Thursday, December 20, 2012

2013 College Football Week 1 Preview

By Kevin Beane

This year, the preview's earlier than ever! I'd also say we have a better slate of games upcoming in the first week of 2013 past. Most teams do not want to play a challenging opponent in Week 1 because they want time to work out the kinks against the likes of Savannah State or Lamar. More teams seem to be bucking that trend next year.

No game times have been set yet, and these games might end up being played anywhere between Thursday, August 29th and Monday, September 2nd.

LSU vs.TCU in Dallas — The last two years, thanks to LSU/Oregon in '11 and Alabama/Michigan in '12, the Dallas opener has taken over from Atlanta as the premier Week 1 neutral-site destination.

On one hand, this seems like kind of a step back. TCU is — sorry, I know they won the Rose Bowl two years ago — not an elite program. They are a mid-level Big 12 program who will probably be crushed by LSU. Also, this ceases to be a true "neutral" game with Fort Worth just a stone's throw from Arlington.

On the other hand, now I actually care who wins! Yay! I know I'm in a the minority here, a minority that can't even make up a sliver on a pie chart, but when two elite teams I have no rooting interest in collide, I usually don't care about it. Give me games where an upset is possible, or a pick 'em between a historical titan and an up-and-comer, or involve Ohio State or Akron. This year, the first two criteria mean I will be watching and rooting for the Frogs. Last year, I made a spiteful point to watch USC/Hawaii on Fox instead of the Tide/Wolverines showdown on ABC. Speaking of which...

USC at Hawaii — For two teams that are neither conference colleagues nor rivals, they sure seem to play a lot, don't they? I guess it's just ... comfortable for them to schedule each other. And it's comfortable for me too; my eccentricities dictate that I watch this game whenever it's played, even though it's never competitive. It had a chance to be competitive before Norm Chow took over Hawaii, changed their offensive identity, and now they officially suck.

Temple at Notre Dame — Conversely, it seems like Notre Dame, having been an independent my whole life, is in fact in a de facto conference of their own choosing, consisting of the service academies, a third of the Big Ten, USC, Stanford, Pitt, Syracuse, and Boston College. So I relish when they play someone outside their normal grid, something that will become rarer now that they're obligated to play five ACC teams each year.

It will be interesting to see if Temple, who had strung together several successful seasons in a row before under Al Golden and Steve Addazio, can bounce back under new coach Matt Rhule, who was a Temple assistant for several years before joining the New York Giants coaching staff last year. This is probably the highest-visibility game Temple has ever played, and they have a chance if Notre Dame reverts to the level they so often do, e.g., their game against Pitt this year or South Florida the year before.

Virginia Tech vs. Alabama in Atlanta — Ooh, I bet the Atlanta organizers are ruing the precipitous fall of VT this year, and now they are pitted against the team about to be two-time defending national champions. Not to worry, Atlanta. Our ESPN overlords will still hype this like it's Ali vs. Frazier.

Oklahoma State vs. Mississippi State in Houston — Now Houston is also getting into the neutral game act, and although this game is quantifiably less sexy than the Atlanta or Dallas matchups, it does figure to be the closest game. Oklahoma State has had as good of a season as could be expected after sniffing a championship game appearance the year before and then losing Brandon Weeden, and Mississippi State, although not finishing the way they'd like, had for them a very good year in the toughest conference.

North Carolina at South Carolina — This game will be on Thursday Night, and somewhere there must be a contract stating ESPN's opening Thursday Nighter must involve SC-East, because this has been the case the last several years.

Georgia at Clemson — Doesn't this seem like the kind of game that would be played in Atlanta?

There are several more games featuring BCS conference vs. BCS conference games, too: Penn State vs. Syracuse in East Rutherford, Northwestern at Cal (that should be a good one), Washington State at Auburn (one of these teams will emerge pretending to be relevant for a week!) and, as far as I can see, the only conference game in Week 1, Ole Miss at Vanderbilt.

Additionally, there are a few good matchups involving the best of the non-BCS against decent-but-not-invincible BCS teams: Boise State at Washington, Utah State at Utah, Nevada at UCLA, BYU at Virginia, Northern Illinois at Iowa. (Sorry for sloppily implying that Virginia and Iowa are decent.)

Not a bad slate, eh? Finally, I'd like to highlight a game that was almost a great trivia answer. Had Kansas State not choked against Baylor, they'd be in the national championship game in a couple weeks, and probably favored over Notre Dame. Additionally, North Dakota State plays in the Division 1-AA (yep, still not gonna say "FCS") championship game later this week. So we were close to having a Week 1 game featuring the Division 1-A champ against the 1-AA champ, as North Dakota State travels to Kansas State to kick off the year.

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