Putting the brand names aside, TCU at Utah is one of the games of the year: Not only is it the de facto Mountain West championship game, but on a national level, it's a matchup of teams ranked in the top 12 of every major poll, whose only loss between them to date was at Oklahoma, who have two of the top 10 statistical defenses in the country and whose three previous games since TCU joined the conference have been decided by a touchdown on average. The winner -- especially if it's Utah, maintaining its perfect record -- is almost a mortal lock to crash one of the big money bowls in January. The Salt Lake Tribune dramatically calls the Horned Frogs' visit the biggest home game in Utah history. By the rankings alone, it's easily the biggest Mountain West game.
Where can you watch this quasi-heavyweight tilt? Probably, you can't, unless you're willing to shell out to your satellite or cable company for the tier that includes CBS College Sports, which takes over the Mountain West mantle tonight from its usual Thursday host, the equally obscure Versus. Most viewers in Utah will have to get creative to watch the Utes play, either ordering CBS College for an entire month for this game, or finding a friend who was willing to do it. Or they can try to catch a live stream of the game online, also my only chance of watching it. Hey, good luck, guys!
If the MWC finds itself facing an accusation that its best team "didn't play anybody" when it's trying to get its champion into the BCS next month, it only has its own television contract to blame -- when even most of the people who might actually want to watch are going to miss it, and casual fans sitting down to lackluster ACC fare on ESPN will barely realize there's a game at all, anonymity seems like a very high price to pay to avoid having to bend over occasionally for the Worldwide Leader.
In the meantime, the Maryland-Virginia Tech game is extremely important in its own right in the long, hellish process of untangling the interminably kinked-up ACC. We'll be able to gauge its impact on the conference title race sometime in the next month or so. But not tonight, when it's just two inconsistent teams trying to keep their head above water and maybe slip into the bottom of the polls.
What: Thursday Night Live Blog, Maryland at Virginia Tech and TCU at Utah. All comments welcome, but especially the snarky, irreverent types.
When: First game (Maryland at Tech) kicks at 7:30 Eastern; blog opens roughly simultaneously. TCU at Utah kicks at 8 p.m. Eastern.
Why: If you can get the Mountain West game, it should be hard fought, and the winner has a clear path to the BCS. If not, there's always the base pleasures of Erin Andrews and Ralph Friedgen fat jokes on the Worldwide Leader.
Who: You, of course, and all your rowdy friends. Come early, hit "Watch Now," and bask in the vicarious satisfaction of modern chat technology.