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If It's Labor Day Weekend, It Must be College Football Kickoff Time
August 30, 2014  | By Gerald Jordan
 

The only absent element is a crisp autumn breeze. Otherwise, the kickoff to the 2014 college football season is upon us. This is the year in which the major colleges finally decide a national champion through a playoff system, albeit a modest, four-team format.

Games Thursday night were played in awful August heat, except for the Chick-fil-A combatants (Mississippi and Boise State) who were fortunate enough to smack pads in the climate-controlled comfort of the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Still there was enough excitement, ample indicators that the 2014 season will indeed be fun to watch, to pump up real fans for this Labor Day weekend.

The half-dozen televised matchups Friday were the second course to the main feast that will be served today [Saturday, Aug. 30] on ESPN, ABC, CBS, Fox and networks operated by the wealthy conferences – read that Big 10 and SEC, when you just want to overdose on football.

Fourteen National Football League teams closed the preseason this week, but those skirmishes don’t count in the standings.

The college kids have to make each game count. And count they will, from this week through the holiday bowl season. From California to Maine; Texas to the Dakotas; Oregon to the Florida Peninsula, it’s game on. It’s time to discover new heroes.

Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill, for instance, already has Aggie fans asking “Johnny who?” The kid connected on 44 of 60 passes for a school record 511 yards to win at South Carolina and knock off the No. 6 ranked Gamecocks to open the SEC. And to think, A&M fans were worried about who would replace Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.

The high entertainment value of college football (the pros are so good that they make it look easy) is that a playmaker can make his debut on the grand stage of national TV and instantly claim legend status. Crimson Tide fans no doubt are rubbing good-luck charms, asking fate to bestow upon them a portion of the QB fortune bestowed on South Carolina.

Alabama was caught in an uncharacteristic two-game losing streak that began with an epic loss that opened the door for Auburn to go to the BCS national title game and extended through a surprising Sugar Bowl butt-kicking dished by Oklahoma. Now the Tide open the season against West Virginia, and Alabama Coach Nick Saban has not settled on a starter to succeed QB A.J. McCarron. This will be a fun matchup between Alabama’s always tough defense and West Virginia’s always prolific offense.

LSU will travel to Houston to play Wisconsin in the hybrid NRG Stadium, which features a retractable roof that covers a natural turf field. The turf should favor LSU’s speed, and the air conditioning should save the Wisconsin Badgers from falling like dominoes.

College Game Day, an ESPN Saturday morning fixture, offers an excellent way to get caught up on the powerhouses and the players, just in case the rust of the off-season has you a little behind on which teams are on the way up and which are on the way down. Even for casual fans, a looksee at College Game Day is worth a few minutes if only just to see Desmond Howard’s wardrobe and, at the end, Lee Corso’s choice of mascot headgear.

Lots of good games await college football fans this weekend; I’m so glad it’s finally time.

(The complete schedule of today's televised and streaming games is long and complicated -- but here it is, for you to find your favorites.)

 
 
 
 
 
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