Break out the chips and cold drinks but let Chris Dufresne handle the remote. Each Friday, The Times’ national college football writer handicaps what’s worth watching, and skipping, on the upcoming menu of games.
Washington at No. 23 Boise State
7:15 p.m., ESPN
Chris Petersen returns to Boise for the first time since leaving last year to take over at Washington. Petersen helped build Boise into a mid-major power in his eight seasons, posting a remarkable record of 92-12. Boise is now coached by Bryan Harsin, a former Petersen assistant, who looks to have the better team. The Broncos return nine starters on offense from a team that capped a 12-2 season with a win over Pac-12 South champion Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl. Boise State is 7-3 against Pac-12 schools since 2006.
Other games — 12:30 p.m.: Charlotte at Georgia State, ESPNU. 4 p.m.: No. 5 Michigan State at Western Michigan, ESPNU; No. 4 Baylor at Southern Methodist, ESPN. 5 p.m.: Weber State at Oregon State, Pac-12 Networks. 6 p.m.: Kent State at Illinois, Big Ten Network.
No. 21 Stanford at Northwestern
9 a.m., ESPN
Both of these programs are trying to get their swagger back. Stanford slipped to 8-5 last season; Northwestern hasn’t been the same (6-14) since a tough home loss to Ohio State in 2013. The schools have canceled all but two future meetings in part because Northwestern wanted to dial its nonconference schedule back a bit in advance of the Big Ten going to a nine-game league schedule in 2016. The Pac-12 already plays nine, and one of Stanford’s other traditional nonconference games is Notre Dame.
Brigham Young at Nebraska
12:30 p.m., Channel 7
Mike Riley probably wishes he was making his Nebraska coaching debut last season, when the Cornhuskers got to toy around against Florida Atlantic.
Louisville vs. No. 6 Auburn, at Atlanta
12:30 p.m., Channel 2
Expect announcers Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson to start touting Auburn as a serious national title contender if the Tigers make a first down on their opening drive.
No. 15 Arizona State vs. Texas A&M, at Houston
4 p.m., ESPN
This neutral-site game in Houston is a rare matchup of Pac-12 South vs. the Southeastern Conference West, the best divisions in college football. It’s the only regular-season meeting of the Pac-12 and SEC this season. What a shame. Arizona State is a dark-horse pick to make the four-team College Football Playoff. Texas A&M is trying to rebound from an 8-5 season in which the Aggies went 3-5 in their last eight games. A&M should be improved on defense after poaching premier coordinator John Chavis away from Louisiana State.
Texas at No. 11 Notre Dame
4:30 p.m., Channel 4
The eyes of Texas are, well, irritated and watery. Most expect Notre Dame to romp in this one. The Irish have generated a lot of preseason hype, ranking as high as No. 4 in Sports Illustrated’s clickbait-driven preseason preview. Texas has won 15 consecutive openers but is caught in second-year Coach Charlie Strong’s program attitude readjustment.
No. 20 Wisconsin vs. No. 3 Alabama, at Arlington, Texas
5 p.m., Channel 7
Nick Saban has been a master at scheduling tough nonconference road games without having to invade a visiting stadium: 2014: West Virginia, at Atlanta; 2013, Virginia Tech, at Atlanta; 2012, Michigan, at Arlington; This season’s opener against Wisconsin and next season’s opener against USC are also at AT&T Stadium.
Arkansas State at No. 8 USC
8 p.m., Pac-12 Networks
Yet another chance for the Pac-12 to make a Sunday morning impression on all the lighthouse keepers on Cape Cod. Arkansas State is the first of consecutive Sun Belt Conference opponents for USC, which plays Idaho next week before opening Pac-12 play against Stanford.
Other games — 9 a.m.: South Dakota State at Kansas, FS West; Norfolk State at Rutgers, ESPNews; Colgate at Navy, CBS Sports; Richmond at Maryland, ESPNU; Illinois State at Iowa, BTN; Louisiana Monroe at Georgia, SEC Network. 9:30 a.m.: Wofford at Clemson, KDOC. 11 a.m.: Portland State at Washington State, Pac-12. 12:30 p.m.: Virginia at UCLA, Channel 11; Penn State at Temple, ESPN; Sam Houston State at Texas Tech, FS West; Florida Atlantic at Tulsa, CBS Sports; Texas El Paso at Arkansas, ESPNU. 1 p.m.: Bowling Green vs. Tennessee, SEC; Southern Illinois at Indiana, ESPNews. 2 p.m.: Grambling state at California, Pac-12. 4 p.m.: Louisiana Lafayette at Kentucky, ESPNU. 4:30 p.m.: Georgia Southern at West Virginia, Prime; Nevada Las Vegas at Northern Illinois, CBS Sports; New Mexico State at Florida, SEC. 5 p.m.: Eastern Washington at Oregon, Pac-12; Texas State at Florida State, ESPNews. 7 p.m.: Mississippi State at Southern Mississippi, FS1.
Noon: Purdue at Marshall, FS1.
No. 1 Ohio State at Virginia Tech
5 p.m., ESPN
Ohio State begins defense of its national title against the only team that defeated the Buckeyes last season. Virginia Tech won last season’s game at Columbus, 35-21. Coach Urban Meyer still hasn’t announced whether J.T. Barrett or Cardale Jones will start at quarterback for Ohio State. Jones had a setback this week when he was briefly hospitalized for a migraine headache. Virginia Tech seeks its first victory against a top-ranked team. The Hokies used to be almost unbeatable in Blacksburg, Va., but lost at home four times last season en route to a 7-6 finish.