The first weekend of college football is always kind of peculiar. We spend month after month after month pining for this weekend and when it actually arrives, we're typically treated to glorified scrimmages...tune up matches whose outcomes are seldom in doubt and have little impact on the shape of the season as a whole unless someone tanks in a Hindenburg-esque fashion. Don't get me wrong, I'm always grateful that it's arrived and would gladly watch Florida Atlantic take on Ball State if it were my only option, but the plain truth is that with very few exceptions, top teams dole out big bucks to beat up on the blind and the lame in preparation for greater contests in the near future. Some years are better than others and well, to be blunt, this isn't the best year ever for opening weekend match-ups, so with that caveat in mind, I'll go ahead and give you my Top 5 non-Alabama games of the week to watch.
(All rankings in this column are from the USA Today poll until the BCS poll is finally released later in the season. Games are listed in chronological order. Also, all times listed are Central Time.)
MISSISSIPPI STATE (20) at MEMPHIS
Thursday 01 September 2011 - 7:00 p.m. - FSN
Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium
Is this going to be great football? No, but what else in the name of all things good are you going to watch on the first night of college football? UNLV at Wisconsin? We play Mississippi State and can thereby justify this game's inclusion on the list as a "scouting endeavor." Year two of the Dan Mullen era went as well as could possibly have been hoped for in Starkville. At 9-4, it's just their bad luck that they happened to dramatically improve around the time the SEC West became the best conference in college football. Most other years 9-4 will net you better than fifth place in the division. I imagine Team Cowbell will win handily given their 42 point victory over Memphis in 2010 and the fact that Memphis came in at a not-so-stellar 117 out of 120 in The Sporting News pre-season ranking of all FBS teams. Let's face it, this game made the list because we all crave football, particularly that of the SEC variety. If you all are like the rest of us, you'll be gathering with friends to consume copious amount of unhealthy food and drink while waiting on our team to play on Saturday.
APPALACHIAN STATE (FCS #2) at VIRGINIA TECH (13)
Saturday 03 September 2011 - 11:30 a.m. - ESPN3/ESPN-Gameplan
Yeah, I know this game comes on a mere nine minutes after ours kicks off and that you're not actually going to watch this on your main television, but guess what? It's on ESPN3, so drag your laptop into your TV room and have this game running on the intertubez while we take on the Golden Flashes. Appalachian State captured the nation's heart when it hilariously beat Michigan a few years ago and Virginia Tech, perhaps the slowest starting team in all of college football, has shown it's more than capable of crapping the bed in spectacular fashion when they lost to FCS James Madison last year (who finished with a 6-5 record.) Basically, this game is a potential disaster for Virginia Tech and another opportunity to grab the spotlight for App State. Don't you want to see history live? Go Mountaineers, let chaos reign!
BYU at OLE MISS
Saturday 01 September 2011 - 3:45 p.m. - ESPN
The only game this week to feature two unranked teams (seriously y'all, there is some dreadful stuff on the books this week.) Chances are I would've watched this game anyway because it comes on a short while after the Alabama game and there's nothing else on worth watching from an SEC fan's perspective. I might've chosen another game or two instead of this one, perhaps one with a ranked team against a decent opponent (USF at Notre Dame) or one with a team that puts up gaudy numbers (UCLA at Houston), but nope, decided to go with this one on the pure culture clash factor.
BOISE STATE (7) vs. GEORGIA (22)
Saturday 03 September 2011 - 7:00 p.m. - ESPN
Get your small TV or your laptops out folks, because we all know the big TV will be tuned to LSU vs. Oregon. This is one of only two games this week between ranked teams. While technically a neutral site game, this is ultimately a Georgia home game just moved a bit west. This is actually a pretty important game nationally seeing as it's one of the few tests Boise will get during the course of the year. Their other games that are potential losses (TCU, Nevada, Tulsa) are all home games, though I suppose their road games at Fresno State and San Diego State could potentially trip them up as well. That being said, it ain't exactly a murder's row. This game is a bit of a risk for Georgia as a lot of people are putting the honor of the conference on their shoulders in Week 1, but we've all seen what Boise is capable of with ample time to prepare for an opponent. I really hate that this isn't a true undercard to the LSU vs. Oregon game, because this is one a lot of people would like to watch in its entirety, but will miss most of because of the game in Dallas.
OREGON (3) vs. LSU (4)
Saturday 03 September 2011 - 7:00 p.m. - ABC
This game, needless to say has national implications for both parties involved. OTS wrote about this game at length earlier in the week so I don't want to flog a deceased equine and repeat all that he's said, but I will elaborate a bit and say that LSU has a lot of distraction going on right now with the Jordan Jefferson saga. Les Miles has named Jarrett Lee as the starter and who knows how on earth that'll turn out (probably with a bunch of interceptions actually.) Oregon QB Darron Thomas had some offseason trouble of his own when he was in a car pulled over for going 118 mph (reportedly with the smell of marijuana present as well), but Chip Kelly said he wasn't going to punish a passenger and Thomas will get the start against LSU. The loser of this contest can still very much be in the running for their conference title and with a little help could still claw their way back into the national picture. Needless to say though, it'd certainly be better for both to go ahead and just win the thing.
And there's your Top 5 non-Alabama games of the week to watch...thank goodness football's back y'all.