Thursday, August 30, 2012

This Weekend in College Football: Week 1

Welcome back! This is my weekly guide to each weekend's slate of televised college football. In general, I list any game that is being televised on a national network, as well as several games that are on regional networks for the ACC and SEC. In addition, CBS Sports Network (CBSS) games are listed if they involve two Division I-A/FCS teams. Also, Georgia Tech games are always listed, regardless of video platform. Massive thanks go out once again to Matt Sarzyniak, for his meticulous listings of all college football on all media platforms everywhere.

As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.

7:00: South Carolina @ Vanderbilt (ESPN): The season opens with question marks galore for the Gamecocks, but I have my doubt that even a James Franklin-amplified Vanderbilt can take them.

  • Texas Agricultural and Mechanical vs. Louisiana Tech (@Shreveport, LA; ESPNU): This game actually got postponed to October due to Hurricane Isaac. Alas.
  • California-Los Angeles @ Rice (CBSS): Remember that one time, a few years ago, when Rice was kind of good? That was kind of weird, wasn't it? Well, it's fortunately not an issue anymore, at least if you're a Bruins fan.
10:15: Washington State @ Brigham Young (ESPN): Given the fiasco of Mike Leach's firing at Texas Tech, it seems a little weird that his first game back as a college coach will be on ESPN. Now the question is whether he has managed to transform Wazzou in just one offseason to a somewhat competent outfit, because they will need to be to beat BYU. I'll take my chances with Leach.

11:00: Minnesota @ Nevada-Las Vegas (CBSS): Hey, it's football, it's on TV, and is probably one of the few games Minnesota will have a chance to win this year.

7:30: North Carolina State vs. Tennessee (@Atlanta, GA; ESPNU): This is the appetizer to the Clemson-Auburn game. Like most appetizers, it may offer some excitement but will hopefully not overshadow your main course. It's hard to get a read on either of these teams (a phrase I am really trying not to overuse in this preview). While NC State was mostly mediocre last season, Tennessee was ravaged by injuries to just about everyone. That said, the Volunteers still seem to be a team with more questions than answers, so I'm going with the Wolfpack.

8:00: Boise State @ Michigan State (ESPN): I'm having a hard time bucking the main thing I've learned about Boise going into this season: they're replacing, like, everyone on offense. Usually not good for an opening road game against a Big Ten school. I'll take Sparty.

9:00 AM: Notre Dame vs. Navy (@Dublin, Ireland; CBS): So they've done this a few times, so I guess having a game that kicks off at 6AM on the West Coast seems like a good idea to someone. Anyway, in this series, there's no reason to really favor Navy over Notre Dame, but there's plenty of reasons to root for the Midshipmen regardless.

  • Marshall @ West Virginia (FX): It's a rivalry game, which will provide an amount of intrigue that will last probably about as long as WVU's first two drives on offense.
  • Ohio @ Pennsylvania State (ESPN): Boy howdy some stuff sure did happen at Penn State during the offseason. I'm not really sure what else to even say, other than that they'll probably win this game.
  • Northwestern @ Syracuse (ESPN2): Northwestern should feel right at home. Oh, sure, they'll be in the Carrier Dome, but they're on at noon and on ESPN2, which as I was musing recently is pretty much the near-Northwestern-upset-power-hour. Beating the 'Cuse probably won't be much of an upset, though.
  • Western Michigan @ Illinois (ESPNU): Playing a MAC team should be nothing new for Tim Beckman, and being at the controls of even Illinois must seem like a huge upgrade.
  • Miami @ Ohio State (BTN): It's on BTN because, well, it's the Miami in Ohio. Anyway, start the clock on your brand new Urban Meyer, Buckeye fans, because he's the supergiant of football coaches: burns brightly for a short period of time and then ends in a fiery explosion.
  • Buffalo @ Georgia (SEC): Remember that one time Buffalo was good and Turner Gill parlayed that into the Kansas job? Yeah, times have changed. Or, more accurately, gone back to normal.
12:30: Elon @ North Carolina (ACC): I struggled to list these games because I just really have nothing to say about Elon or Richmond. I'm still trying to figure out how Julius Peppers's transcript from UNC was leaked online, though. I'm pretty sure at any rate that violates at least a law or two, right?

3:00: Richmond @ Virginia (ACC): Fun fact: Richmond are the Spiders, making them one of the few college animal mascots that isn't a mammal or a bird. Remember, though, that spiders are technically not insects, they're arachnids.

  • Miami @ Boston College (ABC/ESPN2): Well, BC fans, Doug Flutie is not walking through that door. Miami should roll.
  • Southern Mississippi @ Nebraska (ABC/ESPN2): Southern Miss should be a pretty solid team this year, by all accounts, but Nebraska should be solid-er, I guess?
  • Bowling Green @ Florida (ESPN): The fact that Florida is treating the game as a tryout to determine their quarterback either says something about the state of their quarterbacks or about how worried they are about their opponent. Or, most likely, a little of both.
  • Iowa vs. Northern Illinois (@Chicago, IL; ESPNU): Schools from the Midwest are okay with playing games in Chicago for the same reason schools from the South are okay with games in Atlanta: a lot of their grads migrate there because that's where the jobs are. Expect this to basically be an Iowa home game.
  • Northern Iowa @ Wisconsin (BTN): One of these days, Wisconsin will need to develop their own quarterbacks. Saturday will not be that day.
4:00: Colorado State vs. Colorado (@Denver, CO; FX): Note to the lunatic fringe of Georgia Tech fans who want the Georgia game moved to this week: games like this and WVU-Marshall are the sorts of rivalries played on opening weekend. I'd like to think we're better than this. Buffs should roll.

  • Clemson vs. Auburn (@Atlanta, GA; ESPN): Tigers-Tigers! For a game with names like this I should really have something to say about it, but it's been a quiet offseason for both these teams other than the big pieces they've lost: Micheal Dyer and Sammy Watkins. Presumably the latter is a large part of why Clemson is ranked coming into this game as well. That said, Clemson won't have a new quarterback, unlike Auburn, which should give them a slight edge.
  • North Texas @ Louisiana State (ESPNU): It looks like this game will be played, which means UNT will get their beatdown and subsequent paycheck sooner rather than later.
  • Jackson State @ Mississippi State (SEC/FSN): Even I'm not sure why I listed this game.
7:30: Hawaii @ Southern California (FOX): Yes, nationally televised beatdowns of Hawaii. This is what I needed. (In the off-chance there are any FOX executives reading this: that was not a sincere statement.)

  • Alabama vs. Michigan (@Arlington, TX; ABC): This is the big one. Well, I guess. The thing is, unless Denard Robinson is just so utterly fast and unpredictable that the straight-laced Alabama defense can't account for him, I'm not really sure how the Wolverines have a chance.
  • Rutgers @ Tulane (CBSS): Tulane had to relocate to Birmingham to practice this week. Fortunately for Rutgers, it looks like the New Orleans airport will be back up and running on or by Friday, still giving them enough time to get into town as normal. As if the Green Wave wasn't at enough of a disadvantage already anyway.
  • Indiana State @ Indiana (BTN): You only need to know two things about Indiana State: they are the Sycamores and Larry Bird played for them (in basketball).
  • Arkansas State @ Oregon (ESPN): I can safely say this about this game: points will be scored. I'm still pretty confident Oregon will score more points than Arkansas State, mind you. I'm just saying that this could be a very high scoring game. The over/under is set at 110 right now. I would probably take the over. This could easily be a 84-49 final or something like that.
  • Oklahoma @ Texas-El Paso (FSN): I almost wish I could watch this game. Oh, Oklahoma will almost certainly win. But still, if anything weird is going to happen on this day, my money would be inside the hill that surround the Sun Bowl in the dark of night. So, yeah, either this is the expected Sooner blowout or a very crazy UTEP win (as though there's any other kind).
  • Toledo @ Arizona (ESPNU): Holy Toledo! That's all I got. Though, there is a halfway decent chance Arizona is still bad enough to lose this game. Probably not, though.
3:30: Kentucky @ Louisville (ESPN): Here's another opening weekend rivalry game. I guess this is more of a measure of who is going to be less awful this year. Wait, this just in: Louisville is ranked? (No, seriously, I just noticed that.) And is apparently favored to win the Big East? (For what that's worth, anyway.) I guess I'll have to go with them then.

6:30: Southern Methodist @ Baylor (FSN): Baylor: probably still better than SMU.

8:00: Georgia Tech @ Virginia Tech (ESPN): Yeah, wow, let's just, you know, have our most important conference game in the first week of the season. I'm so mad about this I used bold text right there just to demonstrate it. Despite that, the timing may actually favor us. VPI will be breaking in an entirely new offensive line and offensive backfield, as well as several positions on defense. Georgia Tech returns one of the most experienced offensive lines in the country, looks to finally have the makings of a decent defense, and has a legitimate offensive star in a-back Orwin Smith. On the flip side, Tech's (and remember: on this site Tech is always the one in Atlanta) starting an entirely new wide receiver corps and still has shaky special teams. Also, the Hokies still have Paul Bunyan-esque quarterback Logan Thomas, who, at 30 feet tall, needs merely to take the snap and fall over to gain a first down. (Well, at least, that's what it seemed like last year.) In addition, the game will be at night and in Blacksburg with all the attendant issues that brings. (The last time the Jackets went up to Blacksburg at night was the night everything went wrong when Josh Nesbitt broke his arm trying tackle a guy running back an interception.) Also, if you haven't heard this already, since the ACC has had divisions, the winner of the Coastal division has always been the winner of this game, and VPI holds a 5-2 advantage in that regard (with Tech's wins coming at Blacksburg in 2006 and in Atlanta in 2009). So chances are, this one will be fun, unless you're me, in which case I'll be losing my mind either way.

Programming note: I wanted to get a post analyzing this year's batch of rule changes in, but I only found the exact rule changes a few weeks ago after I started doing the OOC scheduling series and never got around to it. I'll try to do that in the next couple of weeks.

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