September is here, and with it, the return of college football. The curtain raiser between Central Arkansas and Austin Peay was just like any other. In previous seasons, it would have been one of countless fixtures taking place that weekend.There was an opening snap touchdown, hard hitting defense and a nail-biting finish to a contested opening game between two teams delighted to be back on the field. However, this year is not like any other. Millions of viewers flocked to watch the game, safe in the knowledge that college football had finally arrived for 2020. September has brought with it a small snippet of normality after months of uncertainty.
The coming weeks see the return of Power 5 conferences. Or should we call them Power 3 in 2020? Tom is here to predict those opening week results (with a little help from Ash).
ACC (returns Thursday 10th September)
Austin Peay are rewarded for their season curtain-raiser with a trip to Pitt, where they face an uphill task. Expect wins in the ACC for favourites Miami, Louisville, Notre Dame and Clemson. Sam Howell’s North Carolina should see off Syracuse, and Mike Norvell should get off to a winning start as the Seminoles take on Georgia Tech.
UAB @ Miami
Ash Says – UAB are well coached and are a solid unit with a lot of their top 10 D returning this year. However Miami should have enough to overcome UAB at home but will be made to work for it.
WKU @ Louisville
Ash Says – WKU will test Louisville’s defence which will be an intriguing battle to watch considering the issues WKU gave Louisville in last season’s encounter. Louisville should see off WKU and start with a big win to send a message to their conference opponents.
Clemson (1) @ Wake Forest
Ash Says – Can anyone stop Clemson and Trevor Lawrence? Wake Forest are no pushovers but have lost their starting QB from last year in Jamie Newman. Clemson should see this one out comfortably.
Duke @ Notre Dame (10)
Prediction: Notre Dame
Ash Says – Duke will come in fighting but Notre Dame are 20.5 point favourites for a reason. Notre Dame to run away with this one.
Georgia Tech @ Florida State
Prediction: Florida State
Ash Says – The first disagreement here. Florida State comes in as favourites but I see Georgia turning up in Florida’s backyard and coming away with an upset, and add to their run of wins over Florida.
Syracuse @ North Carolina
Prediction: North Carolina
Ash Says – This one may be close to start but i see NC coming away with a double digit victory at the end of the day. Syracuse may have one of the top backs in the country in Andre Cisco but I don’t think the unit as a whole will have enough to stop NC’s offence.
Austin Peay @ Pitt
Ash Says – This should be comfortable for Pitt who have not lost to an FCS school in 8 years. Pitt have too much on defence and will shut down Austin Peay & Jeremiah Oatsvall.
Big XII (returns Saturday 12th September)
With all non-conference games to be played out before 26th September, expect a clean sweep for Big XII teams here. Even Kansas, widely touted as the worst side in the Big XII, should come out on top against the Sun Belt’s Coastal Carolina. If you’re into sports betting (which I admittedly am not), don’t expect much value in backing Big XII teams on opening weekend.
Houston Baptist @ Texas Tech
Prediction: Texas Tech
Ash Says – Should be a walkover for Texas Tech, Houston Baptist will bring their all but Texas should overpower and walk away with a double digit blow out.
Arkansas State @ Kansas State
Prediction: Kansas State
Ash Says – Kansas may have limitations on the offensive line & receiver due to COVID but should see off Arkansas State. I see Kansas State taking this by 2 touchdowns.
Eastern Kentucky @ West Virginia
Prediction: West Virginia
Ash Says – Not much to add here, West Virginia are the stronger team and should see off Eastern Kentucky with relative ease.
Missouri State @ Oklahoma (5)
Ash Says – Oklahoma will most likely be viewing this game as a warm up. The main thing to look out for here is the new QB under centre for Oklahoma, as Spencer Rattler makes his first start.
Tulsa @ Oklahoma State (15)
Prediction: Oklahoma State
Ash Says – Oklahoma State have an impressive record against Tulsa, having not lost to them since the late 1990s. Expect that to continue in this match up. Tulsa’s defence will struggle to contain Oklahoma State all game.
Louisiana @ Iowa State (23)
Prediction: Iowa State
Ash Says – Louisiana may cause Iowa State problems as arguably the best team in the Sun Belt Conference, but Iowa should come away with the victory in this hard-fought affair.
UTEP @ Texas (13)
Ash Says – Texas should breeze past UTEP in this match up. It will be a Major upset if UTEP comes away with anything from this one.
Coastal Carolina @ Kansas
Ash Says – Kansas will be looking for revenge after the loss to Coastal Carolina in 2019. I believe Kansas has enough about them to see off a stiff opponent in gameweek 1.
SMU @ TCU
Ash Says – TCU will have a game on their hands against SMU in the opener but should have little trouble breaking down the SMU defence.
Louisiana Tech @ Baylor
Ash Says – Louisiana will come into Waco and give Baylor a game. Baylor on paper has the better team and should see out the win late.
SEC (returns Saturday 26th September)
It is often said that football “just means more” in the SEC. Whether or not that is so, football fans will be desperate for the SEC to kick off in the last week of September. There should be home wins for Auburn and Texas A&M. Alabama will be heavy favourites on their trip to Faurot Field, as will the Bulldogs in their road game against Arkansas. Ja’Marr Chase’s decision to opt-out will have Mike Leach believing that Mississippi State can upset LSU in Baton Rouge. Florida should see off Ole Miss, but Lane Kiffin will be hoping for an unlikely victory over the Gators to start his reign in Oxford. Home advantage for South Carolina means that it should be a close game between Tennessee and the Gamecocks.
Alabama @ Missouri
Ash Says – Sorry to say Missouri, but you could be on the end of a beating against Alabama. Missouri are in somewhat of a rebuild with their new head coach. Alabama to win by 30+ points.
Georgia @ Arkansas
Ash Says – Arkansas was not great in 2019 and new HC & former Georgia staff member Sam Pittman does not have much to work with in 2020 outside of Franks & Boyd. Big win for Georgia here.
Kentucky @ Auburn
Ash Says – This will be a very close fought game between the two teams. Kentucky is returning many of their 2019 roster and their QB is back. Auburn though are too talented and will win at home.
Mississippi State @ LSU
Ash Says – A tough match-up for LSU. Mississippi will be looking to Costello and Hill to get one over on last season’s champions. LSU has lost a lot to the draft and players opting out and this game could go either way. I see Mississippi scraping a win in this match up.
Florida @ Ole Miss
Ash Says – Florida should win this one with relative ease. Ole Miss are sneaky good on offence but have they really done enough to improve one of the worst defences in the SEC in 2019?
Tennessee @ South Carolina
Ash Says – A possible close scoring affair on the cards here. I see Tennessee winning by a touchdown. South Carolina has a new OC and a decent QB in Ryan Hilinski but they have too many questions surrounding the defense.
Vanderbilt @ Texas A&M
Prediction: Texas A&M
Ash Says – I can’t see past a Texas A&M thumping of Vanderbilt, who appear once again to be in for a season as the SEC whipping boys.
You know what September means? It means that Saturdays are for rushing, too.