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  • The first four games of the FBS season go down on Saturday night, one week before college football's grand opening. Here's why you should take some time to watch all four.
By Eric Single
August 24, 2018

It’s been a long offseason in the world of college football—excruciatingly quiet at first, and busy for all the wrong reasons in the last month or so—but toe meets leather at last in four FBS stadiums across the country on Saturday. For the second year, teams that travel to play Hawaii on the road have the option to play a game on the weekend before Labor Day weekend, and while this year’s “Week Zero” slate is devoid of any Power 5 action, it still marks the start of the long journey to the College Football Playoff at year’s end.

You won’t miss the most important moments of the 2018 season if you choose to spend this Saturday evening outside, with friends or otherwise away from a screen. But you will miss some college football. Below, we make the case for watching each of the four games of Week Zero.

Duquesne at UMass (5:30 p.m. ET, UMassAthletics.com)

Watch it because: It’s the first one. The Minutemen scared a lot of more talented teams in 2017, including Temple, Tennessee, Ohio and Mississippi State, and they beat Appalachian State and BYU as part of a 4–2 second half that in part salvaged an unsightly 0–6 start. Mark Whipple’s fifth season as head coach hinges on whether UMass can close those tight margins, and taking care of business against an FCS foe at home before three straight September road games. The Dukes have 13 former FBS players on their roster, including defensive lineman Kam Carter, who hopped from Penn State to East Mississippi Community College (where he starred in Season 2 of Last Chance U) to Pitt before transferring to Duquesne.

Prairie View A&M at Rice (7 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

Watch it because: First-year head coach Mike Bloomgren was hired away from Stanford’s offensive staff to turn Rice into Conference USA’s own enclave of “Intellectual Brutality”, and an FCS opener should allow the Owls to take inventory of their progress. Prairie View won its last three games of 2017 to finish with a winning record for the third straight season, and its marching band is always worth the price of admission/subscription streaming services.

Hawaii at Colorado State (7:30 p.m. ET, CBSSN)

Watch it because: The Rams turned in the most impressive non-Stanford performance of the inaugural Week Zero, as quarterback Nick Stevens and top receiver Michael Gallup teamed up to strafe Oregon State at Colorado State’s new on-campus stadium. Well-traveled transfer K.J. Carta-Samuels (the younger brother of former Wyoming and Vanderbilt QB Austyn) takes over under center for Stevens, but Colorado State can look forward to at least some continuity now that head coach Mike Bobo has returned to the team after a nearly two-week hospitalization for numbness in his feet.

Wyoming at New Mexico State (10 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Watch it because: These two teams might end up back on your screens one or two more times this season. Wyoming hosts Washington State and Boise State and travels to Missouri all in the month of September, giving us an early look at exactly how good the Cowboys are without Josh Allen—they return almost every 2017 starter except for the cannon-armed QB, and safety Andrew Wingard has a lofty NFL draft ceiling of his own. Fresh off its first bowl game in 57 years, New Mexico State plunges into life as an independent with a trip to Minnesota next Thursday. Before that, the Aggies get a rare ESPN2 showcase in Las Cruces that should give diehards a taste of the late-night craziness in store over the next three months of Saturdays.

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