NEW YORK– By Robert Cowper
Each week we’ll take a look at the best upcoming matchups in college football. I’ll try to focus on games that are easy to find on the dial, which is pretty easy when it seems that ESPN holds the TV rights to each conference. Keep in mind, there may be better games (i.e. more NFL talent on the field), but these are the games that you should tune into.
#24 Boise St at #13 Michigan St, Friday 8pm, ESPN
It seems that each year, Boise State picks one stellar match-up to start the season. This year’s game should be interesting as well. I’ve always been a Boise fan from a distance and am interested to see how they cope without Kellen Moore and Doug Martin. Also, Michigan State is dealing with their own losses of QB Kirk Cousins, RB Edwin Baker and WRs Keyshawn Martin and BJ Cunningham. In my opinion, both teams are ranked too high due to the loss of key starters, but a quality matchup will go a long way to evaluating the new starters.
North Texas at #3 LSU, Saturday 7pm, ESPNU
Hurricane Isaac is threatening LSU’s home opener. The game is still on as scheduled, but that could change. If the game is moved to a neutral location (or possibly to North Texas), it completely changes the dynamic of the game. LSU would no longer have home field advantage (although they are, undoubtedly, the better team) and may have players dealing with hardship at home due to the hurricane. Either way, the commentators will have no lack of fascinating stories to tell about the teams, players and coaches coping with the aftermath of the hurricane.
#8 Michigan vs #2 Alabama, Saturday 8pm, ABC
I’m a huge Michigan fan, so this game is like a holiday for me. Even if you’re not a Wolverine or a Tide fan, you should be tuning into this one. If you listened to coaches Brady Hoke and Nick Saban, you would think this is a possible BCS National Championship preview. I won’t go that far, but you should be seeing both of these teams playing high-profile January bowl games. Michigan is led by Heisman candidate QB Denard Robinson. Robinson is a flashy run-first quarterback who needs to show the nation he can succeed throwing the ball to garner real Heisman attention. Alabama, no matter who they lose to the draft, is always a powerhouse. Their next man up philosophy makes it tough to build relationships with the players (i.e. Trent Richardson really only had one season in the limelight) but their roster is always chock full of NFL talent.
Kentucky at #25 Louisville, Sunday 3:30pm, ESPN
I don’t know why I’m so excited about this game. On paper it’s not that great of a game. Maybe it’s because while on a road trip a few years back I went to the Kentucky State Fair in L’ville and it was surprisingly awesome. Maybe it’s because Kentucky coach Joker Phillips has one of the better names in sports. Most likely it comes down to the rivalry between the teams. For kids at both schools, this is their bowl game; they chose to be a Wildcat or a Cardinal based on some deep-seated familial preference and that always adds to the game’s importance.
Georgia Tech at #16 Virginia Tech, Monday 8pm, ESPN
Any game Georgia Tech plays is fun to watch. Their brand of offense, the triple option, is boom or bust, but endlessly entertaining. The Frank Beamer-led Hokies will be prepared for the specialty offense, but can their own offense get off the ground? Junior QB Logan Thomas showed flashes of brilliance in 2011 was but erratic. If he has matured as expected, the Hokies have a chance to run the table in what I believe is a weak ACC. Georgia Tech QB Tevin Washington is their triple option trigger man and will be the player to watch when the Yellow Jackets offense is on the field. It’s strange to get a conference game so early in the season, so this game is more important than many others on the schedule. Part of the allure of this game, for me, is that the NCAA gets a chance to sneak in their own MNF game before the NFL gets started. While it won’t draw anywhere near the audience of a pro contest, it’s a great end to a holiday weekend.