An Early Look at College Football's Week 0 Slate

Gabriel Santiago
Gabriel Santiago@gps_onthemic

August is a wonderful month on the calendar for myriad reasons, but perhaps none tantamount to the start of college football season.

While the NFL is wading in exhibitional contests, college football leaps right off the high-dive with consequential action. In 2023, Week 0 will feature seven contests on Saturday, August 26th: oh, joy!

To make matters sweeter, we are currently seeing three of the seven opening-week games yielding single-digit spreads, per the college football odds at FanDuel Sportsbook; that means we should have a few tight battles right out of the gate.

All college football odds via FanDuel Sportsbook.

Navy Midshipmen vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (N)

  • Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
  • TV: NBC
  • Spread: ND -20.5 (-105)
  • Moneyline: NAVY +680/ND -1100
  • Total: 49.5

As two of the most celebrated college football programs of the 20th century, Navy and Notre Dame will renew their annual rivalry for the 94th all-time meeting.

A series that the Fighting Irish have typically dominated -- defeating Navy in 43 consecutive matchups from 1964 through 2006 -- Notre Dame will meet the Midshipmen overseas for only the third occurrence in history. Headed across the pond, Notre Dame and Navy will tangle at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland for the first time since 2012. Eleven years ago, N.D. trounced the Midshipmen in Ireland by a score of 50-10, and as a 20.5-point favorite, the Irish are expected to roll again.

In head coach Marcus Freeman's second season at the helm, can the Fighting Irish best their 2022 record of 9-4?

They should get quality quarterback play from Wake Forest transfer Sam Hartman, who was 19th in the country in QBR last year, and their offensive line ranks sixth-best in the nation, according to PFF. ESPN's FPI is bullish on Notre Dame, ranking them 9th, and the Irish own the 12th-best odds to win it all (+3000).

UTEP Miners at Jacksonville State Gamecocks

  • Time: 5:30 p.m. ET
  • TV: CBS Sports Network
  • Spread: JSU -1.5 (-115)
  • Moneyline: UTEP +108/JSU -130
  • Total: 50.5

As newcomers to FBS play, the Jacksonville State Gamecocks will join Conference USA and host their first D1 game against the UTEP Miners.

Making the trip from El Paso to Jacksonville, Alabama, the Miners are looking to bounce back from a 5-7 record in 2022 under Dana Dimel.

For J'Ville State, they are hoping to prove they belong at college football's highest level. Head coach Rich Rodriguez will be eager to return to D1 football. He has had head coaching stints with West Virginia, Michigan and Arizona.

UMass Minutemen at New Mexico State Aggies

  • Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
  • TV: ESPN
  • Spread: NMSU -8.5 (-114)
  • Moneyline: MASS +310/NMSU -400
  • Total: 43.5 (-105/-115)

The Minutemen will travel almost entirely across the country for some early-season action in Las Cruces. Unfortunately for them, UMass has been in a rut for a while, losing at least 11 games in three out of the past four years. Head coach Don Brown will look for improvement in his second campaign guiding UMass.

New Mexico State is entering its sixth season since leaving the Sun Belt Conference in lieu of independence. After going 2-10 in 2021, the Aggies turned the program over to Jerry Kill. Immediately, Kill produced an above .500 season in Year 1, getting NMSU to 7-6 in 2022, including a bowl victory in the Quick Lane Bowl, which was the program's second bowl win since 1960.

This is a matchup between the two schools ranked in the bottom two spots in FPI.

Ohio Bobcats at San Diego State Aztecs

  • Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
  • TV: FS1
  • Spread: SDSU -3.5
  • Moneyline: OHIO +146/SDSU -176
  • Total: 49.5 (-105/-115)

In what might be the best game of Week 0, we will see a clash between the Mountain West and Mid-American Conferences -- two of the scrappiest circuits in D1 football. Even better: San Diego State and Ohio are both coming off bowl appearances in 2022.

Last year, Ohio showcased the MAC's best record (10-4) by season's end. That earned the Bobcats a trip to the Arizona Bowl -- where they narrowly edged out Wyoming, 30-27.

In 2023, the Aztecs will begin their fourth season under head coach Brady Hoke. Over Hoke's time in La Mesa, he has gotten SDSU to two bowl games, splitting the pair. The Aztecs look to return to form in 2023 as they open their brand new venue -- Snapdragon Stadium -- against Ohio.

FPI is in line with the tight 3.5-point spread, slotting SDSU 89th and Ohio 94th. This should be a close one.

Hawai'i Rainbow Warriors at Vanderbilt Commodores

  • Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
  • TV: SEC Network
  • Spread: VAN -17.5
  • Moneyline: VAN -1250/HAW +740
  • Total: 54.5 (-105/-115)

Here, we see a meeting of two teams that will likely be at the bottom of their respective conferences again in 2023.

For the second straight year, the Hawai'i Rainbow Warriors will face the Vanderbilt Commodores in the first contest of the season. However, this time the game will be hosted in Nashville rather than Honolulu.

In the 2022 meeting, Vanderbilt trounced the 'Bows behind a dynamic ground attack -- Commodore quarterback Mike Wright rushed for more than 160 yards with 2 scores that day. Almost an exact year to the date of last season's game, can Hawai'i flip the script on the road?

FPI has Vandy 73rd and Hawai'i 116th. When you factor in those rankings and the Commodores' home-field advantage -- in addition to the Rainbow Warriors' lengthy flight -- the lopsided spread makes a lot of sense.

San Jose State Spartans at USC Trojans

  • Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
  • TV: PAC-12 Network
  • Spread: USC -30.5
  • Moneyline: N/a
  • Total: 63.5

How about a little NorCal vs. SoCal action in Week 0?

All fans of football are champing at the bit to see reigning Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams and the USC Trojans take the field again. Under head coach Lincoln Riley, all of Los Angeles (and beyond) believes USC can compete for a national title. Their +1600 odds to win it all this year sit sixth-best, and in Williams, USC has a special talent under center, someone who is listed at -330 to be the first pick of the 2024 NFL Draft, according to the NFL Draft odds at FanDuel Sportsbook.

For the Spartans, they have never defeated Southern Cal in five head-to-head meetings. These two sides last played in 2021, with USC rolling over SJSU by a score of 30-7. San Jose State won the Mountain West as recently as 2020, but they have since regressed. After a 7-5 season last year, the Spartans will surely have a tough time in this opener at the L.A. Coliseum.

FIU Panthers at Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

  • Time: 9:00 p.m. ET
  • TV: CBS Sports Network
  • Spread: -9.5 LT
  • Moneyline: FIU +310/LT -400
  • Total: 59.5 (-105/-115)

In our second Conference USA game of Week 0 (UTEP-JSU is the other), we head to Northern Louisiana -- where the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs will play host to the FIU Golden Panthers.

Last season, these familiar foes both had forgettable campaigns; Louisiana Tech played to a 3-9 record while Florida International was one game better at 4-8.

In the 2022 head-to-head matchup, FIU outlasted the Bulldogs in thrilling fashion by a score of 42-34. However, that game was played on the Golden Panthers' home turf in Miami. With the venue flipped to Ruston this year, can Tech return the favor?

The 9.5-point spread says they can, and while the Bulldogs' FPI ranking of 101st leaves a lot to be desired, FIU checks in 129th.

The above author is a FanDuel employee and is not eligible to compete in public daily fantasy contests or place sports betting wagers on FanDuel. The advice provided by the author does not necessarily represent the views of FanDuel. Taking the author's advice will not guarantee a successful outcome. You should use your own judgment when participating in daily fantasy contests or placing sports wagers.