Week 1 has arrived and we’re more ready than ever for the start of the college football season.
Florida travels to Salt Lake City to take on No. 14 Utah (8 p.m. ET on ESPN) in a must-watch game Thursday night. On Saturday, we have Deion Sanders’ debut as head coach of Colorado as the Buffs take on No. 17 TCU (noon ET on Fox), then on Sunday, No. 5 LSU takes on No. 8 LSU Florida State (7:30 p.m. ET). Eastern on ABC). Clemson caps off a jam-packed first week on Labor Day against Duke (8 p.m. ET on ESPN).
Our correspondents preview this weekend’s games by highlighting coaches who are eager to get off to good starts in new venues and running backs to watch. We also break down some of the best weekly quotes and numbers to keep in mind over the weekend.
Week 1 trend to watch for: Coaches in new places
Louisville: Jeff Broome is as eager as anyone to see what his team looks like when Louisville begins the 2023 season. He has an idea, of course, but there’s a lot that’s new – new coaching staff, new scheme, nearly two dozen transfers, including starting QB Jack Plummer . For people all over Louisville, the Georgia Tech opener has all the excitement of Christmas morning with just a hint of the looming danger that accompanies any gender reveal involving fireworks.
It can look great. It can be a mess. Either way, Broome said, it will be a learning experience.
“My nerves are going to get worse,” Broome said. “You want to please a lot of people and get off to a good start. You have to make sure you’re as prepared as you can be, but you just have to go out, play, train and be positive with your players.”
There is a lot of promise surrounding this Louisville team. The return of Broome — who played for the Cardinals from 1989 to 1993 — sent a wave of excitement, but all of that will be lost, Broome said, if the team on the field doesn’t match up to the team fans dreamed of.
This is what makes Georgia Tech so important – a game that will no doubt have some kinks to work out, but one that will be played without much of a safety net. Louisville is only 4-11 in real road games over the past three years.
“This will be the first time a lot of the guys have played together,” Broome said. “You have to trust your preparation and go out and execute.”
But don’t expect Brohm to ease up on his game plan as his team prepares to take to the sea. He’s approached training the past few weeks as an on-the-job drill, stressing his defense with gadget play and challenging his offense with some weird looks at the D.
He said he would do the same with Georgia Tech.
“We want to be aggressive with both sides of the ball,” Broome said. “You should have enough in your pocket to be able to help your team if you are struggling or getting out of the way and showing some things that you haven’t shown before.”
What will it look like? Broome wouldn’t hazard a guess, other than to insist he wouldn’t be surprised by anything.
That’s the point of fall camp, he said. It’s not a guarantee that everything looks smooth, but it is a guarantee that if things go sideways, it won’t be the first time his team has had to bounce back. –David Hale
Wisconsin: The Luke Fickell era begins in Madison against Buffalo, but pay particular attention to how offensive coordinator Phil Longo orchestrates his air-strike system. The program — which has the most losses (six) since 2012 — has undergone a transformation with designs to claim the Big Ten West for the fifth time since 2014.
The Badgers’ passing offense, which ranked 11th in the Big Ten (183.8 yards per game) a season ago, will go up against a Bulls defense that was in the middle of the pack in the MAC (5th; 216.2 ypg) in 2022.
With 7,791 passing yards and a career-high 76 touchdowns to his name, former Oklahoma and SMU caller Tanner Mordecai will surely feel the pressure to immediately show that it really is a new day with Fickell and Longo, the former OC of both the Mississippi Rebels and North Carolina, now making the decisions. – Blake Baumgartner
Colorado: Prime time has finally arrived, and the eyes of the college football world will, for the first time in a while, be focused on Colorado and the long-awaited debut of head coach Deion Sanders’ fresh-faced squad. It won’t be an easy first impression for the Buffs since they have to take on one of last season’s top four teams, TCU.
A lot has changed for both teams before the game, but after Sanders arrived in Boulder and turned nearly everything around the program — including which conference they’ll play in next season — expectations are high, even if they’re not high. This will be a rebuilding year for Colorado to say the least, but given their new coach and new players as well as the interest that will follow, it certainly won’t look like a transitional year starting for Texas this weekend. Paolo Augiti
auburn: New coach Hugh Freese entered pre-season camp “worried” and “uneasy” after much roster upheaval. He said he would be asked all the time how good they were. His answer was frank: “I don’t know.”
At least one of these newcomers will be featured heavily in Auburn’s season opener against UMass on Saturday. Former Michigan State transfer player Payton Thorne won the quarterback job early in camp, giving the Tigers two years of starting experience. But what about Robbie Ashford, last year’s player, who is a home threat when he runs the football? Freese, who has described Ashford as the most athletic midfielder he has ever coached, has plans for him.
“Ruby, if he handles things the right way, he should go on the field,” Friese said. “it is different.”
If Thorne struggles, don’t be surprised if Friese switches to Ashford early. And it may not be Thorne’s fault for making the change. With so much unknown on this team, particularly at receiver, Ashford’s ability to pick up yards on the ground could save the developing offense. – Alex Scarborough
Cincinnati: When Scott Satterfield leads Cincinnati out of the tunnel on Saturday, he will face more than Eastern Kentucky. He replaces Luke Fickel, the first coach of a 5-game winning streak in college football, who has gone 53-10 in the past five seasons. He works in 23 transfers and starts attacking with just one start. One of those new faces is quarterback Emory Jones, in his sixth year after stops at Florida and Arizona State.
Arriving after a 25-24 stint in Louisville, Satterfield will attempt to recapture the magic that saw him win three straight Appalachian conference titles after leading the Mountaineers from FCS to FBS. He’s made a big leap before. But Oklahoma is up to Week 4 for its first 12 game in Cincinnati. Expectations aren’t high: The Bearcats were named 13th out of 14 teams in a preseason media poll.
“that it everyone New, you know?” Satterfield told ESPN. “New conference, new coaches, new players, we’re all discovering each other. So it will be exciting and interesting. We’ll see how everything develops.” — Dave Wilson
Top five full-backs to watch
will Shipley, Clemson vs. Duke
Shipley was the backbone of Clemson’s offense a year ago, rushing for nearly 1,200 yards, catching 38 passes and adding another 324 yards on kick returns – all of which made the All-ACC team at three different positions. But as the Tigers prepare to begin the 2023 season, Shipley’s role could really grow into his junior season. New OC Garrett Riley wants to make sure Shipley maximizes his touch. Last season, Riley’s offense threw TCU behind the line of scrimmage on a third of his touchdowns. Meanwhile, Clemson’s Week 1 opponent Duke allowed 7.06 yards per attempt on throws back last year, the second-worst in the ACC. — cardamom
Damien Martinez, Oregon State vs. San Jose State
There will be a lot of interest in the debut of Clemson transfer DJ Uiagalelei when Oregon State begins its season Sunday, but I’m keeping an eye on the phenomenon of Beavers running back Martinez, whose impressive freshman year (982 yards, 161 carries and seven touchdowns) has gone a bit under the radar. Martinez has all the tools to be a force to be reckoned with all season, and the combination of him and DJU could power up Oregon’s offense from the start. – Augety
Dijon Edwards, Georgia vs. Tennessee Martin
Georgia coach Kirby Smart said the running game will be decided by the committee, but Daejon Edwards, who finished second on the team with 769 yards last season, may have a chance to separate himself. Kendall Melton, third on the team with 592 yards, has been dealing with a hamstring injury, while Andrew Paul is out with a torn ACL, and Branson Robinson is out for the season with a torn tendon. – Scarborough
Blake Corum, Michigan vs. East Carolina
Back healthy after a knee injury ended his phenomenal 2022 season, Corum (1,463 yards, 18 TDs) returned to Ann Arbor with some unfinished business. That business starts with hosting the East Carolina Wolverines, which will provide an interesting test for Corum, a finalist for the Doak Walker Award as a junior. The Pirates’ rush defense (111.4 YPG) ranked second in the AAC last year. – Baumgartner
Imani Bailey, TCU vs. Colorado
Bailey quietly led the Big 12 yards per carry in 2022 (8.1) playing behind Kendry Miller and Imari Demercado, both of whom are now in the NFL. Bailey, who transferred from Louisiana last year, is the starter for RPO heavyweight Kendal Briles and held off Alabama transfer and former #1 recruit RB Trey Sanders to lead the Frogs’ high-profile opener. — Wilson
what are they saying
Jim Harbaugh: Michigan’s head coach devoted a portion of his press conference to advocating for student-athlete wages.
“We must all focus on diversity, equality and inclusion. I advocate for a system that is fair and equitable and benefits everyone involved. Don’t exclude student-athletes from earnings. My opinion is, you can’t say that it’s about diversity, equality and inclusion if you’re not willing to include student-athletes in revenue sharing.”
hugh freeze: New to the Plains, Freeze is eager to see what Tigers fans can offer on game day.
“It’s going to be a magical experience I know in that court (Jordan Herre)…. I enjoy almost every game… Even at Liberty, we’ve played in SEC arenas and it’s always fun to play in and I embrace those opportunities. For me, I think the most exciting thing For me it’s enjoying what I consider to be one of the best home atmospheres in college football and I don’t know I’ve had that — no offense to any other places I’ve been.”
Steve Sarkisian: Last week, Big 12 commissioner Brett Yuermark caused a stir when he told Texas Tech coach Joey McGuire he “better take care of business” against Texas. Longhorns coach Steve Sarkissian advised his team to stay focused on the games, but he gave this response.
“I had a letter from the Commissioner on sportsmanship the day before this one, so I’m trying to figure out what we’re promoting for our student-athletes. To go and say such things? I don’t think he’d do that.” Thanksgiving dinner with us the night before that game.”
Kenny Dillingham: ASU announced a one-year ban on the bowl, and Dillingham said the news was “disturbing.” But the coach still urges his players to go out and do their best.
“It’s my job to try to get our team together and rally our team behind each other to compete and perform at the highest level.”
Numbers to know
Watch out for three thieves in 2023.
Pac 12: Utah will cruise to a triple-win as Pac-12 champions, and although their opener against Florida won’t carry any weight in the conference race, the Utes will want to get off on the right foot with a win over the Gators.
second: Georgia is heading towards the three-peat final. The Bulldogs have won the College Football Playoff Championship the past two years (plus the SEC), and although Georgia should win easily on Saturday, it’s a daunting task to win three national championships in a row.
The Big Ten: Can Michigan win the Big Ten for the third year in a row? To do that, the Wolverines will in all likelihood have to beat a certain conference opponent for the third straight season. Michigan has not beaten the Ohio State Buckeyes three times in a row from 1995 to 1997.