There are approximately three things you need to know about offseason college football. The first is that it's already happening everywhere anyway, as some teams have already started their official spring practices, but the rest have all been doing offseason workouts for some time now. When your friends complain about football never, ever stopping, just show them this. It really never does!
The second is that rosters will completely change by the time non-spring football begins. Most incoming freshmen still have yet to take their first classes, players will be arrested, players will be injured, players will be "injured," and we've still got seven months worth of transfers still to go. Don't get too attached to anybody.
And the third is that spring games, which conclude spring festivities, are one of the most important events on the college football calendar. A team's complete depth chart will be set in stone on this date, early enrollees will establish their entire four-year careers as successes or JOKES, and fan attendance will determine exactly how warm the head coach's seat is entering the season. The whole upper bowl was empty? He's got four games worth of rope. A bad spring game sets up a program for so much failure, worst of all being a bad spring game the next year.
Here's the spring football schedule as best we know it. These things are never unilaterally organized. Some teams have yet to announce their spring games, some aren't having spring games, and some teams may have vanished without anybody noticing. Please send in any corrections.
Spring Football Itself Features Non-Spring Football: Beginning spring practice before the 2012 vernal equinox (March 20 at 1:14 a.m. ET) are more than 60 teams, with six (the Georgia Bulldogs, Iowa St. Cyclones, Syracuse Orange, Connecticut Huskies, Buffalo Bulls, and Akron Zips) starting spring football mere hours after spring begins. It makes sense that South Alabama wants to get an early jump on things, as they've never done this before, and hail the Army Black Knights for leading us into 2012 just days after the Super Bowl, but what's your rush, Texas Tech Red Raiders?
The SEC Secrecy Society: Until this weekend, most of the SEC had yet to reveal when it would begin not letting reporters into its spring practices anyway. But, Monday morning, only three schools had spring game dates but no spring practice start dates and remained shrouded: Nick Saban's Alabama Crimson Tide, Nick Saban Padawan Will Muschamp's Florida Gators, and the mighty Akron Zips, piloted by Terry Bowden. An SEC man to the end, Akron has now relented.
The Most Spring Football Days: March 19 is not spring, but still features more schools starting spring football than any other date. But more than 40 teams all hold their spring games on April 14, by far the most "spring game date" on the 2012 calendar. Practice attendance braggadocio will be at its peak on this date. It's kind of like pollen, except the best way to avoid it is to stay outside.
Friday Night Lights: Schools with Friday spring games: the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, BYU Cougars, Houston Cougars, San Jose St. Spartans, Bowling Green Falcons, Toledo Rockets, and Idaho Vandals. And of course Army, who must appear in every category. Just missing: TCU, scheduled for a Thursday, so as to free up the weekend, OH NO, TCU PLAYERS FREE FOR A WHOLE WEEKEND!
Something Something Something Faith Hill: Sunday night football participants: the Texas Longhorns, Fresno St. Bulldogs, Eastern Michigan Eagles, and UT-San Antonio. Also Fresno State's going on a Wednesday!
Eying The Attendance Scoreboard: Rivals holding their spring games on the same days: Alabama and Auburn, Georgia and Auburn, Stanford and USC, Clemson and South Carolina, Florida State and Miami, Iowa and Iowa State, Oregon and Oregon State, and Wake Forest and Vanderbilt. It's true! Wake Forest and Vanderbilt play a rivalry game! They hate each other. Florida and Tulsa are not rivals.