The sports calendar is filled with many special days: the divisional round of the NFL playoffs; the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs; the entire rivalry-stuffed week of Thanksgiving; the celebratory exodus of college football on New Year’s. But this Saturday, the first true day of college football, is the best.
Last Saturday was a mere appetizer. A super sad appetizer, like cold mozzarella sticks, punctuated by Nebraska’s season ending in Week Zero for a second consecutive year. I’ve had a week to purge my stomach. All toxins have been flushed. I’ve been drinking water for three straight days to stretch my stomach—the time has come to gorge on a buffet. There are few things in life more exciting than the 10 am kickoff of Week One, where every screen in my house is tuned to a different college football game, bets are flowing like fine wine, and sides (like NC State-ECU or North Carolina-Appalachian State) carry as much nutritional value as the entrees. Oregon-Georgia and Notre Dame-Ohio State will capture the masses, but the true beauty of college football lies in the games slinking around the periphery.
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In that sense, there is no other sport like it. I crave the piddling games (WVU-Pitt, Penn State-Purdue, Houston-UTSA, Army-Coastal Carolina, Boise State-Oregon State) more than the headliners. I never know where Saturday will take me—I go in prepared to cheer for the Irish or Buckeyes and find myself enthralled by Georgia State-South Carolina. By the end of Saturday, Kent State-Washington or SMU-North Texas could capture our imagination more than Ducks-Bulldogs. It’s impossible to know which games will rise up and steal the weekend. Think of the impossibility of this applied to another sport. Would I ever crave Thunder-Pistons more than Warriors-Celtics, or Kraken-Senators more than Lightning-Avs? In a strange way, college football mirrors what many of us believe—love isn’t just floating with somebody at their best, but embracing them at their worst.
We have survived the darkness of the offseason. The best day of the sports calendar kicks off the best stretch as well: five months of football, with games outwardly appealing (Utah-Florida, Florida State-LSU) supplemented by games we will celebrate for their hideousness (Temple-Duke, Tulsa-Wyoming). I don’t know where Saturday will take us and that is the point. College football has returned and all is well in the world.
This Week On The Chris Rawle Show
On this episode:
- Chargers head coach Brandon Staley on fourth down aggressiveness, analytics, and instincts.
- A revisitation of 1997 Nebraska-Missouri, fourth down aggressiveness (or lack thereof), and luck.
- Columbus Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen: "Life changes. So does hockey."
- The hope and promise of a season-opening college football game.
- Leonard Cohen and the impeccable brilliance of "Hallelujah," a song unrecognized in the moment for its timeless radiance.
On this episode:
- Lisel Mueller: "Hope is the singular gift we cannot destroy in ourselves."
- Mitch Sherman of The Athletic: "Sometimes in sports, when a group of people repeats a singular talking point, I wonder who they’re trying to convince — the audience or themselves."
- I’ve never been more wrong about something than Scott Frost as Nebraska’s head coach.
- Frost is 15-30 overall and 5-21 (!!!!) in one-score games.
- Me, four years ago when Nebraska hired Frost: "Scott Frost has returned home and many people (myself included) believe he’s the one to resurrect Nebraska from the dead. Maybe I have to believe this because the alternative is too depressing to confront: that I’m doomed to chase sparks from the past in spite of an open future."
- 20 years have passed and the questions for Nebraska football remain the same. Where is a coherent plan for the future of the program?