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College football is back. Like Herm Edwards back. Like Chip Kelly back. And while this first week’s slate of games is short, just four tantalizing morsels of collegiate gridiron goodness, it still marks the beginning of all that is good in the world. People like to call it “Week Zero” and say it doesn’t really count, but it does, especially to the eight teams kicking off. Just ask newly minted Rice head coach Mike Bloomgren.
Here’s everything you need to know heading into the first weekend of college football.
Duquesne at UMass – If you like offense, then this is the game for you. The Duquesne Dukes, coached by Jerry Schmitt, boast a balanced offense despite breaking in a relatively new quarterback. Like most coaches, Schmitt is being coy about naming a starter but has narrowed it down to junior Brett Brumbaugh and redshirt junior FAU transfer Daniel Parr. Running back A.J. Hines will take some of the pressure off the new QB — Hines topped 1,000 yards last season and had 10 touchdowns despite playing in just nine games. Unfortunately for the Minutemen, UMass doesn’t have a particularly strong run defense — it allowed 197.9 yards per game last season. The secondary will carry the defense, but the offense will carry the team. It is led by underrated QB Andrew Ford, who has more than 5,500 passing yards and 48 touchdowns in the last two season. But the Dukes have experience on the road and a solid offense that will test UMass’ defense up front.
Prairie View A&M at Rice – This game has “feel-good” written all over it for the Rice Owls. The program has been shrouded in optimism this offseason with the hire of former Stanford offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren. But the reality of a rebuild is that it takes time. But if anyone knows how to utilize wide receiver Aaron Cephus and his monster yardage, it’s Bloomgren. Prairie View A&M will test Rice’s offense with a defense that boasts both size and speed and gained depth this offseason thanks to the transfer well, expertly utilized by new head coach Eric Dooley. Offensively, the Panthers lost their leading rusher and top three receivers, meaning new gamers will need to emerge. Prairie View may have the juice, coming off three straight wins to end last season, but Rice is just more physical and athletic. Look for the Owls to dominate despite the inevitable growing pains.