**Ed. Note: Before we begin I want to say thanks. Like Billy I was displaced and lost most of what I own in the recent flood. To compound things, my dog died as I was gutting out house to begin the rebuilding process. This has been the worst week of my life and not much can be done to save that, but the outpouring of support has been tremendous, from the ATVS community and outside of it. I had to miss out on this week's Wednesday Wayback because I had work that needed to be done, but hopefully the start of football season will bring back some normalcy. The road to getting our lives back on track is long and we've only just began our journey, but I believe that the hardest part is behind us.**
And one way to ease the pain is with the return of football. This is what I like to call Week Zero, the ceremonial slate of games before the first slate of games, the guest first pitch, the appetizer before a four day feast. This is the week that within the past two years that featured an FCS showcase, with last year being Football's Lord and Savoir Bob Stitt's first game as head coach at Montana, upsetting defending (and eventual) National Champions North Dakota State in what was in my opinion the best game of the 2015-16 season. This year, NDSU is once again playing in Week Zero, this time against Charleston Southern. Only this year they are the second game on the schedule.
Late Friday night, Cal and Hawaii kick off the 2016-17 college football season live from Syndey, Australia. Cal obviously loses Jared Goff, who I have been a longtime stan for, but also two explosive threats in the passing game: Kenny Lawler and Bryce Treggs (another player I had a football crush on) as well as the other three of their top 5 receivers of 2015. What Cal does return is running backs: a trio compromised of Vic Enwere, Tre Watson, and Khalfani Muhammad that each ran for 500 yards. Cal gets Texas Tech transfer Davis Webb at quarterback, but the bulk of Cal's experience lies in their backfield. I think it will be interesting to see how Sonny Dykes uses that experience.
And their defense will be bad! Hawaii will score some points and it may be a fun game for a bit! Hawaii dumped Norm Chow for Nick Rolovich, the youngest head coach in FBS at the rip age of 36. Rolovich is a former Hawaii QB who returned to the islands in 2008 as a QB coach, assuming a role as an offensive coordinator in 2010 before joining Chris Ault's Nevada staff. This is another angle to watch this game from: Rolovich was a June Jones plug and play passer, but he spent four years in Reno, the mecca for the pistol formation, a staple of the option attack. So will Rolovich try and re-energize Hawaii's pass-heavy identity or will he try to overhaul them completely into a run-first attack? Do you really need these reasons? It's the first football game of the year for crying out loud.
After we cure our late night football hangover, we begin football in the states at a much more reasonable hour. Much has been made of North Dakota State's five consecutive national titles, so I won't spill too much ink on a spiel that you've heard countless times, but you should definitely watch their game against Charleston Southern for other reasons. For one, their game against Montana in last year's Week Zero showcase was amazing. Secondly, CSU won 10 games last year despite playing Alabama and Troy, with their only FCS loss coming against eventual runners up Jacksonville State.
Also, it's football.
Now, a word on the format of my viewing guide: under my normal football watching setup, I have your standard operating normal TV and a laptop that is connected to a second monitor. The second monitor is not mandatory, you can use the one screen on your computer/laptop/tablet if you so desire. WatchESPN, by far and away the best streaming service for college football Saturdays, offers a quadbox option so I list four "auxiliary" games to be viewed on your computing device (although you can cobble together four different streaming services by tinkering with the window size, as I have done in the past). A new addition this year is the alternate option. This can be used to your discretion, as a fifth game to display if your setup allows for it or as a game to keep your eye on if one of the options isn't to your liking or the game turns out to be garbage. Generally speaking, I TRY to make it so the games go from left to right in decreasing quality so you have the best game on your big screen, but sometimes the quality of the streaming service (hello, FOX Sports!) dictates a change in that hierarchy
I'll spare the romantics because that's always been baseball's shtick and college football is the sport of fun drunks and not sober poets, but allow me to welcome you to the 2016 college football season.