2023 NCAA Football Season Kicks Off on Saturday

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Week 1 of the NCAA football season isn’t technically until next weekend, starting with games on Thursday, August 31, and running through Monday, September 4. That’s when the whole of the country begins its fall of college football.

But every summer, we are treated to Week 0 of the college football season, and it is here. It begins this Saturday with Navy and Notre Dame playing in Dublin, Ireland, and it ends that night with Florida International at Louisiana Tech.

Navy vs. No. 13 Notre Dame (-20.5)

Notre Dame opens its home season 3,617 miles away from South Bend with its third game in Ireland, and first in 11 years. And this is the first time the Irish are the home team in Ireland. Adding to the home flavor will be 30,000 fans making the trip to the Emerald Isle, which is going to fill most of the 48,000-seat Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

“Our goal here is to expand the brand and bring Notre Dame to the world,” said Aaron Brand, a Notre Dame athletic department spokesman.

Expand the brand, and beat Navy. The missteps that cost the Irish last year, with losses to Marshall and Stanford, should be tightened up this year. Head coach Marcus Freeman is in his second season at Notre Dame, coming off a strong finish to his first season with a win over South Carolina in the Gator Bowl.

With a Heisman Trophy candidate in sixth-year quarterback transfer Sam Hartman, (BetUS.com has him at +1600 to win the Heisman), Notre Dame is hopeful that they can make it into the College Football Playoff in its final year before expansion.

San Jose State at No. 6 USC (-30.5)

The other ranked team taking the field this weekend is USC, at home against San Jose State. The Trojans also have a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback, with last year’s winner Caleb Williams back under center for another year.

BetUS.com has Williams as the favorite to win a second Heisman, paying +550. If Williams does win, he would join Ohio State running back Archie Griffin as the only two-time winners of the Heisman Trophy. Griffin won in 1974 and 1975.

With USC favored by more than four touchdowns, there won’t be much drama at the Los Angeles Coliseum on Saturday, making Williams the focus. Him getting off to a hot start, and USC making the most of their final year in the Pac-12, is the key to making the College Football Playoff. And they must beat Utah, a team they lost to twice last season, ending their dream of the playoff.

In back-to-back weeks this year, the Trojans will play at Notre Dame (October 14) and at home against Utah (October 21). We’ll know at that point if this year’s Trojans are championship-worthy.

Ohio at San Diego State (-2)

The closest matchup of the weekend will take place at Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego. Ohio was a 10-win team a year ago, making it to the MAC Championship Game. San Diego State finished 7-6 and stayed above .500 for the 13th-straight season.

Both teams have realistic bowl expectations. However, the Aztecs have big questions on offense. They ranked 107th in the FBS last year with 20.1 points per game, and their top two wide receivers are gone. Fortunately their defense ranked 22nd in points allowed per game.

Ohio scored 29.7 points per game in 2022, ranking 46th in FBS. But their defense is inconsistent.

BetUS.com has San Diego St. as two-point favorites.

Hawaii at Vanderbilt (-17.5)

In the only other game that involves a Power Five conference team, Hawaii from the Mountain West is visiting Vanderbilt from the SEC. 

These teams opened the season a year ago in Honolulu, and Vanderbilt was the runaway winner, 63-10. But to be fair to Hawaii, it was a brand new system to begin last year, and the team was largely inexperienced. They lost their first three games in 2022 by an average of 44 points. But in the second half of the year, the Rainbow Warriors recorded wins over Nevada and UNLV, and had close losses against San Diego St. and Wyoming.

Vanderbilt won three of their first four games in 2022, plus they had big conference wins over Kentucky and Florida. They were just one win away from being bowl eligible last year, and that is the goal in 2023.

Neither of these defenses is expected to be very good this season, and BetUS.com has the over/under at 55.5.

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