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2021 College Football Viewing Guide: Week 1

With a full slate of games upcoming this holiday weekend, we fire back up the CFB viewing guide to preview the top matchups to watch.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 13 Iowa at Indiana Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

College football is back, and that means our college football viewing guide is back to help you navigate the busy schedule ahead.

Each week we will do the heavy lifting, and figure out the top games that will be playing during each television window across college football. Week One is officially upon us after a long off-season, and there are plenty of intriguing matchups on deck for the long, holiday weekend.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 13 Minnesota at Ohio State Photo by Adam Lacy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Thursday, September 2

Boise State (0-0) at UCF (0-0) —> 6 p.m. CST on ESPN

The Bounce House, as UCF stadium is known, should be rocking in a really fun G5 matchup between Boise State and UCF. Both teams are under the direction of new coaches, with Andy Avalos coming over to Boise from Oregon, and Gus Malzahn the new boss in Orlando. I would expect this game to have some scoring firepower given how fast both offenses will try to go.

No. 4 Ohio State (0-0) at Minnesota (0-0) —> 7 p.m. CST on FOX

One of four B1G conference matchups on tap for this weekend, the Gophers welcome a retooled Ohio State team that has one of the best receiving corps in the country. I would imagine that Minnesota will be up for this game and could keep it close in a night game on national television. I’m interested to see if these two defenses have taken a step, and what new OSU quarterback CJ Stroud looks like in his first start.

Other Thursday games of interest:

Friday, September 3

No. 10 North Carolina (0-0) at Virginia Tech (0-0) —> 5 p.m. CST on ESPN

The headliner for Friday takes place in the ACC, with highly regarded North Carolina going on the road to Virginia Tech. The Tar Heels are an improved team under Mack Brown the past two seasons and have one of the best quarterbacks in the country. Blacksburg, Va. used to be one of the more daunting places to play at, but the Hokies have struggled under Justin Fuente. Can Virginia Tech make a statement early in 2021?

Michigan State (0-0) at Northwestern (0-0) —> 8 p.m. CST on ESPN

Michigan State and Northwestern will kickoff Friday to open Big Ten play for each squad. The Wildcats are coming off a West division crown, but replace the majority of starters from a year ago. They recently named Hunter Johnson as QB1 and will look to get a big win to open the season. On the other sideline, Michigan State has yet to publicly name a starting quarterback, and the Spartans are a bit of a mystery heading into year two of the Mel Tucker era. This should be a good barometer game for each team.

Northwestern v Michigan State Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

Saturday, September 4

Morning games

No. 19 Penn State (0-0) at No. 12 Wisconsin (0-0) —> 11 a.m. CST on FOX

I’m not going to go into too much detail on this game because we have a ton of content out for you to peruse regarding this contest, but this is a big one for both teams. The Badgers and Nittany Lions are each trying to bounce back after sloppy seasons in 2020, and a statement victory over a ranked opponent in Week 1 would go a long way towards putting together a strong performance in 2021.

Other morning games of interest:

  • Stanford at Kansas State
  • Tulane at No. 2 Oklahoma
  • Western Michigan at Michigan

Afternoon games

No. 1 Alabama (0-0) vs. No. 14 Miami (Fla.) (0-0) —> 2:30 p.m. CST on ABC

D’Eriq King is back after suffering a knee injury late last season to run the Miami offense, but he will be going up against arguably the nation's best defense in Alabama in his first game back. The Crimson Tide have a lot of turnover offensively, including a new quarterback, but they generally reload each season under Nick Saban. This neutral site game should give an indication about what to expect from Alabama this year as they look to make it back-to-back national titles.

No. 17 Indiana (0-0) at No. 18 Iowa (0-0) —> 2:30 p.m. CST on BTN

You rarely see a top-25 matchup airing on Big Ten Network, but this could be a really good game on Saturday. Indiana surprised folks last year with a really good season, and they welcome back Michael Penix Jr. at quarterback. The Iowa Hawkeyes are expected to compete for the top spot in the Big Ten West as well led by a really strong defense. I would expect a low scoring affair on Saturday afternoon.

No. 23 Louisiana (0-0) at No. 21 Texas (0-0) —> 3:30 p.m. CST on FOX

Don’t sleep on this matchup. Louisiana was one of the surprise teams of 2020 and they return nearly everyone, while Texas changed leadership in the off-season and have a new quarterback taking his first collegiate snaps. The Longhorns and Steve Sarkesian should be better than they were a year ago, but this is a fun opening game to keep an eye on.

Other afternoon games of interest:

  • Fresno State at No. 11 Oregon
  • San Jose State at No. 15 USC
  • West Virginia at Maryland
Georgia Spring Game Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Primetime games

No. 5 Georgia (0-0) vs No. 3 Clemson (0-0) —> 6:30 p.m. CST on ABC

The game of the day (outside of Wisconsin/Penn State in our Badger-centric opinion) has to be Georgia taking on Clemson in Charlotte. Both teams are expected to compete for a berth in the College Football Playoff and are looking for a massive resume builder to jumpstart their season. The Bulldogs led by quarterback JT Daniels comes into the contest with one of the best front sevens in the entire country but have some injury issues on offense that they are dealing with. For Clemson, they are replacing Trevor Lawrence with Heisman contender DJ Uiagalelei and have a defensive line that is monsterous. This is a big-time matchup to watch on Saturday night.

Other primetime games of interest:

Sunday, September 5

No. 9 Notre Dame (0-0) at Florida State (0-0) —> 6:30 p.m. CST on ABC

This game marks the first opportunity for Wisconsin fans to scout Notre Dame and former Badger quarterback Jack Coan. Florida State is still attempting to rebuild after some down years, but a night game in Tallahassee could keep things interesting between the Irish and Seminoles.

Monday, September 6

Louisville (0-0) vs Ole Miss (0-0) —> 7 p.m. CST on ESPN

If you like offense, this could be a good game for you. Ole Miss has a high powered attack with Matt Corral at quarterback and Lane Kiffin orchestrating the play-calling. I’m not sure if Louisville can outscore the Rebels, but this is a big opportunity for both teams as the only game on television and on a neutral site.