Posted on August 25, 2023
The opening week of the NCAA season—dubbed Week 0—is upon us, with seven FBS games in total slated for Saturday.
Nearly half of those games will feature a Mountain West team as three from the Conference get an early jump on their 2023 campaigns.
I preview the three season-opening contests here with my game picks and predicted scores.
Ohio Bobcats at San Diego State Aztecs
Saturday, August 26th
4:00 p.m. PST, FS1
This season, the opening opponents will be the MAC foe who won 10 games last season, falling in their conference title game.
The only time these two schools met on the gridiron saw Ohio coming away with a 27-0 win in the 2018 Frisco Bowl. That game marks the only time San Diego State has been shut out in their last 204 games.
This will not be an easy opener for the Aztecs, and if they are to be successful, they will need to perform more like they did in the back end of last season.
The Aztecs averaged four more points per game in the last seven games of the season compared to the opening five.
During that same time, the SDSU defense allowed six points less per outing than in the opening stretch as they closed out the regular season 5-2 over that period.
Offensively the Aztecs should be able to find some running room against the Bobcats. When San Diego State can run the ball, they have been successful.
On the defensive side of the ball, they should have an edge, especially against the run.
Last season the Aztecs produced five non-offensive TDs, tied for the seventh most in the nation. Look for the Aztecs to win a close one at home.
My pick: San Diego State 23, Ohio 21
Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors at Vanderbilt Commodores
Saturday, August 26th
4:30 p.m. PST, SEC Network
This season, Hawai’i will visit Nashville looking for their first road win over an SEC opponent. The Rainbow Warriors have lost their last two season openers and are 0-4 all-time against SEC foes on the road.
Last season, the ‘Dores put up 601 yards with 404 of them on the ground against UH as they outscored the hosts 42-0 after halftime en route to a 63-10 win.
Look for Vanderbilt to assert their will once again against a Rainbow Warrior team that will struggle this season.
Hawai’i should be improved in year two under Timmy Chang, but a 1-0 start will not be in the cards as this is a Vanderbilt team that should also be an improvement over the 2022 version.
If Hawai’i can get some protection up front and get the passing game going early they could make it a closer affair.
Vandy will look to control the ball and chew up the clock. They were 21st in the nation in time of possession in 2022, and the Warriors will need to take advantage of any chances they get as they may not have a lot of opportunities.
UH has lost their last six games on the road, tied for the ninth-longest active streak in the country. That skid will extend into the 2023 season.
My Pick: Vanderbilt 38, Hawai’i 17
San Jose State Spartans at USC Trojans
Saturday, August 26th
5:00 p.m. PST, Pac-12 Network
In 38 games against MW opponents all-time, the Trojans are 36-1-1. For SJSU to pull off the upset Chevan Cordeiro will need to play lights out.
The senior QB opens the season with 68 career-passing TDs and is only 27 away from owning the MW career record. Heroics from him in this one may not even be enough to deliver the “W.”
San Jose State does have weapons on offense and the Trojans defense was certainly a liability at times in 2022.
While the odds are not in their favor, that offense-defense matchup could keep the Spartans in striking distance for longer than the Pac-12 powerhouse may like.
But ultimately, Caleb Williams and the Trojans will prove to be far too much for the Spartans to handle. The Trojans have won their last nine home openers, tied for the 21st longest active streak in the nation.
Look for that number to reach double figures on Saturday evening.
My Pick: USC 52, SJSU 24
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Vilardo: 2023 WK 4 MW Football Power Rankings & PreviewsThe Conference had minimal success last week with a pair of wins over Pac-12 and Big 12 teams - September 21, 2023
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