Solutions for Week 0 CFB

A Little Week zero history to today.

College football is finally here, with the NFL just a few short weeks behind, so we're guaranteed to have football every weekend until February. And as happy as that makes me knowing we have some competitive football to watch this upcoming Saturday, unfortunately, we're left with a pretty mediocre product on television for these games, as is most week zeroes in the past. The first-ever week zero game didn't start until about 2016 with Hawaii vs. California. That wasn't exactly the best start to introducing early competitive football; quick side note, Hawaii is the one team that always plays on week zero, so you can always guarantee them every year. 2017 improved with five more games and somewhat decent teams but still not the highest quality college football games. 2018 week zero was a dumpster fire of groups, with Hawaii vs. Colorado St. being the premiere matchup of the day. We might as well have not had any football that day. Now 2019 was infinitely better than all the other week zero games we've had previously and since then, and there were only two games; Florida vs. Miami and Hawaii vs. Arizona. If you remember, those were actually good games that came down to the wire, and they were teams we quickly recognized and play at a higher level. It also helped that they played as early as a team possibly could on August 24th, so the wait for football wasn't as longsuffering. 2020 was the covid year, so there was no real week zero. 2021 was average with a conference matchup between Nebraska and Illinois, but that game was terrible. The other four games were snoozers. This year is a little similar to last year, but more week zero games than we've ever had.  

Colorado State Rams quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels ...
(Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

We Need Quality, Not Quantity 

Right now, we're all anticipating getting football back on the television, but it's somewhat similar to NFL pre-season. We get excited to have some football, but it's not a high-quality product like it was in 2019. Week zero is more of a travesty because it can actually be fixed, unlike the NFL pre-season. I know this makes me sound somewhat ungrateful and greedy for wanting more, but it's more about improving the product to be better than it is. I'll take what I can get it, but it feels like if they're going to do this, either go all in or get rid of week zero entirely. I think there's a way to fix the week zero product by doing a few simple adjustments and matchups.  

Camping World Kickoff: UF-Miami Season Opener Set for Aug. 24
(Photo by UAA Communications)

In Conference Matchups (Out of Division)

I get there are too many teams in conferences to play every team, hence why we have divisions, but there should be some competition between the divisions other than just the conference championship game. My top idea that I'd like to see college football do is have one team from each division (two teams per conference) be required to play a week zero game and rotate it around so teams can play different schools in their opposite division. For example; UNC (Coastal division) could play Wake Forest (Atlantic division) in week zero one year, and then maybe in another three to six years, UNC has to play week zero again, but against Louisville. Because each conference has more or fewer teams than other conferences, it does complicate this a little. Still, I think improvements can be made equally and reasonably within these respective conferences.  

North Carolina and Wake Forest, shown here in an ACC game in 2011, will be facing off in non-conference action.
(Photo by Robert Willett/Associated Press)

In-State Matchups (Out of Conference) 

To increase regionalism in college football, week zero could be an opportunity to require some universities within the same state or neighboring states to play a week zero matchup once every year or every other year. For example, Let's get the University of Pittsburgh and Penn State matched up against each other to get that rivalry ramped up. I understand regionalism in college football is almost entirely dead, but efforts like this can be made to keep it going. It clearly still matters to the individual fans. Florida and Miami in 2019 was a perfect example of how this could impact and increase the value of week zero games. Teams not in the same conference and don't get to play each other yet are within a hundred miles of each other is a shame. On a personal note/rant, we give teams too much flexibility when and who they schedule and where they play. The University of Michigan is playing against some below-average football teams for their out-of-conference schedule, yet they're all home games and are playing four away games for the whole year. What a joke of a schedule. Get those guys to Central Michigan University's stadium and prove their "elitism."  

Fresno State place kicker Abraham Montano (48) celebrates with defensive tackle Dario Pizzuti (98) after a field goal against the UCLA Bruins in the third quarter at Rose Bowl.
(Photo by Richard Mackson/USA TODAY Sports)

Week Zero has made a prolonged improvement since 2016, especially in 2019, but there's so much more that can happen to make it a great standalone sporting event. College football has much to improve, like its post-season system, the targeting rule, overtime, etc. Although this was a long rant on how I don't like the current format of week zero and how it could be better with just a couple of ideas, I'm so glad football is back, and I'll still take all these games over any regular season Major League Baseball game.