College football is almost back, and while the Week 0 schedule gives fans just a sampling of what’s to come in the 2021 season, it’s nonetheless a special time for those who have been yearning and waiting for the sport’s return. Of the five games on Saturday’s schedule, two will be televised on CBS Sports Network and feature high-caliber quarterbacks who are leading teams with lofty aspirations in the Mountain West.
Up first is a 2 p.m. ET kickoff between UConn and Fresno State that will showcase a high-flying Bulldogs offense against a Huskies team that is among the most mysterious in college football after UConn hit pause on its 2020 season. Fresno State is quarterbacked by a gunslinger in Jake Haener, who surpassed 400 yards twice in a six-game season last year, while UConn counters with a defense that will look to turn a corner under former UCLA defensive coordinator Lou Spanos.
The nightcap features one of last season’s darlings in San Jose State as the Spartans set out to build on their 7-0 regular season from a year ago in a contest against FCS foe Southern Utah. These Week 0 contests are critical tune-ups for both Fresno State and San Jose State as the Bulldogs play at Oregon and the Spartans play at USC the following week.
Here’s how you can watch both contests airing on CBS Sports Network in Week 0 on Saturday.
UConn vs. Fresno State
Storylines: After skipping the 2020 season, UConn is suiting up for the first time in 21 months against a Fresno State program that is loaded with returning starters from a team that finished 3-3 last season. While Nevada’s Carson Strong and San Jose State’s Nick Starkel are the Mountain West’s best-known quarterbacks, the Bulldogs actually return the league leader in yards per game with Jake Haener. The Washington transfer slung the football around to the tune of 336.8 yards per game last year, and will test a Huskies defense that ranked among the worst in the country in 2018 and 2019. UConn is just 6-30 so far in Randy Edsall’s second stint as coach, but the hope is that playing as an independent for the first time after leaving the AAC will help UConn get things turned around. But traveling across the country to face Fresno State out of the shoot will be a stiff test as the Huskies finally return to the field.
Southern Utah vs. San Jose State
Storylines: San Jose State came in all the way down at No. 62 in the preseason CBS Sports 130 ranking, but don’t sleep on the Spartans. This team returns nearly every starter, including Texas A&M transfer Nick Starkel at quarterback, from a team that started 7-0 before suffering its only loss of the season against a solid Ball State team in the Arizona Bowl. With USC on the docket next, this game will be a critical tune-up for SJSU as it prepares to test its progress against one of the preseason Pac-12 favorites. Southern Utah finished 1-5 during its spring FCS season and shouldn’t be too much trouble, but those five losses came by a combined 15 points, so the Thunderbirds were certainly more competitive than their record indicated.