily opposite a Dave Aranda-coached defense. However, if Miami's defense lives up to its billing and breaks out the new-and-improved "Turnover Chain" a couple of times, the Hurricanes will steal a massive neutral-site victory.
Prediction: Miami 27, LSU 20
No. 20 Virginia Tech (0-0) at No. 19 Florida State (0-0), Monday, 8 p.m. ET
This Labor Day showdown has major ACC implications. Virginia Tech and Florida State are respected, but neither is favored to win its side of the division. And the advantage goes to the defensive unit that didn't implode during the offseason. Between NFL departures, injuries and eligibility concerns, the Hokies lost 10 contributors. That's too much to overcome on the road in Week 1.
Prediction: Florida State 24, Virginia Tech 16