Sunday, August 29, 2010

Who to watch, Week 1

Opening weekend's schedule, in my opinion, is extremely light in terms of quality. So there's a few things to watch for the first week of the college football season.

All times Eastern.


Pittsburgh at Utah (8:30pm, Versus) is the best game based on where the teams are ranked. QB is a question for the Panthers with Tino Sunseri taking over as the starter. Dion Lewis is not a question and I expect him to be featured early and often as the Utes lost over half of their defensive starters. Utah's offense may be the key to the as they return eight starters from last year's 10-3 team, including nearly the entire offensive line.

USC at Hawai'i (11pm, ESPN) is more interesting as we will see how a Trojans team starts out what amounts to two seasons of lame-duck play. No bowls to play for, no reward outside of the chance to be ranked in the AP poll. I don't believe that Hawai'i will provide a stiff challenge, but I want to see the Trojans step up and not go through motions.

Some might turn in to Northern Illinois at Iowa St. (8pm, most FSN regions), but not to watch the game but for the possibility of critiquing the graphics that may be used. There's a chance that FSN will use the graphics that FOX debuted in the NFL preseason.


More trainwreck-type games here. UConn at Michigan (3:30pm, ABC or ESPN2) begins Rich Rodriguez's 3rd year in Ann Arbor. Could be his final year too if the maize & blue don't finish the year in a bowl game. The Huskies are not flashly, they're a fundamentals team, out-working opponents and executing their game plan. Their downhill attack on the ground can wear out anyone.

LSU at North Carolina (8pm, ABC) seemed to be a very interesting on-field matchup, but now with the NCAA sniffing around for violations in the UNC program, who knows if UNC may have a team that can even keep it close for a couple quarters.

As for an intriguing game, check out Washington at BYU (7pm, CBS College). BYU lost key components on offense (QB Max Hall, RB Harvey Unga, TE Dennis Pitts) and will alternate QBs with Jake Heaps & Riley Nelson. It's rare that you'll find a team have much success with platooning QBs, but BYU returns nearly all of their starting offensive line. Meanwhile, Washington QB Jake Locker begins his senior season with a Heisman campaign and at the top of Mel Kiper's Big Board of NFL prospects.

TCU's game vs. Oregon St. (7:45pm, ESPN) also brings a lot to the table. The Beavers return 17 starters from last years 8-5 team, a team that had a chance at the Rose Bowl if they would have won their Civil War matchup vs. Oregon. The game also serves as a return to Texas for the Rodgers brothers. TCU's offense returns nine starts and Gary Patterson has been able to plug in players on defense and consistently rank as one of the top defensive teams in the majors, but both starting CBs are stepping up from the bench and could be targeted early & often.


Navy vs. Maryland (4pm, ESPN) is the undercard based on time zone, but Middie QB Ricky Dobbs has a small but dedicated following for the Heisman and he runs the type of offense that can get him a lot of attention. He'll have the ball in his hands on every snap and his ability to run the ball can lead to some eye-popping highlights that everyone loves.

Boise St. vs. Virginia Tech (8pm, ESPN) wraps up week one as Boise begins their much-hyped season towards a national championship with a game. Boise returns all but two starters from last year's undefeated team, while the Hokies rebuild on defense. The Hokies will also start an entire new left side of the offensive line, so expect the Broncos to test the line often with blitzes, stunts and other defensive schemes designed to exploit and confuse the Hokies. And with a mostly new secondary at VT, Kellen Moore should take to the air.

Small change as a new season starts

Very few changes this season with respect to college football telecast coverage. With the ACC contract kicking in next season, we'll have more to talk about, but here's what we got.
  • Big 12 and FSN solidify relationship - ABC and ESPN's Big 12 sublicense remain, but FSN will be primary provider of Big 12 football on cable this fall. They (or at the Big 12's request) ended their sublicense of games to Versus. The Versus games were usually at 12:30pm ET, which many Big 12 schools don't care for. FSN will handle 24 national telecasts this season, 25 if you count Northern Illinois-Iowa St. going to almost the entire nation, and those games will air at either 12/12:30pm ET and 7pm virtually every week.

  • Pac-10 flips their script - Changes abound here. ABC may have as few as six Pac-10 games while ESPN and FSN will co-exist in several time slots. FSN could handle the extra Big 12 games because they decided to sublicense more Pac-10 games to Versus, specifically Pac-10 slots at 7pm/7:30pm ET. The goal here is to piggyback onto SEC time slots on ESPN and also open up slots where regional networks, often involving FSN, can get PAC-10 games on TV when national games aren't being shown. So far it has worked with virtually every conference-controlled game through October 2nd on TV somewhere.

  • MAC gets a new regional partner - FSN Ohio was more of a marriage of convenience, but now that SportsTime Ohio has picked up the conference, the network plans for more regional coverage of the conference, both in live action in football and basketball, but bumper programming like season previews. What remains to be seen is how they will get these games outside of Ohio. Some of the game selections in football involved Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan and Buffalo.

  • The WAC announced, in a rather vague announcement, that it would be starting the WAC Sports Network. Not really sure if all affiliates will see all games or not. Seems kinda like SportsWest, the WAC's previous syndication partner who had affiliates in virtually every WAC market, but only syndicated games between the markets of the competing teams.

  • The mtn goes HD - At least for game productions as all mtn. live games will be in HD this season.

  • ABC Reverse Mirror to include Pac-10 - Larry Scott stated that the previous administration of the Pac-10 wanted to be paid to be part of the ABC Reverse Mirror with the Big Ten. Larry Scott made the decision that exposure in the midwest was much more important and gave ABC the ability to pick these games free of charge. Makes you wonder how out of it Tom Hansen was. Sucks for the ACC as they were the primary benefactor of the reverse mirror. The Big 12 will also get more reverse mirror opportunities.
I'll be enjoying the opening weekend at Syracuse-Akron. Take care.