It's been a somewhat confusing offseason, with countdowns to the beginning of the college football season that differ between building toward the typical Thursday opening night of the season on Aug. 31 and acknowledging the five seemingly random games that will be played on Saturday, Aug. 26, as the true opening day.
Next week, starting on Thursday, is the first full weekend of college football, and thus it is known as Week 1, a five-day stretch of games lasting through Labor Day night. This Saturday? It's "Week Zero." Consider it an appetizer. Of the five games, one involves Stanford and Rice traveling to Australia, and the other four involve teams that play in Hawaii this season. Hawaii and the teams that travel to Honolulu are allowed to play an extra game, which is something that both San Jose State and BYU are doing. Meanwhile, Hawaii and Colorado State are spreading their seasons out a bit.
It makes for a strange day of football, but anything that ends the offseason earlier is a victory. Real football games that count are finally happening. Here's why and how to watch all five of them.
Oregon State at Colorado State
Time/channel: 2:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network
What to know: Of the five games on Saturday, this one -- the first game of the 2017 college football season -- has the best chance of being a good one with some meaning behind it. Colorado State is opening its new stadium with an intriguing nonconference matchup with Oregon State, a team that should be much more formidable than we've seen the past couple years. With an entertaining offense featuring QB Nick Stevens, WR Michael Gallup and three productive tailbacks, the Rams are Mountain West contenders in coach Mike Bobo's third season. And while Gary Andersen is 6-18 in two years at Oregon State, the Beavers have bowl hopes after showing improvement in 2016. They'll lean on junior RB Ryan Nall and a new QB, juco transfer Jake Luton.
Who will win: Colorado State 38, Oregon State 35. The last time we saw Colorado State, it gave up 61 points in a Famous Idaho Potato Bowl loss to Idaho. Of course, the Rams also scored 50 in that game, after putting up 63 in a win at San Diego State. They emerged as an explosive offense in the second half of last season, and that can carry over into a successful new stadium debut.
Portland State at BYU
Time/channel: 3 p.m. ET, ESPN
What to know: Portland State, an FCS team, went 3-8 last year, but two years ago it stunned Washington State in its opener. While this is likely to be a blowout, BYU is worth watching with some top-25 potential. After starting most of 2015, QB Tanner Mangum is back in the starting lineup for the Cougars with Taysom Hill gone. He loses his top three receivers and RB Jamaal Williams, but he'll play behind a veteran offensive line in the team's second season under offensive coordinator Ty Detmer.
Who will win: BYU 41, Portland State 10. After their first five games were decided by a total of 11 points last year -- no margin of victory greater than three -- the Cougars will surely welcome a relatively easy opener before playing LSU, Utah and Wisconsin the next three weeks.
Hawaii at Massachusetts
Time/channel: 6 p.m. ET, live stream
What to know: Last year, Hawaii opened its season against California in Sydney, Australia. This year, the Rainbow Warriors make yet another very long trip, all the way to Amherst, Mass. Hawaii ended last regular season by beating UMass 46-40 at home, and now the Warriors make the return 5,000-mile trip. Hawaii's 2016 win allowed it to go bowling for the first time since 2010, and it has a lot of experience returning for coach Nick Rolovich's second season. After going 2-10 in its first year as an independent, UMass hopes for a bit more competitiveness behind a solid passing game featuring standout TE Adam Breneman, plus QB Andrew Ford and WR Andy Isabella.
Who will win: Hawaii 34, Massachusetts 30. Home-field advantage makes the Minutemen a two-point favorite, and their passing game could be enough to push them over the top. But we'll go with Hawaii getting off on the right foot in pursuit of another bowl bid.
No. 19 South Florida at San Jose State
Time/channel: 7:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network
What to know: Two new coaches with vastly different situations. Charlie Strong has been a head coach for seven seasons at Louisville and Texas; he takes over a top-25 USF team with a star QB in Quinton Flowers and hopes of going undefeated against a weak schedule, or at least making a major bowl game. Brent Brennan is a relative unknown, most recently a receivers coach at Oregon State, and he takes over a San Jose State squad that went 4-8 last year and has had one winning season in the past 10 years. This game is certainly worth watching to see what the Bulls look like in Strong's debut, and it's always worth watching Flowers, a dynamic player who rushed for 1,530 yards and 18 TDs for the 11-2 Bulls last year.
Who will win: South Florida 42, San Jose State 17. It's a long road trip for the Bulls, but the Spartans don't have the firepower to keep up.
No. 14 Stanford vs. Rice (at Sydney, Australia)
Time/channel: 10 p.m. ET, ESPN
What to know: Stanford is the only ranked Power Five team in action on the first day of the season. This is the second year in a row that there's an opening game in Sydney -- Cal beat Hawaii 51-31 last August -- and it's a rematch of last year's regular-season finale in which Stanford beat Rice 41-17. Rice is coming off a 3-9 season, and coach David Bailiff is on the hot seat. This is mostly worth watching for an early glimpse at the post-Christian McCaffrey era at Stanford, which is off next week, then goes on the road to USC and San Diego State before finally playing at home on Sept. 23 against UCLA. It also marks the return of QB Keller Chryst, who injured his knee in the Sun Bowl but has made a swift recovery to retain the starting job.
Who will win: Stanford 38, Rice 7. The Cardinal won't need to lean heavily on Chryst. They can cruise behind their defense, improved offensive line and new starting running back Bryce Love.