By Ryan Mayer, CBS Local Sports
It’s here. It’s finally here. Football is back as of tomorrow night when the college football slate kicks off and we can all immediately begin debating who will make the playoffs, should the playoffs be expanded, and generally overreacting to any and all results that come out of this weekend. Get excited.
Beginning tomorrow night at 6 p.m. and ending sometime around 11 p.m. on Monday night, there will be 87 games played involving Division I (FBS) teams. Many of those games will be televised or streamed in some way for you to be able to consume. That’s a lot of options. Unless you have some kind of epic Man Cave with a ton of screens, you won’t be able to watch them all try as you might. That’s where this guide comes in to help. We’ll try to put together the best slate of games to allow for one continuous, one screen viewing of the best the opening weekend of college football has to offer. Let’s get started.
Thursday September 3rd.
ESPN 6 p.m.- North Carolina @ South Carolina
We get things started off with a little border war featuring two teams that have plenty of question marks heading into this season. The Gamecocks will be breaking in a lot of new skill position guys while the Tar Heels have a ton of returners but bring in a new defensive coordinator in Gene Chizik. The last time the two teams met was back in 2013 when the No. 6 Gamecocks won 27-10.
ESPN 9 p.m.- #2 TCU @ Minnesota
This is one of the best games of the weekend because it gives you the opportunity to get your first look at a Horned Frogs squad that’s expected to compete for a playoff spot, going up against a Minnesota team that is a possible contender for the Big Ten West division title. The two met last year and the result well, didn’t exactly go well for the Golden Gophers.
Friday September 4th
CBS Sports Network 1 a.m.- Colorado @ Hawaii
If you’re reading this I assume that you’re excited about football being back and will watch as much as you possibly can. Hence why this game makes the list. Are the two teams particularly good? No. But, it’s football, and it’s late night/early morning with the added intrigue of playing in Hawaii.
ESPNU 3:30 p.m.- Charlotte @ Georgia State
Once you wake up from your adjusted sleep following the Buffaloes taking on the Warriors, you can jump right back into the action with this 3:30 p.m. start time to whet your appetite for another night of football. This game offers the intrigue of a new to FBS program (Charlotte) vs. one that’s only been around a couple years (Georgia State).
ESPNU 7 p.m.- #5 Michigan State @ Western Michigan
The Spartans have perhaps the nation’s best QB in Connor Cook and will be looking to get their season off on the right foot against one of their in state neighbors. The Broncos won’t be a push over though, a surprise 8-5 season last year came mostly on the backs of underclassmen who are all back again this year. This game could be close for at least a quarter, maybe a half before the Spartans take control.
ESPN 10:15 p.m.- Washington @ #23 Boise State
Any chance you get to watch a game on the smurf turf that is the Broncos Albertsons Stadium, I highly suggest it. The turf just makes the field pop off the screen so much more. Added benefit of this game is former Boise State head coach Chris Peterson, now the head man at Washington, takes on the man that replaced him in Bryan Harsin.
Saturday September 5th
CBS 3:30 p.m.- Louisville @ #6 Auburn
I’m skipping the noon window of games for two reasons. One, there’s honestly not a great game to pick from that bunch. Two, you’ll need some time to recover/prepare/tailgate for the upcoming barrage of watching football for close to 8 straight hours. This game gets highlighted from the 3:30 p.m. window because of the Tigers, picked by many to win the SEC West, breaking in new QB Jeremy Johnson. The Cardinals could be a sneaky good team if they figure out their QB spot. Plus, it’s the return of Uncle Verne, one of my favorite all-time broadcasters.
ABC 8 p.m.- #20 Wisconsin vs. #3 Alabama (Dallas, TX)
You can flip to either No. 15 Arizona State at Texas A&M or Texas at No. 11 Notre Dame after the end of that Louisville-Auburn game with both of those games starting at 7 p.m. Or, you could wait until 8 for the best showdown of the weekend. The Badgers will break in new head coach Paul Chryst by going up against Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide in AT&T Stadium in Dallas. The QB’s for both teams will be key, as Alabama has yet to officially name a starter, while Wisconsin looks like it will go with Joel Stave who was up-and-down last year.
Sunday September 6th
Take a break. Seriously. If you’re really desperate there’s Purdue-Marshall at 3 p.m. on Fox Sports 1 but is it worth losing your loved ones this early in the season? Plenty of time for that in coming weeks.
Monday September 7th
ESPN 8 p.m.- #1 Ohio State @ Virginia Tech
Finally, after an off season full of speculating about how good the Buckeyes can be, we’ll get to see them on the field and see who’s starting at QB. However, you won’t see them at full strength as 4 players are suspended for this game. That, plus a depleted WR corps could spell trouble against a Hokie team that returns plenty of experience defensively and the top corner in the nation in Kendall Fuller. Could that spell another loss for the Buckeyes at the hands of Frank Beamer’s squad?
There’s a ton of college football on this weekend, and this list was compiled assuming you want to watch the best games in each time slot. If you’re a fan of a particular team not named here that’s fine! Enjoy your opening game of the season. I personally will be at the Temple vs. Penn State game at Lincoln Financial Field taking in that inter-state battle. Whatever your watching habits, let’s celebrate the fact that college football is back.
Ryan Mayer is an Associate Producer for CBS Local Sports. Ryan lives in NY but comes from Philly and life as a Philly sports fan has made him cynical. Anywhere sports are being discussed, that’s where you’ll find him. Agree/Disagree? Thoughts, comments, complaints? Email or tweet him.