College Football Week 1 Preview: Predicting The Top Games, Upset Alerts And 8 Newcomers Ready To Make An Impact

The first true weekend of college football is here. Sure, there was the "week zero" last weekend, but Stanford vs. Rice doesn't move the needle like the big-time games coming this weekend. With the season here, it's time to detail the top games this week, which teams could be upset and which newcomers could make a big impact. 

Not every game will be previewed here and there will be some thrillers we didn't profile (that's just college football). The same is true of the upset alerts and impact newcomers. Obviously, there will be a lot more than just 10. Below are the top five games, four teams on upset alert and 10 impact newcomers to watch this week. 

Top Games:

These are the must-watch games this week. They're pretty well spread out, so you'll be able to watch plenty of other games during the other time slots. 

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#11 Michigan vs. #17 Florida 
3:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, ABC

The first of the big games on Saturday is missing some notable players. Ten Florida players are suspended, including the two best offensive weapons in WR Antonio Callaway and RB Jordan Scarlett. Those are huge losses for a Florida team that replaces a ton of talent. A new-look Michigan defense (one starter back), gets to a face a first-time QB in Feleipe Franks. I thought this game was going to be closer, but with the suspensions, Michigan is an easy pick for me.  

Prediction: Michigan wins 31-17

#3 Florida State vs. #1 Alabama 
8 p.m. ET, Saturday, ABC

This is without a doubt the game of the week. It's not a true College Football Playoff elimination game, in fact, it's closer to a potential preview game. Both these teams are very talented, but with flaws. Alabama is working in another offensive coordinator and lost several key defensive players. Florida State brings back some key talent, especially a now-healthy Derwin James, but the offensive line is again a concern. Hopefully we get a better game than last year's USC-Alabama matchup. I think it will be and that it will come down to the wire. 

Prediction: Alabama wins 31-28

#22 West Virginia vs. #21 Virginia Tech
7:30 p.m. ET, Sunday, ABC

One of the two Sunday night games (there are no NFL games claiming dibs on Sundays yet), West Virginia vs. Virginia Tech has been overshadowed by the the FSU-Bama game, but it's a damn good. WVU lost some defensive pieces, but add a talented QB in Will Grier (more on him below). Virginia Tech has named redshirt freshman Josh Jackson as their starting QB, giving him his first action in primetime. This is an underrated matchup, but I like the Mountaineers to pull the "upset" (Virginia Tech is favored by 4) in this one. 

Prediction: WVU wins 27-24 

Texas A&M at UCLA 
7:30 p.m. ET, Sunday, FOX

Call this the "hot seat" game. Both teams are unranked and both coaches (Jim Mora at UCLA and Kevin Sumlin at A&M) don't have the best job security. The loser of this game, especially if it's ugly, will feel the warmth on their seat. Josh Rosen is healthy and UCLA needs him to become "Chosen Rosen" quickly. A&M, meanwhile, is expected to start Nick Starkel at QB, but don't be surprised if Kellen Mond and/or Jake Hubenak get action. I think UCLA might be the better team, but there are a few consistents in college football. One of them is A&M starting the year hot and having a November swoon. 

Prediction: Texas A&M wins 30-24

#25 Tennessee at Georgia Tech
8 p.m. ET, Monday, ESPN

Before the dismissal of stud RB Dedrick Mills, this was going to be an upset alert game. It's still going to be a good game and it's the only one on Monday Night. The Vols are replacing a bunch of talent, especially on offense. The loss of LB Darrin Kirkland for an indefinite amount of time also hurts the defense. Who replaces Joshua Dobbs is also still unclear. Junior Quinten Dormady and redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano are listed as co-starters and I wouldn't be surprised if we see both in this game or at least during the season. But with no Mills, I'll go with the Vols. 

Prediction: Tennessee wins 27-20

Upset Alerts:

Wyoming at Iowa
Noon, Saturday, Big Ten Network

Last year, Iowa lost to North Dakota State early in the year. Perhaps something similar can happen this year. RB Akrum Wadley is back, but we'll see how Nathan Stanley and his nine career passes fares with C.J. Beathard off to the NFL. Speaking of NFL, Wyoming QB Josh Allen already has plenty of hype around him. He's got all the tools, but he struggled badly against Nebraska last year. He needs to play great for Wyoming to pull the upset. My money is still on Iowa, but I think it could be closer than the 11.5-point spread. 

Eastern Washington at Texas Tech
4 p.m. ET, Saturday, Local TV

Texas Tech is without NFL QB Patrick Mahomes and the defense still sucks. That's not a good sign for an FCS team that beat a solid Washington State team last year. EWU has record-setting QB Gage Gubrud back, although WR Cooper Kupp is in the NFL now. Nic Shimonek has seen some action, but he's no Mahomes. Still, both these teams can (and likely will) light up the scoreboard this year. It will be a high-scoring affair, but I'm not ruling out the Eagles pulling off another upset. 

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Appalachian State at #15 Georgia 
6:15 p.m. ET, Saturday, ESPN

The Michigan game will never be forgotten, but App State hasn't beaten a Power 5 school since then. But, hey won 10 games last year and nearly upset Tennessee to open the season. QB Taylor Lamb is back and the Mountaineers have plenty of talent back. But so does Georgia, who brings back nearly everyone of note. QB Jacob Eason needs to take a step forward, but the Bulldogs are the SEC East favorites. The spread in this one is 14.5 points, a margin Georgia hasn't won a game by in its last 17 games. App State won't win, but it'll be a closer and fun game. 

BYU at #13 LSU 
9:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, ESPN

BYU has already played a game, a less-than-ideal showing in a 20-6 win over Portland State. But BYU has the benefit of having a game under their belt, while LSU won't have stud pass rusher Arden Key. RB Derrius Guice will play, but he's not 100 percent right now. LSU has better talent, but BYU plays close games. The Cougars four losses were by a combined eight points and had two last-play wins in 2016. The spread is 14.5, all the way up from just eight. BYU will make a game, but LSU still wins. 

Impact Newcomers:

These are far from the only newcomers who will make a bunch of plays this year (after all, who saw Chris Evans emerging for Michigan last year?). But these are the top guys I'll be watching this week and going forward. 

West Virginia QB Will Grier
We mentioned Grier earlier and he's a newcomer for WVU. He takes over at QB following a suspension and then transfer from Florida. We've seen Grier play, but how does he fare in his first game-action since 2015? Maybe there's some rust, but WVU is banking hard on Grier becoming a great QB. And if that happens, West Virginia will push for a Big 12 title. 

Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham
Which Auburn QB will the Baylor transfer more closely resemble? Cam Newton or Jeremy Johnson? Stidham isn't Newton, but if Stidham is what the Auburn staff thinks he is, the Tigers will push for an SEC title and Stidham will be in the Heisman conversation. If he's more like Johnson, Gus Malzahn might be on the outs. 

Michigan WR Donovan Peoples-Jones
Michigan is replacing a bunch of talented pass catchers and five-star WR Donovan Peoples-Jones is in line to pick up some of the slack. The Wolverines will still be a run-first offense, but DPJ will get chances to make plays. He's oozing with ability, so don't be surprised when he makes a few highlight-reel plays. He is far from the only freshman who will get playing time this year for Michigan. 

Tennessee OL Trey Smith
ESPN's top recruit from this cycle is already listed as a starting guard. He can play tackle too, but it's clear Smith is a day-one starter. I do think his future is at tackle, but it looks like he'll start on the inside. The Vols have lost of new faces on offense and outside of QB, Smith might be the most important. He's probably the most talented. 

Penn State CB Lamont Wade
Penn State's top recruit this year, Wade was the No. 45 overall recruit in the country. He's tiny, at just 5-foot-9, 190-pounds, but has explosive ability. The unfortunate injury to John Reid opens up two holes for Wade. Reid was the team's top corner and punt returner, both spots Wade can help out at. With Reid hurt, Penn State might not need Wade sooner than later. Also keep an eye on redshirt pass rusher Shane Simmons. 

UCLA DE Jaelan Phillips
Phillips was the top ranked recruit according to 247Sports, a truly stunning rise for a player ranked No. 375 in 2015. Now, he's expected to make an instant impact on a team replacing top pass rusher Takkarist McKinley this year. He'll get action right away as a pass rusher. There's just no way we're leaving the top recruit from this year off the list. 

Florida State RB Cam Akers
Dalvin Cook is off to the NFL, opening up a huge hole for FSU. Jacques Patrick will get plenty of work, but the five-star recruit and No. 3 overall player in Akers will get his too. Akers can play and he's too talented to be kept on the bench all season. He won't instantly be as good as Cook, but Akers will make some plays. 

Ohio State CB Kendall Sheffield OR Jeffrey Okudah
I'm channeling my inner coach and doing the classic "OR on the depth chat move." One, or both of these young corners will get playing time right away for OSU. Sheffield is a notable name, as he started his career as a highly touted recruit at Alabama who transferred. Okudah, meanwhile, was the No. 7 overall recruit this year. With CBs Gareon Conley and Marshon Lattimore (plus FS Malik Hooker), new players will play big roles this year. I'd be surprised if one, or even both, isn't starting by the end of the season. 

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