And we’re back! (Well, kind of – I will be out of town and miss the vast majority of these games.) As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.
Short explanation: I only list games that will be on a major national TV (i.e., networks that are part of most major TV packages, so the networks, ESPN, ESPN2, and FSN). I will also list “interesting” games from non-major networks, like ESPNU and Gameplan, where “interesting” usually means at least two DI-A teams. As usual, my source for all this is Mr. Sarz.
7:00: Texas-El Paso at Buffalo (Time Warner-NY): This isn’t even on Gameplan, but it is the only televised game that I saw on the list. This and 3 other games tie for the first game of the season (Northeastern at Ball State, E. Illinois at Central Michigan, and Indiana State at Eastern Michigan are the other three.) As for the winner, that’s pretty easy for such an anonymous game – UTEP going away.
- Vanderbilt at Miami (ESPNU): Not “Da U” but just “Miami U” in Ohio. Vandy isn’t expected to really even be much of a spoiler this year, but they should have this one under control.
- Jacksonville State at Georgia Tech (ESPN360): Since I’m in the unfortunate position of having Comcast, I won’t be able to watch this game. Also, quick trivia question: Which state is Jacksonville State located in? Is it: a) Florida b) Alabama c) Georgia or d) Mississippi? (Answer in next week’s column.) Once again, I shall refrain from making any definite predictions involving GT, but JSU did just suspend three starters last week. Things in their favor include beleaguered LSU transfer Ryan Perrilloux and GT’s first use of their new offense in a real game. Things against them include GT’s new offense and what is likely the best defensive line in the country.
- North Carolina State at South Carolina (ESPN): And here we go! Nothing gets the blood flowing like a good OOC matchup in the first week of the season, much less the first day. These teams played regularly before South Carolina joined the SEC in 1992. Since then, they have met once (in 1999) and NCSU won 10-0. NCSU also has a slight edge in the overall series at 26-25-4. It’s hard to get a read on this game from my perspective. NCSU shouldn’t really be that good but Spurrier still doesn’t really have a quarterback. Therefore, I will arbitrarily pick the Gamecocks and move on.
- Wake Forest at Baylor (FSN): FSN kicks off their Big 12 coverage by showing what is supposed to be a decent Baylor team. While Baylor may spoil a game or two, Wake is in the running to crash the ACC party again, so I’m going to go with Wake.
9:00: Oregon State at Stanford (ESPN2): Things get going up on Palo Alto in some early Pac-10 action. That is about as much space as I’m willing to devote to this game. OSU wins going away.
7:00: Temple at Army (ESPN Classic): Two bad teams! But it’s Friday night and you’re looking for something to watch. Because it’s Friday, most networks don’t do anything because you’re supposed to be out partying. But you’re not out, you’re watching Temple vs. Army. Anyway, both these teams are so bad it’s hard to tell who’s worse. Since my rooting interest lies with Army, I’ll pick them to win.
8:00: Southern Methodist at Rice (ESPN): Supposedly, the Pony Express is back, though I don’t think it’s really the Pony Express if none of the athletes involved are getting paid. I was dismayed to see that Craig James won’t be at this game, because it’s always amusing to watch them awkwardly avoid talking about the whole scandal thing.
- Virginia Tech vs. East Carolina (@Charlotte, NC; ESPN): Much has been made of ECU almost beating VPI last year. I don’t think that’ll happen again.
- Syracuse at Northwestern (ESPN2): Bottom of the Big Ten versus the bottom of the Big East! I actually thing NU has a good shot of winning this.
- Bowling Green at Pittsburgh (ESPNU): I’m not sure why I listed this, honestly. Pitt should roll.
- Hawaii at Florida (Raycom/Gameplan): Start your morning right with the Daves, and then change the channel because UF should be up by 3 or 4 touchdowns by the end of the first quarter.
- Georgia Southern at Georgia (Gameplan): Oh, if only this had any chance of happening. Any chance.
- Southern California at Virginia (ABC/ESPN2): The question here isn’t whether USC will win. The question is “by how much?”
- Utah at Michigan (ESPN2/ABC): Michigan brought us Bizzaro Year last year right on the very first Saturday. While there is certainly potential here – Michigan has an entirely new offense and no quarterbacks to run it, and Utah isn’t terrible – I have a feeling that lightning won’t strike twice here.
- Oklahoma State at Washington State (@Seattle, WA; FSN): Theoretically, I could go to this game. I won’t, and I suspect the vast majority of the crowd in Seattle will be disappointed.
5:00: Appalachian State at Louisiana State (ESPN): The mythical national champion meets up with the NCAA-recognized Division I champion. Unfortunately for Appalachian State, LSU is slightly better than Michigan. A little. The mythical champion should roll.
6:00: Texas Christian at New Mexico (Versus): Versus is back with some hot, hot Mountain West action! UNM looks to revenge a 37-0 loss to the Horned Frogs last year, but I suspect (for no rational reason) that TCU will prevail again.
6:45: Mississippi State at Louisiana Tech (ESPN2): While the possibility exists of MSU Croom’ing itself, I would doubt that the Taylor Bennett led Bulldogs (that felt weird to type) will prevail.
7:00: Louisiana-Monroe at Auburn (Gameplan): The slightly better half of the UL-U-Pick ‘Em (i.e., the one that got really lucky and won the Sun Belt last year) shows up on the Plains to receive a loss and a large check.
7:30: Boston College vs. Kent State (@Cleveland, OH): I suspect this is in Cleveland to boost Kent’s home attendance, which is weird because BC probably doesn’t travel that well. Regardless of whether 1000 or 10000 BC fans show up, they should still win.
- Michigan State at California (ABC/Gameplan): Okay, so I can’t complain about John L. Smith being gone anymore. I need to come up with a new schtick for Michigan State. Hrm. How about for the time being we agree that Cal should win this game and I’ll try to come up with something for next week?
- Alabama vs. Clemson (@Atlanta, GA; Gameplan/ABC): This is pretty much the game of the day. I would express surprise over Clemson’s high ranking and Alabama being ranked at all, but I have absolutely no faith in preseason polls. At any rate, I have to say I really want Clemson to win here. And by any logic I can come up with, they should. Alabama “won” the Fulmer Cup this year, which ideally means they have a few guys suspended for at least part of this game. (Though, in fairness, 20 of their 28 points were due to the tireless efforts of the amusingly named Jimmy Johns. A charmed life you lead when not only share the same name as a chain of sandwhich restaurants but also repeatedly sell cocaine to undercover officers. Bravo.) Anyway. Both these schools travel exceedingly well and I think it will end of 50-50 in the Georgia Dome. It will be nuts in there. Given where I think each of these teams are going (did anything actually happen to Alabama this offseason that made them better?), I have to give the Tigers the nod here.
8:30: Illinois vs. Missouri (@St. Louis, MO; ESPN): The rivalry returns for a second year! Gotta go with Mizzou here.
10:00: Washington at Oregon (FSN): Dennis Dixon or no, Oregon should take care of business in this early Pac-10 matchup.
3:30: Kentucky at Louisville (ESPN): Sunday is rivalry day, apparently. Anyway, these teams have only met each other as DI-A squads every year since 1994. Disregarding their 3 wins from the 10’s and 20’s (when Louisville was not a major team) Kentucky is 5-9 against their non-SEC in-state rival, and last year was their first win since 2002. Of course, last year was Louisville’s worst squad since 2002 and Kentucky’s best. The future is highly uncertain for both teams this year, as UL looks to recover and UK looks to build on last year’s success. Louisville is slightly favored (3.5 at the time of this writing), for what that’s worth. Frankly, both these teams lost so much it’s hard for me to get a read on them. I’ll take the home team.
7:30: Colorado State vs. Colorado (@Denver, CO; FSN): Since 2002, the average margin of victory in this rivalry has been slightly more than 4 points. That said, CU usually pulls it out in the end (4-2 record over that span) and there’s not really any reason to think they won’t this time around.
4:00: Fresno State at Rutgers (ESPN): The early inter-sectional marquee game of the day. Lots of schedule re-jiggering happened back in the spring just to make this happen, and was one of the reasons the previews took so long to post. Not that I’m bitter, but I’m going to say Rutgers should have a handle on this. Kudos to these schools for making it happen, though.
8:00: Tennessee at California-Los Angeles (ESPN): And here’s the marquee inter-sectional game of the day. Tennessee ventures west once again to take on a Pac-10 opponent. UCLA has none other than Rick Neuheisel behind the helm now and he’s already established a rivalry with the Pete Carroll. How much will that help UCLA here? Not much, I suspect. Los Angeles, I hope you like “Rocky Top’.
And that’s it, kids! I probably won’t normally do Thursday games in this space (though there seem to be more of them this year), but I made an exception just for this weekend. (Also because Tech had a Thursday game.)