Thursday, Aug. 28 (all times EDT)
|6||No. 9 South Carolina vs. No. 21 Texas A&M||SEC Network|
|7||Louisiana-Monroe vs. Wake Forest||ESPNU|
|7||Minnesota vs. Eastern Illinois||Big Ten Network|
|7:30||Utah vs. Idaho State||Pac-12 Network|
|8||Boise State vs. No. 18 Ole Miss||ESPN|
|8||Tulsa vs. Tulane||CBS Sports Network|
|9:15||Vanderbilt vs. Temple||SEC Network|
|10||Washington State vs. Rutgers||Fox Sports 1|
|10:30||No. 19 Arizona State vs. Weber State||Pac-12 Network|
Huzzah, college football is back and we can stop talking about pilfered crab legs and first kisses and self-debunked heroic defenestration. Now we have actual games, and the best of the Opening Night bunch is South Carolina-Texas A&M. The Gamecocks feature, of course, Coach Steve Spurrier, who makes the college football offseason tolerable by simply being the most amusing troll in all of sports. Texas A&M, of course, no longer features Johnny Manziel, and now the Aggies must find a way to win without their former Heisman Trophy winner/formerly unpaid financial catalyst. Kenny Hill has the unenviable task of being That Guy Who Immediately Replaced Johnny Football, and as a sophomore he’s pretty much a veteran on a team loaded with newcomers: Seven true freshman probably will see time on defense against the Gamecocks and 15 newcomers (freshmen and junior-college transfers) are listed on the team’s depth chart.
As for the rest of the night, it’s mostly FCS payday games. Rutgers-Washington State is interesting mainly because of the extremely weird fact that these two teams could now meet in the Rose Bowl one day (NOTE: unlikely to ever happen). It’s gotta be weirder for new Scarlet Knights offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen, who a.) suddenly finds himself in the Big Ten with a date against his alma mater and former employer looming later this year; and b.) coaching against the guy — Cougars Coach Mike Leach — who was, by most accounts, going to take his place at Maryland until someone in College Park got cold feet about having America’s Preeminent Geronimo Expert patrolling the sideline.
Friday, Aug. 29
|7||Connecticut vs. BYU||ESPN|
|7:30||No. 8 Michigan State vs. Jacksonville State||Big Ten Network|
|7:30||Western Kentucky vs. Bowling Green||CBS Sports Network|
|9||Colorado vs. Colorado State||Fox Sports 1|
|9||Houston vs. Texas-San Antonio||ESPNU|
|10:30||Arizona vs. UNLV||ESPN|
As befitting the unnatural setting of Friday night, there isn’t much to recommend here. The Rocky Mountain Showdown between Colorado and Colorado State in Denver has something of a reputation for alcohol-fueled shenanigans, so it’s probably good that they moved it to a Friday night on a holiday weekend, because goodness knows that’s usually a relatively serene day on the drinking landscape.
Saturday, Aug. 30
|8:30 a.m.||Central Florida vs. Penn State||ESPN2|
|Noon||Navy vs. No. 5 Ohio State||CBS Sports Network|
|Noon||Virginia vs. No. 7 UCLA||ESPN|
|Noon||Michigan vs. Appalachian State||ESPN2|
|Noon||Iowa State vs. North Dakota State||Fox Sports 1|
|Noon||Indiana vs. Indiana State||ESPNews|
|Noon||Iowa vs. Northern Iowa||Big Ten Network|
|Noon||Purdue vs. Western Michigan||ESPNU|
|Noon||Kentucky vs. Tennessee-Martin||SEC Network|
|12:05||Illinois vs. Youngstown State||Big Ten Network|
|12:30||Georgia Tech vs. Wofford||Comcast SportsNet|
|12:30||N.C. State vs. Georgia Southern||WDCA-20|
|3:30||Maryland vs. James Madison||Big Ten Network|
|3:30||No. 2 Alabama vs. West Virginia||ABC/ESPN2|
|3:30||Northwestern vs. California||ABC/ESPN2|
|3:30||No. 17 Notre Dame vs. Rice||NBC|
|3:30||No. 22 Nebraska vs. Florida Atlantic||Big Ten Network|
|3:30||No. 24 Missouri vs. South Dakota State||ESPNU|
|4||No. 6 Auburn vs. Arkansas||SEC Network|
|4||No. 11 Stanford vs. UC Davis||Pac-12 Network|
|4||Oregon State vs. Portland State||Pac-12 Network|
|4||Virginia Tech vs. William & Mary||ESPNews|
|5:30||No. 12 Georgia vs. No. 16 Clemson||ESPN|
|7||San Diego State vs. Northern Arizona||CBS Sports Network|
|7||Florida vs. Idaho||ESPNU|
|7:30||No. 15 USC vs. Fresno State||Fox|
|7:30||Mississippi State vs. Southern Miss||SEC Network|
|8||No. 1 Florida State vs. Oklahoma State||ABC|
|8||Texas vs. North Texas||Longhorn Network|
|8||East Carolina vs. N.C. Central||ESPNews|
|9||No. 13 LSU vs. No. 14 Wisconsin||ESPN|
|10:30||No. 3 Oregon vs. South Dakota||Pac-12 Network|
|10:30||Hawaii vs. No. 25 Washington||CBS Sports Network|
Top o’ the Mornin’!
Central Florida and Penn State play in Dublin in a game that bumped the football game that most Irish people likely care about — the All-Ireland Gaelic Football Championship — to a different locale. I’m sure Gaelic football partisans will take this intrusion in stride. It’s James Franklin’s first game as Penn State’s head coach, and it won’t be easy: The Nittany Lions are still smarting from NCAA-imposed scholarship reductions levied after the Sandusky scandal, and Knights wide receivers J.J. Worton, Rannell Hall and Breshad Perrimen combined for 143 receptions, 2,418 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. Of course, they had Blake Bortles throwing them the ball, and he’s now in the NFL.
Iowa’s supposedly easy path to the Big Ten West Division title begins against Northern Iowa. Thanks to conference bloat, the Hawkeyes don’t have to face Ohio State. Or Michigan. Or Michigan State. Or Penn State. The Hawkeyes’ nonconference schedule includes UNI, Ball State, Big 12 afterthought Iowa State and perennially meh Pittsburgh. Only the final two games — against Wisconsin and Nebraska — could be seen as truly challenging (though the Oct. 18 game at Maryland could be tricky), and both of those games are at home. Of course, this all means Iowa will go 6-6 and Kirk Ferentz will get a huge contract extension.
We talked in the intro about first kisses, and here is what we meant: This week, West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett (great quarterback name, that) revealed that his first kiss was with the daughter of Alabama Coach Nick Saban. They were 6. It’s all wholesome. But now West Virginia visits Alabama, and really, is this the best way to go about talking to the press about preparing for a Saban-coached team? Trickett threw seven touchdowns and seven touchdowns last season, the Mountaineers’ first losing season since 2001. Saban also has questions at quarterback as he tries to replace AJ McCarron, who won two national titles and was Heisman runner-up to Jameis Winston last year. Either Jake Coker and Blake Sims will start Saturday; as of Thursday morning, Saban wasn’t playing his hand.
Nebraska-Florida Atlantic would have been pretty interesting had it still been Cornhuskers Coach Bo Pelini against his brother, Carl Pelini. But Carl resigned as Owls coach last October after it was alleged that he used illegal drugs, and now everything is somewhat uncomfortable.
Just like last year, Georgia faces Clemson in its opener, and just like last year, the Bulldogs’ schedule following that game is brutal: They have a game at No. 9 South Carolina two weeks later. Georgia is just 7-15 over the last five seasons against ranked teams. That newfangled playoff selection committee will likely applaud the Bulldogs’ rigorous scheduling, but it will only go so far if they don’t win some of these games. Clemson is replacing wide receiver Sammy Watkins and quarterback Tajh Boyd, one of the more notable 1-2 punches in recent memory.
LSU Coach Les Miles is already in midseason weirdo form, and for that we are thankful. Asked about who was going to start at quarterback on a SiriusXM radio appearance, Miles said: “We’re going to send them both out there. They’ll each stand behind a guard and when we’re ready, one will step behind the center and the other will go in motion.” Thing is, there’s probably a good chance he’ll actually try this when the Tigers take on Wisconsin in Houston. In actuality, Miles will probably wait until shortly before game time to reveal whether sophomore Anthony Jennings or freshman Brandon Harris will start the game under center, but both are likely to play. Jennings at least has game experience, having seen time in nine games last season, but he didn’t look all that great as a starter in last season’s Outback Bowl, completing 7 of 19 passes for 82 yards. The Badgers ranked seventh nationally in total defense last season, but the returning players in the front seven have just 11 starts between them.
Sunday, Aug. 31
|7||Tennessee vs. Utah State||SEC Network|
|7:30||No. 10 Baylor vs. SMU||Fox Sports 1|
Baylor will christen McLane Stadium, aka “The House that RGIII Built,” on a Sunday-night special against SMU. The Bears return quarterback Bryce Petty (4,200 passing yards, 46 total touchdowns last season) and wide receiver Antwan Goodley (71 catches, 1,339 yards, 13 touchdowns) and scored at an ungodly rate last season on their way to their first-ever Big 12 title and a Fiesta Bowl berth.
Monday, Sept. 1
|8||Louisville vs. Miami||ESPN|
Louisville and Miami were last seen in the Russell Athletic Bowl, when the Cardinals took it out on their future ACC brothers, 36-9. Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater mockingly threw up the “U” symbol at one point and did the throat-slashing gesture, too, which probably didn’t motivate the current crop of Hurricanes at all. Bridgewater is now backing up Matt Cassel with the Minnesota Vikings, but running back Duke Johnson is back for Miami after an ankle injury cut short his 2013 season, and the Hurricanes could give Florida State a run in the ACC Coastal Division.