College football schedule Week 0: What to know and what to watch for – USA TODAY

Week 0 can be a confusing phrase if you’re hearing it for the first time. It might even sound downright wrong if you’re mathematically inclined; zero is, after all, not a counting number by definition.
But the term is fairly well known among college football aficionados. For most schools around the country, the start of the season arrives on Labor Day weekend, the traditional Week 1. In recent years, a handful of contests have been scheduled for the prior weekend. This preliminary launch date has come to be known as Week 0, and that week is now at hand.
The 2022 Week 0 slate might not seem all that exciting on its face. No Top 25 teams are in action during Saturday’s 11-game lineup of contests involving members of the Football Bowl Subdivision. There are, however, some things worth paying attention to during the course of the day. For one thing, unlike NFL preseason games, the results of these contests matter. A win is a step toward bowl eligibility. In some cases, they’ll even count in conference standings.
Here are a few storylines to monitor as college football returns.
The headliner of the day is an actual Big Ten West showdown in Dublin, Ireland, between Nebraska and Northwestern (12:30 p.m. ET, Fox). While neither the Cornhuskers nor the Wildcats are expected to compete for the league title, it is nonetheless an important game for both programs coming off subpar seasons.
Nebraska easily handled the Wildcats 56-7 last Oct. 2. Unfortunately for the ‘Huskers, that was their last victory in 2021, though there were admittedly a number of close calls. Suffice to say, however, that any struggles shown by Nebraska against a team it throttled a year ago won’t be viewed kindly by a fan base whose patience with coach Scott Frost is already thin. But Pat Fitzgerald’s track record at Northwestern would indicate this won’t be an Irish holiday for the Cornhuskers. Prior to last year’s 3-9 clunker of a season, five of the previous six years produced winning records for the Wildcats. Nebraska figures to have the talent edge, particularly with the arrival of QB Casey Thompson from Texas, but if Northwestern can regain its characteristic toughness along the lines, things could get very interesting indeed after halftime.
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The other team in the Big Ten getting a Week 0 jump start on the season is Illinois, where Bret Bielema embarks on the second year of his rebuilding project hosting Wyoming (4 p.m. ET, BTN). But the Fighting Illini face a potentially dangerous opponent in the Cowboys, a program with few geographic advantages that nevertheless punches above its weight from time to time. The Cowboys might be in something of a transition year themselves after considerable losses through the transfer portal, but Craig Bohl is a good coach who knows how to optimize the personnel he has. The home crowd in Champaign would like to have this one on ice quickly, but don’t be stunned if that isn’t the case.
It won’t produce as much fanfare as the Big Ten opener, but Conference USA is also jumping straight into league play with a pair of contests. Florida Atlantic hosts Charlotte at 7 p.m. ET on CBSSN, and out west Texas-El Paso has a 9 p.m. ET home date with North Texas, available on live stream via Stadium. In what figures to be a wide-open year given C-USA’s membership losses, grabbing an early win in the standings will be a significant advantage.
A couple of ACC squads coming off somewhat disappointing campaigns will hope for easy openers against Football Championship Subdivision opponents. Florida State kicks off the ACC Network doubleheader against Duquesne (5 p.m. ET), followed by North Carolina hosting Florida A&M (8:15 p.m. ET). Of course, the Seminoles were upended by another FCS member, Jacksonville State, last year, so their fans won’t be especially forgiving if they struggle to put away the Dukes.
Vanderbilt is the longest of long shots to win the SEC, but the Commodores do at least have a chance to earn the league’s first victory this season. It won’t be easy, however, as Vandy makes the long trip to Hawaii for the final Week 0 game of the day (10:30 p.m. ET, CBSSN). It’s a game the Commodores will almost certainly have to have if they want to even think about going bowling, but the Rainbow Warriors will be excited for the opportunity to pick off an SEC opponent.

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