Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve made it. The 2022 college football season is finally here with Week 0 set to kick off on Saturday.
Hope springs eternal across the country as every team is 0-0 at the moment. But with that hope comes unease for certain programs, particularly the ones who haven’t tasted much success in recent years. The anxiety of potential failure can overwhelm a program and its fans, so much so that it can expedite a coaching change if things go south.
This year, we’ll take note of teams playing Anxiety Games for each week. Games where both teams are feeling pressure are full blown “Anxiety Bowls”, a phrase first coined by Steven Godfrey of Secret Base. Let’s dive into the anxiety games for Week 0.
Nebraska vs Northwestern, 12:30 p.m. ET, Fox
It is no secret that Scott Frost is arguably the biggest hot seat candidate in the country heading into his team’s opener against Northwestern in Ireland on Saturday. The prodigal son of Nebraska football took over as the head man of his alma mater to much fan fare in 2018. Four years later, Cornhusker fans are still waiting for results.
Frost has yet to have a winning season with the Huskers, posting a 15-29 record through four years. His team suffered through a frustrating 3-9 season a year ago, a campaign where all nine of their losses came by single digits. Combine the losing with NCAA sanctions and Frost oddly bragging about his players vomiting during workouts and you can see how patience is starting to wear thin in Lincoln, NE.
Even with the weirdness of playing Saturday’s opener against Northwestern in Ireland, Nebraska should handle its business...at least on paper. They enter the season as a Top 45 team in SP+ and are a 13-point favorite over the Wildcast courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook. But these things were said prior to last year’s Week 0 loss to Illinois and a loss in Dublin could elevate Nebraska fans from anxious into a full blown panic.
Charlotte at Florida Atlantic, 7 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network
Most of the country might skip right over this Conference USA showdown in Week 0, but it is quietly an Anxiety Bowl.
Both programs are entering their final season in C-USA before making the jump up to the AAC in 2023. This is a year where positive momentum needs to be established before the big transition and a season-opening loss could put them behind the eight-ball. Also, both teams are coming off 5-7 seasons where they just missed out on bowl eligibility. Charlotte dropped its final three games of the season while FAU ended its campaign on a four-game losing streak.
Charlotte head coach Will Healy and FAU head coach Willie Taggart are both under .500 in their respective tenures at their schools. A conference win to open the season could be what the doctor ordered, while a season-opening loss could have negative consequences later.