Well folks, it's here. We've weathered another lengthy offseason and football Christmas is today. Realistically speaking, as Alabama fans, we have another couple of days to wait, but it's been so long since we've seen real. live, meaningful football that the Thursday and Friday undercards will be a pleasant enough distraction until things get going in JerryWorld on Saturday night. For those of you new to these parts, here's what "What to Watch" is about. I choose five non-Alabama games per week that I think will be fun/interesting/good to watch for a variety of reasons and you hail my genius or call me names for leaving out a game you think should be included. Let's be honest though, we'd all glady watch Ball State take on Temple tonight if that's all the football gods deigned to give us. As always, all times listed are central (the good and true and right time zone.) Rankings are from the AP poll until the BCS poll is released later in the year. With that in mind, here's what to watch in week one of the 2012 college football season:
SOUTH CAROLINA (9) at VANDERBILT - Thursday, August 30th - 6:00 p.m. - ESPN
This is it, the first game. That's pretty much why it made the list. Yeah, Vanderbilt's improved...blah blah blah, but despite two bowl appearances in the last four seasons, they've still only had three above .500 seasons since 1975. So pardon me while I look down upon the "new & improved Commodores" from the lofty heights of Mt. St. Unimpressed. Franklin's looking for a signature win still (his best is against 6-7 Wake Forest), but I severely doubt he'll get it here. I'm kind of ready for South Carolina to go away already. One good win over Alabama and a 10-win season and they've "arrived?" That being said, I'll watch the crap out of this game.
BOISE STATE (24) at MICHIGAN STATE (13) - Friday, August 31st - 7:00 p.m. - ESPN
I can hear the groans and cries of "What about Tennessee vs. NC State." I know Tennessee's a major rival, but they haven't beaten anybody worth a crap under Dooley. I know they're supposed to be much improved this year, but we've got a while still before I fully buy in. NC State is a middle of the pack (no pun intended) ACC team, which is a bit redundant I suppose. With that in mind, the Broncos/Sparty tilt is one of two games all weekend between ranked teams, so I figured it should earn a spot on the list.
Boise's undergoing a major rebuilding project, but they'll probably still breeze through the recently depleted Mountain West. Their main obstacles to an undefeated season are Michigan State, Southern Miss, BYU and Nevada (we could only be so lucky, right?) Michigan State has been coming on strong the last couple of years and some pundits have them penciled in for Indianapolis in December. I imagine Sparty rolls, but should be fun to watch.
NAVY vs. NOTRE DAME - Saturday, September 1st - 8:00 a.m. - CBS
Normally I wouldn't touch this turdburger with a 10 foot pole, but how often do we get to watch a game at 8:00 a.m. in the central time zone? Pretty much never. It'll be a nice change of pace to get to watch an actual game instead of a bunch of people talking for several hours before SEC play gets going around 11:30 a.m.
SOUTHERN MISS at NEBRASKA (17) - Saturday, September 1st - 2:30 p.m. - ABC/ESPN2
This game probably would've been more interesting last year, but it's not without its merits in 2012. Nebraska is officially broken in in the Big Ten and is going to try to get 2012 off on the right foot in order to make a bigger splash in their new conference than they did in their year one campaign. Southern Miss is breaking in a new head coach and a new QB and on the road to Nebraska is probably a pretty daunting place to take those initial steps. That being said, Southern Miss should at least provide a more than competent challenge to the Cornhuskers.
AUBURN vs. CLEMSON (14) - Saturday, September 1st - 6:00 p.m. - ESPN
You can watch the first hour of this contest before Alabama vs. Michigan begins at 7:00 p.m. and then it's your "commercial game" or it becomes a two TV or TV/laptop situation. Auburn has a lot of question marks. Clemson surely wants to eliminate the bad taste in their mouths after getting smacked around like a ragdoll by West Virginia in their bowl game. Their new defensive coordinator, Brent Venables, doesn't exactly brim with confidence though: "You wish you had a I-AA to start off with." Regardless, the last two meetings between these two have been bizarro affairs so it'll be interesting to see what happens in Atlanta.
College football is back. Roll Tide and hope for the best!