Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
Because tomorrow is only 232 or so days away. Here are 15 games from Week 1 of the 2013 college football season you can start obsessing over. Have a good offseason, and we'll see you on the other side.
Of course this is logical - it's certainly more so than the bounty of, "ha ha waaaaay too-early 2013 Top 10!" rankings you'll see this week. These are real, scheduled games set to kickoff on or around Aug. 31, which is in less than eight months. If anything, we're a little late on this, and we apologize.
A quick note - as of press time, only four of the six BCS partner conferences have released the bulk of the 2013 schedule, with the Big East still operating under military law and the Pac-12 using Apple product development schedules to ensure maximum anticipation.
But even with a limited slate, here are 15 good reasons to construct the world's largest Advent calendar:
Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic, Alabama vs. Virginia Tech (Atlanta): The reigning champions are undefeated at the Kickoff, and will meet a Hokies team recovering from a 7-6 effort in 2012. Virginia Tech will need to find an offense, hope defensive standouts James Gayle and Antone Exum don't leave for the NFL Draft and probably also build some sort of giant robot or big laser to combat the unstoppable Tide monster controlling our lands.
Cowboys Classic, LSU vs. TCU (Arlington): TCU has yet to welcome back estranged QB Casey Pachall, so LSU should be the favorite for its second Jerryworld opener. But the Tigers have already been decimated by early NFL Draft defections on defense. No worries though, because hey, Les Miles and company can shift to an offensive-minded team under Zach Mettenberger! (oh no wait start worrying).
Texas Kickoff Classic, Oklahoma State vs. Mississippi State (Houston): Neither school looked as impressive in 2012 as they did in 2011, which in OSU's case means they only finished 4th nationally in total offense. Tyler Russell will improve at quarterback, but if MSU can't shore up a defense that was gashed late this year (34 or more points given up in five of their last six games), this could be some season-opening schadenfreude for the anti-SEC lot.
Penn State vs. Syracuse (East Rutherford, NJ): Usually when you see the phrase, "This game might as well be [troubled team's] bowl," that's just lazy-assed editorial writing. But it's about a quarter less cliched here, if only because Bill O'Brien opted to return to Happy Valley instead of bolt for the NFL (something Doug Marrone couldn't resist - and oh wow, the Bills no less!) and the Nittany Lions are still on a postseason ban for 40 years*, so playing in Giants Stadium is as bowl-ish a feel as this team will get in 2013.
*Pending Pennsylvania state elections.
Western Kentucky vs. Kentucky (Nashville): Bobby Petrino was 4-0 against Kentucky, part of the, uh, "mystique?" he built as head coach of Louisville. His road back will begin by testing to see if he can convert Willie Taggart's power run offense into a spread passing attack in time to beat Mark Stoops' new UK team. Also, he will be tested by not humping any of the help. None of them. Not even one.
Clemson vs. Georgia, South Carolina vs. North Carolina
Our ACC Award For Unnecessary Masochism goes to the Gamecocks and Bulldogs, who will meet on Sept. 9 in Athens, but have both scheduled marquee opening opponents the week before and still have to run a full SEC schedule plus their permanent in-state ACC rivals to end the year. Sheesh! Georgia and Clemson noticed this first, and might have thought about calling the whole thing off (hint: they thought about calling the whole thing off) before going ahead with it. The Georgia vs. South Carolina winner has determined the SEC East winner in recent years, except when South Carolina wins and then craps out at LSU a month later while Georgia beats up on Ole Miss. For BCS purposes this is stupid scheduling, but a very viewer-friendly stupid we can get behind.
Boise State vs. Washington: Chris Petersen is very aware that you did not grow sick of hearing terms like BCS buster at all this season, thanks in large part to the very rare opening week loss by the Broncos at Michigan State. The Spartans did what Georgia, Virginia Tech and Oregon had all failed to do in previous season openers, and now Washington will try to drive an early stake in the final Boise vs. the BCS narrative before it can rear its well-coifed Pat Forde head one last time as the 2014 playoffs near.
Vanderbilt vs. Ole Miss: Sure, for decades it's been the Downton Abbey of college football rivalries - a staid, slow affair centered around irrelevant past glories and what the women in attendance are wearing - but save for Kevin Sumlin, this game will feature two of the hottest coaches in the SEC. The 'Dores have 15 wins in two years, and the Rebels could arrive in Nashville with a Top 5 signing day class.
Auburn vs. Washington State: Together these teams combined for only six wins in 2012, but what about this game isn't tailor-made to be watchable? With Mike Leach's offense in Year 2 and Gus Malzahn - and his wife! - back on the Plains, both teams will likely finish bowl-eligible in 2013, but not before they whip the ball around and all us Internet folks GIF and meme and squeal with glee.
Cincinnati vs. Purdue: New coaches! Darrell Hazell will try to teach Purdue how to throw the ball like it's actually been home to all those damn Super Bowl quarterbacks, while Tommy Tuberville will revamp Cincinnati's defense. That could come in handy for the Bearcats, who over the course of a nine-month offseason could change conference affiliations enough times to end up the notoriously points-stingy La Liga.
Cal vs. Northwestern: Sonny Dykes leaves WAC purgatory - where they don't let you play in bowls - to revamp an offense that averaged only 23 points a game this season. Northwestern just capped a 10-win (10!) season and will return quarterback Kain Colter and lose only seven starters. Along with Stanford and Vandy, college football's bleak era of nerd dominance looks to continue unchecked.
Louisville vs. Ohio: Since the Big East's 2013 lineup is uh, lucid, it's safe to say that the team with Teddy Bridgewater that just humbled Florida shouldn't have much resistance punching a nearly automatic ticket back to the BCS. Depending on who's left to play in the conference next season (we hear your Mom's pretty tough), Frank Solich's pesky Bobcats, winners of back-to-back bowls, could be one of the Cardinals' toughest opponents all season.
Arkansas vs. Louisiana-Lafayette: Mark Hudspeth is 18-8 in two years at ULL and was moments away from a career-making SEC upset before that vaunted Florida punt-blocking offense robbed him in Gainesville this season. Retooling under Brett Bielema, could the Hogs lose in consecutive years to Louisiana directionals and still allow for #B1G jokes to be made? Yes indeed.
UCLA vs. Nevada: Welp, football nerds would've rejoiced over a meeting of the pistol minds, but the retirement of Chris Ault and the switch from Rick Neuheisel to Jim L. Mora Jr. and Noel Mazzone in Brentwood will leave us settling for whatever chippy bons mot Jimmy Jr. delivers in his second season with the Bruins - WATCH IT, STUDENT LABOR. Texas A&M assistant Brian Polian will take over the Wolf Pack, but there's no word yet as to whether he'll keep the offense that Mike Shanahan invented* four months ago for the Washington Redskins.
SMU vs. Texas Tech, Iowa vs. Northern Illinois, NC State vs. Louisiana Tech, Minnesota vs. UNLV
Scoff the inclusion of hapless Iowa trying to regain their composure against CinDERPella NIU, or the 2-11 Runnin' Rebels providing a "quality" non-conference opponent for .500 Minnesota: The bottom line is that we don't even want to know what you'd do to watch just one of these games in the middle of June, because however depraved you get, we'd be right there with you.
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