The 2021 college football season kicks off on Saturday 28th August with Week Zero. During Week Zero, only a handful of fixtures are held. Most college football programs will not see the field until Week One. For these ten schools, Week Zero is where it all begins.
Nebraska @ Illinois
Nebraska comes into this Week Zero all-Big Ten matchup as the slight favourites. They will be looking to avenge the 2020 loss to Illinois, which broke the Cornhuskers four game win streak. Adrian Martinez may struggle in this game against an Illinois defence who should improve from their last place defensive ranking in 2020. It’s hard to look past Nebraska in this one after watching Illinois last season. Despite the hiring of a new HC in Bret Bielema and expected improvements on both sides of the ball, this Illinois team will likely be one of the bottom feeders of the Big Ten.
UConn @ Fresno State
In my Independents season preview I said it was going to be a difficult season for the Huskies. That difficulty will start from Week Zero at Fresno State. It should not be all bad news for UConn against Fresno State. They have a decent running game and after a year off it should pick up again. Their problem is a poor offensive line which Huskies fans must hope has been improved during their time away from the field.
You cannot look beyond a Fresno State win in this game to kick start their season and put to bed their two losses at the end of the 2020 season.
Hawaii @ UCLA
The Bruins welcome Todd Graham’s Hawaii to the Rose Bowl for their opening encounter. Chip Kelly’s team is the only PAC-12 outfit to kick off their campaign in Week Zero, and a good start would help Kelly’s job status. His role could well be on the line this season after 3 seasons in Pasadena with losing records. The Hawaii Rainbow Warriors are a stubborn enough team to cause problems for UCLA. The top and bottom of it all is that if UCLA plays to the level they are capable of, they should have too much for Hawaii. Bruins QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson should be ready to play. You can expect the Rainbow Warriors to show early fight. The class of UCLA should show in the end.
UTEP @ New Mexico State
This fixture kicks off Week Zero, and therefore the entire 2021 college football season. This is a rivalry game, referred to by fans as Battle of I-10. UTEP were The Aggies’ last opponents on home territory in a game played nearly two years ago.
Last year, The Aggies’ season was postponed due to Covid, but they did see some action in the Spring of 2021. New Mexico’s home fixtures were played at UTEP’s home, The Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas. They enjoyed a 1-1 record in a belated 2020 season.
UTEP are the favourites to win this one, despite going 3-5 in the Conference-USA in 2020. They are 9.5 favourites over their rivals. Eyes will be on JUCO transfer Jonah Johnson, who is expected to start under centre in this game for New Mexico.
Southern Utah @ San Jose State
The Southern Utah Thunderbirds are an FCS program that play their football in the Big Sky conference. They have made the FCS playoffs three times in their history, and have lost on each occasion. The Thunderbirds went 1-5 in a difficult 2020 season. Expect them to be cannon fodder for a resurgent San Jose State program. The Spartans won the Mountain West conference in 2020, their first conference win since 1991. They should get off to a winning start in style in this home fixture.
Week Zero: Let’s Go!
We can’t wait for the college football season to kick off. Whilst Week One is where most of the fun begins, don’t neglect the matchups you will see during Week Zero. College football is back – let’s drink it in.
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