The season is underway. After a Week 1 kickoff that saw games seemingly every day of the week as if it were some kickass chanukah, the schedule in Week 2 (and for the near future) is a little more subdued. We don’t get our first Tuesday games until Week 8 and the schedule is a little more consistent Thursday, Friday, Saturday setup. Still, we get Thursday started with a bang. Unlike your usual Thursday games that consist of an attention hungry low-level BCS squad, or, worse yet, Boise State v. Little Sisters of the Poor on the blue turf, Week 2 starts with a bowl rematch from yesteryear. The week culminates with some quality, season-defining matchups.
So, what’s on?
- Arizona @ Oklahoma State (ESPN, 8:00pm ET). This was the Alamo Bowl last year, which saw Dana Holgorsen (then Oklahoma State offensive coordinator, now WVU head coach) ride the bull en route to a 36-10 thumping of the Arizona Wildcats. For Arizona, this is actually their marquee non-conference game. Recall last year’s return leg of the Iowa series, which saw the Wildcats abruptly terminate #9 Iowa’s BCS championship aspirations. Arizona’s at a bit of a conundrum. After seven season with one of the Stoops’ potato heads at the helm in Tucson, the Wildcats have finally restored some semblance of greatness “goodness”. They’ve played in three straight bowl games, something they’ve never done in program history. The problem: the past two have resulted in beatdowns by Nebrasky (33-0, Holiday Bowl) and the aforementioned thumping by Okie State. It’s as good a time as any to break through that ceiling. They can start with some vengeance against the #9 Oklahoma State Cowboys. Unlike last year’s #9 Iowa squad, this will have to be done on the road under the watchful eyes of team owner T. Boone Pickens, who will probably chime in during the game with some Big XIImageddon talk.
- Florida International @ Louisville (ESPN, 7:00pm ET). I would dismiss this out of hand, saying “why do I have to watch this?” With that in mind, Florida International under Mario Cristobal have been awfully competitive in defeats. Last year, Rutgers, Texas A&M, Maryland and Pittsburgh — all good teams, and Rutgers — needed 4th quarter heroics to beat Florida International. Keep your eye on this one.
- Missouri @ Arizona State (ESPN, 10:30pm ET). Round 2 of the the Pac-12/Big-XII Invitational kicks off in Tempe, Arizona. You might remember Missouri, the #21 squad in the country, as the same unit that valiantly and decisively farted out a 17-6 victory against mighty Miami of Ohio. You might remember Arizona State as the team that had Jake Plummer way back when. Is he still there? It’s been awhile since I paid attention to Arizona State.
- Oregon State @ Wisconsin (ESPN, 12:00pm ET). The team that lost to Sacramento State takes on the Badgers in Madison. I couldn’t find the scene in that one Ren & Stimpy episode where the ring announcer ominously sets up the “flying buttpliers” by noting “this won’t be pretty”, but this other scene from the same episode sums it up just as well.
- Toledo @ Ohio State (BTN, 12:00pm ET). This is what you’re watching instead. More on this later.
- Florida Atlantic @ Michigan State (ESPN2, 12:00pm ET). The second date of the Howard Schnellenberger Farewell Tour makes a stop in East Lansing, TSUN. The kickoff of the farewell tour didn’t start well — a 41-3 beatdown by new Gators coach Will Muschamp. This is the third time in the past four years Sparty has played the Florida Atlantic Owls for reasons that are not entirely known. The past two meetings were both Sparty victories, but they didn’t look particularly good either time (2008: 17-0, 2010: 30-17). They didn’t look particularly impressive against Youngstown State in Week 1 either.
- Mississippi State @ Auburn (“SEC Network”, 12:21pm ET). I told anyone that would listen in my current town that Auburn is a 5 win team in 2011. They are 2011′s 2010 Texas team. I almost had to downgrade that projection to a 4 win team after last week’s nail-biter against the Utah State Aggies. Next up, a conference and division game against Mississippi State. Dan Mullen’s squad intrigues me this year. It’ll be hard to beat LSU or the Rammer Jammers for positioning in the SEC West, but they could do some damage this year.
- Alabama @ Penn Shtate (ESPN, 3:30pm ET). I’d feel pretty cheated if I were a Nitt. Last year’s one-sided contest was a night game at Bryant-Denny Stadium and the self-proclaimed kings of the night game don’t get to repay the favor. This is unfortunate since Beaver Stadium at night is truly something else and this game won’t even make into dusk. Meanwhile, both teams will be playing musical chairs at quarterback. I don’t know much about Alabama backup Phillip Sims and I actually quite like Robert Bolden. That said, I solidly believe Penn Shtate is wasting its time with Matt McGoing-the-other-way and a friend of mine who is a math tutor for the university had me laughing when he told me “AJ McCarron is an idiot, even by athlete standards”. I guess we can’t all handle calculus equally well, but we should all know better than to have this tattoo.
- Stanford @ Duke (ESPNU, 3:30pm ET). If all goes well against Toledo and I’m in full party mode, I might actually be watching this game instead. I noted this last week, but Stanford genuinely intrigues me. They could be world-beaters. They could be supremely overrated. In either case, they have an NFL-ready quarterback and I won’t get many opportunities to see them this year. I hope they brought their band accordingly. If the band is coming, I’m sure the halftime show will tread not-so-delicately on Duke lacrosse…
- Nevada @ Oregon (FX, 3:30pm ET). Oregon can only beat Pac-[Integer] teams, which is a meme now evidently. Oregon’s record in big games against non-conference foes is sorely lacking. They’ll squash Nevada, but I’m not sure the post-Kaepernick Wolfpack adequately counts as a “big game”.
- Texas Christian @ Air Force (Versus, 3:30pm ET). This is the first game in the Battle Toads’ Mountain West finale in 2011. It’s on the road against an always game Air Force team. Can I just start calling Texas Christian the Battle Toads? I just assume they were a marketing gimmick created in the early 1990s, a college football team created to support a platform video game of the time.
- California @ Colorado (Regional, 3:30pm ET). This will be one of my favorite games of the weekend. This was slated to be the marquee non-conference game for both squads in 2012. And then the Pac-10 became the Pac-12, bringing in Utah and Colorado. Both teams, now Pac-12 mates, could not ditch this game for another in time, so they will play it and it will not count toward league standings. Remember TTUN and Minnesota dancing around this idea a year ago before the idea fizzled out? Well, it’s a reality for the Buffaloes and Golden Bears.
- Purdue @ Rice (Regional, 3:30pm ET). B1G TEN teams are not allowed to schedule road games against friggin’ Rice. But, since Purdue is not a B1G TEN team like Ohio State or Minnesota, that condition does not apply. Good luck to this “Purdue” fella at Rice University.
- Cincinnati @ Tennessee (ESPN2, 3:30pm ET). Somehow this game makes a lot of sense. Maybe I should be disappointed any year these two don’t play each other. A year removed from a disastrous first season in Cincitucky, Butch Jones started off the 2011 campaign with a 72-10 asskicking of Austin Peay. But Austin Peay is just one guy with presumably a very sore ass; Tennessee is SEC. At least, theysposetabe SEC, which you would not infer from the chickening out of a road game at Autzen Stadium.
- Rhode Island @ Syracuse (ESPN3.com, 4:30pm ET). It took me about 3 seconds longer than I would’ve liked to name the 1-AA squad in this pairing. That’s embarrassing and I’ll try to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
- South Carolina @ Georgia (ESPN, 4:30pm ET). I’m not sure Mark Richt’s hot seat can get any hotter. If Mark Richt loses this game and starts the season 0-2 without a tiebreaker against the defending SEC East champions, I just assume his “hot seat” would combust with him in it. They wouldn’t have to fire him or seek a resignation, because he would just be smoldering rubble. I’m pretty sure being a smoldering pile of rubble would be a breach of contract and give Georgia an easy out.
- New Mexico @ ArKansas (ESPNU, 7:00pm ET). Remember Lamaar Thomas? He’s eligible to play now at New Mexico. He started the season with 2 carries for a yard, a fumble and 2 receptions for 34 yards. His Lobos lost 14-10 at home to Colorado State in a game where everyone should have resigned from everything as a result. Their reward: a trip to ArKansas to take on the 14th ranked Razorbacks. Have fun with that, Mike Locksley.
- Brigham Young @ Texas (ESPN2, 7:00pm ET). First Brigham Young plays at Ole Miss and then at Texas? I’m digging their independence. It sounds like a schedule I would’ve created for an independent squad in dynasty mode in EA Sports’ NCAA Football 06.1 I assume this week’s Family Home Evening will be spent on that one passage in the Book of Jarom that talks about how the Longhorn Network has forced the University of Texas into the role of malevolent hegemon in the Big XII, forcing a death of the conference and eventual independence for the Longhorns in lieu of greater concessions to either save the Big XII or facilitate a transition to Pac-[Integer]. Elder Young will discuss how this hurts the soul deep inside. He will then pass out punch and homemade Rice Krispie treats for everyone.
- Virginia @ Indiana (BTN, 7:00pm ET). Indiana, the one B1G TEN team that lost in Week 1, plays host to the Virginia CavaHoos (or whatever they’re called). I guess this is as good a time as any to call my prediction for the CRIPPLE FIGHT!!! of the week.
- Utah @ USC (Versus, 7:30pm ET). This is your first Pac-[Integer] conference game of the year, and it welcomes conference newbies Utah to the Coliseum in front of USC’s raucous 216 fans to play the conference’s team of the decade. By the way, can we just go ahead and start publicly calling Lane Kiffin for what he is: a charlatan who inexplicably finds himself with cushy gigs despite any credentials? His idiotic fetish with going for 2 after touchdowns could have (and normatively should have) cost him the Week 1 game against a decidedly inferior (but still competitive) Minnesota squad. I know we all know that, but Rece Davis should make that a staple of ESPN’s college football programming.
- Notre Dame @ That State Up North (ESPN, 8:00pm ET). Two teams I hate? Check. Two teams I hate in Adidas’ ridiculous answer to Nike’s WarPro CombatTech-whatever? Check. … … ……………………
- I always went with Navy. [↩]