What to Watch: Week 01 of the 2010 College Football Season

Finally. It. Is. Here. The 2010 college football season starts tomorrow with a full slate of games...and if you're anything like me you'll be logged onto ESPN3.com at 5:30 p.m. to see Presbyterian and Wake Forest make the first plays of the most glorious sporting time of the year. Sure, it'll be complete crap, but why wait an hour for football to come on TV if you don't have to?

Just as in years past, we'll run down five non-Alabama games to watch every week that are interesting on a national or conference level. Considering many programs get their seasons started by beating up on high school teams, we're pretty fortunate to have four contests on opening weekend between ranked teams (though it's unfortunate two of them are basically at the same time.) Get your DVRs ready and be prepared to enjoy the next couple of months. This is what we've been waiting for since January 8th.

All times listed are central and rankings will be taken from the USA Today Poll until BCS rankings are released later in the season.

Pitt (15) at Utah (24)
Thursday 02 September - 7:30 PM - Versus
Rice-Eccles Stadium
Salt Lake City, Utah

This game will attract some chatter from the talking heads if for no other reason that it's a re-match of the 2005 Fiesta Bowl, which Utah won. It was the first "BCS Buster" game and the Utes busted it in grand fashion to the tune of 35-7. Both Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt and Utah boss Kyle Whittingham took the reigns of their respective programs the season after that particular contest. While nobody on the field or sidelines had anything to do with that game, you can bet the fans of programs remember and that'll likely trickle down to the players given how recent it was. 

Pitt are among the favorites to win the Big East this year and Utah expects to compete for the Mountain West title. I imagine the Utes will also want to make a statement and show their worthiness after receiving an invitation to join the Pac-10 and beating a potential BCS conference winner will win them some favor in that department (even if it from the Big East.) Unfortunately the Mountain West has an insanely crappy TV deal (see BYU's recent noisemaking) and this one will be on Versus, which isn't the greatest, but hey, at least you can watch it. 

Washington at BYU
Saturday 04 September - 6:00 PM - CBSC
LaVell Edwards Stadium
Provo, Utah

If you were to take the "others receiving votes" category and assign numbers to it, then Washington and BYU would come in at #35 and #27 respectively. Not an epic battle by any stretch of the imagination, but certainly worlds better than the incredibly lopsided contests that Week One is often comprised of. Steve Sarkisian quickly turned the Huskies around in 2009 going 5-7 after the dreadful 2008 season (0-12) that earned Ty Willingham his walking papers. It'll be interesting to see how BYU handles all of the recent distractions in their program

Oregon State (22) vs. TCU (7)
Saturday 04 September - 6:45 PM - ESPN
Cowboys Stadium
Arlington, Texas

TCU opens their campaign for another BCS busting season against the Beavers in one of their few major tests of the year (a road game against Utah being their other major obstacle.) One media outlet recently gave TCU the crown for the easiest schedule of any Top 10 (yes, that includes Boise's schedule.) Oregon State isn't shying away from "major mid-major" competition in that they have games against both 2009 BCS busters on the road. Their third non-conference game is against Louisville (that's how you do out of conference scheduling folks.) Oregon State has a horrible track record in road games in September, so TCU's hoping to build their resume early by beating a ranked team in a "neutral site" game. The Beavers are hoping to shake off their September road woes.

LSU (16) vs. North Carolina (18)
Saturday 04 September - 7:00 PM - ABC
Georgia Dome
Atlanta, Georgia

This is a game everyone has been looking forward to. North Carolina's highly praised defense against LSU's raw talent was sure to make for great TV ratings. North Carolina's program is (was?) on the rise, Les Miles is on the hot seat. Now, add in a torrential downpour of off-season scandal for the Tarheels and this game has gone from "must see TV" because of the quality of the two teams to "must see TV" because no one has any idea how it's going to play out with all of the off the field distractions. 

Boise State (5) vs. Virginia Tech (6)
Monday 06 September - 7:00 PM - ESPN
Fed Ex Field
Landover, Maryland

Everybody is saying "this is Boise's year." They return virtually the entire starting lineup of their undefeated 2009 squad and have a fine coach in Chris Petersen. They'll certainly get a test right off the bat in the form of Frank Beamer's Hokies. Virginia Tech has had ten win seasons eight times in the last decade, but they never seem to be able to mount a serious run at a national title and inevitably drop a game or two (or three or four) along the way (often early in the season.) Despite Top 10 rankings for both squads, whoever loses this game is out of the national picture talk for the rest of the year seeing as the WAC and ACC aren't going to put a one loss team in the championship game. The winner stays in the game, the loser might as well focus on their conference slate and try to bring home their regional hardware.

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