College Football Week One Preview: Players to watch, predictions, and more

By Columnist Matt Lieberman

Believe it or not, we are just days away from the start of the 2017-18 college football season.  Although the first official week of CFB play does not feature many games or blue blood programs, teams and fans alike are eagerly awaiting the first kickoff.  Quibbl will run you through Week One’s five games, reviewing last season’s results, previewing players to watch, and give you the opportunity to take your pick of who you think will take home a victory this Saturday.

Game 1: Oregon State at Colorado State, 2:30 PM E.T.

Last season’s record/bowl result:

Oregon State (4-8, N/A) vs. Colorado State (7-6, lost to Idaho in Famous Potato Bowl)

Player to watch- Oregon State: Ryan Nall, running back… Nall, the wrecking ball of the Oregon State offense will look to continue the success of last season, in which he scored 13 touchdowns- that’s more than one a game for an Oregon State team that didn’t make a bowl.  Nall has averaged over 6.0 yards per carry each of the past two years, as well as averaging nearly 10.0 yards per reception on 22 receptions last season.

Player to watch- Colorado State: Nick Stevens, quarterback… Last year, after being benched in the season opener, Stevens made an impressive return and ranked fifth nationally in QB rating with a 171.3.  He completed almost 65% of his passes, throwing for nearly 2,000 yards and 19 touchdowns on the year.  Stevens holds fourth-place spot for most career touchdown passes in school history.  Look for Colorado State to make good use of their strong pass attack with Stevens at the helm of the offense.

Quibbl’s prediction: Colorado State picks up a narrow win to kick off the season


Game 2: Portland State at BYU, 3:00 PM E.T

Last season’s record/bowl result:

Portland State (3-8, N/A) vs. BYU (9-4, beat Wyoming in Poinsettia Bowl)

Player to watch- Portland State: Josh Kraght, multiple positions… Having playing under center as a quarterback, in the backfield as a running back, out wide as a receiver, and on special teams as a punt returner, Kraght can do it all.  Although the 22-year-old Kraght may not start at quarterback, he will likely get some playing time at the QB position.  Last November, Kraught caught the go-ahead touchdown pass in a comeback win against Eastern Washington.

Player to watch- BYU: Fred Warner, linebacker… The senior is arguably the strongest aspect of one of the most dominant linebacker corps in the entire nation.  He brings leadership quality and experience to the table, as he was named a captain for the upcoming season.  On the field, Warner is an incredible pass rusher, plays well in pass coverage, and is a solid tackler.

Quibbl’s prediction: BYU blows Portland State out of the water


Game 3: Hawaii at UMass, 6:00 PM E.T.

Last season’s record/bowl result:

Hawaii (7-7, beat Middle Tennessee in the Hawaii Bowl) vs. UMass

Player to watch- Hawaii: Dru Brown, quarterback… After winning the starting job nearly halfway through last year, Brown led the Rainbow Warriors to their first bowl game since 2010, in which they beat Middle Tennessee.  The junior, a former junior college transfer, will look to capitalize on last year’s regular season and postseason successes.  Brown, out of San Mateo, California, passed for nearly 2,500 yards last season, throwing 19 passing touchdowns along the way.

Player to watch- UMass, Adam Breneman, tight end… Last year as a junior, Breneman, a former Penn State transfer, caught 70 passes for over 800 yards and eight touchdowns.  Those were all team highs.  While many predicted he might enter the NFL Draft after his junior season, given his history of knee injuries, he is now returning for his senior season, giving the Minutemen offense a much-needed boost.  He will remain a top target for junior quarterback Andrew Ford.

Quibbl picks: Hawaii edges out UMass


Game 4: South Florida at San Jose State, 7:30 PM E.T.

Last season’s record/bowl result:

South Florida (11-2, beat South Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl) at San Jose State (4-8, N/A)

Player to watch- South Florida: Quinton Flowers, quarterback… If there’s one thing college football fans learned about football in the state of Florida last season, it’s that they shouldn’t sleep on Quinton Flowers.  Flowers is capable of gaining yards both throwing through the air and running on the ground.  In 2016, with 18 TD and over 1,500 yards, he was the 2nd leading QB rusher in FBS, coming up short only to Heisman winner Lamar Jackson.  The dual-threat QB out of Miami is at the helm of arguably the American Athletic Conference’s best offense.  With Head Coach Charlie Strong leading the team, the Bulls look poised to make an AAC title run, and with luck, a NY6 bowl appearance.

Player to watch- San Jose State: Andre Chachere, cornerback… San Jose State ranked 19th nationally in pass defense last year, and returns all four starters.  The leader of that unit- the team’s best player, Andre Chachere.  Chachere, a future NFL hopeful and first-team All-Mountain West player.  The 6-foot sensation out of Fresno, California will hope to lock down opposing offenses, as he did last season when he finished fourth nationally in passes defended per game.  Chachere also led his team with four interceptions and 14 pass break-ups.

Quibbl’s pick: South Florida takes down SJSU with ease


Game 5: Stanford at Rice, 10:00 PM E.T.

Last season’s record/bowl result:

Stanford (10-3, beat UNC in Sun Bowl), Rice (3-9)

Player to watch- Stanford: Joey Alfieri, outside linebacker… The stronghold of the Cardinal front seven is the versatile OLB Alfieri.  Last season, he recorded 5.0 sacks and 10.5 tackles for a loss.  The senior out of Portland, Oregon, was an All Pac-12 honorable mention last year, starting 13 games for a Stanford team who beat out UNC in the Sun Bowl.  He recorded 51 tackles, 30 of those solo, on the year last season.

Player to watch- Rice: Blain Padgett, defensive end… Padgett, standing at 6-5, will hope to continue playing as a commanding defensive presence.  As a true sophomore, the now-junior led the defensive line with 41 tackles and put up 5.5 tackles for losses.  He even put up seven tackles against Army, and five tackles in just his second career start against Western Kentucky.  Look for Padgett to wreak havoc against the Cardinal offense.

Quibbl’s pick: Stanford crushes Rice


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