News from yardbarker
The first full week of the 2022 college football season is here. And with it comes some intriguing matchups.
Here are our previews and predictions (point spreads courtesy of DraftKings, with lines current at the time of publication, but subject to change) for those contests featuring teams in The Associated Press Top 25 and other interesting games.
Statistics in parentheses are from 2021 unless otherwise noted.
1 of 25
Central Michigan at No. 12 Oklahoma State, 7 p.m., Thursday, FS1
Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman/USA TODAY NETWORK
It’s hard not to forget the last time these programs met in 2016, when Central Michigan scored on a 42-yard reception and lateral during an untimed down to stun the Cowboys 30-27. We can only hope for the drama to be anything near that level. Of course, Oklahoma State returns plenty of talent — quarterback Spencer Sanders (6,9111 career passing yards, 50 touchdowns, 31 interceptions) and defensive end Brock Martin (nine sacks, 14 tackles for loss) — from last season’s 12-2 team. However, CMU brings back Lew Nichols III, the nation’s top rusher from a year ago with 1,848 yards.
Prediction: Central Michigan (+21)
2 of 25
West Virginia at No. 17 Pittsburgh, 7 p.m., Thursday, ESPN
Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports
No Kenny Pickett, no Jordan Addison. Apparently, no problem for the Panthers in 2022. Pitt’s quest to repeat as ACC champion begins with the renewal of the “Backyard Brawl.” And, the first meeting between these rivals since 2011 pits new Pitt quarterback Kedon Slovis (7,576 career passing yards, 58 touchdowns, 24 interceptions in 27 games) against new Mountaineers’ signal caller and former USC teammate JT Daniels (4,840 career passing yards, 32 TDs, 16 INTs in 21 games). A Pitt defense that allowed an average of 23 points and recorded 54 sacks in 2021 could be better this year with Habakkuk Baldonado (nine sacks) and SirVocea Dennis (87 tackles) back.
Prediction: Pittsburgh (-7 1/2)
3 of 25
VMI at No. 22 Wake Forest, 7:30 p.m., Thursday, ACC Network
James Guillory/USA TODAY Sports
This seems like an ideal contest for projected Wake Forest quarterback Mitch Griffis (4-for-15, 56 yards, one touchdown in four games) to get his feet wet while taking over the reins of the Demon Deacons’ offense in place of injured star Sam Hartman. Wake has won 16 straight games against FCS opponents, and Griffis will use Week 1 to build experience and confidence. VMI, meanwhile, is 0-38 against FBS opponents since 1982.
Prediction: Wake Forest (OFF)
4 of 25
Western Michigan at No. 15 Michigan State, 7 p.m., Friday, ESPN
Nick King/Lansing State Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK
With 14 starters returning from last season’s 11-2 squad, the Spartans should be champing at the bit to get the 2022 campaign. Offensively, receiver Jayden Reed (59 receptions, 1,026 yards, 10 touchdowns) is among the best in the nation, while safety Xavier Henderson and linebacker Cal Haladay, who each recorded 96 tackles in 2021, anchor a defense that held eight opponents to 21 or fewer points last year. Michigan State has won 12 straight over Western Michigan.
Prediction: Michigan State (-23)
5 of 25
Sam Houston at No. 6 Texas A&M, Noon, Saturday, SEC Network
Maria Lysaker/USA TODAY Sports
Haynes King gets the call to start at quarterback for the Aggies. He’s thrown 39 passes spanning four collegiate games over the past two seasons. But, this is Jimbo Fisher’s guy to start what could be a special season at A&M — if we’re to believe the hype. Let’s get through the opener first. Sam Houston is an intriguing way to kick off the season after going 21-1 the past two seasons. Texas A&M is a heavy favorite, and a resounding victory is what’s needed to keep the believers in the house.
Prediction: Texas A&M (OFF)
6 of 25
Colorado State at No. 8 Michigan, Noon, Saturday, ABC
John David Mercer/USA TODAY Sports
Nothing like some wholesome drama leading up to a likely lopsided season-opening win for the Wolverines. Cade McNamara (2,576 yards, 15 touchdowns, six interceptions) gets the start this weekend, with sophomore J.J. McCarthy earning the nod against Hawaii next week. That’s the most intriguing storyline this week as a stout Michigan squad eyes its 17th consecutive home win over non-conference opponents. Colorado State, with 11 wins over the past four seasons, has dropped its last four road games against ranked, non-conference foes.
Prediction: Michigan (-30 1/2)
7 of 25
No. 13 North Carolina State at East Carolina, Noon, Saturday, ESPN
Rob Kinnan/USA TODAY Sports
N.C. State is expected to be in the mix with Pitt for the ACC Coastal Division crown. However, this opener at East Carolina has an element of intrigue. The Wolfpack lost their last two trips to Greenville (2010, ’16), but didn’t have Preseason ACC Player of the Year Devin Leary then, who completed 65.7-percent of his passes for 3,433 yards with 35 touchdowns and five interceptions last season. N.C. State also returns roughly 10 starters from a defense that yielded an average of 19.7 points from the 9-3 2021 season.
Prediction: N.C. State (-11 1/2)
8 of 25
No. 11 Oregon at No. 3 Georgia (at Atlanta), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, ABC
Marc Lebryk/USA TODAY Sports
This is an excellent opening challenge for both squads, and a reunion for new Oregon coach Dan Lanning, who spent the past three seasons as Georgia’s defensive coordinator. Who has the advantage with this familiarity? Well, Georgia has the better players, and as the reigning national champion, needs to be on guard from the get-go. Bulldog Stetson Bennett (2,862 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, seven interceptions) might be the most underrated quarterback in the nation, while Oregon linebacker Noah Sewell (114 tackles, 8 1/2 tackles for loss) is arguably the best pure linebacker in America.
Prediction: Oregon (+17)
9 of 25
UTEP (0-1) at No. 9 Oklahoma, 3:30 p.m., Saturday, Fox
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports
It will be interesting to see what Brent Venables can achieve during his first stint as a head coach. It comes with an Oklahoma squad that begins the year as a top-10 team but is rather underrated — even within the Big 12. Dillion Gabriel (8,037 career passing yards, 70 touchdowns, 14 interceptions) is the new Sooners’ quarterback, and the defense needs to be better after allowing 31 or more points six times last season. UTEP, meanwhile, is coming off its first winning campaign in seven seasons but was outscored 17-0 in the second half at last weekend’s 31-13 home loss to North Texas.
Prediction: Oklahoma (-31)
10 of 25
Bethune-Cookman at No. 16 Miami, Fla, 3:30 p.m., Saturday, ACC Network
Jim Dedmon/USA TODAY Sports
This contest shouldn’t provide that much of an indication of how good Miami will be in Mario Cristobal’s first season as head coach. We know there is plenty of hype and lofty expectations for the Hurricanes in 2022, but a likely blowout to start won’t provide much since they are 23-0 versus FCS teams since 1992 and have not allowed a point in three straight in such games. While quarterback Tyler Van Dyke (2,931 passing yards, 25 touchdowns, six interceptions) gets a lot of attention, Cristobal should get a good look at his team’s depth in this one.
Prediction: Miami, Fla. (OFF)
11 of 25
No. 23 Cincinnati at No. 19 Arkansas, 3:30 p.m., Saturday, ESPN
Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer/USA TODAY NETWORK
This is not the same Cincinnati team that went 13-1 and earned a spot in the College Football Playoffs. Now, it’s time to see if Luke Fickell’s Bearcats can reload, not rebuild. It won’t be an easy start against an Arkansas group that’s looking to build on a nine-win season for 2021. Hogs’ quarterback KJ Jefferson (2,676 yards, 21 touchdowns, four interceptions; 664 rushing yards, six TDs) provides an early test for a Cincinnati defense that returns just five starters from a unit that allowed an average of 16.9 points last season.
Prediction: Cincinnati (+6 1/2)
12 of 25
No. 24 Houston at UTSA, 3:30 p.m., Saturday, CBS Sports Network
Mickey Welsh/ Advertiser/USA TODAY NETWORK
Depending on who is doing the talking, either Cincinnati or Houston is the favorite to win the American Athletic Conference. Yet, both teams will be tested out of the gate. Houston returns 13 starters from last season’s 12-2 squad, including quarterback Clayton Tune (7,920 career passing yards, 64 touchdowns, 31 interceptions) and linebacker Donavan Mutin (77 tackles, 6 1/2 tackles for loss). But, Texas-San Antonio brings back eight offensive starters, led by quarterback Frank Harris (3,177 yards, 27 TDs, six INTs), from the 12-2 Conference USA champions of a year ago.
Prediction: UTSA (+4)
13 of 25
Troy at No. 21 Mississippi, 4 p.m., Saturday, SEC Network
Chuck Cook/USA TODAY Sports
Ole Miss opening the season in The Associated Press Top 25 is interesting. The SEC West is top-heavy, and where Lane Kiffin’s Rebels fit in that picture remains to be seen after going 10-3 in 2021. Quarterback and USC transfer Jaxson Dart (1,353 yards, nine touchdowns, five interceptions in six career games) has drawn some preseason attention, and seven starters return from a defense that allowed an average of 20 points over the last seven games of ’21. Meanwhile, Ole Miss won by 30 the last time it faced Troy in 2013.
Prediction: Ole Miss (-21 1/2)
14 of 25
No. 25 BYU at South Florida, 4 p.m., Saturday, ESPNU
Rob Gray/USA TODAY Sports
15 of 25
Rice at No. 14 USC, 6 p.m., Saturday, Pac-12 Network
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports
It can be argued that no program is under the microscope more than USC in 2022. New coach Lincoln Riley, Biletnikoff Award-winner Jordan Addison (100 receptions, 1,593 yards, 17 touchdowns at Pittsburgh), and Caleb Williams (1,912 passing yards, 21 TDs, 4 INTs; 442 rushing yards at Oklahoma). That’s quite the star power on the surface. The Trojans are expected to roll here, but we might get an idea about team chemistry. Rice is 0-5 against Pac-12 teams since 2005.
Prediction: Rice (+32 1/2)
16 of 25
No. 7 Utah at Florida, 7 p.m., Saturday, ESPN
Jeffrey Swinger/USA TODAY Sports
The Billy Napier era at Florida kicks off with a doozy. Utah is coming off a Pac-12 championship and Rose Bowl season. The Utes return 14 starters, led by quarterback Cameron Rising (2,493 yards, 20 touchdowns, five interceptions; 499 rushing yards, six TDs) and defensive tackle Junior Tafuna (4 1/2 sacks). But, The Swamp can be a daunting environment for a program that hardly ever travels to the Southeast. Not to mention, there is renewed excitement surrounding the Gators program. Though on the field, Florida must deal with the Utes’ superior size up front.
Prediction: Florida (+2 1/2)
17 of 25
Albany at No. 10 Baylor, 7 p.m., Saturday, Big 12 Network/ESPN+
Chuck Cook/USA TODAY Sports
The Bears are the reigning Big 12 champions, and we probably won’t get a definitive idea if they’re seriously capable of repeating based on their opener. It’s an excellent paycheck game for FCS Albany, and an opportunity for Baylor to show off its depth. That said, it’s worth keeping an eye on Baylor linebackers Dillon Doyle (83 tackles, 7 1/2 tackles for loss) and Matt Jones (48 tackles, 5 1/2 tackles for loss), who are two of the best defenders in the Big 12.
Prediction: Baylor (OFF)
18 of 25
Illinois State at No. 18 Wisconsin, 7 p.m., Saturday, FS1
Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sports
While the talk in the Big Ten centers around Ohio State, plus what’s going on at Michigan and the rest of the East Division, the West seems Wisconsin’s to lose. And why not? Graham Mertz has more experience at quarterback, Braelon Allen (1,268 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns) could be among the nation’s top rushers, and linebacker Nick Herbig (64 tackles, nine sacks, 14 1/2 sacks) is a budding defensive star. Illinois State is traditionally one of the better FCS teams and beat Northwestern in 2016, but the task seems too big this weekend.
Prediction: Wisconsin (OFF)
19 of 25
Miami (Ohio) at No. 20 Kentucky, 7 p.m., Saturday. ESPN+/SEC Network
Scott Utterback/Courier Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK
Coming off a 10-win season, Kentucky hopes to challenge for the presumed runner-up spot in the SEC East — behind Georgia. If anything, the Wildcats should be fun to watch behind quarterback Will Levis (2,826 yards, 24 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, 376 rushing yards, nine TDs). Meanwhile, running back Chris Rodriguez (2,740 career rushing yards, 26 touchdowns in 38 games) will not play Saturday. That said, Miami might be the best team in the Mid-American Conference with Brett Gabbert (5,443 career passing yards, 41 touchdowns, 14 interceptions in 26 games) running the show.
Prediction: Miami (Ohio) (+16)
20 of 25
Utah State (1-0) at No. 1 Alabama, 7:30 p.m., Saturday, SEC Network
Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun via Imagn Content Services, LLC/USA TODAY
Here we go. The preseason No. 1 team in America should have a chip on its collective shoulder. It’s national championship or bust for the Crimson Tide. Bryce Young (4,872 passing yards, 47 touchdowns, seven interceptions) is trying to become the first repeat Heisman winner since Archie Griffin, but it’s possible he doesn’t play the entire opener. Alabama has won 38 consecutive home games against unranked, non-conference opponents. Utah State, which won 31-20 at UConn last week, has been outscored 188-68 while losing its last five games versus SEC teams on the road.
Prediction: Alabama (-42)
21 of 25
No. 5 Notre Dame at No. 2 Ohio State, 7:30 p.m., Saturday, ABC
Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch/USA TODAY NETWORK
The marquee matchup of Week 1 might not be all that competitive. With quarterback C.J. Stroud (4,435 yards, 44 touchdowns, six interceptions), running backs TreVeyon Henderson (1,248, 15 TDs), receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba (95 receptions, 1,606 yards), and defensive back Ronnie Hickman (100 tackles), Ohio State might be the best team in the nation. Meanwhile, this could be Notre Dame’s lone 2022 regular-season defeat, but Tyler Buchner faces a daunting task while, according to insideNDSports.com, set to become the school’s first quarterback to face a team ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in his starting debut. The Buckeyes have won the last four meetings with the Irish.
Prediction: Notre Dame (+17)
22 of 25
No. 4 Clemson at Georgia Tech (at Atlanta), 8 p.m., Monday, ESPN
Ken Ruinard/staff/USA TODAY NETWORK
Week 1 of the 2022 season ends with an ACC matchup where Clemson eyes an eighth consecutive victory over the Yellow Jackets. Yes, Tech gave Clemson fits during a 14-8 loss in 2021, but the Tigers enter this season on a six-game winning streak and one of the best defensive lines in the country — led by Myles Murphy and Bryan Bresee. Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei (nine touchdowns, 10 interceptions) could be the most scrutinized quarterback in the country this season.
Preseason: Georgia Tech (+22)
23 of 25
Penn State at Purdue, 8 p.m., Thursday, Fox
John Jones/USA TODAY Sports
Since 1995, Penn State is 15-2 versus Purdue and won nine straight during the series. However, these Big Ten foes have not met since 2019. Both teams enter this season with relatively high expectations, notably the Boilermakers, who went 9-4 and won a bowl game last season and return quarterback Aidan O’Connell (3,712 yards, 28 touchdowns, 11 interceptions). The Nittany Lions also return veteran quarterback Sean Clifford (7,839 career yards, 62 TDs, 12 INTs), but must find a way to improve on last season’s 3.2 average yards per rush.
Prediction: Penn State (-3 1/2)
24 of 25
Louisville at Syracuse, 8 p.m., Saturday, ACC Network
Scott Utterback/Courier Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK
From the Big Ten to ACC. Louisville has won three in a row over Syracuse, but each victory came at home. The Cardinals dropped their last trip to Syracuse in 2018. Louisville quarterback Malik Cunningham attempted one pass but ran for 64 yards on six carries in that game. Cunningham (8,092 career passing yards, 62 touchdowns, 24 interceptions; 2,622 rushing yards, 38 TDs) has thrown for 666 yards with 10 TDs, three INTs, and rushed for 164 in four games versus Louisville. He’ll face an Orange defense that returns eight players from a unit that allowed 30.1 points per game in ACC play last season.
Prediction: Louisville (-4 1/2)
25 of 25
Florida State (1-0) at LSU, 7:30 p.m., Sunday, ABC
Andre Broussard/Special to The Daily Advertiser/USA TODAY NETWORK
The Brian Kelly era at Baton Rouge begins this weekend, and there’s still a level of uncertainty about what to expect. It’s either Arizona State transfer Jayden Daniels (6,025 career passing yards, 32 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions; 1,288 rushing yards and 13 TDs) or sophomore Garrett Nussmeier under center for the Tigers, who boast one of the nation’s best receivers in Kayshon Boutte (83 receptions, 1,244 yards, 14 TDs in 16 games). Meanwhile, Florida State racked up 638 yards during a 47-7 rout of Duquesne last weekend. We’ll see how Seminoles quarterback Jordan Travis does against an upgrade in competition. These tradition-laden programs last met in 1991.
Prediction: LSU (-3)
Jeff Mezydlo has written about sports and entertainment online and for print for more than 25 years. He grew up in the far south suburbs of Chicago, 20 minutes from the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Ind. He’s also the proud father of 11-year-old Matthew, aka “Bobby Bruin,” mascot of St. Robert Bellarmine School in Chicago. You can follow Jeff at @jeffm401.