25 August, 2023
Yes, we are aware that Week 0 is unusual. Technically speaking, it is neither unusual nor even, but we digress.
In reality, the term is primarily used for convenience. This Saturday, only a small portion of the top college football division is in action. The majority of other FBS teams will play their season openers over Labor Day weekend, which is typically considered Week 1.
This weekend marks the official beginning of the 2023 season, by whatever name it is referred. The number of offerings is limited, but they do contribute. In the case of a few contests, they will even be factored into the conference standings.
There are a total of seven Football Bowl Subdivision contests, two of which feature Top 25 teams. We can’t in good conscience recommend watching ESPN’s prime-time broadcast of UMass vs. New Mexico State, but here is a summary of the day’s abridged schedule, beginning with the most intriguing matchup.
Notre Dame vs. Navy
1:30 p.m. ET, NBC
Why watch? This is the opening match! Obviously, you will watch! The campaign begins across the Atlantic, where one might presume Notre Dame to have a home-crowd advantage given its nickname, but the Midshipmen should also have their share of Irish supporters. The Fighting Irish and Navy are frequent rivals, but both teams have somewhat new appearances for the upcoming season. Former defensive coordinator Brian Newberry is now in charge of the Mids as the team’s new head coach. The offense may have new elements with a greater passing threat, but the overall strategy of attempting to make lengthy marches through the option game will remain unchanged. Notre Dame also anticipates a boost to its offense with the addition of graduate transfer quarterback Sam Hartman, who had a record-setting career at Wake Forest. The majority of Hartman’s pass catchers will also be new, and FS Rayuan Lane will lead a Navy secondary that is expected to be one of the team’s strongest units.
Why it could be disappointing: As stated, the Fighting Irish play Navy annually. Therefore, LB J.D. Bertrand and the other veterans on Notre Dame’s defense will be well-equipped to maintain their positions and contain the Mids’ rushing game. The Navy offense is unlikely to undergo a radical transformation overnight, and the Irish could pull away with a few huge plays. Nevertheless, the Mids appeared to figure something out in the second half of last year’s matchup as Notre Dame nearly squandered a three-touchdown lead, so don’t write them off just yet.
San Jose State vs Southern California
8 p.m. ET on the Pac-12 Network
Why view: Honestly, it’s highly unlikely. If you do have access to the channel, this will be your first chance of the season to see reigning Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams play. The Trojans’ prodigious passer will have a few new receivers to acclimate, and he may have to play longer than USC fans would prefer if his defensive counterparts have not made significant improvements over the offseason. Chevan Cordeiro, the veteran quarterback for the Spartans, may not be able to match Williams’ scoring output for 60 minutes, but he is usually responsible with the ball and mobile enough to avoid trouble.
Despite this, the USC defense typically manages to generate a number of takeaways despite the fact that it could be disappointing. If the Trojans can get a pair of early stops, the game could quickly get away from the Spartans.
Ohio vs San Diego State
7 p.m. ET, FS1
This should be the most intriguing of the three non-conference games involving unranked teams, as both squads have a decent chance of returning to the bowl lineup. The Bobcats should contend for the Mid-American Conference, while the Aztecs must find a bit more offensive firepower to reach the top of the Mountain West’s standings. Ohio has offensive potential, but quarterback Kurtis Rourke is recovering from ACL surgery. SDSU will counter with Jalen Mayden, who took over at quarterback in the middle of the 2022 season and provided a much-needed offensive boost.
Why it could be disappointing: SDSU games can become defensive slogs at times. If the Bobcats can establish an early tempo, the Aztecs may be forced to play more freely. However, if the scores don’t arrive quickly, there may not be much in the way of excitement.
Hawaii at Vanderbilt University
7:30 pm ET, SEC Network
Why watch: Vandy is the only SEC team participating in Week 0 activities, facing Hawaii in its season opener for the second straight year. This time, the Rainbow Warriors are the ones undertaking the lengthy journey to the mainland. With Brayden Schager’s increased experience in Timmy Chang’s offense, Hawaii will attempt to spread the ball around, and Vanderbilt’s inexperienced pass rushers may have a difficult time halting him early on. Commodores quarterback A.J. Swann is also game tested and will have access to more weapons.
Why it might let you down: In last year’s meeting in Honolulu, Vanderbilt dominated with a 63-10 victory. The Commodores are acutely aware that they must leverage their non-SEC opportunities in order to qualify for a bowl game, so it’s difficult to imagine a different outcome.
Jacksonville State vs. Texas-El Paso
5:30 p.m. ET on the CBS Sports Network
Why view: The Conference USA opening day doubleheader on CBSSN begins with this game in Alabama, where the Gamecocks will make their FBS debut. Even before moving up in divisions, this FCS team was dangerous – just ask Florida State – and now Gamecocks head coach Rich Rodriguez initiates in a new era. The Miners, one of the league’s holdovers, fell one win short of bowl eligibility last season and would like to secure an immediate road victory. UTEP should have the advantage at the line of scrimmage due to its veteran offensive line and stout ground defense, headed by LB Tyrice Knight. However, the Gamecocks have their own talents in RB Anwar Lewis and DE Chris Hardie, who could make life difficult for UTEP’s incumbent quarterback Gavin Hardison.
Why it may disappoint: It is difficult to gauge what to expect from Jax State in its C-USA debut, particularly on the defensive side, where the depth may not yet be at FBS level. Things could turn in UTEP’s favor late, but there should be enough drama and ambiance to keep the audience engaged for a while.
Florida International University vs Louisiana Tech
9:00 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network
View: The C-USA nightcap has the potential to be the day’s most exciting contest. Consider for a moment the fact that the teams combined for only seven victories in 2022. Last season’s matchup was an epic duel, with FIU ultimately prevailing 42-34 in double overtime. More explosions are likely. Hank Bachmeier, a transfer from Boise State, will replace Grayson James as the starting quarterback for the Georgia Bulldogs.
It is possible for either team to commit a slew of errors that result in a deluge of points for the opposition; last season, this occurred frequently for both teams. Even if neither team is near the top of the standings in a couple of months, it seems more probable that things will even out, making this season opener an enjoyable voyage.