Week 0 can be a confusing phrase if you’re hearing it for the first time. It might even sound totally wrong if you’re mathematically inclined; zero is, after all, not a count number by definition.
But the term is well known among college football aficionados. For most schools in the country, the start of the season arrives on Labor Day weekend, the traditional Week 1. In recent years, a handful of contests have been scheduled for the weekend before. This preliminary release date has become known as Week 0, and that week is just around the corner.
The 2022 Week 0 list might not sound all that exciting. No Top 25 teams are in action during Saturday’s 11-game schedule involving members of the Football Bowl Subdivision. There are, however, a few things worth paying attention to throughout the day. For one, unlike NFL preseason games, the results of these contests matter. A win is one step towards bowl eligibility. In some cases, they even count towards the conference ranking.
Here are some stories to watch when college football returns.
Big Ten going abroad
Headlining the day is an actual Big Ten West showdown in Dublin, Ireland, between Nebraska and Northwestern (12:30 pm ET, Fox). While neither the Cornhuskers nor the Wildcats are expected to compete for the league title, it is nonetheless an important game for both shows coming off of sub-average seasons.
Nebraska easily handled the Wildcats 56-7 on October 2nd. Unfortunately for the ‘Huskers, that was their last win of 2021, although there were several close calls. Suffice it to say, however, that any fights Nebraska show against a team he strangled a year ago will not be viewed favorably by a fanbase whose patience with coach Scott Frost is already in short supply. But Pat Fitzgerald’s Northwestern record would indicate that this will not be an Irish holiday for Cornhuskers. Prior to last year’s 3-9 season, five of the previous six years produced winning records for the Wildcats. Nebraska imagines it has the talent advantage, particularly with the arrival of QB Casey Thompson from Texas, but if Northwestern can regain its characteristic stamina along the lines, things could get very interesting after the break.
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Elsewhere in the Big Ten
The other Big Ten team that got a week 0 jump into the season is Illinois, where Bret Bielema embarks on the second year of his rebuild project hosting Wyoming (4pm ET, BTN). But Fighting Illini faces a potentially dangerous adversary in the Cowboys, a program with few geographical advantages that nevertheless overwhelms its weight from time to time. The Cowboys may be in a transitional year after considerable losses on the transfer portal, but Craig Bohl is a good coach who knows how to optimize the people he has. The home crowd in Champaign would love to have this one on ice quickly, but don’t be surprised if that isn’t the case.
More conference calls
It won’t produce as much fanfare as the Big Ten opener, but Conference USA is also jumping straight into league play with a couple of competitions. Florida Atlantic hosts Charlotte at 7:00 pm ET on CBSSN, and West Texas-El Paso has a home date at 9:00 pm ET with North Texas, available live stream via Stadium. What numbers will an open year be at, given C-USA member losses, earning an early leaderboard win will be a significant advantage.
Some ACC squads coming off somewhat disappointing campaigns are hoping for easy openings against Subdivision Football Championship opponents. Florida starts the ACC Network double round against Duquesne (5:00 pm ET), followed by North Carolina hosting Florida A&M (8:15 pm ET). Of course, the Seminoles were taken down by another FCS member, Jacksonville State, last year, so their fans won’t be forgiving especially if they struggle to fend off the Dukes.
First in the SEC?
Vanderbilt is the most likely to win the SEC, but the Commodores at least have a chance to claim their first league win this season. However, it won’t be easy as Vandy makes the long trip to Hawaii for the last week 0 game of the day (10:30 pm ET, CBSSN). It’s a game Commodores will almost certainly have to have if they want to think about bowling, but the Rainbow Warriors will be excited for the opportunity to defeat an SEC opponent.
This article originally appeared in USA TODAY: College Football Schedule Week 0: What to Know and What to Watch for