6 must-see games in Week 1 of the 2022 college football season
With all due respect to Northwestern's thrilling win over Nebraska in Ireland last Saturday, Thursday night represents the real start to the 2022 college football season.
There are 83 contests from Thursday evening to Monday night, with a number of blockbuster matchups between ranked opponents highlighting the bunch.
Here are the six games you don't want to miss this week.
No. 11 Oregon vs. No. 3 Georgia (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET)
Oregon went on the road last season and stunned national title hopeful Ohio State with one of the most impressive victories of 2021. The Ducks will look to repeat that feat this campaign by knocking off defending champion Georgia in a "neutral-site" game just 70 miles from the Bulldogs' campus.
While a brand new coach might be an issue to many programs, the fact the Ducks hired Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning should only help their upset hopes. Lanning has yet to announce a starting quarterback, but Auburn transfer Bo Nix will likely see plenty of action for Oregon. Nix will look to notch his first win over the Bulldogs after losing all three contests when he played in the SEC.
Should Georgia fall in an upset, the Bulldogs would join LSU in 2020 as the only defending national champions to lose its opener since Michigan in 1998.
No. 23 Cincinnati at No. 19 Arkansas (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET)
Cincinnati made history last season as the first Group of 5 team to make the College Football Playoff. However, graduating players and early departures to the NFL decimated the Bearcats roster this campaign. Seven starters on defense and offensive stars Desmond Ridder and Alec Pierce headline the players who left. How the new starters will fare should reveal itself very early as Saturday's trip to Arkansas is a real test for Cincinnati.
Arkansas enters the new season with plenty of hype around the program and star quarterback KJ Jefferson. His emergence, coupled with a defense full of returnees, has the Razorbacks as a trendy pick to make noise in the SEC West. But it's not going to be easy for Arkansas on Saturday with so many unknowns surrounding Cincinnati - something coach Sam Pittman admitted in his own eloquent way this week.
"I think the first couple series are going to be really important to figure out what they're bringing to the party," Pittman said, according to Zach Barnett of Football Scoop. "Some guys bring iced tea, and some guys bring liquor. You've just got to figure out what they're bringing."
No. 7 Utah at Florida (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET)
The Billy Napier era at Florida begins with an absolute banger of a non-conference matchup in The Swamp. Preseason No. 7 Utah comes to Gainesville as the favorite to win the Pac-12, and a win over the Gators would place them firmly in the CFP conversation. Most of the talk around Florida centers around promising quarterback Anthony Richardson. The 6-foot-4, 232-pound redshirt sophomore showed flashes last season that he can be a dominant player, and Napier's background as an offensive coach should be a great fit.
Utah's returning roster is one of the strongest in the country, with outstanding line play and quarterback Cameron Rising leading the way. The Utes will look to change their fortunes of last September when they dropped two road contests in the first three games on the schedule.
No. 5 Notre Dame at No. 2 Ohio State (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET)
The biggest game of the opening week takes place Saturday night in Columbus, with No. 5 Notre Dame facing No. 2 Ohio State. It's a return of sorts for former Buckeye Marcus Freeman in his first regular-season game as head coach of the Fighting Irish. Despite returning a fair amount of talent from last year's outfit, Notre Dame has been installed as 17.5-point underdogs.
The main reason for the inflated number is that Ohio State arguably has the nation's best offense. Quarterback CJ Stroud is a popular pick to win the Heisman and be the No. 1 selection in the 2023 NFL Draft, while receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba and running back TreVeyon Henderson are among the best at their position in the country.
Florida State vs. LSU (Sunday, 7:30 p.m. ET)
Saturday doesn't mark the end of the Week 1 fun as Florida State and LSU square up in New Orleans on Sunday evening. The Seminoles already notched a 47-7 win last week over Duquesne, while the Tigers begin the Brian Kelly era with a blockbuster matchup.
Kelly's first order of business is turning around LSU's recent habit of dreadful starts to the season. KJ Costello and Mississippi State set the single-game SEC passing record en route to a victory in LSU's opener in 2020. The Tigers fell at UCLA to begin the 2021 slate.
It feels like a make-or-break year for Mike Norvell with Florida State after a disappointing start to his career with the ACC program. A major non-conference win over an SEC school in hostile territory would go a long way toward cooling his seat in Tallahassee.
West Virginia at No. 17 Pitt (Thursday, 7 p.m. ET)
There's no better way to get Week 1 started than the return of the Backyard Brawl rivalry game between Pitt and West Virginia. The two programs haven't played against each other since 2011, but the rivalry was as fierce as any in the country in its heyday. The incredible 2007 upset by 28-point underdog Pitt over then-No. 2 West Virginia remains one of the more shocking results in college football's last 20 years. Only 77 miles lay between the two schools, with year-long recruiting battles happening annually.
The rivalry's revival this year has a Los Angeles angle to it as both teams are starting former USC quarterbacks in JT Daniels and Kedon Slovis. The Panthers are fresh off their first ACC title, while Neal Brown desperately needs a statement victory after failing to top six wins in each of his three seasons with the Mountaineers.