October 4th (Thursday)
Arkansas State at Florida International
One of the better, if not the best, Sun Belt games in 2012. Gus Malzahn and Mario Cristobal may not be coaching these two squads next year so enjoy them while they’re only worth six-figures.
USC at Utah
The Utes provide the stingiest opponent in the Pac 12 South to the Trojan christening. And while USC returns almost the entirety of their explosive offense, the 2011 matchup was decided on the final play (a game-tying Utah field goal that was blocked, returned for a touchdown, disallowed and re-allowed in a gambling nightmare).
October 5th (Friday)
Pittsburgh at Syracuse
Future ACC roommates get together to talk shit about their current city and friends. “Can’t wait to get out of here, this place blows. I know, that Butch Jones is a real jackass. You’re just mad they stomped your Orange by double-digits.”
October 6th (Saturday)
Navy at Air Force
I always get a kick out of seeing an undersized linebacker at a service academy attempting an open-field tackle then remember he’s probably a future Purple Heart winner.
Arkansas at Auburn
Neither of these two are pegged for SEC West superiority so call this a pseudo-play-in for the Cotton Bowl. That’s progress for the Tigers but does John L. Smith receive consideration for the permanent gig with anything less than a BCS appearance?
LSU at Florida
Similar to the Oklahoma-Texas dynamic, the Gators haven’t defeated the Tigers since their All-American quarterback graduated. Unless ESPN’s belated birthday present to Tim Tebow is more eligibility, it’s not likely to happen in 2012 either.
Virginia Tech at North Carolina
Without a college football postseason to look forward to, expect the Tar Heels and Larry Fedora to hang their hat on upsetting the Hokies in Chapel Hill. Unfortunately, that hat carries a 1.24 GPA.
Georgia Tech at Clemson
A completely unpredictable team in Clemson. A squad you can set your clock by in Georgia Tech. Throw them in the same stadium and 6-3 or 37-34 somehow makes sense.
West Virginia at Texas
If the Mountaineers intend on competing for a Big 12 title, the test in Austin is revelatory. Are they 2011 Baylor Part Deux, 2008 Texas Tech or the team that lost by 26 to Syracuse in 2011? Dana Holgorsen lets it ride. Manny Diaz never counts his money sittin’ at the table.
Washington at Oregon
Steve Sarkisian inherited a winless team in Seattle. But he’s recruited well and Keith Price gives the Huskies the best shot at unseating the Ducks since his arrival. Can U-Dub derail the Pac 12 Championship USC-Oregon rematch?
Georgia at South Carolina
I want to believe this is the year Steve Spurrier wins the SEC in Columbia. Not just the East, the whole damn league. I want to believe this because I don’t like thinking about the sport without him. Now, watch Aaron Murray throw for 330 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Oklahoma at Texas Tech
The upset in Norman was the last win for the Red Raiders in 2011. Stoops has a tendency to lead-foot the pedal when he’s facing a team that’s bested him and he has them on the ropes. For Tommy Tuberville’s job security, let’s hope Texas Tech remains competitive.
Miami at Notre Dame
Catholics v. Convicts has lost a little luster what with the Irish incapable of finding a quarterback and the Hurricanes propositioning the NCAA in an effort to play in a bowl before 2020. Still, the history is there and alums of each program will make it clear that this is a required victory. Should Miami lose, Stephen Morris must sit in a barber’s chair for a week with Michael Irvin waiting in line.
Nebraska at Ohio State
By early October, Braxton Miller should find a comfort zone in Urban Meyer’s offense and the head coach might be ready to announce his Big Ten arrival. And by announce it, I mean decimate a national opponent in his home stadium serving notice to everyone but Brady Hoke.