The great thing about Ohio State opening up their season on Thursday this year is that it gives us time to relax over Labor Day weekend and take in the rest of the college football action around the country. Taking in a full slate of college football action over Labor Day weekend is an even bigger deal this year, after last year saw just a handful of games played over the holiday weekend.
The start of the 2021 college football season shouldn’t disappoint. There are five games over Labor Day weekend between ranked teams on the schedule, including two Big Ten conference games. By the time Week 1 of the college football season wraps up, there will have been five Big Ten conference games, which is a change from normal scheduling that saw conference games a little later down the line.
One of those Big Ten conference games is Ohio State heading to Minnesota to take on the Golden Gophers. We are all excited to see how the Buckeyes look with a new quarterback taking the snaps, along with some of the new talent on both sides of the football that will be stepping into starting positions vacated by those that have graduated or moved on to the NFL.
What we want to know is what game aside from Ohio State/Minnesota are you most excited for in Week 1 of the college football season. You could also include a game from Week 0 of this season, but if you are most excited for Nebraska/Illinois or Hawai’i/UCLA over what Week 1 has to offer, then you might want to take to a therapist since there isn’t something right going on upstairs.
Today’s question: Which Week 1 game that isn’t Ohio State/Minnesota are you most excited for?
We’d love to hear your choices. Either respond to us on Twitter at @Landgrant33 or leave your choice in the comments.
Brett’s Pick: #17 Indiana v. #18 Iowa
Many have Ohio State’s trip to Bloomington later in the year pegged as the toughest game of the year for the Buckeyes. The Hoosiers have a number of hurdles to clear if they want to go into that game against Ohio State undefeated. The first of these hurdles is a trip to Kinnick Stadium to take on the Iowa Hawkeyes.
The expectations for Indiana this year were high even before the Hoosiers were ranked 17th the AP Poll, marking the first time that Indiana has been ranked in the preseason poll since 1969. Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. is returning from a knee injury suffered during the 2020 season. Joining Penix on offense will be wide receiver Ty Fryfogle and tight end Peyton Hendershot, while linebacker Micah McFadden and cornerback Tiawan Mullen will lead the way on defense.
We are going to find out real quick if Iowa is for real this season. Not only do the Hawkeyes host Indiana in their season opener, the next week they head to Ames to take on the Iowa State Cyclones, with their hated rival ranked inside the top-10. If the Hawkeyes can get through their first two games without losing one of those games, Kirk Ferentz’s squad has a real chance at winning the Big Ten West, as well as putting themselves in position for a spot in the College Football Playoff, since Iowa’s toughest remaining game will be traveling to Madison to take on Wisconsin.
Much like Indiana, Iowa also does have their quarterback from last season returning. Even though Spencer Petras didn’t put up big numbers last year, he should be more comfortable behind center in his second season as starter. The star on the Iowa offense this year will be running back Tyler Goodson, who ran for 762 yards and seven touchdowns in 2020.
This feels like it’s going to be a game that comes down to the wire, much like Penn State/Indiana did to open up last season. There is so much on the line in this game, so expect both teams to go all out. While I think Iowa squeaks out a close win at home, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Indiana win.
Meredith’s pick: #5 Georgia at #3 Clemson
There are a ton of week one matchups to look forward to (even outside of Ohio State’s opener at Minnesota). While the stakes get higher (because dropping a conference game in week one can doom a season), it’s exciting to kick off the season with a conference matchup, which most of the Big Ten is doing this year.
However, the matchup to watch in the early days of the 2021 season is not in the Big Ten at all, and is certainly No. 5 Georgia at No. 3 Clemson. The game is being played in Charlotte at Bank of America Stadium Sept. 4.
There are lots of storylines here, the most drama-fueled one being that this game will be the first major non-conference matchup since the SEC announced its expansion with Oklahoma and Texas. All eyes will be on how the reigning ACC champ fares against one of the top teams in the SEC. I’d also have to imagine that Clemson will have some unlikely bandwagon fans for the outing, perhaps including fellow alliance members in the Big Ten and Pac-12.
Then there’s the fact this is basically a bowl game in September — a once-in-a-season top-five matchup right out of the gate. While Clemson is technically the host, the game is being held at a neutral site which is also pretty fun.
Further, we’re entering a new era of Clemson football. On the field, for the first time in what feels like forever, we’ll have a new starting quarterback for Clemson in DJ Uiagalelei (although technically Uiagalelei did start in place of Trevor Lawrence against Boston College and Notre Dame in 2020 after Lawrence tested positive for COVID-19).
The sophomore quarterback is looking to build on his success from those two games where the then-freshman excelled. In a two-OT thriller against the Irish, Uiagalelei completed 29-of-44 passes for 439 yards, two passing touchdowns and a rushing score — though the Tigers couldn’t quite eke out a W over Notre Dame. He followed up that performance with a win over Boston College, connecting on 73% of his passes for two more passing and one more rushing touchdown.
The Tigers will also be looking to replace Travis Etienne, who joined Lawrence in Jacksonville. Etienne rushed for 914 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior in 2020, making him the leading rusher by more than 700 yards. Etienne also happened to be the Tigers’ third-leading receiver.
Georgia, meanwhile, returns USC transfer quarterback JT Daniels, who played just four games for the Bulldogs last year but threw for 1,231 yards, 10 touchdowns and two picks over that span. Oh, and he also led Georgia to a 4-0 record in the process (including a bowl win over No. 8 Cincinnati).
Georgia’s had its share of injuries during fall camp, but head coach Kirby Smart expects that his starting lineup will be back and ready to go for the opener.
Clemson opened as three-point favorites over Georgia, and the Tigers will certainly be looking to right the record after falling 45-21 to the Bulldogs the last time out in 2014. Overall, Georgia holds a 42-18-4 advantage over its ACC counterpart.
Coming at it from an Ohio State lens, it’ll certainly be a lot more palatable to cheer for Clemson since we just watched the Buckeyes fully throttle the Tigers in the Sugar Bowl in January.