CFB uk tv games: week one
By Joshua Edwards
In a bumper Labor Day weekend slate, BT Sport/ESPN are carrying 11 live games. Josh Edwards takes a look at each one in a quick-fire predictions article for Week One.
UCLA @ CINCINNATI
The first UK TV game of the weekend sees UCLA travel to Cincinnati to face the Bearcats on Thursday night. Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder was poor in the Bearcat’s win against UCLA last season (13-24, 100yards) but developed well throughout the year, winning the best AAC newcomer award. Cincinnati HC Luke Fickell’s defensively minded approach is paying dividends with their defense racking up 32 sacks in 2018, though they’ve lost Kimoni Fitz, Cortez Broughton and Marquise Copeland.
The Bruins are 2.5pt underdogs but, despite a rough 3-9 record last year under Chip Kelly (remember him?), UCLA have reasons for optimism this season, especially given they return 19 of 22 potential starters. Running back Joshua Kelly emerged as a true playmaker for UCLA throughout the season. I like UCLA to surprise the Pac-12 this season as Chip Kelly’s offense builds on a strong finish in 2018, and I like them to surprise Cincinnati on Thursday in a reversal of last year’s contest.
Prediction: UCLA 20-16 Cincinnati
(14) UTAH @ BYU
There’s a second game Thursday night for the insomniacs and night-owls, with 14th ranked Utah taking the short trip to Provo to face BYU for the 100th instalment of the Holy War rivalry. Surprisingly, this is the first time the two teams have opened the season against each other. Utah returns a lot of starters from last season and is a consensus pick to win the Pac-12. BYU will look to QB Zach Wilson for inspiration in the opener. Wilson broke records in the Idaho Potato bowl at the end of the season when he went 18-18 for 317 yards and 4TDs against Western Michigan. Despite Wilson’s promise, the Cougars will likely struggle to run the ball consistently enough to ease the pressure on their QB. BYU have lost 8 straight to Utah and I can’t see them breaking that streak on Friday morning.
Prediction: Utah 30-21 BYU
(19) WISCONSIN @ SOUTH FLORIDA
Friday night’s double-header kicks off at Raymond James Stadium, with South Florida hosting 19th ranked Wisconsin. The Bulls went 7-0 to start 2018 but finished with 6 straight losses, the first team in college football history to do so. Wisconsin has a new look offense, junior QB Jack Coan having won the starting job over Chase Wolf and Graham Mertz. The offensive line is inexperienced too, but stud running back Jonathan Taylor, a genuine Heisman trophy candidate and the obvious offensive focal point is exciting enough to allay fears. The Badgers are a class above South Florida at most roster spots and should romp to victory in Tampa. This one is worth watching for Jonathan Taylor alone.
Prediction: Wisconsin 40-16 South Florida
COLORADO @ COLORADO STATE
Colorado started last season 5-0 but finished with a 7 game losing streak, ending up 5-7 (2-7 in the Pac-12). The Buffaloes fired Mike MacIntyre 6 games into the slide and hired Georgia DC Mel Tucker as soon as the season was over. Tucker retains plenty of talent on offense including star WR Laviska Shenault and big tight end Brady Russell. Colorado State had a disappointing season last year too, going 3-9 (2-6 in the Mountain West). Mike Bobo returns for his 5th shot at it this season. The Rams defense was bad enough last season and loses several veteran lynchpins. Colorado State haven’t beaten Colorado since 2014 and I like the Buffaloes to start Mel Tucker era with a bang.
Prediction: Colorado 31-10 Colorado State
OLE MISS @ MEMPHIS
Ole Miss finished 5-7 last year with a 1-7 SEC record. The Rebels are now bowl eligible again following the expiration of NCAA sanctions relating to the recruiting scandal, and given the difficulty of their schedule they’ll be looking at Memphis as one of the 6 wins required. Ole Miss might be 7-1 against Memphis in historical head-to-heads but Memphis (10-3 last season, 7-1 in the ACC) come into this one as 5.5pt favourites and will be confident of an opening day victory. Ole Miss’s defense was terrible on all fronts last season and the balanced Tigers attack can take advantage and stay ahead on the scoreboard. Much of Memphis’s success or failure in 2019 will depend on the extent to which QB Brady White develops.
Prediction: Ole Miss 38-48 Memphis
DUKE v (2) ALABAMA
Alabama get a layup in week one at a neutral site in Atlanta. Nick Saban usually gets his team ship shape and Bristol fashion for early season games and a blowout is expected against Duke. The Crimson Tide will be especially desperate to begin atoning for the stinging loss to Clemson in last year’s CFB Championship. This offseason Duke (8-5 last year, 3-5 in the ACC) lost Daniel Jones to the NFL, picked 6th overall by the Giants, and their best 6 pass catchers. The Blue Devils will have to completely remodel their offense for this campaign around dual threat QB Quentin Harris, who actually played pretty well when Jones wasn’t on the field last year. Nevertheless, the disparity in quality, depth and, dare we say it, sheer will to win, is remarkably wide, and Bama won’t disappoint.
Prediction: Duke 10-44 Alabama
SOUTH CAROLINA @ NORTH CAROLINA
South Carolina are big favourites ahead of this one. The Gamecocks finished 7-6 in 2019 with a 4-4 SEC record, but will need to start fast this season, as their schedule is one of the hardest in college football, including games against Alabama, Kentucky, Georgia, Florida and Clemson. North Carolina had an abysmal 2018, finishing 2-9 (1-7 in the ACC), and culminating in the firing of head coach Larry Fedora. Mack Brown was rehired as HC 2 days later. Expectations are low for the Tar Heels though there is some hope in a deep running back group headed up by Michael Carter and Antonio Williams. Nevertheless the NC defense is a weak spot and I like South Carolina to take care of business handily on Saturday. The tough schedule will be the Gamecocks biggest enemy in 2019.
Prediction: South Carolina 40-20 North Carolina
BOISE STATE @ FLORIDA STATE
Boise State won the Mountain Division last season, finishing with a 10-3 record (7-1 in the Mountain West). Their bowl game appearance in the First Responder Bowl, against Boston College, was called off and ruled a no contest after multiple lightning delays. The Broncos are 5pt underdogs against Florida State in the opener but will fancy their chances at an upset, despite losing star quarterback Brett Rypien to the NFL in the draft. Florida State are looking to bounce back after a poor 2018. The Seminoles went 5-7, their first losing record since 1976. In his second season as head coach there is considerable pressure on Willie Taggart, and I like Boise State to take advantage; the Broncos were the best in the nation on third down conversions last season and can upset FSU in the opener.
Prediction: Boise State 24-23 Florida State
(11) Oregon @ (16) Auburn
I’m previewing this game in detail in another article, but here’s the precis: this one is all about the battle in the trenches. The Auburn defensive front, perennially good under defensive line coach Rodney Garner, is one of the best in the league. On the other side of the line of scrimmage, the Oregon offensive line, which returns 5 starters from last season, is also exceptional. Whether or not the Tigers (led by Nick Coe, Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson) can get to standout QB Justin Herbert will go a long way in deciding the outcome. Having put my faith in Herbert (2019 CFB roundtable predictions article here), I’m doubling down and picking Oregon and the senior, rather than Auburn and the true freshman (Bo Nix), for the opener.
Prediction: Oregon 28 – 24 Auburn
FRESNO STATE @ USC
The final TV game of Saturday night takes place in the (annoyingly spelt) Coliseum in LA, with USC hosting Fresno State. USC went 5-7 in 2018 and didn’t secure bowl eligibility for the first time since 2000, coming into this season unranked for the first time since 2001. They’ll be desperate to bounce back this year and start strong in a home game against a Fresno State team which won 10 games in 2018, but which returns few starters for this campaign. Trojans sophomore QB JT Daniels has a plethora of options at WR, including Michael Pittman Jr, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Tyler Vaughns, and Velus Jones Jr. If USC can get the running game going and create a balanced attack, they should be too strong for the Bulldogs, who haven’t beaten USC since 1992.
Prediction: Fresno State 21-34 USC
HOUSTON @ (4) OKLAHOMA
Rounding off week one the 4th ranked Sooners host Houston in a likely shootout. Though they’ve got a loaded roster for 2019, there’s no getting past the fact that the Oklahoma defense ranked dead last in the country in passing yards allowed last year (454 yards per game). Houston’s defense was also porous last season so the Cougars will look to exciting QB D’Eriq King, the dual threat ex-WR, to keep the pace with Oklahoma. However, without Ed Oliver and a host of other defensive starters Houston will probably run out steam on Sunday night. I like Oklahoma, behind Bama transfer QB Jalen Hurts, to come out on top.
Prediction: Houston 33-50 Oklahoma
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JOSH IS AN NFC EAST SPECIALIST AND LONG SUFFERING REDSKINS FAN BASED IN LONDON. CHECK OUT HIS ARTICLES HERE AND FOLLOW HIM @JOSHWA_1990 ON TWITTER FOR SOME WRY CYNICISM