What to watch in college football: Week 1, Day 1

Graham Watson

The first day of the college football season is finally upon us and, unfortunately, it's probably the most lackluster group of games we'll see all season.

Not to fret, we've compiled all the interesting facts about Thursday's slate to — at the very least — provide a sliver of interest to an otherwise uninspiring first day.

Here's what to watch on Thursday:

•There's one interesting game (and by interesting I mean an SEC game) on Thursday and that's between No. 9 South Carolina and Vanderbilt at 7 p.m. ET. The Gamecocks are coming off an 11-2 season, the most wins in school history, and Vandy had its first bowl berth since 2008. But the game, while it is an SEC matchup, is not the thing to watch. No, that would be South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore, who had 818 yards and 10 touchdowns in just seven games before suffering a knee injury in the middle of October.

Even though Vanderbilt's rushing defense was very good a year ago, Lattimore is going to be running with a purpose and it might be a sight to see.

"I kind of felt like it was a test to see if I was going to break, to see if I was going to give up, because there were times I wanted to give up," Lattimore said. "I feel like God was just testing my faith, but I got through it and I've still got the love for God that I have and that'll never change."

• If you're not familiar with the term "#MACtion" it's the Internet meme given to Mid-American Conference games because of how ridiculously exciting the games are (see the video above for just the scoring plays of Northern Illinois and Toledo last year). If you're looking for a defensive battle, the MAC is not your jam. This is an offensive league where defense is optional and the 7 p.m. ET game between Eastern Michigan and Ball State, two of the league's 6-6 powerhouses from a year ago, should be no exception. The last time these two teams met, they combined for 64 points, 876 total yards and a game-winning field goal with nine seconds remaining to give Ball State the win.

• Utah will be the first team to appear on the newly launched Pac-12 Network against Northern Colorado at 7:15 ET. However, if you have DirecTV, you're not going to get to see it. The Pac-12 and DirecTV failed to reach a programming deal so, as of right now, you only get to watch the other 50 DirecTV channels that will carry college football this weekend, including other Pac-12 games. But that hasn't stopped the Pac-12 from issuing an open letter to fans asking them to abruptly switch from DirecTV to cable. Wait, the Pac-12 wants me to give up NFL Sunday Ticket to watch Utah and Northern Colorado? Keep dreamin', Pac-12.

• (Not sure how this got left out…) Thursday marks the return of Mike Leach to college football after a two-year hiatus following his firing at Texas Tech. The return of Leach also means the return of the high-flying offense that made the Red Raiders successful and random pirate references. But will that offense work in the Northwest? Washington State hasn't had a winning season since 2003 and doesn't necessarily have the players to make the transition to that offense overnight. Still, if you like offense (and who doesn't?) Thursday's game against BYU at <b>10:15 p.m. ET</b> should provide some nice fireworks to end the evening. After all, the BYU offense did average 406 yards of total offense a year ago.

• Connecticut and Massachusetts will renew a rivalry that flickered out in 1999 when they meet at 7:30 ET in UMass' first-ever FBS game. The last time these two teams met was when they were both Division I-AA (now FCS) schools.

• Akron is giving fans their first opportunity to wear their "Fear the Dadgum! Roo" T-shirts when the Zips meet Central Florida at 7 p.m. ET. Akron has won two games in the past two seasons — one each year — and five games in the past three seasons. The Zips haven't had a winning season since 2005.

• Todd Graham begins his third head coaching job in the past three seasons when Arizona State takes on Northern Arizona at 10:30 ET. Graham left Pitt prior to the end of last season and broke up with his players via text message (that he had an assistant send). But he's committed to Arizona State, it is his dream job (just like Rice and Tulsa were), and he could be the type of coach to turn the Sun Devils' fortunes — if he stays around that long.

• New Mexico State begins what could and likely will be its final season as an FBS team when it meets Sacramento State at 8 p.m. ET. New Mexico State is a member of the WAC, which has already said it will not play football in 2013, leaving the Aggies without a home and without any prospects. Perhaps the Aggies could agree to throw the game if Sacramento State agreed to join the WAC next year.

• UCLA will debut a new coach in Jim Mora Jr. and a new quarterback in Brett Hundley when they take on Rice at 7:30 p.m. ET in Houston. Mora wants people to know that it's important for his team to play well (yeah, someone did ask him that question), but that he doesn't want to give Rice too many secrets, including who's practicing well. That's too bad because Rice could use all the help it could get. The Owls are trying to win their first season opener since 2008. Yep, it's been four years since Rice won its opening game. Might want to switch up the scheduling there, Rice.

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