Welcome to TV Party, a weekly segment where we preview ten of the week’s most exciting match-ups in college football so you know when to grab some beer and ignore the outside world.
“Sandstorm” is a techno song from the early-aughts by Darude that has become the unofficial song of the South Carolina Gamecocks. The fans in Williams-Brice jump around, waving white towels as the overdubbed crow of a rooster rips any shred of hospitality you might have experienced earlier to pieces. The exercise of “Sandstorm” is to get the crowd hyped and destroy opponents’ idea that Chanticleer was the rule, not the exception. But Kevin Sumlin will make it his unofficial song by pumping his fists, then rattling some helmets.
This is the first game to be featured on ESPN’s shiny new SEC Network. It’s the starting point of conference play for these two as well as a stellar clash of personalities. There is, of course, Steve Spurrier – the man who could make Rico from Belly seem justified in his hater ass ways. Across the field will be Kevin Sumlin, the man whose one fist pump shy away from James Franklin and one rump slap up from Nick Saban. This will be a test for Sumlin’s high octane offense, led by new QB Kenny Hill, as it looks to test a great South Carolina defense that lost its star playmakers in Casey Quarles and Jadeveon Clowney. On the other side of the ball, it’s up to quarterback Dylan Thompson and running back Mike Davis to make mince meat of an Aggie defense that has about as much depth as the mental capacity of Columbia.
The start time of this game is at 6:00, according to ESPN. For all those who work weird hours, I highly suggest you set up your work computer to see this clash of maroon and garnet.
GAME 2: HORSES, BLACK BEARS, AND COWS
Ole Miss is entering their third year under head coach and Big Red chomper, Hugh Freeze. Freeze is responsible for drafting Robert Nkemdiche along with a wealth of talent to Oxford in order to do what both Houston Nutt and Ed Orgeron could never do: make the Rebels division champions. This is no easy task in an SEC West where Alabama, Auburn and LSU lurk with loaded cabinets year in and year out. With some success in his first two years, Freeze must now prove he can up the ante and separate the Rebels from in-state rival Mississippi State as they also try to ascend the ranks. Freeze, unfortunately, has to battle a huge question mark on Thursday night against Boise State, the perennial mid-major world beaters.
The Broncos will be led by Bryan Harsin, former Chris Petersen disciple and someone with loads of familiarity with the program. This doesn’t mean that the Broncos are ensured for another upset, however. Like with most of the other programs that have spent time on the coaching carousel, Boise State will have to adjust without the guy who knows a thing or two about big games. Harsin may have been there for the Orange Bowl but it’s a different world.
This game is part of the Chick-fil-a Kickoff Series in Atlanta which hosts a whole field of animal mascots. It’ll essentially be a petting zoo gone awry.
GAME 3: JT BARRETT, A NEW HOPE?
Ohio State is playing Navy in Annapolis, which would be a pretty cool storyline and an otherwise automatic win for the Braxton Miller-led Buckeyes. Yet, with Miller out for the 2014 season, this game has turned over to the unproven hands of JT Barrett. Barrett may have to prove to be exceptional, with an OSU defense on the other side that has a recent history of blunder when it comes to stopping the run. It’s as big a test as any for Urban Meyer, who enters his third year as head coach for the Buckeyes. There are undoubtedly interested parties within the Big Ten who would like to see Ohio State fall on its face, and with OSU receiving no confidence votes from Vegas, the field for the Big Ten Championship seems to have widened.
For this game, I have packed plenty of fear, hope and beer.
GAME 4: THE LUCK OF O’LEARY
Penn State and UCF open this year in the most logic place possible: Ireland. Well, that’s assuming an impeding Icelandic volcano (wha?) doesn’t shoot molting hot lava onto the field. The ties here are a little mysterious until you consider this is somewhat of a homecoming party for George O’Leary. Whatever the case, this is going to satisfy your early morning football cravings that lately have been filled with Premier League action.
Both sides are somewhat of a mystery. There have been shreds of rumors about O’Leary retiring while James Franklin takes over a Penn State squad that has greatly benefited from the impact that Bill O’Brien has had on the team. UCF is starting 2014 without the amazing play of Blake Bortles, while the Nittany Lions will see if Christian Hackenberg is still the kind of recruit his ranking was cracked up to be. This rematch of last year’s meet-up will be a test between carpetbaggers and locals who are both in a strange land.
GAME 5: WHEN AIR RAIDS CAN’T TAKE OFF
The second game of the Chick-fil-a Kickoff Series will feature Alabama, with Lane Kiffin in tow, and West Virginia. I don’t know who has been scheduling Alabama’s openers recently, but it seems like they have faint obsession with any colors that have hues of blue and yellow in them.
This match, to be honest, seems like it might go off the cliff really quickly. It may be a repeat of the Alabama-Michigan opener from last year, but it will once again remind the world why Alabama is consistently ranked at the top. Yes, it will get old after awhile, but don’t you have a morbid curiosity to watch something get broken in the worst way possible? Oh – you don’t think people like to watch nice things break? Then explain to me why there are eleven million views for the Paul George injury on YouTube.
GAME 6: THE REMATCH
One of the most exciting matches from last year’s opening weekend came in the form of Clemson beating Georgia in a shootout. This was also a sign of things to come in the SEC, where the best defensive strategy became putting the most points on the board. Clemson’s victory opened up the floodgates for praise and adulation as the national title implications were high in the opening game. This weekend’s match will not be without hype.
Georgia plays Clemson in Athens this year with both defenses looking more solid than their offenses. Youth will take over in the quarterback positions with both teams having to replace their stars under center. Of course, the combination of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall is still in the backfield for Georgia, while Clemson returns Vic Beasley as well as their nasty defensive front. Jeremy Pruitt, the national title-winning defensive coordinator for Florida State, whose first task is to out coach the mind of the Tigers’ offensive coordinator, Chad Morris, makes his debut as the defensive coordinator for the Bulldogs. If you’re into barking, Eightball the Tiger, and the world of horticulture infringing on your football, then this is the game for you.
GAME 7: DALLAS TO DALLAS
The beginning of the ESPN “Dallas to Dallas” fabricated campaign for Florida State starts, of course, in JerryWorld. The Seminoles play the Cowboys of Oklahoma State in a match that seems to be the surest thing on the opening college football slate aside from Alabama and West Virginia.
The Seminoles are still loaded for bare with a notable coaching loss in Jeremy Pruitt. Yet, even with the absence of players like Timmy Jernigan and Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State still has Jameis Winston, Rashad Greene, Nick O’Leary and a slew of offensive talent that feels like they are the only team in the top 25 deserving of a preseason rank.
Yet, like all national title runs, you need a little bit of luck combined with skill in order to avoid disaster. Mike Gundy has an unknown quantity in his 2014 squad who have been compared to the mysterious entity that featured Wes Lunt and Justin Blackmon. This could be another rout by another program looking for their foot into the first college football playoff or it could also be a collapse that is best personified as a large man celebrating without regard for your social norms.
GAME 8: HOGS ON THE PLAINS
The league officials of the SEC scheduled Arkansas’ first match this year within the conference in order to give the SEC Network more fodder for their launch. In doing so, Bret Bielama will again come face-to-face with Gus Malzahn, the man he was consistently feuding with over the healthiness of running the no-huddle, spread offense.
The Hogs, many of whom were trained under the specter of Malzahn’s wizardry, will run Bielama’s power style of play in Auburn where no one has given them a chance in hell.
Arkansas have an advantage in an early suspension for star Nick Marshall due to a drug policy violation at Auburn. Yet, that’s about where it stops and ends. All of this game’s watchability lies more in the personalities that stand off the field than the play that results on it. Although, there may be a shred of a chance that it could get feisty on the field.
GAME 9: HOUSTON’S CELEBRATION OF HUBRIS
If there was ever two types of fans who could be each others’ spirit animals, it is LSU and Wisconsin. You will find both of them either eating giant brats or big vats of gumbo before passing out in the parking lot after the game. Each fan base is full of raucous, good timin’ people who will tell you that your team sucks in the same breath it takes for them to drown you in libations and food.
Both have peculiar similarities in their football as well. They both have perennially forgotten quarterbacks who hand the ball off to crushing runningbacks who leave you in a cloud of dust and blood. Their defenses are similarly as bruising and as vicious. Each team essentially plays football like its fan base’s parties: everyone’s invited to take a beating of their liver. Houston – you’re in for a treat.
GAME 10: MIAMI AT LOUISVILLE
Bobby Petrino is back, and he’s coaching in the ACC! Petrino made an effort to get where he is in the face of naysayers and moral high horses who thought he never would be coaching a college program again. Here we are though – in 2014 – and Petrino is coaching the last school he ditched for the Atlanta Falcons. Winning absolves everything and makes people eat sour grapes. Plus, what else did you expect from a school who pays reverence to Papa John Schnatter?
Even though Louisville gets Miami at home, it will be a huge test for the Cardinals on whether or not they are up-to-snuff on running past a defense led by Denzel Perryman. Louisville and Miami are in the same up shit river that Arkansas, Auburn, South Carolina and Texas A&M occupy.