Last weekend, the 3:30pm time slot was totally epic. Each of the featured games was decided by 10 points or less. Three of those games came down to the final minute. In the words of Ferris Bueller, “so choice.” It is okay to exhale at this point.
This weekend cannot possibly be as great as last weekend, right? I am not so sure. Last weekend was not looking so hot halfway through the afternoon games. Then VT decided to pull a miracle comeback, Tennessee did not roll over, MSU made it interesting, and the Huskies pulled the thinkable only once per year. When you look at the last weekend in September you will see a lot of last weekend. Let’s get to it.
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 24
(4)Ole Miss v. South Carolina
Chris Fowler, Craig James, Jesse Palmer, Erin Andrews
This may be the best Thursday night game of the season. (Did I say that last week?) Are Ole Miss for real? We will find out tonight. Aside from the Florida blowout last season, the Gamecocks have played virtually every ranked opponent down to the wire. The Rebels will need to stay Norwood and the rest of the defensive line away from Snead, which is no easy task considering South Carolina is currently in the Top 10.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 25
Missouri v. Nevada
Joe Tessitore, Rod Gilmore
This may not be a big time matchup on Friday night but if you find yourself at home for any reason it is not the worst thing that could happen to you. Missouri has looked surprising good so far, while Nevada has looked awful. Kaepernick has been underwhelming to say the least as the Wolfpack has started 0-2. Think of it this way: It is a scouting mission of a team that recently dominated OSU’s opponent the following day.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 26
Let’s take a look at the noon slot … gulp … sorry, I just threw up in mouth. This totally sucks. I know I lose my mind every weekend over this but how am I supposed to get out of doing anything around the house with this crap on television. Am I really supposed to respond with, “Honey, I am trying to watch UNC/GT on ESPN 360” or “The Minnesota/Northwestern game is important!” It makes me angry to look at the listings.
Michigan State v. Wisconsin
Dave Pasch, Bob Griese, Chris Spielman
The Spartans are coming off a heartbreaking loss while Wisconsin just kind of sucks. Dantonio is trying to build the Michigan State program up to a perennial contender. Wisconsin fans are hoping Bielema does not burn the program to the ground before he is fired after the season. Seriously, what are the odds that Cincinnati’s Brian Kelly is the coach in Madison next season?
Minnesota v. Northwestern
12:00pm, Big Ten Network
Wayne Larrivee, Chris Martin, Charissa Thompson
I am really struggling to come with a reason why you should flip to this game; because it is a Big Ten Conference game? Because the Buckeyes will play Minnesota later this season? Because you simply cannot tolerate another Home Depot commercial?
Typing that was horrific. Predictably, an overloaded mid-afternoon slot makes up for the early deficiencies … as usual.
Moving on. Here are your 3:30pm coverage maps. This is relevant as described below.
Illinios v. (14)Ohio State
Ron Franklin, Ed Cunningham
The obvious main game, but it is not without distraction as there are at least three other intriguing games on in this time slot. You probably will not do a lot of flipping, however, as Ohio State and Illinois have been playing some decent games in Ohio Stadium recently with Illinois winning too many. One nice part about the Buckeyes landing at 3:30pm is the assignment of Ron Franklin. His voice still reminds me of those Saturday Night games back in the day.
(9)Miami v. (11)Virginia Tech
Sean McDonough, Matt Millen, Holly Rowe
I will nominate this as your flip game for a couple of reasons: 1) It is the only matchup of ranked teams all day. 2) Ohio State fans would be wise to keep an eye on a rising Hurrican program that will hit the Horseshoe next fall.
There are a couple of noticeable problems with this one, however. Firstly, due to the weird mirroring procedure that ABC and ESPN engages in this game will only be available in the Midwest on ESPN standard def. Ick. Secondly, Sean McDonough and Matt Millen are annoying.
I admit, I appear to be the only college football fan that dislikes McDonough but I find him super condescending. On balance, though, this should be the best game opposite Ohio State and makes for a worthy flip. I tend to think Miami will run away with this one but VT manages to hang around and even win some of these tough games.
Arkansas v. (3)Alabama
Verne Lundquist, Gary Danielson, Tracy Wolfson
This is certainly a tempting flipper and CBS games tend to start a little later than ABC game, which creates a nice offset in viewing times. Plus, as I have mentioned, Verne is gold standard and Danielson is always good for a couple of great lines.
Again, this is a pure viewer’s guide column but I think this game has the best possible chance to create an upset this weekend. Arkansas looked good against Georgia last weekend until the Dawgs owned time of possession in the fourth. And, you will get to check out the type of talent the Wolverines ran out of town when you see Ryan Mallett play, if you are into that sort of thing.
(6)California v. Oregon
Terry Gannon, David Norrie
Objectively speaking, this game should not be on the list. Oregon is surviving on a humongous helping of return TDs (punt, fumble, and interception) and their QB play has been atrocious. Still, the Pac-10 has a way of eating its young (see USC v. Washington).
Just as the Bears seem primed for a big breakthrough the Ducks may actually play like the team many forcasted (including moi). The line is not monstrous (Cal -6) and Eugene can be wild so if this is a close game in the second half it will be worth a cursory viewing during commercials.
Drive-bys include (15)TCU v. Clemson, where the Tigers are favored at home to upend the Horned Frogs. The mid-majors have been dropping like flies. Clemson made a valiant comeback against GT and then completed stopped BC last weekend (the Eagles only gained 55 yards, total).
If you are looking for a night to take your significant other out, this is the weekend to do it. Even though the Big Ten is front and center on Saturday night, these two games are hardly marquee matchups.
Iowa v. (5)Penn State
Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit, Lisa Salters
Perhaps I am still colored by the near-disaster against Northern Iowa, but I have a hard time seeing this as close game. Beaver Stadium will be relatively wild and Ricky Stanzi will have plenty of opportunities to mess himself in front of 107,000 or so. If Royster can get the running game going this should be a long night for Ferentz’s squad.
Texas Tech v. (17)Houston
Mike Patrick, Craig James, Heather Cox
You already know this is going to be a shootout. You know each QB will throw for a bazillion yards. You also know this game will take four hours because of all the first downs, scoring, and lack of running plays.
This could be one of those games where you show up to work on Monday and say, “Man, did you see that Houston game?” Or, more likely, you say, “I fell asleep in the third quarter.” Go ahead, chug a couple of Coke Light’s and try to stay up. As they say, you can sleep when your dead.
Notre Dame v. Purdue
Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge, Erin Andrews
I suppose Purdue could rise up and take out Irish but it is hardly a must-see game. If you find yourself with some free time and the above games are blowouts this is your only/best alternative.