Scott's Six-Pack of Intriguing Matchups: Week 1
Each week, I'm going to pick six games—not necessarily the biggest games or the most widely televised games—that I think deserve some attention.
Of course, in this post-modern era in which "everything" ends up in the media, I'm sure you, kind reader, will be able to locate the game in question if you really want to watch it and it's not close to (the remote-wielding) hand.
Most often I will try to draw attention to rivalry games, even if they're not the most obvious ones (such as the Red River Shootout or the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party).
Hopefully these games will pique your interest and sate your college football thirst!
Game 1: Southern Miss @ South Carolina
Thursday, Sep. 2, 7:30 pm Eastern (ESPN/ESPN 3)
What's the big deal about this game, you may ask? What rivalry?
Well, in days gone by (pre-SEC expansion), South Carolina and Southern Miss were both members of something called the Metro Conference.
Granted, the conference was non-football, and thus the football teams were technically independents, along with other Metro Conference members Florida State, Virginia Tech, Louisville, Tulane, Memphis, Cincinnati... get my drift?
In fact, back in those days the football teams "did" play each other, albeit not as part of a conference schedule. So this is a case of "what might have been." And the Ol' Ball Coach would actually have had a chance of winning a conference title again (and playing those 'Noles each year)!
Game 2: Villanova @ Temple
Friday, Sep. 3, 5:00 pm Eastern (ESPN 3)
You may be wondering "isn't this a mismatch?" A 1-AA/FCS team (Villanova) ripe for crushing at the hands of a 1-A/FBS team? Just like the three dozen other mismatches in the first week of the season?
Not so fast, my friend...
Villanova is without question one of the powerhouses of FCS, and are in fact the defending FCS champions, having won the 2009 playoffs.
(Playoffs? PLAYOFFS? Whaddya mean, PLAYOFFS?!?!)
And Temple are—despite last season's decent recordone of the lesser lights of FBS, having been unceremoniously booted out of the Big East Conference a few years ago due to poor performance, and more importantly, poor attendance.
Add the "crosstown Philly" showdown element, and it should be a game worth watching, even if it's only on your computer or mobile phone.
Game 3: Illinois vs. Missouri (St. Louis)
Saturday, Sep. 4, 12:30 pm Eastern (FSN)
The "Arch-Rivalry" (get it?) has been one of the regular features of the early season, and in most years it's a pretty good matchup. This game was no doubt a factor in Missouri being rumored to be offered a spot in the Big Ten +1 (but as it turns out, Nebraska got the invite instead).
Also, both Ron Zook at Illinois and Gary Pinkel at Missouri will be under pressure to demonstrate that their programs are on the upswing rather than in decline.
St. Louis is an excellent neutral site, located roughly midway between the two campuses (Columbia, MO and Champaign-Urbana, IL) and with alumni from both schools in the metro area, the game will be well-attended.
There is also a long-running early season basketball rivalry between the schools. In other words, they've got a history.
Game 4: Colorado vs. Colorado State (Denver)
Saturday, Sep. 4, 2:00 pm Eastern (the Mtn.)
So this one is going from a Mountain West/Big 12 matchup to a Mountain West/Pac-12 matchup... it's still going to be heated, intense, smash-mouth, and any other awesome adjective you can use.
This is in part due to the recent competitive balance in the "Rocky Mountain Showdown". In any given year, Colorado State has a decent chance to win, having won five of the past 11 games since 1999.
And much as with Southern Miss and South Carolina, these two were once in the same conference... the Mountain States Conference. Colorado left in the late 1940s for what was then the "Big Six".
Arguably, the Buffaloes could have done very well in the Mountain West (similar to South Carolina in the Metro), but the siren song of the Pac-10 and its BCS status proved irresistible.
Game 5: Kentucky @ Louisville
Saturday, Sep. 4, 3:30 pm Eastern (ABC, regional)
This matchup is much more notable in basketball, as the "Battle for the Bluegrass." In football, it's now known as the "Governor's Cup" and is relatively recent (there was a 70-year gap from 1924 until the renewal of the rivalry in 1994).
Interestingly enough, this rivalry is very competitively balanced, with Louisville winning nine times to Kentucky's seven since 1994 (Kentucky had won all six of the early 20th-century meetings).
Expect a raucous crowd when these two get together.
Game 6: SMU @ Texas Tech
Sunday, Sep. 5, 3:30 pm Eastern (ESPN/ESPN 3)
Another seeming mismatch involving a Conference USA team, but SMU has made considerable strides under coach June Jones, going from 1-11 in 2008 to 7-5 in 2009. The Mustangs capped last year with an impressive win over Nevada in the Hawaii bowl to finish 8-5.
For its part, Texas Tech has quite a few question marks, primarily due to the controversial firing of coach Mike Leach. The Red Raiders finished 11-2 in 2008 (losing the Cotton Bowl to Mississippi), but slipped to 9-4 in 2009 (beating Michigan State in the Alamo Bowl).
New Tech coach Tommy Tuberville is making significant adjustments to the team's playing style, and so this game between old Southwest Conference rivals might be much closer than it appears on paper.