Can you smell that, sports fans? The freshly cut grass? The grill at the tailgate loaded up with low-sodium, turkey kielbasa? The stumbling guy with matching hat and jersey who has had way too much to drink hours before tip-off? That’s right. It’s that time of year again and we are all ready for some football.
That means we can hunker down in front of the tube this weekend and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. Here’s what you should be watching.
To the delight of everyone who resides outside Gator Nation, we only have about twelve more opportunities to watch Tim Tebow walk on Swamp water. Enjoy it while it lasts. In their opener against Charleston Southern, the Gators didn’t appear to miss Percy Harvin all that much, as they averaged 11 yards a carry and 14 yards a reception. Expect much of the same against Troy, their ‘scrimmage’ before conference play. If you like offense, be sure to tune in to the first half of the Florida game before Tebow sits the bench.
If you’re going to watch only one football game this weekend, make sure this is the one. Never has a meaningless game been so meaningful, at least in Columbus, Ohio. The loser of this game can still win their conference and even conceivably play for a national championship. But after last year’s 35-3 beat down, many feel Ohio State needs to exact revenge against Southern Cal, not only for its program but for its conference. Can Ohio State stop USC’s ground game? Can they put pressure on freshman QB Matt Barkley? Can Ohio State’s Terrelle Pryor will his team to victory? If you’re not fortunate enough to attend this game in person, turn up the volume on your television sets. The Horseshoe should be rockin’.
It wasn’t long ago (last year) that these two teams sucked. In 2008, Michigan was a lowly 3-9 and Notre Dame was 7-6, which was the best season they’d had in years. The good news is it looks like head coaches Charlie Weis and Rich Rodriguez have turned things around for two of the nation’s most storied programs. In their first two games, Michigan and Notre Dame won by a combined score of 66-7. While Michigan Stadium might not hold the mystique of years past, at least not for Appalachian State, this game should determine which one of these teams is for real and which still has work to do before once again returning to prosperity.
The Badgers are consistently one of the most difficult home teams to play in the Big Ten but Fresno State is no slouch – this is a team that only two years ago went 9-4 and they scored 51 points in their home opener. They could pose a problem for Wisconsin. Both teams feature two running backs that should see plenty of carries, so if you like a knock-down, drag out rushing attack, this could be the game to watch. Wisconsin, who went 3-5 last year, will need to be careful of a pesky WAC team, who’s not coming in for a friendly visit.
Last year UCLA stunned Tennessee in an overtime 27-24 thriller to kick off the season. Then both teams went on to have disappointing years. Tennessee finished 5-7, resulting in the end of Phillip Fulmer’s tenure and the eventual ushering in of Lane Kiffin. Similarly, UCLA finished 4-8. Both programs are looking for new beginnings and appear well on their way, or at least they did in week one. UT put up 63 points in their home opener against Western Kentucky while UCLA beat up on San Diego State, 33-14. This will be Tennessee’s last tune-up before next weekend’s much anticipated visit to the Swamp.
Will the Michael Vick experiment work? How will he ultimately be used? Will PETA protestors picket passionately? Philadelphia fans won’t need to worry about those questions for at least two more weeks when Vick’s suspension is lifted but this is still a tough road opener for the Eagles. The game should determine whether the best of the NFC South can compete with the NFC East. The winner will also get an early leg up in the NFC playoff race.
Any NFC East division game is worth watching. The ‘Skins and Giants both have a lot of questions that could be answered in the first week. Will Jason Campbell finally emerge as the quarterback the Redskins hope he can be? Will the Giants be able to cope with the loss of Plaxico Burress? And what of the Osi Umenyiora and his alleged dispute with new defensive coordinator, resulting in his skipping practice? Can the Giants put these issues behind them? In the NFL, winning cures all ills. But if the Giants drop their home opener, expect the New York media to perpetuate the soap opera.
Jay Cutler’s first game as the new Bears’ quarterback will rudely welcome him to the NFC North. While there likely won’t be any frozen tundra in Green Bay in mid-September, Lambeau Field is still one of the most intimidating stadiums to visit. While the Cutler era begins in Chicago, Green Bay is one more full season removed from their Brett Favre drama and looks to rebound from a disappointing 6-10 season.