College football season doesn’t truly begin until that first full Saturday of games. This year, that’s September 1. Some of us refuse to wait that long, though. The good news for us is that we don’t have to wait. It doesn’t matter that it’s Wyoming battling New Mexico State. College football is college football (at least when it’s still August and we’re starved for it.)
So, I’m here with some reasons to dig into the seemingly unappealing and unimportant, appetite-whetting menu of taste-tester games taking place a week ahead of that most glorious of Saturdays. While there’s not much to get overly excited about on August 25, when you’re this hungry, you’ll make do with just about anything. At some point, you’re sure to be asking yourself, “What the hell am I watching right now?” Well, here’s what:
Duquesne at UMass
Duquesne and UMass kick us off at 5:30 eastern. Unfortunately, it looks like you’ll have to subscribe to UMass All-Access in order to watch. This is technically the first game on the FBS calendar, despite the unconvincing evidence UMass will provide to legitimize that fact. Duquesne (Doo-Kane) competes in the FCS, and from the looks of its Wikipedia page, it’s actually not a bad program. The Dukes (of course) have won the Northeast Conference in four of the past seven seasons and made one appearance in the postseason, in 2015. UMass joined the FBS in 2012 and has an overall record of 14-58 since. But watch out! The Minutemen won a whopping four games last fall, including a double-OT thriller against Appalachian State (a great program) and a shocker at BYU.
Prairie View at Rice
7pm on ESPN+
Prairie (talk about a word that doesn’t look like it’s spelled correctly) View at Rice is on ESPN+, for those of you who’ve fallen into that trap. This one’s a bit of a regional tangle, with two of the Houston area’s other schools going at it. Prairie View is best known for losing 80 consecutive games from 1989-1998. (Tells ya about all ya need to know, doesn’t it?) September 26 will mark 20 years since that unbelievable stretch of ineptitude. Rice had better enjoy this rare game where it enters as a decided favorite. The Owls have long been a program that tours around the state of Texas getting beat up in exchange for sizable paychecks. The year was 1996 the last time Rice finished a season without losing to another team from Texas. Lots of smaller schools participate in the time-honored tradition of getting paid big to take their lumps from the bullies in the neighborhood. Few do it more consistently than the Rice Owls.
Hawaii at Colorado State
7:30pm on CBSSN
Hawaii and Colorado State bring us our first all-FBS matchup. I’ve previously written on this site that Hawaii is a top-five most-desirable college football head coaching gig. While it was written somewhat tongue-in-cheek, I do honestly think it has the potential to be a much better program. All it would take is a coach (who’s probably “better than the position”) who decided he wasn’t “better than the position” and wanted to take on the challenge. We’ll keep waiting. Colorado State, meanwhile, has gone 7-6 in each of the past three seasons. You have to admire that kind of consistency. Before that, the Rams racked up 22 wins during a three-year span under Jim McElwain that earned him a big boy job at Florida.
Wyoming at New Mexico State
10pm on ESPN2
Out west, we have a shootout brewing between Wyoming and New Mexico State. Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen was drafted seventh overall in April, which is cool, even if it doesn’t do much good for this year’s group. The question is: Now What? And the answer is both not obvious, and probably not one that Cowboys fans are going to like. New Mexico State has reason to be excited about the beginning of a football season for the first time in ages. The Aggies managed a 7-6 record in 2017. While that might not seem like much of an accomplishment, it is. It’s the first time since 2011 they won more than three games. It’s the first time since 2004 they won more than four. And it’s the first time since 2002 they finished with a winning record.
The Athletic recently released its Preseason All-American 130, ranking each and every FBS program. As you’ll notice, many of the teams we get to watch this Saturday night are considered to be some of the worst around. In fact, of the six FBS teams we just discussed, The Athletic has five of them ranked in the triple digits, and Wyoming is #96.
Don’t let that discourage you. College football is college football. And college football is back.