Rutgers vs Washington State
Rutgers’ offense vs. Washington State’s defense: Rutgers’ best hope of containing Halliday and the Cougars’ passing game is to keep the ball away from them. To pull that off, erratic quarterback Gary Nova must minimize his mistakes and the Scarlet Knights must play ball control by running the ball. Washington State returns seven starters from a defense that forced 30 turnovers last season, tied for second-most in the Pac-12. Rutgers’ offensive line, considered a strength, needs to win its matchups.

Washington State’s offense vs. Rutgers’ defense: RU’s defense gave up more than 4,000 passing yards last season, so the pressure is on its inexperienced secondary. They will have to contain Halliday and his eight returning pass catchers, who all recorded at least 37 receptions last season. Rutgers’ defensive line is a strength, but the Scarlet Knights are not exceptionally big and may need to blitz more than usual to put pressure on Halliday. If Washington State generates a rushing game, Rutgers could be in for a long night.


Reinhardt vs Mercer
The much-anticipated Southern Conference debut is next week. But that’s next week. The Mercer Bears have a game to play before then.

Yes, Mercer opens its conference schedule Sept. 6, but first up is Reinhardt in the season opener Thursday night at Mercer University Stadium.

“Everybody is pointing to the Southern Conference and conference play, but I have to pause and say, ‘We’ve got Reinhardt first,’ and that’s our main concentration right now is to play a very good Reinhardt team as we saw last year,” Mercer head coach Bobby Lamb said. “We’re just looking forward to playing on a Thursday night and have a little different feel, and hopefully the stadium will be packed like it was last year.”

Presbyterian At Northern Illinois
he offensive: QBs Matt McIntosh, Drew Hare and Anthony Maddie all may see playing time against the Blue Hose as coach Rod Carey seeks a clear-cut leader. Four starters from the offensive line return. Tailback Cameron Stingily is out for four weeks with an undisclosed injury.
Kirk Herbstreit offers high praise for NIU football
Kirk Herbstreit offers high praise for NIU football
Fred Mitchell

Getting defensive: Plenty of new faces on the NIU defensive line will be tested as the season progresses. In the secondary, Marlon Moore (three interceptions last year) and Dechane Durante (one) need to be big play-makers to fill the void left by Jimmie Ward’s departure to the NFL.

North Dakota vs San Jose State

2013 RECORDS: San Jose State 6-6; North Dakota 3-8

KICKOFF: 7 p.m., Spartan Stadium

TV: ESPN3 (online only)

RADIO: 1590-AM, 90.5-FM

SERIES HISTORY: First meeting

STORYLINE: San Jose State’s last four season-opening victories have come against Football Championship Subdivision teams, and it’s looking to make that five. The Spartans are also trying to win back-to-back openers for the first time since the Fitz Hill days of 2002 and 2003, when they opened with wins over Arkansas State and Grambling State.

INJURY UPDATE: San Jose State — RB Jarrod Lawson (suspension), LB Moses Saucedo (knee), LB Jared Leaf (burns) and OL Nico Aimonetti (shoulder) are out. OL Oscar Barron (concussion) is doubtful. TE Billy Freeman (foot) and CB Jimmy Pruitt (knee) are probable. North Dakota — P Mitch Meindel (suspension) is out.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: San Jose State’s running game vs. North Dakota’s defense. The Spartans seem to have a decided size advantage in the trenches when they are on offense. UND’s defensive line starters average just 271 pounds, which is small especially for a 4-3 front. SJSU’s averages over 292 pounds across its line, and with hard-to-tackle backs such as Thomas Tucker and Brandon Monroe, it should look to win the physical battle.

Missouri State At Northwestern State
College football fans across the nation will relish for the first sizable slice of games Thursday, and Northwestern State coach Jay Thomas hopes his Demons can entice a large crowd for NSU’s home opener against Missouri State.

If Demon faithful opt not to attend in person, they will have to wait until Oct. 11 for NSU’s next home game against Incarnate Word – the second game of the Southland Conference slate.

Thomas said he can’t worry about the upcoming four-game road trip after the opener, but the Demons will enjoy starting the season in Turpin Stadium for just the second time in six seasons.

“You’ve got to coach every (game) within itself,” Thomas said when asked if the home opener carried even more weight given the following road swing. “You’ve got treat every game the same way.

Missouri Baptist vs Southeast Missouri State
Date: Thursday, Aug. 28
Kickoff: 6 p.m., CT
Site: Missouri National Guard Field/Houck Stadium (10,000)
Surface: FieldTurf
Series History: First Meeting
Forecast: Sunny, 92 degrees
Head Coaches: Tom Matukewicz (1-0 overall; 0-0 at Southeast; 0-0 OVC). Jason Burianek (0-0 overall; 0-0 at Missouri Baptist).

Media Coverage
Radio: ESPN 92.9 FM; Real Rock 99.3 FM (Erik Sean, Rick Wieser, Todd Bonacki)
Video: OVC Digital Network (Todd Richards, Lawrence Brookins)
Live Stats:
Twitter Updates: @GoSoutheast
Southeast Missouri Game Notes

Redhawks Open Season Thursday
Southeast Missouri opens its 2014 season when it hosts Missouri Baptist Thursday. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m., CT, at Missouri National Guard Field/Houck Stadium.