Bottom Ten Early Season Games – 2009
The college football season is almost upon us! No longer do guys have sit in the garage in a folding chair watching grown men chase a little white ball around a park. Week one offers up some terrific games sure to enliven the early autumn season. Some of the best opening day games include:
· #7 VA Tech vs #5 Alabama
· #13 Georgia vs. #9 Oklahoma State
· # 3 OU vs #20 BYU
One of the benefits of the much maligned BCS system is that some decent early season games may now be seen prior to conference play. Still, this doesn’t overshadow some hugely horrible match ups in week one. Week one is where fans of losing teams cautiously poke their heads out from behind the bleachers to see if this year, their team can win something besides the intrasquad game.
Building a loser into a winner in college football is a tall order. Winning programs have years of tradition to assist in the recruiting of star high school athletes. Unfortunately losing programs also have years of tradition – the tradition of being humiliated on the field. This makes recruiting a daunting challenge.
Winning programs have throngs of well-heeled alumni to pay for the recruiting parties. They enjoy attending them with the young coeds recruited for the event as well. Alumni looking for things to do with their millions enjoy seeing the team they paid for thrash lesser schools on their way to a BCS appearance. They enjoy being a part of a long standing, winning tradition. Losing schools see their alumni donations channeled to the Philosophy Department.
Established and successful college football programs that expect be celebrating the next New Year’s Day in someplace warmer than Toledo follow the same, well-worn path to success each year. Schedule and win tough games against quality opponents outside the conference and the BCS formula will reward alumni with a free beer party on the beach. Losing football programs will be wallowing in the netherworld of bowl ineligibility.
Scheduling is an art form that directly impacts the BCS formula for picking a national football champion. Traditional losers call each upcoming season a ‘rebuilding year.’ Successful and winning football programs call every season a ‘rebuilding year.’ Successful program operators understand that even their best player is only going to contribute for a few years. Then someone else must be found to fill in. Getting junior players ready for the big time is a big priority of these early season ‘patsy’ scrimmages.
It is in the view of ‘rebuilding’ that the scheduling task is undertaken. Early season games are left to the individual schools to schedule and promote. Most of these are non-conference games that now have an impact on the BCS bowl game picture. Prior to the BCS, Nebraska kept a long standing tradition of beating up on the most unbelievably weak early season opponents they could find. This was to re-establish that winning tradition year after year. Now however, Husker nation has to chew its nails through one or two pre-Big 12 Conference games each year that are actually challenging. The Big and Red fans (BaRFs) have seen their team lose games to the likes of USC to knock themselves out of national championship contention before the Big 12 season kicks off.
Finding weak Division II schools to build an early season schedule around is easy enough. Just pay Murray State and Western Kentucky enough money and these schools will send eleven guys willing to get smacked around for 60 minutes so that a powerhouse school may rack up a win. Still, these games can get interesting. Remembering (quite fondly) the Appalachian State victory over the mighty Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor on opening day a couple years ago, powerhouse schools need to actually show up to play.
Will there be another Appalachian State waiting in the wings to knock off a top ten opponent this year? Probably not, but at least we can make fun of the horrible beatings some of these schools are going to be dishing out to begin the 2009 season. So without further ‘ado’ here are the top ten blowouts for the 2009 early season as chosen by your humble author – the Sage of College Football.
10. Michigan vs Western Michigan – The mighty Wolverine program has fallen on hard times and is coming out the dark living Hell of bowl ineligibility. The Wolverines are an angry team playing at home. Its fans are demanding redemption in the Big House in Ann Arbor. Western Michigan players are asking how their administration got them into this gig. The administrators will watch the end of this game from the bar. WMU players may watch it from their hospital beds.
9. Indiana vs: (in order) Eastern Kentucky, Western Michigan, Akron – The Hoosiers leapt out to a 2-0 start in 2008 by beating a couple of these same schools to open the season. Unfortunately, the school had many of its best athletes doing rotation work through the local hospital and didn’t produce another win all season. This didn’t necessarily mean the plan was flawed; it was just that football players produce more wins on the field than from the infirmary. Look for the Hoosiers to start strong in the first three weeks before getting whacked silly by the University of Michigan in game 4.
8. Nevada vs Notre Dame – The Fighting Irish have lost some of that Irish ambition over the past couple of seasons. This year though, is ‘make or break’ for Coach Charlie Weiss, so the nation’s best independent school has agreed to take on the Nevada Wolf Pack in South Bend. If the ‘Pack beats up on the Irish, look for the rebellion to begin. Early wisdom has the Irish beating the stuffing out of this school in preparation for the game 2 matchup with Michigan.
7. Penn State vs Akron – The Akron Zips (yes, really), are funding their athletic budget for the next several years by agreeing to play Penn State and Indiana in two of their first three games. Playing this one at Penn State will only add to the agony Zip Alums will have to endure. Look for the Lions to run a couple series with their starters and wipe out Akron using players that don’t expect to take the field for the rest of the year.
6. Texas vs Louisiana-Monroe – Why does a state with LSU as its flagship program allow these lesser schools to provide fodder for early season blowout losses? Louisiana football fans wind up with schizophrenic personalities owing to following LSU, the NFL’s Saints, Louisiana-Monroe and Louisiana Lafayette. The only reason this one won’t be a bigger blow out is that Texans usually have manners and won’t be trying to hit triple digits.
5. LSU vs Washington – It is highly unusual that a Pac 10 school participates on the sacrificial side of an early season blowout. When this schedule was set, LSU had every expectation that the Huskies would show up ready to give ‘em a good game. The Huskies will indeed show up – fresh off a winless season, with a new coach and few recruits. If LSU loses this one, be prepared for something worse than Katrina.
4. Nebraska vs. Florida Atlantic – Florida Atlantic is one of the southern schools that has been investing in its program with the long term goal of becoming competitive. Nebraska invests in its program every year and usually produces a winner. After losing important home games to the likes of the USC Trojans in years past, don’t look for the Huskers to look past this one. FLATLANTIC should get busted up in Lincoln. If the southern school somehow prevails, there will be armed revolt on campus.
3. Florida State vs Jacksonville State - (September 12) what in the world is a top 20 team doing playing Jacksonville State? Racking up a ‘W’ without too much effort is the obvious answer. This game doesn’t do much for the Seminole’s bowl prospects except if they manage somehow to lose it.
2. Western Kentucky vs Tennessee - The Vols are clawing their way back into BCS contention and a win over the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers would be a good start. Accordingly, a loss would be a disaster. Playing in front of some 100k fans in Knoxville is tough enough, but for a Volunteer team looking to rebuild by bludgeoning a lesser opponent, it should be a cakewalk.
1. #1 Florida vs. Charleston Southern - This one is unbelievably scheduled to air on ESPN! Then the mighty Gators have Troy U. on September 12. To kick off their season, the preseason favorite Florida Gators actually scheduled a game against a southern part of a southern city… or at least a school that has little expectation to compete well. The Sage cannot imagine how Charleston Southern would invite a decent athlete to participate in a game like this. Even athletes that are healthy may wind up with Swine Flu right before kickoff. Surviving H1N1 would be better than surviving this game. Florida and its alumni should (but won’t) be ashamed for setting this one up.
Rotten Game of Opening Week – Idaho vs. New Mexico State – two of the worst programs in the nation square off against one another. The victor may record its only win.
Check back Sunday for the 2009 innagural First Worst Bottom Ten List!