Just like an actual football game, this isn't really the beginning of the college football season. Let me explain.
There will be college football games this weekend. These games will count, towards records and bowl eligibility status, and hell even conference standings. But at the same time, this isn't the actual start.
This is the extremely liminal space between toe meeting leather and the ball being received by the returning team. The game has started in that we have a precise moment where the game began, and time is ticking off the clock to make it even more official. But the game doesn't really start until possession is exchanged. This is the opening volley of a war before it ever reaches its target.
If it sounds like I'm being dismissive, I'm not. Quite the opposite, I love this tradition. Despite it being a tradition born out of sheer corporate greed, it is a tradition none the less that I love.
There's something short of a sacred feeling in that moment of a kickoff while the ball hangs in the air. It's like a threshold. Once the ball is kicked, the bullshit stops. All the politics of the sport, the media narratives, the jokes, the memes, the bureaucracy ceases to exist. All that exists is what happens on the field and the stadium surrounding it. And at the same time, in that fleeting moment, nothing of consequence that shapes those external influences has happened yet. Anything is possible.
In any stadium across the sport, the crowd often roars to frenzy when the ball is kicked, growing exponentially as the kicker tracks closer and closer to the ball. And then...nothing. For a second or two, all is silent. All eyes are tracking the ball. Everyone is living weightlessly in the moment.
We are in that moment, that hangtime. Do not stress or worry about what happens. Do not wish there were more compelling games on. That's not the point. Just live in the moment and celebrate the return of the most dysfunctionally perfect sport to ever exist.
...unless, of course, your team is playing this weekend. Then worry.
Nebraska-Northwestern: This game is being played in Dublin. Why is it being played in Dublin? I have no idea, it’s not like
Chicago Evanston has a overwhelmingly large Irish identity. It just is. Take it or leave it.
Austin Peay-Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers had a year last year, losing four straight after beating UT-Martin, then winning out the rest of the regular season (with many of them not even being close) before losing a shootout to UTSA in the C-USA title game.
Logan Lucky Shift
UConn - Utah State: In case you forgot, Jim L. Mora is the Huskies’ head coach, continuing the university’s fine pedigree of absolutely uninspired hires. You know, the former Falcons and UCLA head coach. So that’s a fun thing happening there. And speaking of retreads, Utah State parted ways with Gary Andersen last year for the second time to hire Blake Anderson (no relation), away from Arkansas State. I’m not exactly sure what the ceiling is for a first year Blake Anderson at Utah State is, but I’m sure that it’s higher than a first year Jim L. Mora at UConn.
Wyoming-Illinois: BERT UNBLOCK ME YOU MASSIVE COWARD.
Jacksonville State-Stephen F. Austin: The neat thing about Week Zero that I deeply appreciate is that it has evolved into a week to spotlight the FCS, because it’s one of the rare time a large chunk of college football fans watching FCS vs. FCS games until the playoffs start. However, I’m not sure that there will be much to watch here as the Gamecocks should wash out the Lumberjacks pretty easily.
Idaho State-UNLV: What the hell could it hurt?
HBCU Spotlight Shift
Charlotte-FAU: I don’t think this game will offer up a ton of drama, but I’m interested in seeing how the third actual year looks under Will Healy and see how the program rebounds after two sub-.500 seasons.
Alabama State-Howard: So above I talked about how cool it is that Week Zero serves as an FCS spotlight. Well part of that is spotlighting HBCU school, predominantly in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge. This game will be played in Center Parc Stadium, better known Turner Field and will be broadcast on big ESPN. Not only that, but the house of mouse will use this to release new footage and trailers for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. That’s cool as fuck and something we don’t get in the “real” college football season.
Florida A&M-UNC: Mack Brown pose naked with an anaconda coward.
Robert Kekaula Memorial Shift
Vanderbilt-Hawaii: Because there’s no more fitting was to end the first college football Saturday than with football of questionable quality being played on America’s most distant shores. By the time this game ends, it will be game week for the rest of college football. My only regret is that we no longer have the dulcet tones of Robert Kekaula to sing us to sleep at the end of the first day of college football. Mahalo, Robert.
Aloha, football season.