Welcome to the second season of College Football Overtime.
One might argue the past eight months have qualified as their own college football overtime, as the competition between various schools and conferences bled into an offseason dominated by realignment and other off-field drama. Many of us, understandably, can't wait to finally plop down in front of the TV or make our way to the stadium for some real, between-the-stripes football this weekend.
Of course, not all opening-week games are created equal. Around the same time North Carolina takes on LSU at the Georgia Dome on Saturday night, rival North Carolina State will be hosting Western Carolina, one of a staggering 37 Week 1 matchups between FBS and FCS opponents.
Oregon State was originally scheduled to be part of such a contest before ESPN approached AD
"To our athletic director's credit, he really tried to discourage me from [taking] the TCU game," said Beavers coach
Bless you, Mike.
Year after year, Oregon State has been one of the few Top 25-level teams willing to leave its state to take on early-season challengers. The results haven't always been pretty. In 2004, the Beavers lost a slosh-filled heartbreaker at defending BCS champion LSU. Four years ago, they got creamed in a Thursday night game at Boise. Two years ago, Penn State dealt them a 45-14 smackdown in Happy Valley to start the year 0-2.
"After the Penn State game, [my wife]
The reason, as time bore out, was that early-season challenges paid off come conference play. The 2006 Beavers went on to win 10 games. Amid the rubble of that '08 Penn State game, a true freshman running back,
It's become Oregon State's M.O. -- slow starter, fast finisher. In each of the past two years, the Beavers have lost two games in September, and each time they wound up playing for the Pac-10 title in their season-ending Civil War game against Oregon, getting hammered in '08 before losing a 37-33 shootout last season.
Riley scheduled the TCU game in part to allow Rodgers, now a junior, and his brother, senior receiver
"We'll either be tough, or we'll die," he said with a chuckle.
Either way, Riley's team could wind up being a central figure in some of this season's biggest storylines.
Ever since the preseason polls officially decreed Boise State a preseason top-five team, anticipation has mounted that much higher for the Broncos' season-opening showdown with Virginia Tech next Monday night. Both of last year's surprise Fiesta Bowl participants enter 2010 in unchartered territory, ranked high enough to seriously entertain national-title aspirations. As one of the toughest challenges on both of their schedules, Oregon State will have a say in that.
Meanwhile, with USC ineligible for the postseason and Oregon dealing with the loss of star quarterback
Between the dynamic Rodgers brothers (who combined for 4,290 all-purpose yards last season), an experienced offensive line and a veteran, blue-collar defense (led by potential All-America tackle
But that's precisely why Riley figures it's better to hit the ground running.
"I have faith that this team will get tougher [over the course of the season]," he said. "That's what we've done every year for four years, and I see no reason why that will change."
Riley's is a contrarian philosophy for sure, but also an unquestionably refreshing one. If only more of his colleagues followed it.
Saturday night's Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game between No. 18 North Carolina and No. 21 LSU was supposed to provide a first glimpse at the most touted Tar Heels team in more than a decade. Now it's eliciting an entirely different curiosity factor: whether UNC will still be able to field a team.
North Carolina's hopes of a dream season have imploded in a sea of scandal the likes of which we haven't seen in a long, long time. With dual NCAA investigations now taking place -- one involving alleged benefits from agents to players, the other academic misconduct stemming from a tutor who may have written players' papers -- it's believed the Tar Heels could be without as many as
The only remotely similar situation that comes to mind is Wisconsin's "Shoe Box" scandal from 2000, when the school learned on the eve of its opening game that it had to suspend 26 players for one to three games. A season that began filled with promise for the Badgers -- ranked fourth in the preseason AP poll -- ended in the Sun Bowl, and only then after a disappointing 4-4 start. One can easily see a similar scenario unfolding for the Tar Heels, even if some or all of the players wind up serving short suspensions; with so much lineup shuffling, it will be difficult to get into any sort of rhythm.
Ultimately, though, the violations in the Wisconsin case -- athletes were receiving unadvertised discounts at a booster's apparel store -- pale in comparison to the allegations of illicit contact with agents and academic fraud being uncovered at UNC. Throw in the fact that the tutor in question once worked at coach
Look at it this way: The NCAA threw the book at USC based in large part on a three-minute phone call and a photograph that suggested running backs coach
The school's one potential saving grace is that it uncovered the tutor case itself in the course of interviewing players regarding the agent sting. Unlike USC, it was proactive with its compliance. Still, I wouldn't expect the NCAA to show much sympathy when it comes to any academic violations.
Each week, I'll update my projected BCS lineup (as necessary) based on the latest week's games. Here's my preseason edition:
While I'm sure the prospect of another SEC vs. Ohio State championship game will elicit no shortage of groans, almost none of this year's Buckeyes played in either of Ohio State's past two title-game losses, and they shouldn't be judged against ghosts. Instead, they will get the chance to prove themselves against a "fast" opponent when they host Miami on Sept. 11. Defending champ Alabama, meanwhile, may stumble once early as it plugs in new pieces on defense, but it'll still get the benefit of the doubt as SEC champion, even over undefeated Boise State.
Speaking of the Broncos, even if they lose to Virginia Tech, they still could spend New Year's somewhere glamorous. With their high preseason ranking, they'll have no trouble rising back into the top 12, and the Rose Bowl has to take the highest ranked non-AQ team this year if it loses one of its champions. (Boise has a better shot than TCU, which plays Utah on the road late in the season.) UConn and Georgia are my lone "sleeper" teams for now. I still think Florida wins the SEC East, but the Sugar Bowl won't want the Gators back if they lose in Atlanta. The Huskies, meanwhile, get Pitt, West Virginia and Cincinnati all at home.
• Boston College linebacker
• Most assumed
• In a slight surprise, Oregon coach
• BYU coach
• And then there's the quarterback derby that refuses to die: Michigan's. Even late last week, coach
• Two true freshmen, receiver
• Missouri is dealing with the stunning suspension of veteran tailback
• Georgia running back
• UCLA installed the Pistol offense last spring to try to breathe life into a unit that ranked 88th nationally last season, but the Bruins' training camp offered few inklings of optimism. The running game is still struggling. Quarterback
• For the first time in three years, Colorado coach
• Maryland is preparing for Navy's triple-option by practicing without a ball. "It allows those kids to run fast," said Terps coach
• If you've got some college eligibility and you can kick a field goal,
If he hadn't already, Notre Dame coach
Kelly raised a typical round of Notre Dame resentment across the Web last week when he revealed discussions he'd had with broadcast partner NBC about adjusting the length of its commercial breaks to accommodate Kelly's up-tempo system. NBC has agreed to switch from four longer breaks (2:30) to five shorter breaks (1:45) per quarter, according to
Almost immediately, tweeps and writers lamented this latest example of perceived Irish favoritism. What gives a coach the right to dictate how a network does its business? Won't this give Notre Dame an unfair advantage at home?
Actually, in this case, Kelly just wants to be on the same page as everybody else.
As a broadcast network, NBC crams in as many commercials as possible. Unlike ESPN, a cable network, it has no other revenue stream. Also, whereas ESPN shows football for 12 to 14 hours each Saturday, including no shortage of in-game promos and sponsors, NBC only has that three-plus hour window on Saturdays for advertisers to reach the football crowd. Kelly wanted NBC to follow the ESPN ad model, by which nearly every major conference team plays, but it sounds like the compromise was for NBC to mirror its NFL broadcasts.
While it's certainly unusual to hear a football coach discussing commercial time, know that similar discussions take place every year between conferences and networks -- it's just that Notre Dame is essentially its own conference. I once sat in the press box next to an associate commissioner from a major conference whose sole responsibility at the game was to chart the commercial breaks and make sure the network was adhering to its contracted arrangement.
"The number and length of TV timeouts is negotiated with conferences, but we strive for, and are fairly consistent, in the formats we use," ESPN spokesman
While Irish opponents may have to adjust to a different tempo, personally, I'm more concerned with adjusting my "time to switch back" instinct with the remote.