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College Football Week 1 Predictions, Players to Watch, Breakdowns, and More

After 33 long weeks, College Football is finally back, and it's back in a big way with five top 25 matchups, and a top 5 showdown between Georgia and Clemson. There's a lot on tap this weekend, so let's jump right into it, starting with a Thursday night matchup in the Big Ten.

No.4 Ohio State @ Minnesota

9-2-21, 8:00 PM Eastern Time

The fourth ranked Buckeyes open their season in a hostile environment against a Minnesota team led by fifth year senior Tanner Morgan, who is hoping to rebound from a disappointing 2020 campaign. Ohio State on the other hand, is led by redshirt freshman C.J. Stroud, who is taking over the reins for former Heisman Finalist and first round pick Justin Fields. Stroud will be stepping into an offense that features arguably the best group of skill players, led by two projected first round picks at receiver in Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson.

Keys to the Game:

Minnesota is facing an Ohio State team littered with NFL talent, but they're playing them at the right time. The Buckeyes have a first-time starter at quarterback, and they'll be playing on the road. If the Gophers defensive front can contain Master Teague and TreVeyon Henderson in the run game, that will force Ohio State into more long yardage situations, which could lead to some bad decisions for C.J Stroud. The Gophers will also need to rely on another senior in Mohamed Ibrahim, who is one of the best backs in the country. Minnesota's best shot to upset Ohio State is to get off to an early lead, and control time of possession. However, even if the Ohio State running game struggles, they have a plethora of NFL weapons on the outside that can make it a difficult night for the Minnesota secondary. If Ohio State can get a sufficient running game going early and take the pressure off Stroud, it will be virtually impossible for Minnesota to keep up.

Players to Watch:

  • No. 2, WR Chris Olave, Ohio State

  • No.33, RB Master Teague, Ohio State

  • No.92, DT Haskell Garrett, Ohio State

  • No.24, RB Mohamed Ibrahim, Minnesota

  • No.99, DT DeAngelo Carter, Minnesota

  • No.2, QB Tanner Morgan, Minnesota

Score Prediction: 41-17, Ohio State

No.12 Wisconsin vs No.19 Penn State

9-4-21, 12:00 PM Eastern Time

In 2020, both Penn State and Wisconsin had a down year, but these two teams look to have a significant rebound in the 2021 campaign. Wisconsin and Penn State are in a similar situation, as both teams have talented quarterbacks with inexperienced backfields. Penn State and Wisconsin will be looking to find consistent production in the backfield, as the two teams' starting backs only had a combined 30 carries for 164 yards in 2020.

Keys to the Game:

This game is set up to be an old school Big Ten matchup, as both teams look to favor a run first offense. As cliché as it sounds, the team that commits fewer turnovers and controls the time of possession has the best shot to win. All signs point to this game being decided in the trenches, but these two programs will need to create chunk plays on the outside. For the Nittany Lions, Jahan Dotson is a senior wideout that averaged 98 yards receiving last season, and Penn State will try to get the ball in the explosive Dotson's hands in many different ways. For the Badgers, Kendrick Pryor is an unknown player in the eyes of many fans, but if Wisconsin is looking to come out of Week 1 with a win, he must be able to generate some downfield production. If Pryor can open up the field and force Penn State to respect the air, Wisconsin could be in for a big day on the ground.

Players to Watch:

  • No.65, LT Tyler Beach, Wisconsin

  • No.84, TE Jake Ferguson, Wisconsin

  • No.3, WR Kendrick Pryor, Wisconsin

  • No.14, QB Sean Clifford, Penn State

  • No.5, WR Jahan Dotson, Penn State

  • No.13 LB Ellis Brooks, Penn State

Score Prediction: 24-20, Wisconsin

No.5 Georgia vs No.3 Clemson

9-4-21, 7:30 PM Eastern Time

As the sun is setting Saturday night in Charlotte, North Carolina, two powerhouse programs will be facing off in what should shape up to be a thrilling blockbuster with early season playoff implications on the line. The Clemson Tigers are led by the sophomore D.J. Uiagalelei, who is looking to live up to the legacy Trevor Lawrence left behind. For Georgia, they believe they found their guy in J.T. Daniels, who was a perfect 4-0 in his games as the starter last season, including a Peach Bowl win over the 8th ranked Bearcats. Georgia is entering the season with their best roster since their 2018 National Championship game loss to Alabama, but the Bulldogs will be without several key players in this one, including WR George Pickens, TE Arik Gilbert, and DE Tykee Smith. There is a serious argument that these three players are the best three players on the Bulldogs' roster, which is a detrimental series of losses for a team hoping to reach the playoffs after a three-year drought. For Clemson, Dabo Swinney said star receiver Justyn Ross, All-ACC defensive lineman Tyler Davis, and the team Captain Nolan Turner are all game time decisions for Saturday night. If any of these three players could take the field for the Tigers, Dabo's squad will have a big boost.

Keys to the Game:

Both teams have NFL talent all over the field, but this game will be decided in the trenches. With the landscape of college football, the recipe for success is to find the biggest and baddest bullies on the inside, and both teams have done that at a high level over almost the entire last decade. For Georgia, they need to get pressure on D.J. Uiagalelei in order to win. If Clemson can keep their young quarterback clean and upright in the pocket, the Bulldogs' secondary will have a tough time keeping up with the explosive Clemson receivers. The Tigers have an extremely deep defensive line, and the key for Clemson's defense is to shut down the run. If Brent Venables can make Georgia a one-dimensional offense, the Clemson pass rushers on the outside could have a heyday in the backfield. The matchup to watch is the Bulldogs' Redshirt Freshman guard Tate Ragledge going up against an elite defensive tackle group for Clemson, led by superstar Bryan Bresee.

Players to Watch:

  • No.3, RB Zamir White, Georgia

  • No.51, RG Tate Ragledge, Georgia

  • No.4, LB Nolan Smith, Goergia

  • No.11, DT Bryan Bresee, Clemson

  • No.5, QB D.J. Uiagalelei, Clemson

  • No.23, RB Lyn-J Dixon, Clemson

Score Prediction: 31-27, Clemson

Other Games to Watch:

No.10 North Carolina @ Virginia Tech

9-3-21, 6:00 PM Eastern Time

Score Prediction: 38-16, North Carolina

No.1 Alabama vs No.14 Miami

9-4-21, 3:30 PM Eastern Time

Score Prediction: 52-9, Alabama

No.17 Iowa @ No.18 Indiana

9-4-21, 3:30 PM Eastern Time

Score Prediction: 23-21, Indiana

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