TALLADEGA, AL - OCTOBER 22: A fan looks on from the stands during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Coca-Cola 250 powered by fred's at Talladega Superspeedway on October 22, 2011 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images)
Alabama-Michigan headlines the first Saturday of college football in 2012. But what else should you watch? Here's our TV guide.
With this Saturday being the first full glorious day of football, casual college fans and diehards alike are probably prepping their thumbs for the remote gymnastics necessary to keep up with a full day's worth of action. Let this be your guide to winning the Couch Championship of Week 1, and may your team win or lose spectacularly enough to remind you why you care.
Your guide to the guide: First Choice means this is a must-see game in that block; Last Button Option means you should have that "last" or "return" button on your remote ready to flick back during commercials; Know The (Channel) Numbers runs down games you'll want to find when Twitter tells you something nutty happened; Cover The Spread is a suggestion for how to feed yourself during this period.
Morning Block (9 a.m. to noon Eastern)
First Choice: Notre Dame vs. Navy (9 a.m. Eastern, CBS). The game, being played in Dublin, kicks off at 9 a.m., meaning that you will be able to watch live football with your cereal or eggs or crepes. This could be a game between Texas State and Purdue and it would still be the first choice, because live action trumps studio shows by merely being football and not talk about it, but Notre Dame will be without Tommy Rees and Cierre Wood
Last Button Option: College GameDay (9-10 a.m. on ESPNU, 10-noon on ESPN) is on, and there will be fun stuff to see there during commercial breaks, surely, but I can't in good conscience recommend that over the possibility of Navy beating the Irish in front of the Irish.
Cover The Spread: Eggs make a good morning meal for anyone heading out to tailgate in the sun on the first day of September. Pancakes and waffles are slightly less advisable.
Afternoon Block (noon to 3 p.m. Eastern)
First Choice: West Virginia vs. Marshall (noon, FX). Other games in this time slot may feature better teams than West Virginia, but none of those squads are nearly as entertaining, and the Mountaineers' aerial attack could be the prettiest thing we'll see all day if Geno Smith is in fine form. This is also a pseudo-rivalry game, in that both teams are from West Virginia and there's an awful name for it, but Marshall's never won in 11 meetings, the Herd have only been within a touchdown twice (in 1911 and 2010), and there are 92-6 and 81-0 routs in the 'Eers' favor in series history.
Last Button Options: Ohio State vs. Miami (Ohio) (noon, Big Ten Network). One of the stories of the 2012 college football season is Urban Meyer's return to the sidelines, and the Buckeyes do have a talented roster led by Braxton Miller. But this is the best option for the fan who wants to know what FirstTake will argue about on Monday more than she wants to enjoy football.
Penn State vs. Ohio (noon, ESPN). Recommended for those who want to ignore a game as it is turned into a referendum for the better part of four quarters ... then catch what could be a good finish if Ohio can survive what should be a tremendously inspired start by the Nittany Lions.
Know The (Channel) Numbers: Georgia vs. Buffalo (noon, SEC Network); Syracuse vs. Northwestern (noon, ESPN2).
Cover The Spread: Halftime of these games is a good time to get out the snacks, fire up the grill if you're cooking and not just grilling, or make the run for adult beverages of various sorts. But the next window's weak enough that you can wait a little while and miss some of the next games if these turn out to be snoozers.
Late Afternoon Block (3 to 7 p.m. Eastern)
First Choice: Florida vs. Bowling Green (3:30 p.m. Eastern, ESPN). It's Urban Meyer's former team against Urban Meyer's former team, for one, but the Gators' immense talent-to-wins ratio makes them compelling. Bowling Green isn't much of a foe, but Will Muschamp's team is going to do the day's most entertaining planned trick, alternating quarterbacks by quarter, and will be prepping for a rare two-week September road trip to Texas A&M and Tennessee. If Florida finds things bumpy at home, it will portend ill.
Last Button Options: Nebraska vs. Southern Miss (3:30 p.m., ABC or ESPN2). Southern Miss, the 2011 Conference USA champion, has a chance to hang with the Cornhuskers, but with Larry Fedora and Austin Davis gone, this game should come down to whether Taylor Martinez is Good T-Magic or Bad T-Magic. And even Good T-Magic tends to be spectacular for a couple of plays and unremarkable for most.
Know The (Channel) Numbers: Wisconsin vs. Northern Iowa (3:30 p.m, Big Ten Network); Boston College vs. Miami (3:30, ABC or ESPN2).
Cover The Spread: You definitely want to have your meat on the grill by halftime of these games if you're looking to have your dinner digest before you settle in for the night games, but the key to timing calls for pizza is to predict when everyone else will and zag accordingly. In a college town, that's going to be getting the order in by the first few minutes of the second quarter to make sure the food arrives during halftime; in a place where you're able to be a bit more selective, you're just going to want to build in a little lead time to make sure it arrives during a lull.
Evening Block (7 to 11 p.m. Eastern)
First Choice: Michigan vs. Alabama in Dallas (8 p.m. Eastern, ABC). This is the best game of the week almost by default (only other game with two ranked teams: Friday's Michigan State-Boise State tilt), and it'll either be good from early on no matter if Denard Robinson gets free or Alabama's defense shuts him down. Besides, games in the gargantuan Cowboys Stadium feel big, and you're going to feel like you're watching undercards if you're watching anything else while the outcome is in doubt in this one.
Last Button Options: Auburn vs. Clemson in Atlanta (7 p.m., ESPN). By far the best of those undercards, even though this game lacks the most exciting player on either roster (Clemson's suspended star Sammy Watkins). And with both teams' reputations being for inconsistency, this game could be wild, and serve as a fine complement to the clash of the more austere titans in Texas.
USC vs. Hawai'i (7:30 p.m., FOX). If you want points, at least from one team, this is your place. Matt Barkley, Marqise Lee, and Robert Woods should shred the Warriors' subpar pass defense, and the Trojans' defense will likely have no problem holding Hawai'i at bay. This game mostly serves as a showcase for how good USC can be against teams that don't threaten it, but if the Trojans want to make it look ugly, they can.
Know The (Channel) Numbers: LSU vs. North Texas (7 p.m., ESPNU); Texas vs. Wyoming (8 p.m., Longhorn Network); Florida State vs. Murray State (6 p.m., ESPN3.com).
Cover The Spread: Here's hoping you have a chance to move from the cooler to the fridge and enjoy what should be a non-depleted stock of drinks with alcohol in them before the 8 p.m. kickoff of 'Bama-Big Blue.
Late Night Block (10:00 p.m. Eastern onward)
First Choice: Oregon vs. Arkansas State (10:30 p.m., ESPN). Chip Kelly's offense, Malzahn's offense, and a light load of games from the Left Coast should be enough to make this a no-brainer to have on as Saturday melts into Sunday.
Last Button Options: Oklahoma at UTEP (10:30 p.m., FSN). Wanna see a team lose by 60? Here you go.
Know The Numbers: Washington vs. San Diego State (10:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network); Arizona vs. Toledo (10 p.m., ESPNU).
Cover The Spread: Drink red wine while watching Oregon. You will feel 36 percent more Oregonian.