The long, slow road to domestication seems like it happened pretty quick to your old pal, Mad Handles. There was a time, not many autumns ago, when I could plant myself on a sofa with a stocked cooler, four bags of chips and a fistful of Slim Jims and go on a college football bender every week with nary a thought devoted to yard work, changing diapers, household repair projects or any of the other wonderful activities that ultimately resulted in my divorce from a life fully immersed in the college game. From the top BCS matchups on down, I was in. I’d have watched the basement dwellers of the New England Small College Athletic Conference duke it out if I could find them on the tube. Yeah. Man. I feel like I just went Uncle Rico on my readers. I’m only half sorry for that. Who am I kidding, I’m not even half sorry. These days, I’m limited to a couple of games a week, not including my Missouri Tigers – catching the Tigers is just a fact of life in the Handles household. I figure there have to be others out there who find themselves in similar circumstances, so every week, I’ll pick the five games that interest me the most and tell you why you should care, too. Admittedly, you have to look hard in these first few weeks of the non-conference schedule to come up with anything interesting, but I’ll give it a shot. All times will be Central, because that’s the only time zone that makes sense. You east and west coasters are going to have to adjust to us flyover folks if you’re gonna read this blog.
(8) West Virginia at East Carolina – 3:30 p.m.
First up, fine afternoon fare. This game would be interesting if only because it features West Virginia and it’s dynamic offense. Pat White and Noel Devine are two of the most gifted offensive players in the game today. RichRod left the Mountaineers a year too early, by my estimation. His offense was made for guys like White and Devine. They’re still in good hands, though. But what makes this one a can’t miss show in week 2 is the opponent – East Carolina. Haha, right? Ask VaTech if they think ECU is funny. The Pirates exposed what appears to be a vastly overrated VaTech squad. Seriously, VaTech’s last two games are losses – to national staples kansas and East Carolina. What kind of pedigree is that? The question is, can ECU catch lightning in a bottle two weeks in a row. The other day when I looked at this game, the line was WVA -8. Absorb that for a minute. West Virginia, a team noted for throwing numbers on the board faster than we accumulate national debt is favored by just 8 points over a school that most people think was the fictional institution featured in The Program. (That was ESU, by the way.) Vegas thinks something is up with this one. It’s a game to watch. Besides, what else is on at 3:30 in the afternoon on a fall Saturday?
LaTech at (14) kansAss – 6:10 p.m.
Oh, this one has me licking my chops. Maybe it’s because I know the AD at LaTech, and that clouds my vision a bit. Maybe it’s because I hate kansas with a passion rivaled only by Mark Mangino’s love of all-you-can-eat buffets, and that clouds my vision a bit. I don’t know. What I do know is that LaTech is coming off of a nice win over Mississippi State. Not that impressive? Yeah. Neither is kansas. I think LaTech pulls the stunning upset in this one. The only thing that gives me pause on that is the game’s location. kansas is a weird place. It disorients all who enter, not unlike the Bermuda Triangle. Watch this one because LaTech is upset minded, and kansas isn’t nearly as strong as their ranking suggests.
Miami at (5) Florida – 7:00 p.m.
Why not? I know what you’re thinking. Yeah, this game would have been cool 10 years ago. You’re right. It would have been much cooler a decade ago. But this week it’s the closest thing we have to two marquee teams slugging it out. Nevermind that Miami packs about as much punch as Estelle Getty these days. The TV guys calling this one are sure to talk about Miami’s impending resurgence, as though it were preordained by the Lord himself. But all is not lost, here. Tim Tebow is fun to watch in Urban Meyer’s offense, and he’s not a one-man show. Jeff Demps turned in a nice performance last week on the ground, and Louis Murphy had a couple of nice grabs. Really, though, I hate Miami and relish any opportunity to see them get rolled. Any school that produces world-class douchebags like Warren Sapp, Jeremy Shockey, and Kellen Winslow, Jr., among others, deserves the bad karma from which The U suffers these days. Look for Florida to take this one in a big way.
(12)Texas Tech at Nevada – 8:05 p.m.
Here’s why you need to care about this game: It will be an excellent preview of a more important game that will involve Nevada next week – the match up with Missouri. Nevada falls under the “cupcake” heading at first glance, but this is a team that can put up some numbers. Tech and Missouri aren’t carbon copies of each other. Despite their performance in the Illinois game last week, Missouri has a stronger defense than Tech. But this is one to watch to see how readily Tech’s Air Raid attack can put up numbers on Nevada’s defense. Dave Christensen, Missouri’s offensive coordinator, will watch film of this game with tremendous interest. Tech is sort of the canary in the mineshaft this week. If they come back out breathing after this one, Nevada’s defense should feel humiliated in back-to-back weeks. But if Tech dies in this one, week three for Missouri could be treacherous.
Stanford at (15) Arizona State – 9:07 p.m.
Why care about this game? See Standford vs. USC, 2007. The Sun Devils are NOT USC, ca. 2007. Stanford relishes in playing spoiler. They’re not going to derail Arizona State’s National Championship aspirations, because Arizona State doesn’t really have National Championship aspirations, but the Cardinal could make Arizona State long for the days of Sam Keller running their attack. Yeah. That Sam Keller. The one Nebraska’s silly fans astutely proclaimed would be “playing on Sundays.” I’m not saying it will happen, but Stanford’s history of knocking off ranked foes raises the intrigue level on this one.