I-A/FBS edition. Part of the Doc's Mid-Major Week.
Taking a check in exchange for an early-season beating from a "Big Six" team is an inescapable fact of life for mid-major programs, most of which have operated well in the red for their entire existences. Each year, however, there are some matchups that are too morally reprehensible to justify even a high six-figure payday. From least to most ignominious, brace yourself for 2010's murderers' row:
• Texas vs. Rice, Sept. 4. A devil of a showdown the Owls know very well. At least these schools are both in Texas, and were part of the same conference for more than 80 years, giving this tilt at least a bare semblance of a rivalry game. The Longhorns even have the courtesy to leave the quiet comforts of home for the fuss and bother of Houston, but it's not like that's going to ameliorate things: Texas and Rice have met four times in the last five years, and the one game played outside of Austin, a 52-7 shellacking in 2006 at Reliant Stadium, was the worst loss.
The series has taken on a remarkable consistency: The other three losses came by scores of 51-10 in 2005, 58-14 in 2007, and 52-10 in 2008. The last time the Owls beat Texas was a 19-17 Southwest Conference win in 1994.
• New Mexico at Oregon, Sept. 4. Troubled program, meet troubled program! Oregon may have captured its share of police blotter headlines over the past year, but say this for coach Chip Kelly: We're almost positive he's never punched one of his assistant coaches. Coming off a 1-11 season, the Lobos should prove an appetizing crudite for a Ducks squad determined to prove it can still contend for the Pac-10 title without Jeremiah Masoli – or, for this game only, All-Pac-10 running back LaMichael James.
• Utah State at Oklahoma, Sept. 4. Another tune-up for a proud program that ran into some bad luck in '09. Thrill as Bob Stoops turns the knobs and adjusts the dials of his latest killing machine, starring Landry Jones, who showed scary passing acumen as a freshman even in a substitute capacity for the injured Sam Bradford. To compound matters, Utah State ranked 86th nationally in pass efficiency defense last season, and 100th in sacks. The Aggies' previous four meetings with the Sooners were decided by 49, 69, 34 and 51 points.
• Western Kentucky at Nebraska, Sept. 4. The Hilltoppers were winless in their only season in I-A/FBS competition. The 'Huskers are still nursing a grudge over their horrific luck in the Big 12 Championship Game and subsequent relegation to the Holiday Bowl. We all saw what Nebraska did to Arizona its last time out, and Arizona was actually a football team. Welcome to Ouchtown, population: WKU.
Eastern Michigan at Ohio State, Sept. 25
See above, with another 0-12 patsy running into an unforgiving middle American stalwart on the verge of a banner season. The Buckeyes have never lost to a team from the MAC, and have only been played within two touchdowns twice – and they've never faced an outfit as bad as EMU.
• USC at Hawaii, Sept. 2. The Warriors wanted the payday and the midnight stage on ESPN badly enough to pull this game from the wreckage of NCAA sanctions against USC, but surely their last three encounters with the Trojans – decided by scores of 62-7, 61-32 and 63-17 since 1999 – can't be far from their minds. Even a "rebuilding" USC squad will be favored to leave the islands with a four or five-touchdown trouncing tucked neatly into the pockets of their festive shirts.
• Miami (Ohio) at Florida, Sept. 11
Not the Miami matchup Gator fans were hoping for, but one that bodes much better for their chances at achieving the happiness that only comes with witnessing a gory MAC-rifice amid a sweltering, bloodthirsty crowd. Though technically a step up in competition from Florida's recently favored early fare of Charleston Southern and/or The Citadel, the RedHawks, coming off a 1-11 season in the MAC, will likely fare no better than their paltrier predecessors.
• San Jose State at Alabama, Sept. 4
Think it's brazenly inappropriate for the defending national champion to open the season against the defending WAC doormat? This isn't even the most shameful date on the Tide's schedule, not with a November visit from Georgia State during the Panthers' first season of football on any level. But since this list is limited to I-A/FBS cupcakes, the Spartans will be counted to represent all of the soon-to-be-pounded with dignity. Defensively-minded by nature and fielding an almost entirely revamped unit on that side, Saban should have plenty of wiggle room to fling his young hatchlings on defense out of the nest.
- - -
Holly welcomes your adulation and veiled threats at nastinchka-at-yahoo, etc.