Tag Archives: Mountain West Conference

The Group of 5 Does Not Need its Own College Football Playoff

The debate that has been raging since the inception of the College Football Playoff is whether or not four teams are enough. Some say that four teams are enough. Others say, “not so fast,” we need more than four participants. And there is yet a third opinionated group of voices that tells us that a playoff isn’t needed regardless of the number of teams participating.

And now there is a fourth voice in the argument and its proposal would be the most disruptive of all. Northern Illinois athletic director Sean Frazier is leading the charge for the Group of 5 to have its own college football playoff.

Schools that compete in the American, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, and Sun Belt conferences feel like they’re living on the Island of Misfit Toys. The reason that these conferences feel this way is justified, but it’s also not unfair.

Even when schools like Houston and Western Michigan have magical years, they don’t get into the playoff. Houston proved with its 2015 Peach Bowl victory over Florida State that it could not only compete with but beat a Power 5 school. The Cougars followed that up with a 2016 victory over the Oklahoma Sooners. Then, as the season progressed, things went down hill for Houston.

As Tom Herman led the Cougars into the October 8 game against Navy, Houston was sitting at 5-0. That unblemished record was highlighted with the win over the Sooners. The team had positioned itself well for playoff consideration. And then Houston lost to Navy. But that wasn’t Houston’s only loss. The Cougars then lost to SMU and Memphis. Game over. Playoff consideration was off the table and rightfully so.

But being shunned by the playoff committee was not the fault of the playoff committee. It was Houston’s fault. Houston took care of Oklahoma but then couldn’t take care of its AAC business. Too bad. Go back to the Island of Misfit Toys.

Having a separate playoff for the Group of 5 will not solve this problem because there isn’t a problem to be solved. All that this proposed second tier playoff will do is create a larger divide between the Group of 5 and Power 5 schools. The perceived difference in quality will grow at an exponential rate.

Frazier believes that the current playoff system is designed to crown a Power 5 champion. He believes that the Group of 5 is being held down and left out at a systemic level. Frazier wants us all to ignore the fact that the highest-ranked Group of 5 team is guaranteed a spot in one of the New Year’s 6 bowls. That isn’t the definition of being left out. That isn’t being confined to the Island of Misfit toys no matter what your teams do.

Western Michigan is the 2016 version of the 2015 Houston program. P.J. Fleck and his Broncos rowed the boat all the way to a 13-0 season. The reward is a trip to the Cotton Bowl where the opponent will be the Wisconsin Badgers. Western Michigan had a great season, but don’t be fooled, all 13-0 seasons are not created equal. The Broncos, much to Frazier’s assumed chagrin, do not belong in the playoff. Western Michigan didn’t have its “rightful” spot in the playoff stolen.

P.J. Fleck did go undefeated against the Big Ten this season, but those wins came against a 7-6 Northwestern team and a 3-9 Illinois team. Nope. Sorry/not sorry. The Broncos don’t belong in the playoff. And to be honest, the Broncos are lucky to be in the Cotton Bowl. Thank goodness for negotiated contractual clauses.

2017 has the potential to be an interesting year in terms of playoff consideration if, and only if, Western Michigan can upset Wisconsin. If Western Michigan can manage to do that, it will surely start 2017 off with a high preseason ranking. Package that potential ranking with road games against Southern Cal and Michigan State and the Broncos could be in consideration for the 2017 playoff. But even if the Broncos knock-off Wisconsin, Southern Cal and Michigan State, Fleck will still have to go undefeated in the Mid-American Conference. Sound easy? Just ask Houston about beating schools from the Power 5 only to screw it all up by struggling against its Group of 5 competition.

The Group of 5 is what it is. It’s a collection of good, but not great football programs. There are teams like Houston and Western Michigan that have the potential to be in the same conversation as the Power 5 schools, but teams like the Cougars and Broncos have to build up to a playoff run over the course of multiple seasons. Unlike a Power 5 school, it can’t be done during a single season. Creating a Group of 5 playoff won’t solve this non-problem. If anything, it will be perceived as the Group of 5 creating its own participation trophy.

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: Pixabay

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College Football Shames Schools With Directional Names

What’s in a name? Sometimes, it’s mostly the name that sells the perception. The name of the state is good, and in most cases, it’s still good when you throw a “State” suffix on the end. In the cases of Alabama and Ohio State, adding or dropping the “State” can mean a serious downgrade to the caliber of football we’re talking about. For the most part, State Name U and State Name State give the book a decent cover, if you’re prepared to judge it that way.

Cities are a good bet too, especially if that city is Houston, or perhaps one of the three cities in the ACC that host schools that occupy a spot in this week’s Top 10.  However, there are a few types of school names that create a seed of doubt.  If the word “directional” can be used to describe your favorite university’s title, it automatically means bad news for that school’s football program.

For example, with a win over the San Diego State, the University of South Alabama (USA) picked up their second name-brand win of the season on Saturday. They had previously shocked the College Football world in Week 1, upsetting a school with that Southeastern Conference pedigree, at Mississippi State.

Why is it so shocking, though? South, West, East, and North are great for navigation, but serve as a poor verbiage for the name of a power house.

Southern California Gets Away With Being Directional

Maybe it’s just that it’s easier to use three letters, because University of Southern California is such a mouthful, but you never think of USC as directional California. I guess, at 2-3, there isn’t too much reason to spend time thinking about the Trojans in 2016.

The Battle of Directional Michigan

With all respect due the team that plays on the grey turf in Ypsilanti, the directional Michigan schools did battle in Mount Pleasant on Saturday.

Central Michigan, you might recall, stole that win in Stillwater over Oklahoma State, and hosted Western Michigan on Saturday. PJ Fleck’s Western Michigan Broncos came away with the 49-10 road win, improving to 5-0 on the year, building on their Group of Five résumé, which already included wins over Northwestern and Illinois. You may not care about about “a couple of directionals”, but at least one of the coaches involved does.

“I would rather go through eight weeks of chemotherapy radiation again then lose to that team the way we lost tonight. That’s the truth to how I feel.”

-CMU Head Coach/Cancer Survivor John Bonamego

Not Just a Name, But Some Person’s Actual Name

When James Madison upset Virginia Tech in 2014, it was brought to my attention that it’s bad to lose to a school named after a person. You’ll only find first and last names in the FCS ranks and below, but the FBS features strong academic institutions named after Cornelius Vanderbilt, Washington Duke, and R.E.B Baylor.

By their full names, the schools would sound worse than they already are. If Stephen F. Austin was just Austin, I’d respect their name a lot more. It’s just good that Leland Stanford didn’t live to see what happened to the Cardinal in Seattle on Friday.

[Name of City] State Universities Are So Mountain West

You hear about these a lot more in basketball than football. If you think your team is a contender and they’re playing Something State, but the “Something” isn’t the name of the state, your team better win. Four such teams play in the Mountain West.

Before the hiccup at South Alabama, the San Diego State was rolling. At 3-1, with a win over Cal, look for the Aztecs to contend in the Mountain West.

Boise State is the only team in this group that occupies a prestigious spot in the Top 25. They started their Mountain West schedule with a win over Utah State this weekend, and they have two wins over Pac-12 competition in their back pocket. Neither Fresno State, nor San Jose State, have a win over an FBS opponent yet.

The MAC is Directional (So Is the SEC, But Shut Up)

Bowling Green doesn’t use their “State” often, but they’re in the previous group. Having been outscored 249-86 on the year, the Falcons don’t look like promising favorites to return to the MAC Championship for a fourth straight year. Quite frankly, neither does Northern Illinois, who went to Muncie with an 0-4 non-league record.

Ball State, named after the Ball family, fit in the “named after a person” category, as well as the “Not The State…State”.  It’s no wonder they gave Directional Illinois their first win of the season.

The Ampersand, Agriculture, and Mechanical

It’s not like we don’t respect institutions that specialize in Agriculture and Mechanical. Believe me, we do, but it has to be in Texas. We’re not digging the ampersand that comes with their A&M counterparts in Alabama and Florida. As for the Aggies, if they’re truly the SEC West darkhorse we need, they ought to be the ones to expose Tennessee next Saturday, despite the horseshoe Butch Jones’ proctologist has probably been warning him about.

E-mail Jeff at jeff [dot] rich [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter, @byjeffrich
Photo Credit: Gregory Vamum via Wiki

College Football 2016 Preview: Group of 5

American Athletic Conference

Prediction: University of Houston (11-1) vs. Temple (9-3)

I think almost everyone expects to see UH come out of the west in the AAC, as it is both coming off a tremendous year, and in the weaker division in the American. They biggest competition in the West is probably Navy, but it won’t be nearly as big of a challenge now that Keenan Reynolds is gone to the NFL.

Houston will be working hard this season to try and earn a spot in the Big 12, so it will be working for a repeat of the amazing season it had last year. I only have them losing a late season game to Louisville, but the Cougars are definitely the team to beat in the AAC.

In the East Division, the competition is much more of a toss-up, as realistically any of the five teams could take the division. However, the two most likely division champs are USF and Temple. USF’s schedule could pose large problems, however, as it will have to go through the likes of Northern Illinois and FSU early on. With an easier non-conference schedule, I think Temple will be able to win the East by a game. They will only be the last obstacle in UH’s way to a conference championship.

Conference Champion: University of Houston Cougars

Mid-American Conference

Prediction: Ohio University (7-5) vs. Western Michigan University (10-2)

The conference champion will definitely come out of the West division in 2016. The top four teams in the West are all currently ranked above the top ranked East team, Ohio.

Ohio will be able to get enough wins to take the East over the likes of Bowling Green and Akron. The West should be an interesting competition, but I see a breakout season coming from WMU. Their hardest non-conference games are Northwestern and Illinois, two beatable teams for the Broncos. Though they may drop a game against another team in the West, I think they will take at least the Northwestern game and win the West.

Conference Champion: Western Michigan University Broncos

Mountain West

Prediction: Boise State (10-2) vs. San Diego State (11-1)

The Mountain West really looks like a two-team race this year. Except for maybe Air Force, Boise St and SDSU seem like the only two real competitors for the Mountain West crown.

Both should be able to easily win their division, but Boise’s non-conference is much harder than SDSU’s, as it has to face the likes of Oregon State and Washington State. SDSU only really needs to overcome Cal. However, I see them dropping a matchup against NIU the week following, as they will have to travel all the way across the country. SDSU’s lack of difficult out of conference will make them slightly weaker than Boise, despite the better record.

Conference Champion: Boise State University Broncos

Sun Belt

Prediction: Appalachian State (9-3)

In the only of the Group of 5 conference without a title game, Appalachian State will have to battle off the likes of Arkansas State and Georgia Southern for the Sun Belt title. I see this conference really coming down to Appalachian and Arkansas State. Arkansas State has two guaranteed loses in my eyes, to Auburn and a much closer game to Toledo, and maybe even a third loss to Utah State.

Meanwhile, Appalachian State will lose to Tennessee. They have a possible upset against Miami (FL) and then a game against Akron. If Appalachian State manages to come out of its non-conference schedule having only lost to Tennessee and Miami, it will win the Sun Belt.

Conference Champion: Appalachian State Mountaineers

Conference USA

Prediction: Southern Miss (10-2) vs. Marshall (8-4)

Conference USA is very lopsided this year, as Southern Miss is the easy pick out of the West division. The East division, however, is much more up for grabs. Middle Tennessee, Marshall or Western Kentucky could all be the one to face off against Southern Miss, but I think Marshall’s non-conference schedule gives it the edge.

Marshall’s hardest non-conference games are Louisville and Pitt, which are both preferable to WKU’s game against Alabama. None of the non-conference games for MTSU jump off the page, but they are all decent. Vanderbilt, Bowling Green and Missouri are all difficult opponents. For this reason, I have Marshall coming out of the East.

Conference Champion: Southern Miss Golden Eagles

Featured Image courtesy of Giovanni Gallucci – Flickr

Colorado State and Nevada Meet Up in the Arizona Bowl

The Arizona Bowl game is in its first year of existence and bowl officials have created a bit of an oddity. The strangeness of this bowl game is not that it is going to be played in Tucson, Arizona, a sleepy college town that is home to the University of Arizona, but rather that the game is going to be played between Colorado State and Nevada, who are from the same conference.

Will this weirdness of the game create some interest? Bowl officials hope so, but in reality it probably will have a difficult time getting ratings for television. Many fans, writers, and other pundits believe that the bowl season is out of control with the number of bowls available and when you take a look at the Arizona Bowl, it’s hard to disagree with that point. However, there is a game to be played regardless of records, so let’s take a look at what these teams need to do to come out with the win.

Colorado State, like any other team, has to limit its turnovers. That’s not a groundbreaking thought when it comes to football, but the Rams have had a difficult time holding onto the ball in 2015. In 12 games this season Colorado State has 26 turnovers. The Ram quarterback, Nick Stevens, has thrown 15 interceptions as a freshman, but they have also lost 11 fumbles. By losing the ball this much it is has sunk the Rams to 113th in turnover ratio. Anybody that knows anything about football will know that Nevada is supremely aware of this statistic and will try and create as much pressure up front from their defensive line as possible. Any tackle being made by the Wolfpack will most certainly be one being made with their players trying to strip the ball from the Rams’ running backs and receivers.

Another aspect of this game to be on the lookout for is the ground game for the Nevada Wolfpack. Nevada likes to pound the rock all game and it’s become the bread and butter in their offense. The Wolfpack has a couple of 1,000 yard rushers in James Butler and Don Jackson. Butler leads the team with 1,153 and Jackson isn’t much further behind him with 1,029 yards. It will certainly be up to the Colorado State front seven to stop these runners. Obviously, if that can’t be done, the Rams are in for a very long game.

Nevada likes to run the ball, but Colorado State likes to strike through the air. Nick Stevens, as a freshman led the conference in touchdown passes with 21 while also passing for 2,369 yards. With an air attack like this Stevens has weapons on the outside. Stevens big weapon on the outside is junior Rashard Higgins, who just happens to own some school records in total receptions and touchdowns. For 2015, Higgins has battled some injuries, but still has managed to grab 66 receptions, eight touchdowns, and 933 total receiving yards. This combo of Stevens to Higgins will be one to look for during the course of the game.

This game will be a close game between the two schools. Nevada and Colorado State are teams that know each other very well, even though they did not play each other this past season and it doesn’t look like they are until 2017. The thing that both teams have to battle is the fact they are playing each other. Usually teams play teams from other conferences and that provides some spark to their preparation, but not this time. Both sides have to bring the intensity to win this game, otherwise, it’s a wasted trip to Tucson.

Plus, they have to consider themselves extremely lucky to be in a bowl game in the first place considering both of their records. When the final horn goes off, it’s going to be Colorado State who wins the game 30-24.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Akron vs. Utah State

The 19th annual Famous Idaho Potato Bowl features the Zips of Akron against the Aggies of Utah State. Akron enters the bowl season with a record of 7-5, representing the Mid-American Conference. Utah State climbs in the ring with a record of 6-6, representing the Mountain West Conference.

Akron Zips:

Coming off of their first winning season in several years, Akron finished third in the Mid-American Conference’s East Division. The Zips were on a tear down the home stretch of the season, winning 4 of their last 5 games. The most decisive and winning-season clinching of those victories was the 20-0 shutout of cross-town rival, Kent State.

Bright Spot:

Defensively, Akron is quite stout. Against the run, Akron gives up only 89 yards per game. The Zips give up a total of 328 yards per game. Defensive stalwart, linebacker Jatavis Brown leads the team and conference in several key statistical categories including: sacks (10.5), tackles for loss (17.5), tackles (108) and forced fumbles (3).

Low-Light:

Offensively, the Zips are very balanced, yet low-churning, yardage wise. Akron averages about 193 yards through the air and 170 yards on the ground. They have some very decisive victories scoring wise throughout the season, but in their defeats, they have suffered just as much.

Utah State Aggies:

The Aggies finished the season on a bit of a tough stretch. Winners of two of their final five games, Utah State is limping into the bowl season having suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of rival BYU, 51-28. This season could be categorized as the season that could have been. Mid-way through the season, senior quarterback, and unquestioned leader of the Aggies, Chuckie Keeton missed several games due to injury. Now, without him, they actually boast a better record (4-2). In his absence, sophomore Kent Myers did more than enough to keep Utah State afloat.

Bright Spot:

As I mentioned earlier, quarterback Kent Myers was a Godsend for the Aggies this season. Without his production, Utah State wouldn’t have been nearly as successful-if at all. Like Akron, Utah state has a very strong and aggressive defense. Giving up only 336 yards per game, they have the ability to keep the games close.

Low-Light:

With an injury to one of their key players, I can say that the biggest hit the Aggies suffered was that of team continuity. Yes, back up Kent Myers did an outstanding job filling for Chuckie Keeton, but who’s to say how the season would have turned out had Keeton not suffered his injury. Of course we can’t play a college football season in a vacuum. Injuries will occur. But, one has to wonder, what if.

X-Factor:

Both teams are quite similar statistically. What it comes down to is offensive play. Both teams have solid defenses, but turnovers will be crucial. The forecast in Boise, Idaho calls for rain so don’t expect either team to sling it around the yard. Solid running, field position, and special teams play will determine the victor in this one.

Prediction:

In just his third game back from injury, I don’t think Chuckie Keeton has enough juice to pull this one out. I see Akron putting the finishing touches on an impressive season. Zips take it, 24-17.

Gildan New Mexico Bowl: Arizona and New Mexico Battle for Relevancy

The Pac-12 had 10 teams qualify for a bowl game in 2015 and one of those teams is 2014 South division winner Arizona. For any normal fan of Arizona, this is not what was supposed to happen in 2015, but you can’t control certain things in football like injuries. The Wildcats did JUST enough to qualify for the Gildan New Mexico Bowl game against the hometown New Mexico Lobos.

What can we expect in this early bowl game? We can expect plenty of fireworks in terms of offense from both of these teams. Most of the cogs in the offenses for both teams should be back in action.

Arizona has been bit by the injury bug all season and for them to have their dynamic quarterback, Anu Solomon, back from head injury will be a major plus for them. He obviously gives the Wildcats that run/throw combination that causes a ton of stress on opposing defenses. Like Solomon, Samajie Grant is also coming back from a head injury and will end up giving Arizona that ability to throw the ball deep, across the middle, or any other route because he has the ability to line up anywhere and cause problems.

On paper, Arizona is the better team, but New Mexico is a veteran team.  11 of their top 13 tacklers are juniors or seniors, four out of their five offensive lineman are juniors or seniors and the top two receivers and running backs are also upper-classmen. With all this experience, they have a young quarterback in Lamar Jordan who is ONLY a sophomore.

However, with all these juniors and seniors on the team for New Mexico, they still struggle to a great degree with their offense and defense. The running game is ranked 93rd and the passing game is ranked 112th in the country. In anybody’s book that is flat out bad and that might be putting it mildly for the Lobos. However, when you look inside the numbers you find that they can make plays on offense. They are 22nd in number of plays over 30 yards, of which they have 34, and they rank 11th in the country in plays of at least 50 yards. They have 13 of those.

The Lobos can make big plays, they just need to stop somebody on defense to give their offense a chance. With as many big plays as New Mexico can make on offense, they give up just as many big plays on defense. The Lobos have to get the Wildcats in third and long and then get off the field. If this happens, then New Mexico stands a chance, but that is a big IF.

Arizona has the better talent as I mentioned earlier, but being in a lower-tier bowl can be a motivational issue for the more talented team. The Wildcats can’t just show up and go through the motions because they will be embarrassed by a lower-tier team in New Mexico. Arizona has to get on the Lobos early, often, and make this game an afterthought for the home team.

These lower end bowl games are something that causes people to look for caffeine to keep their eyes open and I am no different. Games like this, I could care less about. Do I want the Pac-12 team to win, yes, of course I do. Does that mean I need to really care about a bowl game in New Mexico? No, it does not.
In the end, Arizona wins this game going away and then we can let the Gildan New Mexico Bowl game drift from our memories for another year.

IT is almost here

Admittedly, the college football season snuck up on me this year.  Double check that calendar.  We’re now only a fortnight away from having our Saturdays booked for the foreseeable future.

The dog days are all that separate us from weekly 12-hour cycles of football.  All we’ve got to do is survive and we’ll be back to doing what we all love.  Here’s a little something to help you pull through:

Gone are the days of boring opening weekends.  Because of the playoff format, any college football team with championship aspirations needs to take full advantage of every opportunity to build their resume and impress the committee.

After enduring more than a decade of suffering under the tyranny that was the BCS, where the ‘play it safe’ mentality rewarded powerhouse programs for beating up on the Little Sisters of the Poor, we’ve finally been enlightened.  Now we can expect to see many meaningful football games each and every week, including the first.

This season’s opening night, Thursday, September 3, won’t ease us back into the groove of a college football weekend.  It will catapult us headfirst into a brick wall of big games.

At six o’clock, North Carolina and South Carolina kick-off the season with a battle for bragging rights.  These two haven’t been meeting expectations in recent seasons.  You can bet they’ll both come out looking to begin with a bang.  I wouldn’t put it past the Head Ball Coach to dial up a deep shot on the Gamecocks’ first play from scrimmage.  Plus, things tend to get interesting when schools from neighboring states get together.

Oklahoma State has a strange road game scheduled at Central Michigan, which starts an hour later, at seven.  I say strange because MAC schools rarely host prominent out-of-state programs in week one.  The Chippewas were behind the wildest bowl game finish of the 2014 season.  Mike Gundy is still a man, although he’s now 47 (hard to believe this was so long ago).  Anyway, this should be a quality contest.

At eight, Vanderbilt hosts Western Kentucky.  Normally, Sun Belt teams don’t stand a chance against SEC foes, but we could see an ‘upset’ here.  This one will warrant some attention, especially if the first two games don’t hold your interest.

A half hour after that, Michigan kicks off the Jim Harbaugh era at Utah.  And the Wolverines had better watch out.  The Utes’ last game was a 45-10 win over Colorado State in the Las Vegas Bowl.  Talk about a tough task for Harbaugh as he begins his tenure at his alma mater.  If he and his team can emerge victorious it will provide an enormous confidence boost.

The main event of the opening evening is TCU at Minnesota, which starts at nine.  The last time we saw the Horned Frogs they were belittling Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl.  They’ve got a Heisman hopeful quarterback in Trevonne Boykin, who will be looking to follow up on his coming out party.  Some still argue that TCU was snubbed by the committee last season and there’s sure to be a whole heap of hype surrounding them this season because of it.  Minnesota is no slouch either.  The Gophers have been steadily improving for two seasons.  Boy, could they use a big win after all that’s come out about their former Director of Athletics this summer.  I can’t wait to see how this one plays out.

Friday night will not be a lull in the action as it usually is.

The participants from last season’s Sugar Bowl both hit the road to start their 2015 campaigns.  Baylor is at SMU, and Michigan State travels to Western Michigan.  Neither should have too much trouble with their opponent, but then again, you never know.  Both are scheduled for a seven o’clock kick.

For the night cap, Washington heads to the blue turf of Boise State.  These two programs have stagnated in recent years.  U-Dub continues to tread water in the depths of the crowded Pac-12.  Boise State now carries the Mountain West’s torch as opposed to the WAC’s.  Despite the switch, the Broncos remain the best team in their league, by far.  Stay up late and watch.  Chances are you won’t regret it.

Then, at long last, when you wake up on Saturday morning and turn on College Gameday, you’ll realize it’s officially football season.  Stock plenty of food and beverages, invite over some fellow college football junkies, and tell everyone else you’ll be busy for the day.

The most intriguing noon start is Stanford at Northwestern.  The Cardinal’s David Shaw and the Wildcats’ Pat Fitzgerald are two of the ‘good guys’ in college football.  They run tight ships, and you hardly ever hear about any internal problems.  If you like to watch smart kids play football then look no further.

Make sure your remote is ready for the 3:30 slate.  Virginia vs. UCLA, Louisville vs. Auburn, and BYU vs. Nebraska are all mid-afternoon starts.  With so much simultaneous action you can let your interests direct you.  There are plenty of reasons to get excited about all these contests, and you really can’t go wrong here.

If, for whatever reason, you’re not satisfied, you can flip over to Bowling Green at Tennessee, at four o’clock.  UT is entering a season unlike any it’s had in a long while.  This year, there are some actual expectations being put upon them.  The first quarter of this game will likely tell you all you need to know.  If the Vols start off hot, they should roll.  If they struggle at first, it could turn into a long day for them.

Both UL Lafayette vs. Kentucky and Arizona State vs. Texas A&M start at seven.  Kentucky, like Vanderbilt, runs the risk of discrediting the SEC every time they take the field against a team from a smaller conference.  Not to mention, UL Lafayette isn’t a bad team.  The Ragin’ Cajuns won nine games last year, including the New Orleans Bowl.

The Sun Devils are a scary team to see on your schedule this fall.  They took a leap forward in 2014, while the Aggies were shoved backwards.  This is the only Pac-12- SEC matchup in week one.  The outcome here will hold extra weight with many suggesting the caliber of football out west is now comparable to the down south brand.

Texas is at Notre Dame, at 7:30.  The Longhorns are still looking for answers after one bumpy season with Charlie Strong at the helm.  They struggled against good teams in 2014 with a 1-5 record versus ranked opponents.  Notre Dame, meanwhile, got off to a torrid 6-0 start, only to drop five of their last six regular season games.  Needless to say, neither of these two proud programs is where they’d like to be.  It’ll be fun to watch them battle for that first win of 2015.

In the ‘Better as a Basketball Game’ of the Week, Iowa State hosts Northern Iowa.  Iowa State does not have a good football program.  They won only two games last year, neither of which were conference contests.  Northern Iowa, on the other hand, won nine games and finished tenth in the final FCS Coaches’ Poll.  This is a rare instance where an FBS team will be a significant underdog against an FCS opponent.  The game starts at eight, but there’s just way too much good football on to justify watching this unless you’re a diehard Cyclones or Panthers fan.

The primetime fixture on Saturday night is Wisconsin vs. Alabama at eight.  The Badgers lost a close game to LSU in the 2014 opener.  Things only get tougher here with Alabama.  The Tide was last seen being outclassed by Ohio State, who had spanked Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big Ten championship to earn that last spot in the playoff.  Don’t expect Bama and Wisky to bond over their common enemy.  This one will be a big boy football game.

The late game on Saturday night features Arkansas State and USC.  Basically, you should watch because you’re not ready to go to bed yet, and Arkansas State is decent enough to justify staying awake.

They’ve even scheduled us a game for Sunday afternoon.  Purdue at Marshall certainly doesn’t excite me, but I’ll watch if I don’t have anything to do at three.

Of course, we finish off the weekend with everyone’s favorite leftover: football on Monday night.  Ohio State has a lot to play for in this rematch against Virginia Tech.  This time it’s under the lights, at Tech.  That’s always been a key ingredient for an interesting game in the past.  The Buckeyes will have some key players sitting out due to suspensions.  Of course, they lost to the Hokies in week two last season and went on to win the national championship.  Something tells me they will not want to start off the same way this year.

So, how could you not be positively giddy about the opening weekend of the 2015 college football season?  We’ve got power conference showdowns, upset possibilities, and plenty of storylines to follow.  All we have to do is wait a couple more weeks.