Feast of Bones: Thursday night storylines
Consuming tonight's kickoff slate of college football games is the sports equivalent of drinking vanilla extract to get a buzz. You might not like how it makes you feel, but you're sick enough not to care where you get your fix. Below, a list of every televised game taking place in America on Thursday. National TV listings provided where available.
In this corner, football teams you'll be able to see on television all year:
• Murray State @ Louisville, 6:00 p.m. (ESPNU)
Sunny Will Stein, America's sweetheart in cleats, tops Louisville's depth chart at quarterback. He'll share time with two backups, including blue-chip freshman Teddy Bridgewater. With a significantly back-loaded schedule, will Charlie Strong give his former walk-on time to develop as more than a chronological leader, or will Bridgewater be running the show by the Cardinals' November date with West Virginia?
• UNLV @ Wisconsin, 8:00 p.m. (ESPN)
Crucial point, for anybody who thought there'd be a competitive game afoot here: This is not the good Nevada. The Wolf Pack open play Saturday against New Mexico. Here you're getting the Runnin' Rebels, who finished 2010 with a 2-11 record under a first-year coach and who, even with immense offseason strides, could not possibly hope to keep pace with a Badgers squad gunning for a Rose Bowl bid. And what you'll see tonight is No. 11 Wisconsin breaking in coveted transfer quarterback and newly-elected captain Russell Wilson in the first act of a four-part dress rehearsal. No. 10 Nebraska comes to Camp Randall one month from today, and it's generally accepted that whichever team is left standing that day will comfortably occupy the driver's seat for the conference championship.
• Mississippi State @ Memphis, 8:00 p.m. (FSN)
Same as above, to a degree that might surprise sleepy viewers. Memphis might be the worst team in college football, and this is not your big brother's Missy State. With some luck against LSU in Week 3, the Bulldogs could stroll into Athens with a 4-0 record come October.
• Montana State @ Utah, 8:00 p.m.
What an auspicious start to the Utes' Pac-12 tenure!
• Kentucky vs. Western Kentucky, 9:15 p.m. (ESPNU)
Yes, two Kentucky schools are playing a Thursday-night game in Nashville. It ought to be against the law to show Big Red on television after dark.
• UC-Davis @ Arizona State, 10:00 p.m.
The over/under on the number of plays before Vontaze Burfict gets to inflict a personal foul on a guy he doesn't have to share a locker room with is set at two.
And in this corner ... everybody else:
• Western Illinois @ Sam Houston State, 7:00 p.m.
SHSU's mascot is the "Bearkat," which I'm not convinced is a real animal.
• Illinois State @ Eastern Illinois, 7:30 p.m.
Eastern Illinois produced both Sean Payton and Tony Romo, if any NFC fans are wondering who's to blame.
• West Alabama @ South Alabama, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN3)
Look in on this one, if you've got the Internet capabilities. No, for real. South Alabama will be in the Sun Belt before you know it.
• Drake @ North Dakota, 8:00 p.m.
Home of one of the most interesting team nickname fights in NCAA history.
• Massachusetts @ Holy Cross, 8:00 p.m.
See here another I-A hatchling team in the Minutemen, scheduled to begin MAC play in 2012.
• Bowling Green @ Idaho, 9:00 p.m.About three jobs ago, I mistyped a soft swipe at the Vandals, typing "yarbnalls" where I meant to type "yarnballs" in reference to a game they actually ended up winning. The Yarbnalls clearly have unknowable powers to know when they're being slighted, and will never be mocked in this establishment, unless Robb Akey shaves off his mustache.