College football Week 1 preview: Deion Sanders makes Colorado debut

 

After seven months of waiting, a college football Saturday has finally arrived.

Week Zero provided a taste for college football fans hungry for the return of their favorite teams, but Saturday’s Week 1 slate means the season is officially upon us.

It’s time to close the book on conference realignment — at least for one weekend — while fans finally get a look at new rosters with a clean slate.

The Georgia Bulldogs are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive national championships since the Minnesota Golden Gophers pulled off the feat from 1934-1936, and USC quarterback Caleb Williams is hoping to become just the second back-to-back Heisman Trophy winner in college football history.

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There are quarterback questions all over the country as Alabama and Ohio State attempt to replace Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud, respectively.

But all of that will be decided as the next 14 weeks play out on the way to the national championship game in Houston on Jan. 8, 2024.

College football has returned, and with it comes three days of action. Let’s take a look at a few games to be aware of during Week 1 of the college football season.

No. 17 TCU vs. Colorado – Noon ET

“Coach Prime” finally makes his FBS debut. There has never been a team with so much hype after going 1-11 the season prior and having just one season with double-digit wins over a 21-year period.

Enter Deion Sanders.

Sanders has infused life into a dormant program, putting Colorado on the map before even taking the field.

Now, college football fans get to see the actual product. And what the product will be is very much a question.

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Sanders has completely flipped the roster at Colorado, with the Buffaloes returning just 10 scholarship players from 2022 with 68 new scholarship players on the roster, according to The Athletic.

“They came here because they wanted [the spotlight]. They came here because they wanted the light. They wanted the smoke. They wanted the attention. They wanted the focus. They wanted the love,” Sanders said of his players.

Shedeur Sanders, Deion’s son, will be under center after throwing for 70 touchdowns and just 14 interceptions in two seasons at Jackson State. Travis Hunter, the No. 1 recruit in the 2022 class, also followed “Coach Prime” to Colorado and is expected to play both ways.

For TCU, coming off a national championship game appearance, there are some new faces.

The Horned Frogs lost offensive coordinator Garrett Riley, Heisman finalist quarterback Max Duggan, running back Kendre Miller and wide receiver Quentin Johnston.

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“We have a lot to prove. And I think we want to prove to people that last year wasn’t a fluke,” head coach Sonny Dykes said. “So I think there is a little bit of maybe more of a chip on our shoulder this year than there was last year because of that.”

During the 2022 season, TCU went 6-1 in one-score games.

No. 10 Washington vs. Boise State – 3:30 p.m. ET

Expectations are sky-high for the Washington Huskies as they prepare for their final season in the Pac-12.

Washington has its highest preseason ranking since 2018 and returns quarterback Michael Penix Jr. after the Huskies had the second-best offense in the country last season in terms of yards per game (515.8).

Kalen DeBoer is entering his second season as head coach after leading Washington to their most wins (11) since the 2016 season.

“[We’re] more comfortable with the consistency and the effort that I know we’ll bring,” DeBoer said. “It doesn’t mean that everything is always perfect. We know that. That’s going to come even with Week 1 here. We’ll certainly get challenged. But I do feel confident and that we’re going to have a response where, when it comes to gut-check time, these guys are going to dig in.”

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On the other side, Boise State is no slouch, entering the 2023 season as the favorite to win the Mountain West.

“Having the opportunity to go on the road in the opening week and play the No. 10 team in the nation, you don’t always get that,” Boise State coach Andy Avalos said. “It calls for a great deal of preparation obviously, and focus and discipline.”

Running back George Holani returns for his senior season after rushing for 1,157 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2022. The Broncos averaged 196.4 yards on the ground last season, 29th in the country.

South Carolina vs. No. 21 North Carolina – 7:30 p.m. ET

The Gamecocks are on the upswing and North Carolina has a Heisman-hopeful under center, setting up a good matchup in Charlotte.

South Carolina went 8-5 in Shane Beamer’s second season in Columbia, beating No. 5 Tennessee and snapping a seven-game losing streak to Clemson.

Quarterback Spencer Rattler returns for his senior season — his second with the Gamecocks — after throwing for 3,026 yards, 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 2022. South Carolina also received a big boost with the return of wide receiver Antwane “Juice” Wells, who was fifth in the SEC in receiving yards.

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“Spencer’s play on the field will speak for itself,” Beamer said. “Frankly, it’s pretty disappointing just to see maybe the lack of respect on the outside. But again, we worry about what we can control, and I’m excited for Spencer.”

The Gamecocks struggled mightily against the run in 2022, allowing 192.4 yards per game on the ground, second-worst in the SEC.

For the Tar Heels, it’s all about quarterback Drake Maye, the reigning ACC Player of the Year. North Carolina ranked second in the ACC in yards per game (462.8) and third in scoring (34.4).

The Tar Heels have a new offensive coordinator in Chip Lindsey, who takes over after Phil Longo took the job in Wisconsin.

North Carolina went 9-5 in 2022 and played Clemson in the ACC Championship game, but ended the year on a four-game losing streak.

“It’s not a card I’m playing, it’s facts,” coach Mack Brown said ahead of the game. “We won nine games and got less respect than a lot of people that won less than that because of the way we finished. … You’ve got to win games in this business. It’s a bottom-line business. If you don’t win, you don’t get credit, and you don’t deserve credit. So that’s just the way it is.”

No. 8 Florida State vs. No. 5 LSU – Sunday 7:30 p.m. ET

It’s the only top-25 matchup of the weekend and the first top-10 matchup between the two schools.

Both Florida State and LSU are coming off of surprisingly good seasons, with the Tigers winning 10 games in Brian Kelly’s first year as head coach, and the Seminoles winning 10 games in Mike Norvell’s third year, the first 10-win season since 2016.

Last year, Florida State won a highly entertaining game in Week 1, taking down LSU 24-23.

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The Seminoles went 10-3 last season, winning their last six games. Florida State’s offense returns nine starters from the 2022 squad that was 16th in points per game (36.1).

LSU earned a trip to the SEC Championship Game last season and returns eight starters from the offense, including quarterback Jayden Daniels.

In his first season at LSU, Daniels threw for 2,913 yards and 17 touchdowns, adding 885 yards and 11 scores on the ground.

On the “Brian Kelly Show” on Thursday, the LSU coach was very confident before the opening game of the season.

“I think we’re in a really good position in year two,” Kelly said. “Look, I will say that there are still some areas that need to be improved. We’re going to take 15 freshmen on this trip and 14 transfers. Nearly 40% of this travel roster are going to go overnight for the first time with LSU.

“And that’s not a disclaimer of any kind. We’re going to go beat the heck out of Florida State”

Duke vs. No. 9 Clemson – Monday 8 p.m. ET

Clemson is coming off a “disappointing” season despite going 11-3 and winning another ACC title in 2022.

The quarterback position was an issue for the entire season as DJ Uiagalelei struggled — Clemson was 66th in passing offense — eventually transferring to Oregon State in the offseason. Freshman Cade Klubnik, a five-star recruit, appeared in 10 games and was tabbed the starter moving forward after the ACC Championship Game.

Dabo Swinney fired offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter, the first time he’s fired an assistant coach since 2011, and hired Garrett Riley to right the ship.

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Riley, the younger brother of USC head coach Lincoln Riley, led the ninth-best scoring offense during the 2022 college football season and was named the Broyles Award winner, given to the top assistant in college football.

Clemson returns seven starters on offense, including running back Will Shipley, Jr., who ran for 1,182 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2022.

Duke went 9-4 in Mike Elko’s first season as head coach and returns dual-threat quarterback Riley Leonard, who helped the Blue Devils to the fifth-best scoring offense in the ACC in 2022 (32.8).

The Associated Press contributed to this report