Here's what's available this weekend in the Pittsburgh market for your college football consumption.
#9 South Carolina at Vanderbilt (7:00 ESPN): The Gamecocks are coming off the first 11 win season in school history, enter this season in the top ten, have a legitimate Heisman contender and a real shot of winning the SEC. The Commodores have much modest expectations, but the expectations are there. Second year coach James Franklin may not have Vanderbilt ready to compete for an SEC championship, but he seems to have them poised to claw out of the SEC East cellar. There's no reason to believe Ray Graham knee rehab buddy Marcus Lattimore won't run wild in an SC rout, but it'll be fun to see if Vandy can contain him and Steve Spurrier's offensive genius.
UCLA at Rice (7:30 CBS Sports): Nothing quite like starting the season on the road at a C-USA team in a game being televised on a channel most people can't find that kicks off on a Thursday at 4:30 local time. This is what first year Bruins coach Jim Mora must deal with. That is all I can bear to write about this terrible game.
Washington State at BYU (10:15 ESPN): In the "I don't have work Friday morning" special, MIke Leech makes he debut with the Washington State Cougars. This is all I know about Washington State besides that they always have someone waving their flag on College Gameday. That's one of those insanely awesome ideas that I wish I would have thought of.
Minnesota at UNLV (11:00 Big Ten): If you have any interest in watching this game, you're either an insomniac or a degenerate gambler. I take that back, unless you're a degenerate gambler, go watch The Daily Show, Conan or your local news or something.
Tennessee vs North Carolina State (7:30 ESPNU): The first of two really exceptional games Friday night. Tennessee coach Derek Dooley is already on the hot seat, fair or not. Even though the destruction of Tennessee as a legitimate force in the SEC took years to accomplish, that doesn't mean Dooley will get as long to rebuild. The Vols went 2-6 down the stretch last season so it's understandably been a long offseason on Rocky Top. Tennessee needs a fair season or they'll be coach shopping come winter. On the other hand, NC State is seemingly a program on the rise after a tumultuous 2011 that saw Tom O'Brien ship Heisman candidate Russell Wilson off to Wisconsin in favor of Mike Glennon. Glennon enters the season as one of the ACC's best players and I wouldn't be surprised to see the Wolfpack pull off the win at the Georgia Dome.
#24 Boise State at #13 Michigan State (8:00 ESPN): The first matchup of ranked opponents this season shouldn't disappoint. Boise lost a lot on offense with stat-machine QB Kellen Moore and his favorite target WR Titus Young moving on, but their perennially overlooked defense returns a ton and should be a force. Even so, new QB Joe Southwick has impossible shoes to fill and will be dealing with an MSU defense primed to win the Big 10 and possibly earn a shot at the BCS title.
Navy at Notre Dame in Ireland (9:00 AM CBS): I'm sure this joke has been done, but if ever this was an excuse for an Irish breakfast, it's Saturday. Notre Dame vs Navy - I don't care how much you hate Notre Dame, there's so much awesome tradition with this game. Add that it's the first game on the first Saturday of college football and there's a 100% chance I set an alarm Friday night. Notre Dame could take that big step up from "mediocre" to "kind of good" so stay tuned for the irrational exuberance from the national college football media.
Miami (OH) at #18 Ohio State (12:00 Big Ten): Urban Myers debut with his alma mater. This, like 99.99% of all David vs. Goliath bought games will be a slaughter. I can't wait for the overreaction when OSU spanks a pretty terrible MAC team 64-6. It's coming.
Ohio at Penn State (12:00 ESPN): Speaking of David vs. Goliath, this could be that 0.01%. Ohio University returns a ton of their 2011 10-win team, including QB Tyler Tettleton, who could start on a lot BCS-level teams. Penn State has had a... busy... offseason and a loss to lowly Ohio could end their season before it begins. Bill O'Brien is an offense-minded guy, but I'd expect a very Paterno-esque team in 2012 - anemic offense, but a solid defense should keep most games close. Ohio might not be able to take down the Lions at home, but they might have the best chance of a huge upset in week one.
Northwestern at Syracuse (12:00 ESPN2): Hey there, Big-East-Black-Sheep bros! We know Northwestern has been pretty damn good under Pat Fitzgerald, but they're still Northwestern. Try not to get run at home. And not to worry you, but you have USC coming up too. K. Thx.
Western Michigan at Illinois (12:00 ESPNU): Illinois made a fantastic hire in former Toledo head coach Tim Beckman. Beckman is really the godfather of #MACtion, with his Rockets teams routinely scoring 45+ points a game (while giving up 44.5-45.5). No idea how he'll fit in with the traditional run-first offenses of the Big Ten, but I'm excited to find out. Western Michigan should be in the upper-middle tier of the MAC, so they might be able to give the Illini a game.
Bowling Green at #23 Florida (3:30 ESPN): If you ever needed confirmation that college football is a name of "brands" then look no further. Not only was Florida bad last year, they were boring. This year, I expect more of the same, maybe a 7-5 season in the SEC, yet here are the Gators with an afternoon game on ESPN. Can Bowling Green once again take down an overrated team to start the season? Ugh. I hope so.
Southern Miss at #17 Nebraska (3:30 ABC/ESPN2): Nebraska should easily take care of Southern Miss, but interestingly, the Golden Eagles' new head coach Ellis Johnson was responsible for holding Nebraska to 13 points in last year's Capital One Bowl as South Carolina's defensive coordinator. Can he do that with this team? Probably not. But it'll be fun to watch Bo Pelini's head explode.
Miami at Boston College (3:30 ABC/ESPN2): #goacc. Some fun conference action Saturday as former Big East foes start the season on Chestnut Hill. I used to hate these teams for abandoning the Big East. Now? Eh, yeah, about that.... I guess it's complicated. Miami joins UNC as the ACC teams with big giant storm clouds hanging over their heads. So for some reason, I like BC at home Saturday and to earn just enough wins this season to keep the administration from firing Spaz.
Eastern Kentucky at Purdue (3:30 Big Ten): You're not going to watch this game no matter what I write. Just admit it.
Colorado State at Colorado (4:00 FX): In order to watch a second of this game, I require the following:
- All other games in comparable time slots to be over;
- No evening games to have yet started;
- The game to be within one score and the down team to have possession;
- Gus Johnson on the play-by-play.
Absent all of these factors, I probably won't even check the score on this one.
#14 Clemson vs Auburn (7:00 ESPN): It had to have been a very, very, very, long season for Clemson after the thrashing they were handed by WVU in the Orange Bowl. But Heisman candidate Tajh Boyd will have to take on Auburn without standout receiver Sammy Watkins, who is serving a two-game suspension because of an offseason arrest. Clemson is returning seven starters on defense, but will be working with a new coordinator in light of the Orange Bowl massacre. Auburn, however, should benefit from a friendly crowd at the Georgia Dome. They returns 10 starters on defense, but it was a pretty poor defense to begin with. I like Clemson here.
North Texas at #3 LSU (7:00 ESPNU): Poor North Texas.
#8 Michigan vs #2 Alabama (8:00 ABC): THIS GAME IS GOING TO BE SO AWESOME IT DESERVES ALL CAPS YES IM YELLING AT YOU AND NO IM NOT USING PUNCTUATION DENARD ROBINSON AGAINST WHAT WILL LIKELY BE ONE OF THE TOP DEFENSES IN THE COUNTRY IS GOING TO BE JUST BEYOND AWESOME IM GOING TO AVOID TWITTER ONCE 8 HITS AND WATCH THE GAME ON DVD DELAY I CANNOT WAIT YOU SHOULDNT BE ABLE TO EITHER AWESOME
Indiana State at Indiana (8:00 Big Ten): Even folks in Indiana have to be watching Michigan-Bama, right?
Rutgers at Tulane (8:00 CBS Sports): The first pseudo-nationally televised game featuring the Big East since Northwestern-Syracuse at noon!
Arkansas State at #5 Oregon (10:30 ESPN): New Arkansas State coach Gus Malzahn is known as an offensive genius. Unfortunately for him, so is Chip Kelly, and Kelly has much better players. Poor Arkansas State doesn't even get to be slaughtered close to hime.
Toledo at Arizona (10:30 ESPNU): So this is going to be weird. RichRod is now the coach of the University of Arizona and is now the sworn enemy of Todd Graham at Arizona State. It was oh so much rooting for RichRod to fail at Michigan, but are we ready to put that aside and like arming Iraq to battle Iran, root for Arizona to succeed? I think I am. Nothing will make Todd Graham's employment in Tempe shorter than a resurgent Wildcat program. With that being said, (gulp) I'm pulling for RichRod.
Kentucky at #25 Louisville (12:00 ESPN): I don't Louisville. Not one bit. But Kentucky fans are like WVU fans without the winning. UK fans at the BBVA Compass Bowl chanting "S-E-C" was probably the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. Like a Pitt freshman phys ed major claiming credit for curing polio. Go Cards.
Georgia Tech at #16 Virginia Tech (8:00 ESPN): I watch Georgia Tech every chance I get. Hands down the most fun offense to watch when everything's clicking. That being said, as future ACC members, we should be conscious that Virginia Tech could be a dark horse title contender. Plus, they're on Pitt's schedule so a win over a good VT team would be a nice accomplishment for Paul Chryst.