Oregon was supposed to host North Dakota State in the most anticipated FBS-FCS game ever. Washington was supposed to host Michigan in their first regular-season matchup since 2002, and Florida State was supposed to play West Virginia in Mike Norvell’s first game as Seminoles’ head coach. More than 200 FBS and FCS teams were supposed to play in a loaded Week 1 of the 2020 college football season.
Instead, it’s a modest 11 games. It’s an inflated Week 0, a week filled with subpar FBS-FCS games and a few notable FBS-FBS games. But…it’s still football.
The 11 Week 1 games, ranked:
11. Stephen F. Austin at UTEP
UTEP has two wins since 2017, by far the fewest among all FBS teams, and had one of the worst defensive seasons in 2019 of any FBS team this millennium. They’ll be better in 2020, especially with their most talented offense in years, but will struggle to beat a rebuilding Stephen F. Austin program.
10. Houston Baptist at North Texas
If you told me during the 2018 season Seth Littrell would be North Texas head coach in 2020, I would’ve laughed in your face. But here we are after the Kansas State flirtation fell apart in December 2018 and the Mean Green imploded in 2019, shoving Littrell down the list of sought-after Group of Five coaches.
Littrell fired offensive coordinator Bodie Reeder and starting against Houston Baptist in Week 1 will call plays for the first time in five years.
9. South Alabama at Southern Miss
Moving the football is important in football. Until South Alabama figures out how to move the football, they won’t be good at football. Even with strengths in the back seven on defense, the Jaguars will be a few steps behind Southern Miss in Week 1.
8. Jacksonville State at FIU
For periods of FIU’s brief history, they were a worse team than Jacksonville State and many other FCS teams. That’s no longer the case even after a disappointing six-win season. The Panthers are in year two of a mini rebuild but return and add several key players, including Georgia transfer receiver J.J. Holloman.
7. Eastern Kentucky at Marshall
Instead of opening the season at East Carolina in Week 0, Marshall opens Doc Holliday’s 11th season at home against nearby Eastern Kentucky, whom they beat in 2018, their lone all-time matchup with the Colonels. As Holliday coaches his 130th career game on Sept. 5, EKU’s Walt Wells coaches his first-ever game after two previous assistant stints with the program.
6. UL Monroe at Troy
One program that can’t get over the six-win hump vs. one program in year two of coaching transition in the only conference game of Week 1. Neither UL Monroe nor Troy is among the 60 best teams playing a fall season but they’re evenly matched and have some of the same issues, particularly on defense.
5. SMU at Texas State
Texas State is finally heading in the right direction for, arguably, the first time in program history but is still years away from competing against fringe top-25 teams like SMU, who’s nationally relevant again under third-year head coach Sonny Dykes.
4. Central Arkansas at UAB
Central Arkansas football is also nationally relevant again as their rebuild moves quicker than expected under third-year head coach and former Bears’ quarterback Nathan Brown. And if anyone can appreciate an unexpected rebuild, it’s UAB, whose FBS relaunch remains one of the most incredible stories in sports history. Keep your on this underrated FBS-FCS matchup.
3. Middle Tennessee at Army
Army’s September slate was supposed to be feature a rare home Power Five game when Oklahoma visited West Point for the first time ever. Instead, the Black Knights are left with three Group of Five programs, including their first-ever game against Middle Tennessee.
Both teams are coming off injury-filled missed-expectations seasons, and the Blue Raiders are at least a year away from returning to their customary seven- and eight-win consistency, but this is still an intriguing game.
2. Arkansas State at Memphis
Separated by just 70 miles, Arkansas State and Memphis met 57 times from 1914-2013, including each year from 2011-13, but haven’t played since the Tigers’ 31-7 win in Memphis in September 2013. This is the first game for first-time head coach Ryan Silverfield, who’s the Tigers’ fifth opening-week head coach in the last 12 years.
1. BYU at Navy
Initially scheduled as a bye week for Navy after a Week 0 game vs. Notre Dame in Ireland, the Midshipmen now host BYU, a game scheduled just three weeks ago. It’s their second-ever matchup and first since 1989, the only other regular-season game between the two teams.