With pangs of NBA Draft post-partum depression kicking in, I decided I'd waste my government-paid time-- you're paying for this column right now-- more usefully by perusing this fall's college football schedule. Intermittently over the sports doldrums of the next two months, I'll hammer out features like "Predictions for Conference Standings at Season's End," "Bowl Projections 2008," and "Short, Imagined Lou Holtz Pep Talks, Week by Week."
It should be noted that I wasn't fishing for gimmicky storylines when composing this-- writers like Pat Forde would probably have Alabama/LSU in their top ten, for example. This is simply the season's ten games with the most talent on the field. I also tried to spread my selections evenly among the relevant conferences (sorry, ACC). Let's get to the games, descending order:
10. Kansas at Oklahoma, October 18, Norman, OK
Kansas returns quite a bit from their Orange Bowl-winning team of 2007 including (tiny) quarterback Todd Reesing. I have a feeling one of the Big 12 North upstarts from last season-- Kansas and Missouri-- will fade away and the other will enjoy marginal success. I'll peg KU for the latter. But games like this will probably make me look as idiotic as Mark Mangino's agent.
OU was just about to get ready for a senior-stocked, talented 2008 squad before everyone bolted for the draft. However, Sam Bradford returns with two high-profile freshmen, Jermie Calhoun (RB) and Josh Jarboe (WR), likely to make an impact. There's no frontrunner anywhere in the Big XII.
9. LSU at Florida, October 11, Gainesville, FL
The 5-fourth-down-conversion classic from last year is cornered away in my memory like a car accident or a really big speech. I just don't remember much of it; there was too much adrenaline. I remember Ryan Perrilloux wearing some really long white socks and Tebow hand-phoning the student section. That's about it.
Sorry, there's a lot of Tebow media in this post.
Too bad, because we're gonna get trounced in Gainesville. It remains to be seen whether Urban Meyer can maintain consistent success with his quick yet fragile skill players, but at this time and place, they're just a better team. I just hope we play better than two years ago.
8. Arizona State at Southern Cal, October 11, Los Angeles, CA
I felt obliged to add a Pac-10 game to the list. USC's the obvious favorite, and Oregon must've lost a lot of people (Jonathan Stewart, right?)... so the other good team has to be Arizona State. Rudy Carpenter returns, and its their first full year under Dennis Erickson.
I'm going to talk about USC as little as possible, so see below.
7. South Florida at West Virginia, December 6, Morgantown, WV
West Virginia's kind of under the radar for some reason, but their defense had been steadily improving, and the system is still in place for Pat White to manage it for his fourth season, right? I haven't scrutinized their schedule much, but they get probably their two biggest games at home.
South Florida should have another speedy defense that couldn't qualify at any other Florida school. And Matt Grothe.
6. Georgia at Arizona State, September 20, Tempe, AZ
Georgia's the sexy pick to not only win the SEC but clinch a title game berth. However, they haven't traveled out of the South for a regular season game in sixty years. Yikes. I could never be a talent scout; it was only a half a season ago that I was making fun of Matthew Stafford, the Baby Sex Cannon, and now he's a projected top-five pick. And apparently there's another running back, freshman Caleb King, that's supposed to be better than Knowshon. Either way, this is a fun nonconference game with perfect timing for a UGA championship campaign.
Babysexcannon. Basically, the sex cannon lifestyle involves giving 110% to everything except football, where you just coast on the strength of your arm.
5. Texas at Oklahoma, October 11, Dallas, TX
If Texas doesn't at least win the Big XII South this year, expect the fire-Mack-Brown talk to begin. Actually, I take that back. It's no surprise John Mackovic lasted like ten years in Austin-- people don't give a shit about football here. It's funny, when Texas beats a team like Baylor on the road, no matter how ugly, the Statesman's always like, "That was a close one!" And then the next link asks readers to vote for the cutest golden retriever in Central Texas.
4. Georgia at LSU, October 25, Baton Rouge, LA
I'm probably heading home for this one. On a personal level, the funniest storyline I've heard about this weekend comes from my buddy Lewis. See, he's working for a Louisiana congressman running for reelection in November, so he'll be moving back to south Louisiana just in time for the meat of football season. For example, last year, he lived three blocks from Tiger Stadium. Did I mention he's a die-hard Georgia fan and will probably be wearing purple and gold handing out campaign stickers all afternoon on this October Saturday? I love the South.
3. Ohio State at Wisconsin, October 4, Madison, WI
Probably the de facto Big Ten championship of 2008. It'll probably be the ABC primetime game, and something about a night game in Madison makes me feel alright inside. If Ohio State gets through this one, they're probably going 8-0 through the Big Ten and going back to the title game. Whatever, I'm kind of pulling for them just to see how played the Ohio State is teh slow jokes get.
Wisconsin returns some experience nearly everywhere, but they don't have a quarterback. It's a pretty make-or-break year for the Bret Bielema Era.
2. Florida at Georgia, November 1, Jacksonville, FL
OMG GEORGIA PLAYERS ARE CELEBRATIN' IN THE ENDZONE!!1 The thought of Verne Lundquist, an LSU/Tulane laugher, and some cold fall beer puts me at ease for this first Saturday in November. To wit:
He's the quarterback you'd most want your daughter to marry.
I actually think Florida will win the SEC this season; whether it's enough to contend for a title will be seen. The biggest improvement will be seen in the defensive backfield, led by freshman safety Will Hill. I'm pretty confident Florida will prove that Georgia winning TWLOCP is only an anomaly.
1. Ohio State at Southern Cal, September 13, Los Angeles, CA
Good look by Ohio State going out and hand-making their schedule harder when the Big Ten can't afford them that. However, lose this game, and it'll take a perfectly impressive sequence of conference wins before getting back in the title game talk. Win it, and you're a little less of a punch line than you were back in January.
USC just happens to get their hardest games at home this season-- actually, USC '08 reminds me a lot of LSU '07. Favorably difficult schedule, a blockbuster nonconference home game in September, a nearly successful attempt at the title the year before, and a first-year starting quarterback who's been around the system for awhile. (The comparisons between Mark Sanchez and Matt Flynn should probably end there.)
Oh, hey. Is... is that you, halfshirt? It's been too long. There were unconfirmed sightings of you in Coral Gables, FL and Boulder, CO in the fall of 1995.
Alabama at Clemson (August 30)
Kansas at South Florida (September 13)
Oregon at Southern Cal (October 4)
Missouri at Texas (October 18)
Oregon at Arizona State (October 25)
Auburn at West Virginia (October 25)
Nebraska at Oklahoma (November 1)
Texas at Texas Tech (November 1)
Alabama at LSU (November 8)
Georgia at Auburn (November 15)