Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Games of the year in college football

Each year college football season somehow gets loaded up with these “must see” weekends. The result is that there are some Saturdays when it’s not even worth it to leave your couch, and others when you might as well be mowing your lawn. Here’s a look at the must see game from week to week in college football, as well as one less notable but still very interesting match up. In three cases, the weekend was just so loaded with great games that I had to include them all, so please forgive me for September 15th, October 6th and November 24th. Here they are:

Sept 1st:
Must see match-up: Tennessee at Cal: Last year, Cal was in the top ten to start the season and just got it handed to them in Neyland Stadium. This year the game is in Berkeley, where the Bears have a better shot against the Vols. Still, I’m very hesitant to take any Pac 10 squad not named USC over an upper tier SEC school.
Undercard: East Carolina at Virginia Tech: The Hokies’ first game since the tragic campus massacre. Many ACC schools are wearing memorial decals and patches for Tech, who will be using this as a tune-up for their next game in Baton Rouge.

Sept 8th:
Must see match-up: Texas Christian at Texas: TCU always seems to be a dark horse early in the year. This season they’re in the top 25 and play at Darrell Royal in week 2. As long as Mack Brown’s kids don’t overlook the Frogs, they should be okay, but this is a better match-up than people think.
Undercard: North Carolina State at Boston College: Tom O’Brien makes his return to Chestnut Hill. NC State actually upset the Eagles last year, so there will be plenty of motivation for BC to exact some revenge on the former Chuck Amato boys.

Sept 15th:
Must see match-up: No way am I picking just one game here. Tennessee at Florida, Notre Dame at Michigan, and USC at Nebraska are at the top of the list. However, I’ll be most interested in…
Undercard: Florida International at Miami: The rematch of last years brawl in OB, which saw 13 players ejected, 31 suspended, one color commentator (Lamar Thomas) fired, and Larry Coker even more on the hot seat. Should be entertaining, though it seems Randy Shannon has a better grasp of his players than Coker did.
Sept 22nd:
Must see match-up: Penn State at Michigan: The last time the Nittany Lions were in Ann Arbor, they suffered their only loss in 2005. It wasn’t without controversy, either. Lloyd Carr got two seconds added to the game clock on Michigan’s final drive, which ultimately bought them one extra play. Chad Henne hit Mario Manningham in the back of the end zone, and the rest is history.
Undercard: Temple at Bowling Green: This is the only opponent the Owls have beaten in a long, long time. There’s nothing better than two truly awful football teams going toe to toe in a battle for MAC doormat-ness.

Sept 29th:
Must see match-up: Auburn at Florida: When the Gators went to Jordan-Hare last season, it was the only loss for the eventual national champions. Keep in mind, both Urban Meyer and Steve Spurrier won one national championship in Gainesville, but neither did it while going undefeated. This year the game moves to the Swamp, where the Tigers can’t count on any phantom tuck-rule calls in their favor.
Undercard: Maryland at Rutgers: If the Scarlet Knights can beat the ACC dark horse in this one, look for RU to start the season 7-0 before the most brutal part of their schedule arrives.
Secondary undercard: UMass at Boston College: Okay, so this game is of no interest to anyone. But hey, if it was your blog you could randomly throw your school in too. Plus, you never know

Oct 6th:
Must see match-up: This actually blows away September 15th, and here they are: Florida at LSU, Nebraska at Missouri, Virginia Tech at Clemson, Georgia at Tennessee, Notre Dame at UCLA, Ohio State at Purdue, Oklahoma vs. Texas in Dallas. Also keep an eye on…
Undercard: Stanford at USC: Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh have taken some shots at one another. If the Trojans have a chance to drop 80 on the Cardinal, don’t look for them to hold back in the second half.

Oct 13th:
Must see match-up: Auburn at Arkansas: This will be the Tigers’ second tough road test in three games, and this time it’s against an opponent they lost to last year. Darren McFadden, as we all have learned, is a complete freak of nature and probably the best player in college football. Keep an eye on the Hogs if they can get by Auburn again.
Undercard: Wisconsin at Penn State: Once again the Nittany Lions have a real chance to be the wrench in the gears for the Big Ten’s “Big Three”. It seems unlikely that no one will slip up, and this is a game that Wisconsin had better be ready for.

Oct 20th:
Must see match-up: Auburn at LSU: Holy cow, let’s review this stretch for Auburn. In 22 days they play at the Swamp, at Arkansas, and at LSU with one home game against Vanderbilt thrown in the middle. This is by far the toughest stretch any team in the country will have to face this season, Notre Dame included. Speaking of which…
Undercard: USC at Notre Dame: I think it’s been roughly 97 years since the last time the Irish beat the boys from Troy. Of course, two years ago they came one Bush-push away from doing so. This year should be more of the same, and this almost certainly won’t be ND’s first loss of the season.

Oct 27th:
Must see match-up: West Virginia at Rutgers: The Big East Championship Round Robin Series begins here. Last year Rutgers still had a shot at the BCS when they went to Morgantown, but fell in triple OT. This game has three Heisman candidates (Pat White, Steve Slaton and Ray Rice), two very good coaches (Rich Rodriguez and Greg Schiano), and will probably welcome as big a crowd at Rutgers Stadium has ever seen.
Undercard: Nebraska at Texas: Last year’s win in Lincoln was sort of the “coming out party” for Colt McCoy. Texas is once again the stronger team this year. What the hell has happened to the Big XII North?

Nov 3rd:
Must see match-up: Wisconsin at Ohio State: The Big Ten Championship Round Robin Series begins here (sound familiar?). Does anybody know what Jim Tressel’s record in the horseshoe is? I mean, in six years the only losses I can think of are the Vince Young game and any time they’ve played Wisconsin. It’s weird.
Undercard: LSU at Alabama: I really wish this game were in Baton Rouge so the Tiger faithful could really let Saban have it. LSU is a heck of a lot better than the Tide this year, so Les Miles had better take this game or he’ll be quickly on the hot seat.

Nov 10th:
Must see match-up: Michigan at Wisconsin: I’m giving the Big Ten priority over the Big East here, which is a questionable move on my part, but what the hell. These two schools have played a pair of awesome games in the past two years, and each time the home team has won. Camp Randall will be off the hook for this game.
Undercard: West Virginia at Louisville: Last year Louisville jumped to #3 in the polls after their 44-34 win over the Mountaineers. This time we shift back to Morgantown, where the ‘Eers had a dramatic, triple overtime victory over the Cards the last time they met.

Nov 17th:
Must see match-up: Ohio State at Michigan: In recent years, Auburn’s dominance over Alabama has made this the premier rivalry in the country. Add in the fact that they were #1 and #2 last year, and the fact that the loser was going to the Rose Bowl (not a bad consolation prize), and you have one hell of a match-up. Lloyd Carr is 1-5 against Jim Tressel, so if the Bucks take this one, watch out.
Undercard: Northwestern at Illinois: This is even more shameless than putting UMass on the list. However, I love my friends, and they represent the Big Ten, so here’s Mike Wilbon U versus Chief Illiniwek.

Nov 24th (Many games played on the 23rd):
Must see match-up: The day after thanksgiving always yields some great games, as does that Saturday. Here they are: Nebraska at Colorado, Texas at Texas A&M, Arkansas at LSU, Boise State at Hawaii, Florida State at Florida.
Undercard: Duke at North Carolina: If you don’t love Duke football, you don’t have a soul. They are the most pathetic group of student athletes this side of Cal Tech Hoops. This will be Butch Davis’ first chance to embarrass the Dookies.

Dec 1st:
Must see match-up: Rutgers at Louisville: Last year, 44,111 fans jammed into Rutgers Stadium, including temporary seating behind the usually open end zone, to see the Scarlet Knights pull off the biggest win in school history. It was something else. A school that has been famous for futility on the gridiron toppled the #3 ranked program in the country. This year, RU wants more. They want a Big East title. This game could decide who gets it.
Undercard: UCLA at USC: The upset that kept the Trojans out of the BCS Championship was nice, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. UCLA still was a middle of the pack team in the Pac 10 last year, and didn’t look all that impressive against Florida State in their bowl game. Look for USC to drop 60 in the coliseum.

Of course, the Big XII, ACC and SEC Championships all qualify as “must see”, but we’ll wait until the conference standings take shape before we get into those.

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