College football: The seven best games to watch in Week 1

LSU head coach Brian Kelly smiles as he walks across the field during NCAA college football practice.
Former Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly makes his debut as Louisiana State coach Sunday against Florida State.
(Gerald Herbert / Associated Press)

The Times will highlight the top college football games worth watching each week. Here’s a rundown of seven games that should be worth your viewing time. All times are Pacific.


Penn State at Purdue

Penn State coach James Franklin leads his team onto the field before a game against Purdue in October 2019.
(Barry Reeger / Associated Press)

The Nittany Lions and the Boilermakers start conference play in this Big Ten opener at West Lafayette, Ind. The result could come down to the matchups along the line of scrimmage — Penn State’s experienced offensive front against Purdue’s outstanding defense. Both teams start sixth-year quarterbacks — Sean Clifford of Penn State and Aiden O’Connell of Purdue. The Nittany Lions lead the series 15-3-1 and are favored by 3½ points.

TV: Fox; Thursday, 5 p.m.


West Virginia at Pittsburgh

Former USC quarterback Kedon Slovis scrambles during a scrimmage for Pittsburgh in April.
(Philip G. Pavely / Associated Press)

Two former USC quarterbacks are the feature attractions in this rivalry game, “The Backyard Brawl,” which renews after a 10-year absence. J.T. Daniels begins a new career with the Mountaineers — his third team after stops at Southern California and Georgia, and Kedon Slovis, who makes his debut after transferring to Pittsburgh. The Panthers return five starters on the offensive line and are favored by 7½ points.

TV: ESPN; Thursday 4 p.m.


Oregon at Georgia

Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett warms up before the Bulldogs' spring game in April.
(Brett Davis / Associated Press)

Dan Lanning, who oversaw a Bulldogs defense as its coordinator and mentor on its way to a national championship, returns to Georgia as the new coach of the Ducks, last season’s Pac-12 runners-up. Quarterback Stetson Bennett is back as the leader of the potent Georgia offense that will face one of the nation’s best group of linebackers outside of Alabama. Georgia is favored by 16 points.

TV: ABC, ESPN app; Saturday, 12:30 p.m.


Cincinnati at Arkansas

Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson breaks through the Missouri defense during a game in November.
(Michael Woods / Associated Press)

The Bearcats, who are coming off a wonderful 2021 season in which they advanced to the semifinals of the College Football Playoffs, will begin anew at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville, Ark. Cincinnati went 13-0 before losing to Alabama. The Razorbacks, who finished with nine wins and a bowl appearance against Penn State, are led by quarterback K.J. Jefferson. Arkansas is favored by 6½ points.

TV: ESPN; Saturday, 12:30 p.m.


Utah at Florida

Utah quarterback Cameron Rising warms ups before the 2022 Rose Bowl against Ohio State.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The Utes, the defending Pac-12 champions, travel to the Southeast to open the season against the Gators of the SEC and new coach Billy Napier. Florida has won four consecutive season openers and Utah has lost just two in the last 15 years. Utah is led on offense by former Newbury Park High quarterback Cameron Rising, a 64% passer, and running back Tavion Thomas. Utah is favored by 2½ points.


TV: ESPN; Saturday, 4 p.m.


Notre Dame at Ohio State

Notre Dame quarterback Tyler Buchner throws against Toledo in Sept. 2021.
(AJ Mast / Associated Press)

Marcus Freeman returns to his alma mater as the new head coach of Notre Dame in an early-season matchup of Top 5 teams. The No. 3 Buckeyes and the No. 5 Irish have met just six times in their history, twice at South Bend, Ind., twice at Columbus, Ohio, and twice in the Fiesta Bowl. Ohio State, a preseason pick to reach the national championship game, is favored by 17½ points.

TV: ABC, ESPN app; Saturday, 4:30 p.m.


Florida State at Louisiana State

LSU cornerback Eli Ricks runs on the field during a game against Auburn in October.
(Matthew Hinton / Associated Press)

After 12 seasons at Notre Dame where he was the winningest coach in Irish history, Brian Kelly starts a new era in Baton Rouge, La. LSU returns to the Superdome in New Orleans for the first time since winning the national championship in 2019 to play the Seminoles, who beat Duquesne in their opener 47-7. The Tigers, who finished 6-7 under former coach Ed Orgeron last season, are favored by three points.

TV: ABC, ESPN app, Sunday, 3:30 p.m.