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Week 0 can be confusing if you are hearing it for the first time. It might also seem decidedly wrong if you are inclined to math; zero is, after all, not a counting number by definition.

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But the term is fairly well known among college football fans. For most schools across the country, the start of the season comes on the Labor Day weekend, the traditional Week 1. In recent years, a handful of competitions have been scheduled for the previous weekend. This preliminary launch date has become known as Week 0, and that week is now within reach.

The Week 0 2022 list may not seem so exciting on the surface. None of the top 25 teams are in action during Saturday’s 11 matches involving members of the Football Bowl division. There are, however, a few things worth paying attention to throughout the day. For one thing, unlike the NFL preseason games, the results of these contests matter. A win is a step towards ball eligibility. In some cases, they will also count in the conference rankings.

Here are some storylines to monitor as college football returns.

Big Ten headed overseas
The headliner of the day is a full-fledged Big Ten West showdown in Dublin, Ireland, between Nebraska and Northwestern (12:30 ET, Fox). While neither the Cornhuskers nor the Wildcats should compete for the championship title, it’s still an important match for both programs coming out of poor seasons.

Nebraska easily handled the Wildcats 56-7 last October 2nd. Unfortunately for the “Huskers, that was their last win in 2021, although it is true that there have been some close calls. Suffice it to say, however, that any fight shown by Nebraska against a team he throttled a year ago will not be. frowned upon by a fan base whose patience with manager Scott Frost is already poor.

But Pat Fitzgerald’s track record at Northwestern would indicate this won’t be an Irish party for the Cornhuskers. Prior to last year’s 3-9 clunker season, five of the previous six years have produced winning records for the Wildcats. Nebraska appear to have the talent edge, particularly with the arrival of QB Casey Thompson from Texas, but if Northwestern manages to regain its characteristic toughness along the lines, things could really get very interesting after the break.

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Elsewhere in the Big Ten
The other Big Ten team that gets a season start with week 0 is Illinois, where Bret Bielema embarks on the second year of his rebuilding project by hosting Wyoming (4 pm ET, BTN). But Fighting Illini face a potentially dangerous opponent in the Cowboys, a program with few geographic advantages that nevertheless beats above its weight from time to time.

The Cowboys may be in some sort of transition year after significant losses through the transfer portal, but Craig Bohl is a good coach who knows how to optimize the staff he has. The home crowd in Champaign would like to have this on the ice quickly, but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t.

Other conference calls
It won’t produce as much hype as the opening of the Big Ten, but the US Conference is also jumping straight into the championship with a couple of races. Florida Atlantic hosts Charlotte at 7 p.m. ET on CBSSN, and West Texas-El Paso has a home date at 9 p.m. ET with North Texas, available live streaming via Stadium. In what will be a very open year given C-USA membership losses, getting an early win in the standings will be a significant advantage.

A couple of ACC teams coming out of somewhat disappointing campaigns are hoping for easy openings against opponents in the soccer league split. The State of Florida 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 defeated by another FCS member, Jacksonville State, last year, so their fans won’t particularly forgive if they struggle to put the Dukes away.

First in the SEC?
Vanderbilt is the longest of long shots to win the SEC, but the Commodores have at least one chance of earning their first league win this season. It won’t be easy, however, as Vandy will make the long drive to Hawaii for the final match of week 0 of the day (10:30 PM ET, CBSSN).

It’s a game the Commodores will almost certainly have to have if they even want to think about going bowling, but the Rainbow Warriors will be thrilled with the opportunity to take out a SEC opponent.

Upset Pick No. 1: Irish Eyes Smile on Northwestern
This is a good spot for Northwestern, and not just because a manager named Fitzgerald and a quarterback named Sullivan will line up in the Big Ten opener for both in Dublin, Ireland, even though the Wildcats are +375 on the home line. profit, which means they have an implied 21.1% chance of beating Nebraska.

Northwestern was beaten away to Nebraska last season, 59-7, but that result was the most extreme outlier in a series that has been played every year since the Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten in 2011. Nebraska eliminated the frustration of close-quarters defeats to Oklahoma and Michigan State in the previous two games against a Northwestern side that had lost their starting quarterback two weeks earlier.

Trends in the series favor the Wildcats, who are 5-6 SU and 7-4 ATS in the series. They have won four of their last seven and eight of the 10 games before 2021 have been decided by eight points or less. The Wildcats bounced back from a 3-9 season in 2019 to win the Big Ten West in 2020. They were 3-9 a year ago, which kept the odds for the conference title low this time around.

The Huskers are down. They have had five straight losing seasons for the first time since 1956-61 and are 15-29 under the tutelage of fifth year manager Scott Frost, whose 15 wins are the fifth least in the Power Five. Their 16 road defeats are in third place. A new quarterback (Casey Thompson) and offensive coordinator (Mark Whipple) may need time to adjust.

Upset Pick No. 2: Charlotte likes this place
Charlotte returns one of the best US Conference quarterbacks in senior fifth year Chris Reynolds, who shot 2,680 of the past 7,726 yards of his school record last season, while the 49ers averaged 29.3 points in the league. Reynolds had 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions a year ago.

Charlotte is 2-1 SU and 3-0 ATS in the three games played in Florida since Florida Atlantic joined CUSA in 2013. Both teams ended 2021 on a negative note: Florida Atlantic lost their last four and Charlotte five of the last six. Loser Charlotte is +220 on the money line, which means she has an implied 31.3% chance of beating the Owls.

Florida Atlantic manager Willie Taggart is 6-11 in his last 17 games here, and although the Owls are considered a stronger contender in conference title odds, there is work to be done as Taggart has reorganized his team again. staff this spring in an attempt to jump start the program around quarterback N’Kosi Perry in the opening of the CUSA for both.

Upset Pick No. 3: Mountain West Rises
These teams play defense. Illinois finished 46th in the NCAA in total defense (365.6 yards per game) a year ago, a slightly tempered number as Illinois missed Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State in the Big Ten’s unbalanced schedule. Wyoming it ranked 55th (370.4) and in the past five seasons it has ranked in the top 50 in advanced metrics.

And not much attack … Illinois ranked in the bottom 20 in total attack in 2021 and both ranked in the bottom 15 in passing attack, making the double-digit spread even more attractive despite the fact that the Cowboys have only an implied 23.5% chance of winning. This is their first meeting.

Wyoming counts Utah State transfer quarterback Andrew Peasley and return half Titus Swen. Swen rushed for 785 yards (5.95 per carry) and seven touchdowns as a backup in 2021. Illinois have a new offensive coordinator and a new quarterback in Syracuse transfer Tommy DeVito.

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