After the first week of action, college football's September schedule is usually a pretty barren one. Last week, fans' best choices were two SEC showdowns with ranked members of the old guard taking down Big 12 expatriates; this week, Michigan State's second major test of the season, against an untested Notre Dame team, is the headliner. But few things are better than sitting in a comfy chair in front of a big TV, and so Control Your Remote is here to help.
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. All times listed are Eastern.
Morning Block (9 a.m. to noon Eastern)
First Choice: College GameDay (10 a.m. to noon, ESPN), as usual. Derek Dooley's orange pants will apparently be featured. Plus, we all get to see if Lee Corso will pick against Florida for the second straight week and make Will Muschamp's Gators the early favorite for the Disrespect Bowl!
Cover The Spread: Make bacon. I realize the Internet hates bacon, but just trust me on this.
Midday Block (noon to 3 p.m. Eastern)
First Choice: Florida State vs. Wake Forest (noon, ESPN). This is Florida State's first game against a non-FCS school, and so it is the Seminoles' first chance to screw up what could be a fantastic season by dropping a game they shouldn't to a middling ACC team. Get excited! That probably won't actually happen, alas, but viewers will still get to see a FSU team that is head-and-shoulders above its competition, and especially hulking wideout Kelvin Benjamin, who could become one of the nation's best by season's end.
Last Button Options: Ohio State vs. California (noon, ABC). Urban Meyer's Buckeyes play their first game against a BCS conference foe, and Braxton Miller gets to run it 20 times against the Bears. That's not a joke: Miller has 44 carries in two games, 12th nationally and first among quarterbacks. Meyer's teams have tended to ride reliable horses until they break down (Tim Tebow never did, which was good), and Miller's sophomore season seems likely to follow that pattern.
Auburn vs. Louisiana-Monroe (12:21 p.m., SEC Network and ESPN3). Auburn is 0-2, and didn't look particularly competitive last week in a loss to Mississippi State. Last Saturday night, the Warhawks (Warhawks!) upset Arkansas in one of the season's most memorable games. Watching ULM try to do it again is a decent reason to find out if you get the SEC Network.
Know The (Channel) Numbers: Pittsburgh vs. Virginia Tech (noon, ESPNU); Nebraska vs. Arkansas State (noon, ESPN2).
Cover The Spread: There's a fairly good chance we'll have a bunch of uncompetitive games after halftime in this window, but the next nine hours or so are going to be nonstop good games. If you can secure your food plans for the night in the early afternoon, you're doing good work.
USC-Stanford the BCS Impact Game || Tennessee over Florida in Week 3 picks
Late Afternoon Block (3 to 6 p.m. Eastern)
First Choice: Arkansas vs. Alabama (3:30 p.m., CBS). Alabama's SEC opener is a good game, no matter what: it's the first chance to see the Crimson Tide against a team that is very familiar with its personnel and scheme, and the first big CBS afternoon game of the fall. That this opener is diminished significantly by Arkansas' loss last week, its perception going from a matchup of legitimate national championship contenders to a game that looks like an Alabama rout, isn't a big deal. The folksy team of Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson just sort of sound like college football at this point, and this is fans' first chance to marinate in old-style SEC football of 2012.
Last Button Options: Louisville vs. North Carolina (3:30 p.m., ABC or ESPN2). North Carolina looked great in its season opener, then lost to Wake Forest. Louisville has looked good against Kentucky and Morgan State. This is pretty clearly the best second option to Arky-'Bama; this afternoon period is not a good window.
Know The (Channel) Numbers: SMU vs. Texas A&M (3:30 p.m, FSN); Penn State vs. Navy (3:30, ABC or ESPN2).
Cover The Spread: If you didn't finalize your dinner plans earlier, you'll have a chance at halftime of these games. But you'll want to get the food in the house/at the tailgate/on the way before 6 p.m., when one of the day's best games starts.
Evening Block (6 to 11 p.m. Eastern)
First Choices: Tennessee vs. Florida (6 p.m., ESPN); Michigan State vs. Notre Dame (8 p.m. Eastern, ABC). We're going to have to cheat here to put a rare 6 p.m. game in the evening block, but the Tennessee-Florida clash is one of the three games featuring two ranked teams, and it's really the best last button option during the last bit of the Arkansas-Alabama game and the first half of the Michigan State-Notre Dame game. Tyler Bray leads a strong Vols passing attack against a Gators defense that shut out Texas A&M in the second half last Saturday, and both Florida and Tennessee appear to be ascending, something both teams haven't been at once in the rivalry in a while.
But the Michigan State-Notre Dame game is going to feel bigger and probably be more important in the long run. The Florida-Tennessee winner could win the SEC East, but probably won't be able to win the SEC; Michigan State can remain a national title contender by beating the Irish, while Notre Dame winning big would vault it into those same discussions. The Spartans don't play exciting football, instead relying on workhorse Le'Veon Bell and a stout defense, but Notre Dame's ranked on the basis of a big win over a possibly awful Navy squad and an escape against Purdue. If Brian Kelly's Golden Domers are actually good, this would be a good time for them to demonstrate it.
Last Button Options: Stanford vs. USC (7:30 p.m., FOX). USC's first test of 2012 comes in the form of Andrew Luck-less Stanford, which looked far better in a Week 2 rout of Duke than a struggle against San Jose State in Week 1. Still, the Trojans look to be much better than the Cardinal, with an offense that should put up 40 points and force Stanford to keep up in Palo Alto.
Know The (Channel) Numbers: LSU vs. Idaho (8 p.m., ESPN3); Ole Miss vs. Texas (ESPN, 9:15 p.m.).
Cover The Spread: Drinking is probably advisable for Florida, Tennessee, and Notre Dame fans. Stanford fans can join, too, but with shiraz or something.
Late Night Block (10 p.m. Eastern onward)
First Choice: Utah vs. BYU (10 p.m., ESPN2). This rivalry game is called the Holy War for a variety of reasons, but its recent contentiousness is as good as any: three of the last five games have been determined by three points or fewer, two have gone to overtime, and Utah's 54-10 win at BYU in 2011 seems likely to be repaid by a much better Cougars team in Salt Lake City in 2012.
Last Button Option: UCLA vs. Houston (10:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network). Diehards, likely the only people awake at this point, can be forgiven for thinking the Bruins and Cougars have played in each of the last 10 years.
Know The (Channel) Numbers: Hawai'i vs. Lamar (midnight, Oceanic PPV). I just wanted to note that Hawai'i is playing on something called Oceanic PPV.
Cover The Spread: Ice cream, of course.
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