Tonight is a rare double feature on a weeknight. Ranked teams have not fared particularly well on Thursday nights. Let me revise that. They have lost every time they have played – South Carolina lost to Vanderbilt, West Virginia lost to Colorado, and USC nosedived against the Beavers. Will that streak continue in duplicate tonight? Consider that an extra reason to consume a six-pack of Bud Heavy.
Pittsburgh v. (10)South Florida [7:30pm, ESPN]: The last time South Florida played on a weeknight (a Friday), it participated in one of the most thrilling games of this burgeoning season against Kansas. I am not expecting as much tonight but USF will not be to blame, Pitt will. Another reason to watch is that South Florida appears as likely to go unbeaten as any other team. Combine that with a likely top five BCS ranking when they appear on October 19, you have all the reasons to get familiar with Matt Grothe and co. Oh yeah, did I mention it is Thursday night.
Oregon State v. (15)Utah [9:00pm, Versus]: This is either a second half flip game or your main game depending on the score of the above match-up at the half. You may also be tempted to tune into the Vice Presidential Debate, which I believe starts at the same time. In some ways, those two events are similar as each has a participant that has recently induced confusion and bewilderment in viewers. Oregon State’s performance against USC was mesmerizing for its improbability and Palin’s interview with Katie Couric was, well … mesmerizing.
Sarah Palin v. Joseph Biden [9:00pm, Every single channel named starting with ESPN]: If you are going to watch this, you need to consult this first.
This is the Buckeye’s first Big Ten road game, which seems like a good time to remind you of Poe’s ultra important Gameday Survivalist Guide. It never hurts to brush up on the basics.
ESPN Coverage map. Ignore the incorrect date above the first map and last week’s map floating in the middle. We trust that NCBucksFan has dispatched a missive to ESPN about their editorial quality.
(6)Penn State v. Purdue [12:00 noon, ESPN]: This is your go-to match-up in the opening slot. In fact, it is the only palatable game on at all. Still, there are a few reasons to watch this one: (1) It is Penn State’s first road. Sure, they played at Syracuse but hardly anyone showed up and most of the people in attendance were either Penn State fans or Syracuse fans cheering for Penn State in order to get Greg Robinson fired. (God, they hate him); (2) This is the first decent passing quarterback that Penn State has faced, despite the way Mizzou made Juice look; (3) If you have not watched Penn State yet, you probably should do so since they are the Buckeyes main obstacle to winning three straight outright Big Ten titles.
If you desperately hate commercials and/or the PSU game gets out of hand ala the Oregon State blowout, you can try one of these mongrels on for size.
Iowa v. Michigan State [12:00 noon, ESPN2]: You should tune in early, as this game will fly by because both teams will run the ball non-stop. I have seen some predicting a close game, but I would be surprised if the Spartans are not firmly in control in the second half.
Indiana v. Minnesota [12:00 noon, BTN]: If the production trucks for the above two games malfunction, you can turn this game on. Otherwise, you should avoid it at all costs.
South Carolina v. Ole Miss [2:00pm, Gameplan]: If you paid for ESPN Gameplan (you know my feelings on this) then you might as well tune in to get your money’s worth. Ole Miss is obviously improved and Spurrier needs to avoid starting 0-3 in the SEC. This one can tide you over until 3:30pm.
Illinois v. Michigan [3:30pm, ABC]: While the next game listed has a serious nostalgic gravity, you have to start here. Like me, you probably curious to see if Michigan can keep the momentum going or if Illinois can avoid a 0-2 Big Ten start. You can employ the “scouting” excuse even if Michigan engages in another fumble festival or you can simply enjoy the schadenfreudic benefits.
Florida State v. Miami [3:30pm, ABC]: According to the coverage map, we do not get this one on ABC but it could be mirrored on ESPN. (I have not been able to confirm that.) I used to look forward to this game as much as any not named The Game, but it has fallen from its lofty perch. There will be some serious hitting and the Hurricanes are probably better than you think. If it is on ESPN, this is a legitimate option.
(7)Texas Tech v. Kansas State [3:30pm, ABC]: This has safety net written all over it. Except for one thing, I do not get this one so it does not matter. Are the Red Raiders really a top ten team? Is Kansas State as bad as they have looked in their last two games? The Big 12 has been producing many under-the-radar good games the past couple of seasons. This may be one of them, but unless you are at a bar with every game on you will most likely have to settle for highlights.
(13)Auburn v. (19)Vanderbilt [6:00pm, ESPN]: The odd start time is to accommodate the Missouri/Nebraska game and ultimately makes it very difficult to watch this one. You will miss the first quarter if you are finishing one of the gems at 3:30pm, which will only leave you with an hour before the night games. That hour is precious prep time - often used for ordering pizza, buying beer, or meditating before the Buckeyes’ kick off - which means you may have to sacrifice one of only three games featuring two ranked opponents. You cannot win ‘em all.
(14)Ohio State v. (18)Wisconsin [8:00pm, ABC]: At this point, you should have your lucky jersey on, have had plenty to eat, and just the right amount to drink. I hate eating during the games because I will make mess or miss something. If I am nervous enough for the game (this one probably is not at that level) I will not be hungry at all. There is no reason you would change the channel, even for commercials. Don’t risk missing the big play right after a break. If the Buckeyes are blowing them out you need to savor every second and if the opposite is occurring you will probably be so angry you should not have a remote in your hand.
(23)Oregon v. (9)USC [8:00pm, ABC]: There is no reason you would turn this on because (a) Ohi State is playing, and (b) we do not get it.
(4)Missouri v. Nebraska [9:00pm, ESPN]: Depending on your frame of mind, you may want to tune in for the final quarter of this one. There is no guarantee it will be close but it may provide you with the closure you need after the Buckeyes’ game. Hopefully, that is not necessary.