Football is on the way, but here's what I'll miss most about the original opening day
As I sat on the media shuttle outside of Camping World Stadium in Orlando, I tried to take it all in. For every blue Tim Tebow Florida jersey, there was a turnover chain, which had become synonymous with Miami the past few years. There was even a turnover chain hanging on the grill of a Miami fan’s jacked-up Ford F-150 that caught my eye. The roads leading into the stadium were essentially parking lots, much like I-4 was on that Saturday afternoon last August.
By the time I got off the media shuttle and made my way into the stadium, I was ready to run through a wall. I had neither a helmet to strap on, nor even a dog in the fight. But believe me, I was as amped up as I’ve ever been to do my job … sit in a press box and write about live college football.
Legitimate in-state rivalry? Check. Primetime TV slot? Check. Packed stadium? Check. The perfect way to kick off college football season? Abso-freaking-lutely.
Even though that was technically Week 0 and not the real opening weekend of the 2019 season, yes, I am bummed that this 2020 opening weekend of college football won’t have that feel to it at all. The first Saturday with FBS football in 2020 is about to kick off, and it’s going to be weird, to say the least. How could it not be?
There won’t be any packed stadiums. No bands or cheerleaders. We won’t have big-time nonconference rivalries at the Power 5 level. Shoot, we’re not even seeing Power 5 football today.
Don’t get it twisted. I’m not complaining. I’ve been trying to trademark the phrase “embrace the weird” for the past 5 months. Unsuccessful, I’ve been.
But there’s something that’s still going to be missing about this weekend. Say what you want about preferring home-and-home matchups to the neutral-site variety. I get that. It’s still going to be strange to not watch Alabama beat a “potentially sneaky” Power 5 time by half a hundred.
I’ll miss not letting an entire offseason of headlines fuel overreactions. Like, what will we do if we can’t freak out about Tate Martell warming up at receiver?
Here’s Tate Martell in warmups lining up in the slot. pic.twitter.com/04EyuvANhl
— Manny Navarro (@Manny_Navarro) August 24, 2019
I’m pretty sure “Tate Martell” was trending nationally after that. Call me crazy, but I doubt SMU-Texas State is bringing that same sort of juice for anyone.
Sorry. That came off as a jab at the today’s slate. In case you missed it, here’s what it looks like:
- Eastern Kentucky vs. Marshall, 1 p.m. ET (ESPN)
- Middle Tennessee vs. Army, 1:30 p.m. ET (CBSSN)
- SMU vs. Texas State, 4:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
- Houston Baptist vs. North Texas, 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN3)
- Arkansas State vs. Memphis, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)
- Stephen F. Austin vs. UTEP, 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN3)
(I’m actually super intrigued by Memphis this year, even with Kenny Gainwell opting out. I’m not saying the Tigers are making a Playoff or anything, but unlike Texas State, they won’t be eliminated before they step on the field. Is that too many shots at Texas State for one column? Again, I apologize.)
You’ll see a whole lot of “at least it’s a full day of football” tweets. You know what? I’ll probably have 1 or 2 of those. Degenerate gamblers are salivating at that board. To them, sports are better than no sports.
It’s just bizarre that while we’re having the first full weekend of college football — the BYU-Navy game on Labor Day night might be the best game of them all — we’re still 3 weeks away from seeing the SEC kick off. We still have over half the league entrenched in the early stages of quarterback battles while actual FBS teams are playing football games that count.
Even for the SEC teams who usually line up cupcakes to start a season, there’s still a certain intrigue that’s unique about seeing things play out after an 8-month offseason. Look at just last year. LSU confirmed all of those practice reports about “the new-look offense” while Tennessee … well, let’s just say Georgia State happened.
The Power 5 vs. Group of 5 upsets of opening weekend are an underrated element to each new season. Who didn’t want to tune into the end of that Tennessee game? And what about turning on Mizzou-Wyoming only to wonder why Kelly Bryant went from household name transfer to getting pummeled in Laramie?
College football opening weekend might not have the level of unpredictability of opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament, but because of the long offseason, those moments have a way of making a major impact.
I don’t know who would have provided that this year. But think about this for a minute. If not for a pandemic, here’s what college football’s original opening day would’ve had:
- Alabama vs. USC (in Dallas)
- Michigan vs. Washington
- North Dakota State vs. Oregon
- TCU vs. Cal
- West Virginia vs. Florida State (in Atlanta)
And we would have had Baylor-Ole Miss on Sunday with Georgia-Virginia (in Atlanta) on Monday. That’s not including virtually every other Power 5 team having some sort of game to confirm/throw away every narrative we’ve heard for the past 8 months. Ugggggghhhhhh. I need all of those clichés in my life. You know. “This team is ready to make the next step.” “He put on 30 pounds of muscle.” “This quarterback really feels like the game is slowing down for him now.”
Those games essentially went into a college football vacuum. We just won’t get them. They were sucked away from the masses. You better believe I’ll miss that.
Eventually, though, we’ll get rewarded for the longest college football offseason of our lifetimes. Come Sept. 26 when the SEC hits the ground running, we’ll have a full slate of Power 5 action. We’ll have a reason to actually argue about rankings. We’ll have at least a fraction of data to answer the all-important “who’s poised for a Playoff run” question.
We’ll have college football back. Sort of. There won’t be that first wild College GameDay with Desmond Howard getting so caught in the moment that he lets curse words slip on Disney’s airwaves. There won’t be a sea of Miami and Florida fans ready to brawl at the first Gator chomp that clips a fellow tailgater in the nose.
No, we don’t be kicking off 2020 with a bang. We don’t have much of a say in that.
What do you say we all just embrace the weird and continue the countdown to Sept. 26?