LSU's Jordan Jefferson and Oregon's Cliff Harris are both suspended indefinitely. (US PRESSWIRE :: ZUMA)
From an entertainment standpoint, the grand opening of the finest American pastime is not likely to live up to its potential. Saturday is the big day, but the season cracks open Thursday night at 6 p.m. ET with the barn-burning, high-flying antics of Murray State at Louisville. (It’s even being televised on ESPNU, and you know as well as I do we’ll both be watching, because we are sick people.) Western Illinois at Sam Houston State kicks off an hour later, raising the bar not-at-all. Like it or not, these games will set the tone for most of what we’ll see the next few days. UNLV at Wisconsin highlights Thursday night; TCU and Baylor take center stage Friday, but come Saturday morning it’s back to the dregs. In a way this makes excellent business sense: Programmers have to know fans are ready to drink the sporting equivalent of vanilla extract just for the sweet trace of alcohol … and voila! Elon at Vanderbilt, for your swilling pleasure!
Any real interest in the bulk of early Saturday games has to come in the form of morbid curiosity. To what extent can wee Akron withstand an Ohio State offense depleted by NCAA sanctions? What horrors await when Minnesota takes the field at USC? And which fan base will panic and call for the firing of its coach first: Auburn when a defender misses a tackle against Utah State, or Alabama when Kent State intercepts one of its quarterbacks?
Two anchor games were set to provide safe harbor for fans seeking the real deal in college football on Labor Day weekend: Boise State and Georgia in Atlanta and LSU and Oregon in Arlington. The particulars were perfectly aligned: Cross-country matchups! Professional stadiums! Old and new football powers! Four shiny sets of Pro Combat unis! The glossy production values of ABC and ESPN! And while the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game between Boise and Georgia is a promising one, No. 4 LSU and No. 3 Oregon are going to command the nation’s attention.