Labor day weekend is quickly coming upon us and that means it's college football season. No need to get stressed about coming up with an excuse to fake an illness on Monday, because Uncle Sam is looking out for us. But that doesn't mean your work is done.
The most important job this weekend isn't going to the store to get chips, spend quality time with your significant other, or to do that assignment that's due Monday at midnight. No, it's working on how to efficiently spend your time watching each game. If you're a fan of a certain team and want to just spend all of your time on that game fine. Everyone else will just have more fun than you.
Thursday: UConn vs. 21. UCF - ESPNU
In my eyes, it's always tradition to watch the first game of the year. And man what a "GREAT" game it's going to be. It's the civil conflict, the defending champion the University of Central Florida starting off their season looking to get the respect they deserve! They will kick off on Thursday against a school with rich tradition and competitive fire and that school is... UConn? Wow. In case you couldn't tell this game isn't going to be one for the ages. I meant what I said about always tuning into the first game of the weekend, but this could be a glance and dance kind of game. There are some interesting story lines laced throughout this "contest."
How will UCF start off after claiming a title? Will UConn's young core overachieve and be able to stay in the game? How many times will the announcers bring up the claimed championship? How many times will the announcers bring up UConn basketball? I could go on.
But if (when) this game gets out of hand I suggest that you turn it over to Northwestern and Purdue on ESPN. It starts about an hour after this one and that's about all the time it should deserve. The two schools also have a history of being at around the same level of talent so it should be a decent watch.
Prediction: UCF by all of the points — UConn's empty stadium.
That's right no score for this one.
Friday: 13. Stanford vs. SDSU - Fox
It's the first Friday "trap" game of the year... sort of. The Aztecs are coming off one of their best seasons in the history of the program. They won 10 games last year and had one of the best running backs in the country in Rashaad Penny. Although Penny has moved onto the NFL, junior running-back Juwan Washington is ready to take on the load. Their defense which was a working progress last year has more experience and they also have some stability at quarterback. But the big draw with this game is Bryce Love. The Heisman trophy favorite is returning for his senior season in pursuit of a championship ( I wouldn't hold my breath). He had a great year last year, but usually, when a high profile player returns for their senior season it turns out to be a little underwhelming. So will Love fall in line with the rest of the disappointing seniors? Or will he break the chain and have a repeat of his junior year? That's how you sell somebody on a Pac-12 game.
Speaking of the Pac-12 the game is going to be a late one. Sorry but if you haven't noticed football gets played on the west coast too, so you'll need to preoccupy yourself until then. I suggest tuning into Army at Duke on ESPNU because everyone should support the troops as they face America's greatest villain.
Predictions: Bryce Love has a good game.
Stanford 24 - SDSU 13
Early Saturday: 7. Oklahoma vs FAU - FS1
Easily the most intriguing game of the morning in terms of matchup. Lane Kiffin lead FAU to it's first bowl birth and win in 9 years. Now they are in the national spotlight and are cashing in that fame as they travel to Oklahoma to take on the Sooners. Another popular story to follow is the transition at quarterback for Oklahoma. It's Kyle Murray's team now and the big question will be how well he can fill Baker Mayfield's shoes. I expect a whole lot of offense in this one. There are two offensive guru's at work in Kiffin and head coach Lincoln Riley. Oklahoma doesn't get a whole lot better on defense from last year, so FAU should be able to hang around.
If you get bored of this one, or for some reason you don't have access to FS1 then I'd probably say watch Ohio St. vs Oregon State. Lead by Urb... Ryan Day, the Buckeyes have a new starting quarterback for the millionth time in a row (I know JT Barrett started the last two years, but you know what I mean). I'm not going to sugar coat it, I don't give the Beavers much of a shot. But the country would love to see them put up a fight.
Prediction: I'm not saying Oklahoma's on upset alert but... no, I can't do that
Oklahoma 34 - FAU 21
Mid Saturday: 6. Washington vs 9. Auburn - ABC
This is probably the most important game in the history of Washington football. Because the Pac-12 is so weak they need to win against Auburn and also run win the conference. The committee has already shown in its past selections that they do not respect the conference champion, they need to play big boy football outside of it. And that leads us to Auburn. They have much less pressure on them by default. The pressures of this game can be summed up by looking at this as if the two teams were working together on a school project. Washington is the kid who is always on edge and worried about staying on task because they don't want to disappoint their parents (the committee). Auburn is the kid who's just cool with getting a B and moving on with their life.
This game, just like most football games will ultimately come down to quarterback play but it will also be the running backs that will make the biggest difference. Jake Browning is returning for his senior season along with running back Myles Gaskin in the backfield. Auburn brings back Jarret Stidham but lost Kerryon Johnson to the NFL draft this past year. The game will come down to which team can slug it out in the trenches because both squads also have extremely talented defenses. If you can run the football that will take more pressure off of the quarterback.
Now, if Washington rolls over like they typically do in these games, the next best game is probably no 17. West Virginia vs. Tennessee. Jeremy Pruit is the man calling the shots for the volunteers, so maybe they have a new life (again don't hold your breath)? But if not, then you can just watch Will Grier sling it all over the field. That's always fun.
Prediction: I hate Auburn, but I'm also an educated man.
Auburn 31 - Washington 17
Saturday night: 1. Alabama vs Louisville - ABC
It isn't a question of if this might get out of hand, it's when will it get out of hand. The big draw for this game is obviously who will start at quarterback for the crimson tide. But a recent report from everyone's grumpy southern grandpa Paul Finebaum and he heard from a collection of the boosters that Tua is far and away the best option. You can take that with a grain of salt, but in my professional opinion he can run just as good as Jalen and he's obviously a better passer so I'd say it's a safe bet to make Tua the starter. Now if you just read that and are thinking "oh well I guess I've got no reason to watch" then your A not an Alabama fan or B an Auburn fan. If none of those fit your description then you should tune into the game, unless your one of those kids who likes to leave after the first quarter because it's "too hot in the upper bowl". Grow up we've all been there. You don't have to watch the whole thing, just until you feel sad for Louisville.
I feel as if I can go on a rant like this because of the state the Cardinals are in. They just lost Lamar Jackson to the NFL, so there really isn't much of an offensive identity. And they are going to have to defend an Alabama offense where they need to prepare for two quarterbacks and have their entire O-line returning. They just really don't have a shot in this one.
Prediction: Alabama could start the current Freddie Kitchens and win by 21 (use Google kids).
Alabama 31 - Louisville 10
But when this game gets REAL ugly or if you fit the descriptions I laid out, then you should probably go to this.
Saturday night: 12. Notre Dame vs 14. Michigan - NBC
This game probably has the highest stakes of them all. Both coaches badly need this to fend off the media. Both teams need to prove that they can put it all together this year. This will be the best game of the weekend. If you have no allegiance to any team, I'd get real excited for this one. Brian Kelly is coming off a career-saving season with the Fighting Irish and is trying to show the playoff committee that his team is ready to become part of the conversation. The way Kelly has scheduled his opponents this year, would all but guarantee one of the four spots if they were to finish 12-0.
Jim Harbaugh is also in the same boat as Kelly. He too is not only trying to prove to the committee that he can win a big game but also to his critics. Harbaugh gets knocked around a lot by the media because he can't win a big game. Although there have been many factors that contributed to those loses (bad spots by refs, poor officiating, a bad snap) some just can't look past the final score. And in this day in age, that's all it takes for someone to get fired.
To me, neither team has a really high powered offense. Notre Dame was always more of a ball control kind of team, and Michigan's new quarterback Shea Patterson is making his first start in more than a year. But both teams have monstrous defenses, the Wolverines in particular. But the difference in this game is not going to be the head coaches, but the coordinators. Specifically, Michigan's defensive coordinator Don Brown who I think is currently the best at what he does. For that reason alone I'm going to give them the edge.
Prediction: The Fighting Irish go down with a fight.
Michigan 17 - Notre Dame 14
Sunday 8. Miami vs 25 LSU
Sunday, fortunately, doesn't give you much of a choice in terms of what to watch (saves me some research too). So when the Tigers take on the hurricanes you better be content. And for the most part, you should be. It's a classic matchup of two programs who are trying to reach the heights of previous seasons. Although Miami is much closer to that LSU is still prone to putting up a decent fight (unless it's against Troy). That being said, with the U's ball hawks on defense, I see them giving new quarterback Joe Burrow a lot of trouble. He's barely played any college games and this isn't exactly an ease in a new player kind of game.
Prediction: The names of the programs will ultimately be more intriguing than the actual game
Miami 24: LSU 10 (I'm calling at least two interceptions)
Monday: 19. Florida State vs 20. Virginia Tech
Welp, we're finally here. The end of the weekend and we're all dreading the Tuesday that brings our normal miserable lives back. But hey, at least the week is one day shorter. Anyway, Florida State and Virginia Tech... can't say I'm super excited for this one. To me, FSU is criminally overrated this year. They just lost their head coach Jimbo Fisher to Texas A&M and replaced him with Willie Taggart who really didn't deserve the job. You also lose important pieces on defense like a guy named Derwin James (he's good). Then you add in the fact that Deondre Francois is coming off a major injury and also had to compete for his job. This all really isn't looking good for the Seminoles.
That being said Virginia Tech isn't really going to be the team that will exploit all of this. VT is super young on defense and has kicked two of their starting corners off of the team. They two have questions at quarterback with the young Josh Jackson who is looking to improve upon the rather average year he had in 2017. But the difference in this game is coaching. I really like Justin Fuentes and think that he is pretty underrated when people talk about the second tier of coaches.
Prediction: It should be a pretty close game, but expect an ugly one.
Virginia Tech 24 - Florida State 21
Happy college football watching and Labor Day!