This is the moment you inveterate chinstrap-attired, bratwurst-munching, tailgate-addicted Bronco Nagurski acolytes have been awaiting with baited breath since Nick Saban last January ratcheted up comparisons to The Guy In The Houndstooth Fedora .
The moment when you know this is the week when you can officially spelunk down to your school color-adorned man cave, tell the wife and kids you’ll see them after the first of the year, check that your new 80″ LED is tuned to The World Wide Leader and your bookie is on speed dial.
And I’m not talking about the moment of college football’s kickoff which is only 48 hours away, more or less.
I am talking about my fearless football forecasts, beginning another run here at Score.
Enough ado, let’s get this party started.
South Carolina @ Vanderbilt. A zesty Mike Slive-approved league smackdown on opening night. The Stephen Garcia QB soap opera has finally finished its run. So, the question for the Gamecocks is whether heir Connor Shaw Jr. will play well enough, consistently enough to keep the Ol’ Ball Coach from tossing a crate of golf visors a game into the turf along the sidelines? Coming off an 11-2 season and 30-13 throttling of the Cornhuskers in the Capital One Bowl, Cocks’ fans are especially pumped. Yet SC is only a TD favorite over the improving Commodores. James Franklin may actually be making Vandy, a school without an athletic department, a contenda in the SEC. It’s the first game of the year and strange things happen, even along West End Avenue in Nashville. But Spurrier finally has his program fine tuned. He shall not let this one slip away. Gamecocks crow.
Boise State @ Michigan State. Nothing says Football Friday like a Big East/ Big Ten matchup. Talk about tradition. What with Boise State heading west, er, east to East Lansing, this is the kind that would have had Pop Warner himself smiling. What intrigues here is that the game matches two go-for-broke gunslingers calling the shots. Mark Dantonio looks like he should be sitting in the Club Section, but when he need to call some cockamamie play to surprise, he never hesitates. Counterpart Chris Petersen never shies away from sandlot strategy. Problem for the Broncos is Kellen Moore is no longer under center. Similar situation in Spartyland, where there’s a new leader on O. The Blue Fielders have opened big the last two years, winning far from their NE, er, NW home with Ws over Virginia Tech and Georgia. Will they threepeat? No. Give it to Green.
Notre Dame vs. Navy (Dublin, Ireland). The season hasn’t even kicked off and Brian Kelly is pissed off. Imagine our surprise. He loathes that his Irish squad has to travel all the way across the pond to the Motherland for an encounter with the Naval Academy. Among other things, Kelly has to worry about submarine-launched missles, taking down his team on the flight over. Then there’s the matter of food. Seems ND is taking all its own. Can’t trust that Irish cuisine. I dunno. Seems like eating those fried, sausage-encased eggs for a pre-game meal would be just right. Navy has bested ND 3 of the last 5 seasons, but were spanked in South Bend last year. Somehow Kelly’s team seems always in turmoil. It’s put up or shut up time for the irascible former Bearcat mentor. I think they’ll take care of biz in front of the Guinness crowd.
Ohio U @ Penn State. Is there a season that goes by in which a squad of pigskinners from the MAC doesn’t “surprise” one of the big boys from the Big 10? Correct answer: I don’t think so. The Bobcats are coming off a 10-4 season the ended happily with their first ever bowl win, a harrowing 24-23 nail-biter over Utah State in the Idaho Potato Bowl. 14 starters return. Meanwhile Penn State set an all-time record for bad publicity this offseaon. It’s the first season since Washington was president when you know who won’t be roaming the sidelines. The Nittany Lions are impossible to gauge. I’m thinking another successful MAC attack shall be successful.
Kentucky @ Louisville. This is the one we really care about, right? The one about which there have been a million words of conjecture written in the last month. Here’s what I’m hoping for. Nice weather. A Cardinal W. And fast-played game. The son and daughter of friends are getting married out in the country Sunday evening, and one of my favorite bands — New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars — are playing. (Assuming they’re not washed away by Isaac.) The Cardinals are a two TD fave in this rivalry battle. It will be the biggest test yet for Charlie Strong. Can his team perform when an overwhelming favorite? The other question is whether Joker Phillips ill fate will be sealed after the first game of the year? I say neither question will be definitively answered. U of L will win in a contest much closer than the Papa J’s fans expect.
– Seedy K