Wednesday, January 11, 2017
World’s Earliest 2017 CFB Preview
Of my annual or regularly occurring features, this one is, hands-down, my favorite. Thanks to the absolutely indispensable website mattsarzsports.com, we have a rudimentary weekly schedule (very few times and TV info yet, of course) of next year's college football action.
Not to repeat myself, but this feature would not be possible without the tireless work of Matt Sarzyniak, who has been doing this for years and, judging by the minimal, clean look the website has always maintained, is turning down a ton of ad money. May he never get too bored or too busy to do what he's been doing, and may he never die.
Onto the notable games.
Friday, Aug. 25
Stanford vs. Rice in Sydney, Australia
When I was a kid, "kickoff classics" happened every year; a game or two the week before the season started proper. Those went away for a decade or so, and now they are back, on the other side of the world. I guess the rule is, a Bay Area team vs. a Group of Five team that's projected to be one of the worst in the country. Last year, that meant Cal vs. Hawaii (although Hawaii turned out to have a decent season), and this year it will be Stanford vs. Rice. The next day, two more FBS teams take the field in even less notable games (Portland State at BYU, South Florida at San Jose State). I don't get it either.
Thursday, Aug. 31
Ohio State at Indiana
I've been an Ohio State fan all of my life, and I don't remember the last time they, or any other Big Ten team, kicked off the year with a conference game. I know it used to happen in the '70s and maybe '80s, but these days, that's an SEC thing (although not this year).
So this is interesting and given that it's a Thursday night season opener against a team that will be on the short list of likely national championship contenders, this is the biggest football game to come to Bloomington in a long while. The Hoosiers have been in bowls the last two years after appearing in just one in the preceding 21 seasons, and nearly knocked off the Buckeyes the last time they played them at home. This could be good.
Saturday, Sept. 2
Cal at North Carolina
Two middling Power 5 schools, but the Golden Bears will have to feel good about their season if they can fly across the country and give the home team a game.
West Virginia vs. Virginia Tech in Landover, MD
Both these schools are coming off 10-win seasons and nearly identical rankings (18 for WV, 16 for Tech). Throw in the neutral site part of it, and this should be a tight one.
Maryland at Texas
Tom Herman gets what appears to be a softball to open up his account at UT. But Texas lost to Cal and Kansas — Kansas! — last year, and Maryland eked into a bowl game, so who knows? Actually, it's probably pretty smart to not bet one way or another on a Longhorn game for another couple of seasons at least, they've been pretty schizophrenic.
Louisville vs. Purdue in Indianapolis
How nice for Purdue. They get to try to strengthen their ties with their state's biggest city, in a crowded state for elite college sports. Too bad they're gonna get frog-stomped by Louisville, which itself is less than two hours away from Indy.
Texas A&M at UCLA
Last year, Texas A&M pulled it out in overtime. This year, though they are going on the road, I expect the Aggies to pull it out in regulation and get the fan base all excited before their usual November swoon.
Alabama vs. Florida State in Atlanta
Unquestionably, the game of Week 1. As I said, times and TV info have not been announced, but I'd be stunned it this wasn't the ABC primetime game. Alabama hasn't lost two games in a row since they closed out the 2013 season with losses to Auburn and Oklahoma. They didn't lose any other games that season.
BYU vs LSU in Houston
So is BYU doing the Notre Dame thing now, where they play a couple neutral site games every year to appeal to their nationwide fan base? Does BYU have a nationwide fan base? Are there a lot of Mormons in Houston? I would expect the crowd to be decisively in the Tigers' favor, as I would the result of the game.
Florida vs Michigan in Arlington
Michigan is losing a lot — Jabrill Peppers just declared for the NFL draft, and Florida finished the year by thrashing a team that beat Michigan. If Michigan pulls this out, expect them to battle Ohio State again for the Big Ten East title.
Monday, Sept. 4
Tennessee vs. Georgia Tech in Atlanta
The ACC Labor Day prime time game tradition continues, but this one is comparatively a dud. Georgia Tech, really? Until someone shows some sustained mettle, this game should always include Florida State, Clemson, or Virginia Tech.