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Week 1 Viewer's Guide: Football is Back

Our long national nightmare is over! Football is back on campuses (and a few NFL stadiums) across the country. OFD has you weekend primer for the season's opening games.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

OFD readers everywhere have had 7:00 Saturday night blocked off for months, but the start of the season elsewhere holds just as much excitement as the ND season kicking off. College Football diehards were treated to a great appitizer when defending FCS champs North Dakota State was upset last Saturday by Montana on a go-ahead TD scored with two seconds left. Tomorrow night, the FBS season gets underway with an interesting slate of Thursday night games.

Thursday Night Shift

Favorite Underdog Venue Time (ET) Network Line
South Carolina Gamecocks North Carolina Tar Heels Bank of America Stadium (Neutral Site) 6:00 ESPN -2.5
Utah Utes Michigan Wolverines Rice-Eccles Stadium (Utah) 8:30 FS1 -4.5
TCU Horned Frogs Minnesota Golden Gophers TCF-Bank Stadium (Minnesota) 9:00 ESPN -15
Colorado Buffaloes Hawaii Warriors Aloha Stadium 1:00 AM CBSSN -7.5

The season gets off to an exciting start with a number of exciting games on Thursday night. The season kicks off with South Carolina-North Carolina from Charlotte. South Carolina seems to play the first game of the season every year, and this one is no exception. Last year they were blown out by A&M at home, and proceeded to become one of the SEC's biggest disappointments. After the battle of the Carolina's, Jim Harbaugh makes his debut for Michigan. Utah is a tough place to play, and is coming off a nine win season. Michigan memorably scored zero points in their first road trip last season, so they have nowhere to go but up. An early playoff favorite goes on the road to face a feisty Minnesota team at the same time, so be prepared to flip between the two. While TCU should win this one pretty easily, fans should get a good look at TCU's new defense, and the always exciting Trevone Boykin. If anyone has Friday off and still wants more football, Colorado and Hawaii kickoff after midnight. While neither team is expected to be very competitive, even this game looks like the Rose Bowl after eight months without football.

Friday Night and Saturday Early Shift

Favorite Underdog Venue Time (ET) Network Line
Michigan State Spartans Western Michigan Broncos Waldo Stadium (WMU) 7:00 Friday ESPNU -17.5
Boise State Broncos Washington Huskies Albertson's Stadium (BSU) 10:15 Friday ESPN -12
Stanford Cardinal Northwestern Wildcats Ryan Field (NU) Noon Sat. ESPN -11.5

While none of these games are expected to be very competitive, they all offer interesting story-lines. PJ Fleck has been earning rave reviews for his work at Western Michigan, and has already been mentioned in conjunction with the Illinois job. He'll get the chance to face off against one of the best teams in the country at home. Out west, Chris Peterson takes his new program to Boise to face his old one. Washington is currently slated to start a question mark at QB, and lost a huge chunk of their defense to the draft. This could get ugly early giving you the perfect excuse to either hit the bars or call it a night early on Friday. The noon shift doesn't offer much, but the Scholar's Bowl between Stanford and Northwestern gives Irish fans a look at one of ND's late season opponents.

Saturday Afternoon Shift

Favorite Underdog Venue Time (ET) Network Line
Auburn Tigers Louisville Cardinals Georgia Dome (Neutral) 3:30 CBS -10.5
Nebraska Cornhuskers BYU Cougars Memorial Stadium (Nebraska) 3:30 ABC -7
Penn State Nittany Lions Temple Owls Lincoln Financial Field (Temple) 3:30 ESPN -6.5
UCLA Bruins Virginia Cavaliers Rose Bowl (UCLA) 3:30 FOX -19.5

Things start to get interesting during the afternoon shift. The biggest game is the Chick-Fil-A Classic between Auburn and Louisville. The Tigers have been tipped by many in the media as a playoff contender, while Louisville is a dark horse for the ACC title. Auburn is breaking in a new QB, and Will Muschamp will have his hands full in his first game as the Defensive Coordinator. BYU travelling to Nebraska is another interesting game. Cougars QB Taysom Hill was in the Heisman conversation before getting injured last season, and the Cougars had no qualms with embarrassing Texas the last two seasons. The Huskers bring in a new coaching staff, and have had issues stopping the run in previous seasons, so don't be surprised if the Cougs pull the upset on the road. Penn State - Temple doesn't look all that interesting on paper, but many see this as the upset special of the opening weekend. Temple also appears on the Irish schedule, so while it's probably not a game to watch intently, it's worth flipping to during timeouts of the other games during this window. Similarly, UCLA's trip to Virginia should be a blowout, but with ND travelling to UVA next week, it might be worth checking them out while the game is still close early on.

Saturday Primetime

Favorite Underdog Venue Time (ET) Network Line
Notre Dame Fighting Irish Texas Longhorns Notre Dame Stadium (ND) 7:30 NBC -9.5
Texas A&M Aggies Arizona State Sun Devils NRG Stadium (Neutral) 7:00 ESPN -3
Alabama Crimson Tide Wisconsin Badgers AT&T Stadium (Neutral) 8:00 ABC -10.5
Oregon Ducks Eastern Washington Eagles Autzen Stadium (UO) 8:00 P12N N/A

While nearly all OFD readers will be glued to ND-Texas, there are a few other intriguing matchups to check out during the never ending NBC TV timeouts. Texas A&M v. ASU is considered by many to be the game of the week, and with both teams expected to compete for conference championships, this one could have major playoff implications. Both team's feature great offenses and questionable defenses, so there should be points aplenty. In another neutral site spectacular, Alabama's game against Wisconsin sounds better than it will probably finish. Saban teams generally have problems with spread offenses, not traditional ones, and Wisconsin is as bread-and-butter as they come. Saban's ability to shut down pro-style offenses combined with the fact that Wisconsin is breaking in a new coaching staff means this one might be over pretty quickly. That said, it's still a game between two very good teams, and Wisconsin is definitely capable of pulling the upset. Lastly, Oregon takes on Eastern Washington with the Eagles' former QB suiting up for the Ducks. Vernon Adams graduated from Eastern a few weeks ago, and was named the starter at Oregon after just two weeks of practice. This is the country's first chance to see how the Ducks look without last season's Heisman winner, and Eastern Washington isn't your typical FCS opponent. The Eagles have beaten PAC12 teams in the past, and lost a shootout at Washington last season 59-52.

Sunday and Labor Day

Favorite Underdog Venue Time (ET) Network Line
Marshall Thundering Herd Purdue Boilermakers Joan C. Edwards Stadium (Marshall) 3:00 Sun FS1 -6.5
Ohio State Buckeyes Virginia Tech Hokies Lane Stadium (VT) 8:00 Mon ESPN -11

The Sunday slate is pretty bare this year, but if a full day of football on Saturday wasn't enough, you can watch Purdue face Marshall in the afternoon. While I can't in good faith recommend watching the entirety of this one (we don't even play Purdue this year), Marshall was one of the best non-power five conference team's last year, and it's always funny to watch Big Ten teams fall on their face to supposedly "lesser" opponents. The magical five day ride concludes with last year's national champions attempting to avenge their only loss from last year. Ohio State has yet to announce whether JT Barrett or Cardale Jones will start, but expect to see both QBs get snaps for the Buckeyes. Braxton Miller will also be making his debut at H-Back/Slot WR/Returner. Ohio State is the heavy favorite, but VT was able to pull the upset in Columbus last season, and the Bucks have a number of contributors (including All American DE Joey Bosa) serving suspensions. While lightning probably won't strike twice, there are worse ways to wind down your Labor Day weekend than by watching this one.