The college football offseason is long and arduous, but its end is almost in sight. We’re going to take a look at five games you have to look forward to for every weekend of the season. (This is also a handy guide to decide how to RSVP for any autumn weddings.)
All times are Eastern and all games are played on Saturday unless otherwise noted.
These games are played the weekend of September 28th.
Oklahoma at Notre Dame (3:30 p.m., NBC) – Last year Everett Golson bested Landry Jones in Norman, with the Irish topping the Sooners 30-13. Golson is academically ineligible for the season and Jones is in the NFL, meaning it will be probably Tommy Rees against probably Blake Bell, although both Brian Kelly and Bob Stoops could have made changes at quarterback by this point in the season. A big factor here will be whether OU can establish their running game with Damien Williams and Trey Millard - who combined for over 2000 yards from scrimmage last year - after being shut down by Bob Diaco’s defense in 2012 (only .6 yards per rush). Notre Dame had success on the ground against the Sooners last year, but they’ll need to find replacements for the graduated Theo Riddick/Cierre Wood duo.
Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech (7:30 p.m., ESPN, Thursday) – Since the ACC Championship Game was established in 2005, the Coastal Division has been represented by one of these two schools. This isn’t to say the winner of this game is guaranteed the spot or that Miami or North Carolina won’t break through, but this is a biggie in the race. Last year’s game was a 20-17 overtime win by the Hokies, and with nine starters back on defense, they should have a good shot at containing the Yellow Jacket rushing attack.
Arizona at Washington (TBD) – This could be really, really fun. On one side you have Arizona, which has to replace quarterback Matt Scott in Rich Rodriguez’s spread system but returns star running back Ka’Deem Carey and their entire defense. Opposite them is a Washington team that returns a capable but sometimes careless quarterback in Keith Price (13 picks to only 19 touchdowns last year), a 1500-yard rusher in Bishop Sankey and all of the relevant members of their receiving corps. (One of those receivers, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, is suspended indefinitely with a pending DUI case, but I would guess barring dismissal from the team, he’ll be back by the time the Wildcats visit.) Also it is always worth noting that people tailgate in boats at Washington home games, which sounds amazing but dangerous at the same time.
LSU at Georgia (TBD) – Georgia shows up against a likely top-fifteen team for the third time in five weeks, meaning we are going to have a really good idea of where the Bulldogs stand in the SEC and national title race by the time the calendar flips to October. It seems odd to think of LSU not fielding a dominant defense, but that’s at least possible this year, as they had an impressive seven defensive players drafted in April, along with suspended defensive back Tyrann Mathieu. Les Miles has loaded up on the recruiting trail and there will be talent everywhere, but a young unit won’t face many tougher tests than the Aaron Murray/Keith Marshall/Todd Gurley backfield between the hedges.
Florida at Kentucky (TBD) – Florida simply does not lose in this series, having bested the Wildcats in every contest since 1986. But you can expect Big Blue Nation to be at full throat for this game against the bullies from Gainesville, especially when you consider their enthusiasm for a spring game. This will provide a nice measuring stick on how new coach Mark Stoops’ first season is going considering the Gators have won the last five meetings by 30+ points. One advantage Kentucky might have beyond home field advantage is that they will be coming off a bye while Florida will have just finished a rivalry game with Tennessee. The Gators are on only the very mildest of upset alerts here, but can you imagine the sort of recruiting wonders Stoops could pull off with a win here?
Other games considered:
Wisconsin at Ohio State (8 p.m.) – Last year the Badgers lost to the Buckeyes in overtime 21-14, which only made the pain of 2011’s defeat – when Ohio State scored with 20 seconds left to win 33-29 – worse. Montee Ball, Mike Taylor and Bret Bielema are gone, but I would expect another close one in the Shoe.
USC at Arizona State (TBD) – Last time these two played in Tempe in 2011, Vontaze Burfict terrorized Matt Barkley like he was in a slasher movie, although the Trojans got revenge with a 38-17 win at home last year. Along with UCLA, these two are the favorites in the Pac-12 South and this game will go a long way in deciding the division winner.
Ole Miss at Alabama (TBD) – Ole Miss played Bama relatively tough last year, and much like Kentucky/Florida, this is a nice measuring stick game for an upstart program against one of the blue bloods of the conference.
College football video from Yahoo! Sports:
Related coverage on Yahoo! Sports:
• Ed O'Bannon lawsuit changes balance of power in college sports
• Former Stanford DB stops runaway bus in San Francisco
• More trouble for North Carolina's P.J. Hairston