And we’re back.
That was a fun first week, wasn’t it? The Notre Dame-Florida State game almost gave us the storyline of the decade. More than a handful of FCS foes launched figurative stones at FBS teams and felled them. Fans came back and filled stadiums in droves.
The best part? We have over three more months of this left to go!
This feature is back after a (partial) COVID year, too. It’s still a work in progress — it still seems a bit long, but feel free to help with that! — though we’re making one minor tweak this week. The tweet-sized capsules are back, though without the Dabo Swinney quote reference. If you have feedback, questions, or insults, please tweet me using the handy little button at the bottom of the column.
High Ratings of the Week
I take enough grief here — much of it self-inflicted — that I have to sometimes celebrate things that “hit”. Some of last week’s highlights:
What I said: #12 (FCS) Montana State at Wyoming (-18 – National Football Post)
Guide: “Why, Brian?,” you’re asking. Simple. The Bobcats are a top-15 team among FCS squads, and are routinely a tough out at that level. Here’s the really interesting part, though — new Montana State coach Brent Vigen will coach his first game in Laramie — and he’ll do it against his former boss and team. Vigen was the associate head coach and offensive coordinator for the Cowboys before heading to Bozeman to take over for Jeff Choate.
What happened: Wyoming 19, Montana State 16. If you could get the Bobcats at plus-18, you’re pretty happy. For those of us who don’t gamble, we were still treated to a pretty great game with a nifty little storyline behind it.
What I said: #16 LSU (-3) at UCLA (1-0), 8:30pm Saturday, FOX
Guide: The Bruins pummeled Hawaii to start the season, jumping out to a 24-3 advantage they would never venture close to relinquishing. They’ll get a step up in competition Saturday night, as the Bayou Bengals trek west. The Tigers put up a pedestrian 5-5 2020 campaign, and we’ll get a glimpse at sophomore quarterback Max Johnson, who will take the snaps for LSU. UCLA would do well to step up the pressure on him early and often.
What happened: UCLA 38, LSU 27. The Bruins did pressure Johnson (5 hurries, 2 sacks, INT), but Dorian Thompson-Robinson proved the larger story. Nine of DTR’s 16 throws were completed — three for scores — for 260 yards. Chip Kelly’s charges looked quite impressive, and they sit comfortably at 2-0.
What I said: UTSA at Illinois (1-0, 1-0 Big Ten) (-5.5), 7:30pm Saturday, BTN
Guide: The Illini got shut out in the fourth quarter of a season-opening victory over Nebraska, but still somehow held it together. Illinois attempted just 19 throws — completing 15 — in the tilt, while rushing for nearly 170 yards.
The Roadrunners weathered a three-game losing streak last season, finishing a successful first campaign for Jeff Traylor with an outing against Louisiana in the First Responder Bowl. UTSA fell in that game, but a new era of football is clearly underway in San Antonio.
Can Illinois bounce back after a short week? Will UTSA’s momentum continue?
What happened: UTSA 37, Illinois 30. Writing Illini has the grades on the loss — spoiler alert, they’re not kind.
Other highlights: #9 (FCS) Montana at #20 Washington (-23.5 USA Today) (Montana outright win), Wofford (-6.5 Action Network) at Elon (Wofford won, 24-22, after a missed Elon field goal with eight seconds remaining), South Carolina State (+5.5 Action Network) at Alabama A&M (A&M won, 42-41, in a thrilling matchup), Notre Dame-FSU in a thriller for the ages.
Oops: Syracuse-Ohio (29-9, Orange, in a snoozer), Monmouth/Middle Tennessee (50-15, Blue Raiders), Davidson/VMI (Keydets pummeled the Wildcats in Lexington).
Before we carry on, it’s time for…
TRIVIA (answer at the end of the column): Kansas beat South Dakota, 17-14, last week, to mark its first victory since an October 26, 2019 decision over Texas Tech — which it also claimed by three points. When was the last time Kansas defeated a team by a margin greater than three points?
DISCLAIMER: This article will reference gambling lines and game odds. This feature is not meant to offer gambling advice or influence any financial transaction, and should not be construed as such.
All lines from Caesars Sportsbook, except where otherwise specified. All times Eastern. All games Friday night or Saturday considered for selection. All times Eastern.
What I’m watching: Memphis (1-0) at Arkansas State (1-0, +5.5), 7pm Saturday, ESPN+
That’s it. That’s the tweet: Arkansas State hung 40 on a pretty solid UCA team last week. The Red Wolves are 4-3 against Memphis in the last seven, which span from 2006 to 2020.
What I’m watching: Appalachian State (1-0) at #22 Miami (FL) (0-1, -9), 7pm Saturday, ESPNU
That’s it. That’s the tweet: App thumped ECU last week in Charlotte, while Miami got boat-raced by Alabama. Chase Brice went 20-for-25 at Duke against Miami last year, but only threw for 94 yards. He’ll be a huge key. This would be a quality win for Miami, too.
What I’m watching: #10 Iowa (1-0, 1-0 Big Ten) at #9 Iowa State (1-0, -4.5), 4:30pm Saturday, ABC
That’s it. That’s the tweet: Iowa’s won five in a row in the Cy-Hawk, and comes in off an impressive dismantling of Indiana. Iowa State struggled to get by a really good Northern Iowa team. If the Cyclones struggle early, this could get ugly.
What I’m watching: #15 Texas (1-0, -7) at Arkansas (1-0), 7pm Saturday, ESPN
That’s it. That’s the tweet: YES. The Longhorns and Razorbacks haven’t teed it up since 2014, but the former-SWC and soon-to-be-SEC rivals will go Saturday night. Texas still won’t be “back” if it wins this game, but there’ll be some extra juice on both sidelines.
What I’m watching: UAB (1-0) at #2 Georgia (1-0, -24.5), 3:30pm Saturday, ESPN2
That’s it. That’s the tweet: That line’s huge, but a) JT Daniels is questionable for the weekend with a core injury, and b) the Blazers have 27 wins over the last three seasons and Week 1 of this year. Bill Clark can coach, and we’ll watch Georgia’s response after the Clemson win.
What I’m watching: Liberty (1-0, -4) at Troy (1-0), 7pm Saturday, ESPN+
That’s it. That’s the tweet: Both teams come in off rolling FCS foes, and this will tell us a lot about two teams that were trendy picks to do big things this season. Liberty quarterback Malik Willis is a sleeper Heisman candidate.
What I’m watching: Wyoming (1-0) at Northern Illinois (1-0, -7), 1:30pm Saturday, ESPN+
That’s it. That’s the tweet: Wyoming survived a hard-fought contest with its former offensive coordinator and the Montana State Bobcats. NIU marched into Atlanta and knocked off Georgia Tech. Is NIU good? Tech bad? Both? We’ll see.
What I’m watching: Vanderbilt (0-1) at Colorado State (0-1, -7), 10pm Saturday, CBSSN
That’s it. That’s the tweet: I think I’ll be watching this more out of morbid curiosity than anything else. CSU fans were annoyed last week, but at least their team hadn’t already demoted its offensive coordinator and lost by 20 to an FCS team. An 0-2 start would anger either team’s fan base.
What I’m watching: Washington (0-1) at Michigan (1-0, -7), 8pm Saturday, ABC
That’s it. That’s the tweet: I love Utah-BYU (even if Steve Young says Utah was scared of BYU last year), but this game has some consequences. Jimmy Lake finds himself looking up after Montana defeated the Huskies. Can Michigan send the formerly-ranked Huskies to 0-2?
What I’m watching: Pittsburgh (1-0, -3) at Tennessee (1-0), Noon Saturday, ESPN
That’s it. That’s the tweet: We’re not really sure what we know about either team. Pitt clobbered UMass last week, and Tennessee beat an equally-inept Bowling Green team. I think a lot of Tennessee fans would be fine with the Vols being a field goal dog to an ACC team at home — but this ACC team?
What I’m watching: Georgia Southern (1-0) at FAU (0-1, -7), 3:30pm Saturday
That’s it. That’s the tweet: Georgia Southern got a bit — well, more than a bit — of a scare last week in Statesboro, as Gardner-Webb lost by just five. Miami transfer N’Kosi Perry threw for 261 yards and a score last week for FAU, but did so in a three-touchdown loss to Florida.
And now, for what I’m watching from each FCS league:
Big Sky: #21 Northern Iowa (0-1) at (RV) Sacramento State (1-0), 9:00pm Saturday, ESPN+
Big South: Elon (0-1) at Campbell (0-1), 6:00pm Saturday, ESPN+
CAA: Towson (1-0) at New Hampshire (1-0), FloSports
Ivy: No games scheduled
MEAC: (RV) NC Central (1-0) at Marshall (1-0,), 6:30pm Saturday, ESPN+
Missouri Valley: #9 North Dakota (1-0) at Utah State (1-0), 9:00pm Friday, CBSSN
Northeast: Merrimack (1-0) at Holy Cross (1-0), 2:00pm Saturday, ESPN+
Ohio Valley: #17 (FCS) Austin Peay (1-0) at #20 Ole Miss (1-0), 7:30pm Saturday, ESPN+
Patriot: Merrimack/Holy Cross
Pioneer: Fort Lauderdale at Presbyterian (1-0), 4:00pm Saturday, ESPN+
Southern: Charleston Southern at The Citadel (0-1), 2:00pm Saturday, ESPN+
Southland: McNeese State (0-1) at LSU (0-1), 8:00pm Saturday, ESPN+
SWAC: Bethune-Cookman (0-1) at UCF (1-0), 6:30pm Saturday, ESPN+
TRIVIA ANSWER: I asked earlier: Kansas beat South Dakota, 17-14, last week, to mark its first victory since an October 26, 2019 decision over Texas Tech — which it also claimed by three points. When was the last time Kansas defeated a team by a margin greater than three points?
Kansas won at Boston College, 48-24, on September 13, 2019.