College football's best Saturdays to set aside
Everybody's talking about them. Yet no coach dares mention them for fear of ''looking ahead.''
They're the biggest games of the fast-approaching season.
Alabama's Nick Saban, Florida State's Jimbo Fisher and Ohio State's Urban Meyer - among many others - have been prodded about their team's earth-shaking showdowns, against the likes of Auburn, Notre Dame and Michigan State. And each time they've batted aside the question like Anthony Davis flicking a fly from his unibrow.
Not constrained by looking past opponents, here's a gander at a college fan's best days of the year:
August 30-Yeah, that's right, the very first Saturday of the season is a banquet. Tucked in among Youngstown State-Illinois and UC Davis-Stanford are four games which might just impact the playoffs four months later.
Pick of the litter: Oklahoma State vs. defending national champion Florida State, at AT&T Stadium in the heart of Texas. Cowboys fans will flood the place in a deluge of orange, all wanting their Pokes to give 2013 Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston his comeuppance.
Best of the rest: LSU vs. Wisconsin in Houston; Clemson at Georgia; Alabama vs. West Virginia in Atlanta.
Sept. 6-The Playoff Era means very few more wasted days of Top-5 teams drilling weather-vane schools. Welcome to the new world of major-college scheduling.
Pick of the litter: Michigan State at Oregon. If you don't like the color green, you might want to tune to a True Detective repeat.
Best of the rest: Michigan at Notre Dame, Virginia Tech at Ohio State, Southern California at Stanford.
Sept. 13/14-That's right, the season's only three weeks old and we've already locked up half the sport's best weekends.
Pick of the litter: The Head Ballcoach might just have his best team ever at South Carolina. Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks get an early test at home against Georgia, which also has visions of bigger things. The game will revolve around which running back is the most productive: the Bulldogs' Todd Gurley or South Carolina's Mike Davis.
Best of the rest: UCLA travels to a supposed neutral site in the Lone Star State to take on Texas in Charlie Strong's first bigtime matchup as Longhorns head coach. Also: Tennessee at Oklahoma.
Oct. 11-The best games feature teams fighting for early superiority in the Pac-12 and Big 12.
Pick of the litter: Oklahoma vs. Texas in the Cotton Bowl, with Sooners coach Bob Stoops itching to shove aside a few bad memories in the Red River Rivalry. Also, Oregon at UCLA, a battle between Heisman-contending QBs Marcus Mariota of the Ducks and Brett Hundley for the Bruins.
Best of the rest: Georgia at Missouri, Louisville at Clemson, LSU at Florida.
Nov. 8-The math might not sound right, but the best of the Big Ten's 14 teams battle in this marquee game.
Pick of the litter: Michigan State beat No. 2-ranked Ohio State to squelch the Buckeyes' school-record 24-game winning streak last year in the conference title game. Quarterback Braxton Miller has been waiting for redemption ever since. Keep an eye on Spartans' do-everything back, Jeremy Langford.
Best of the rest: Baylor, which won behind QB Bryce Petty in Waco last year, takes its hurry-up style to Norman, Okla., to battle the Sooners. The third-best game of the day, Alabama at LSU, could end up being the most memorable of the season. There's also Iowa at Minnesota, not so much because it's a great matchup but because to the winner goes the spoils: a bronze pig named Floyd of Rosedale. Honest.
Nov. 29-Rivalry week isn't just a clever marketing slogan.
Pick of the litter: They call it the Iron Bowl because the teams feel as if they've been hit with a bag of hammers after these old acquaintances get together. Auburn QB Nick Marshall and Alabama TB T.J. Yeldon figure to get all the attention, but it'll be the rock-hard defenses which will likely decide this one, as always.
Best of the rest: Notre Dame at Southern Cal, Michigan at Ohio State, South Carolina at Clemson, North Carolina State at North Carolina, Baylor at Texas Tech, Washington at Washington State and Oregon at Oregon State. The night before there's Arizona State at Arizona.
Of course, the new four-team playoffs trump all of the above as we enjoy the first college football tournament atmosphere.
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