There’s no better fix for the end-of-summer blues than the knowledge that the best of fall is right around the corner. Fall movies, the return of your favorite tv shows, beautiful changes in fall foliage, and, of course, football season.
Whether you’re a die hard Crimson Tide fan or love those Fighting Irish, college football means weekends with back to back games that’ll give you more than ample excuses to avoid cold weather and raking leaves.
NCAA college football officially begins this Thursday, September 1st at 7:00 pm ET with University of Louisville playing University of Charlotte, followed by Tennessee taking on Appalachian State at 7:30 pm ET.
The most exciting games, however, will take place over the long weekend, with the top four teams—Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma, and Florida State—tossing around the ol’ pigskin.
The top four teams in the country will open with neutral site or road games. With only 12 games in the season, the fight for the four FBS playoff spots is intense—lose an early, winnable game and it might end your chance of making it to the final four.
The fight for the playoffs began early on, with game-changing coach turnover in the offseason.
Twenty-nine out of the 128 schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), or Division 1-A, hired new head coaches during the offseason. During the 2016-17 season, 19 out of those 29 will take on their first season as FBS head coaches—the highest number of rookie head coaches in NCAA football’s highest division in at least 20 years.
But that’s not the only major change you’ll see this season. Duke head coach David Cutcliffe even went so far as to tell ESPN, "I've been a college coach since 1982, and nothing is the same now except maybe the number of points they give you when you score.”
He might be right. Last year, college football began phasing out “two-a-days,” the back to back intensive practice sessions which often left players battered, bruised, and perhaps at greater risk for concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Following the Safety in College Football Summit this February, the NCAA made several adjustments to “live-contact practices.”
But some even bigger changes are on the horizon for this upcoming season. In fact, ESPN has dubbed this the “year of change in college football.”
The changes include dozens of uniform changes, along with a number of rule adjustments, most of which focus on creating a larger role for video replay. Medical observers are now able to stop games in order to review injuries, the replay booth will have increased authority when making calls, and college sports will begin to look more like the NFL with “replay command centers,” ESPN reports.
While some might be hesitant about increasing the role of digital assessment of plays, others see it as the future of the sport. “Doing whatever needs to be done to clarify calls that might alter the outcome of a game is the right move," Stanford head coach David Shaw told ESPN. "But I hope we don't end up in a 'Be careful what you wish for' situation down the road."
Only time will tell. At least for now, the only thing to do is to sit back and enjoy college football Kickoff Weekend.
How to Watch College Football Kickoff weekend:
And here are some of the top games to watch Labor Day Weekend:
Friday: Stanford Cardinals v. Kansas State Wildcats at 9:00 pm (on Fox Sports1)
The holiday weekend starts early for Stanford, who only has to wait until Friday night to see their team compete. Ranked number eight in the league, according to the Associated Press’ 2016 NCAA College Football rankings, “Nerd Nation” will help kick off the season with a rousing game where they are almost certain to trounce Kansas State.
Saturday: Oklahoma Sooners v. Houston Cougars at 12:00 pm (on ABC)
LSU Tigers v. Wisconsin Badgers at 3:30 pm (on ABC)
Alabama Crimson Tide v. USC Trojans at 8:00 pm (on ABC)
Clemson Tigers v. Auburn Tigers at 9:00 pm (on ESPN)
Saturday will be a jam-packed day for true college football fans.
With 14 games taking place on various networks, you might have to set up a couple of live streaming laptops and create a mini command center of your own. Or you could just live stream college football for over twelve hours. Be sure to catch heavy weights Oklahoma and LSU in the afternoon– especially since LSU Running back Leonard Fournette is the favorite to win this year’s Heisman Trophy.
The evening’s games are also not to be missed. NCAA winner Alabama will be back in full force for their debut, taking on the USC Trojans who are ranked 20th in the league. Not a bad matchup for early on in the season. The Clemson Tigers, ranked second, will take on the Auburn Tigers for a catfight on Auburn’s home field.
Sunday: Notre Dame Fighting Irish v. Texas Longhorns at 7:30 pm (on ABC)
You can sleep in to recover from Saturday’s viewing party, but don’t forget to watch the Fighting Irish take on the Longhorns in neutral territory. UT Austin will be searching for redemption after a crushing 38-8 defeat at the hands of Notre Dame last year. Despite last year’s subpar performance and the fact that the team is currently unranked, many believe that the Longhorns will return to the Top 25 this year. An upset would give Texas its 16th win to begin a season in the last 17 years. No matter what happens, it’ll be a fun game to watch.
Monday: Florida Seminoles v. Ole Miss Rebels at 8:00 pm (on ESPN)
To close out a relaxing holiday weekend, catch number four Florida State take on number 11 Ole Miss. In a press conference on Monday, FSU’s head coach, “Jimbo” Fisher told reporters that despite the risk of a neutral-site opener, he’s excited to get “great national exposure.” He lamented that his players wouldn’t “get to grow into the season,” but rationalized the tradeoff was part of the competition. “You have some give, you have some take.” Jimbo’s hoping his team is gonna “take” this one, but the two teams are pretty evenly matched going into the season opener.
If you want to see all the matchups for Labor Day Weekend, here’s the full schedule:
Thursday, September 1st
7:00 pm ET: Louisville Cardinals v. Charlotte 49ers (@ University of Louisville)
7:30 pm ET: Tennessee Volunteers v. Appalachian State Mountaineers (@ University of Tennessee)
Friday, September 2nd
7:00 pm ET: Michigan State Spartans v. Furman Paladins (@ Michigan State)
7:30 pm ET: Baylor Bears v. Northwestern State Demons (@ Baylor University)
9:00 pm ET: Stanford Cardinals v. Kansas State Wildcats (@ Stanford University)
Saturday, September 3nd
12:00 pm ET: Oklahoma Sooners v. Houston Cougars (@ University of Houston)
12:00 pm ET: Ohio State Buckeyes v. Bowling Green Falcons (@ Ohio State)
12:00 pm ET: Michigan Wolverines v. Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (@ University of Michigan)
2:00 pm: Washington Huskies v. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (@ University of Washington)
3:30 pm: LSU Tigers v. Wisconsin Badgers (@ University of Wisconsin)
3:30 pm: Texas A&M Aggies v. UCLA Bruins (@ Texas A&M University)
3:30 pm: Iowa Hawkeyes v. Miami (OH) Redhawks (@ University of Iowa)
3:30 pm: Oklahoma State Cowboys v. Southeastern Louisiana Lions (@ Oklahoma State University)
5:00 pm: Oregon Ducks v. UC Davis Aggies (@ University of Oregon)
5:30 pm: North Carolina Tar Heels v. Georgia Bulldogs (@ University of Georgia)
7:30 pm: Florida Gators v. Massachusetts Minutemen (@ University of Florida)
8:00 pm: Alabama Crimson Tide v. USC Trojans (@AT&T Stadium, Texas)
8:00 pm: TCU Horned Frogs v. South Dakota State Jackrabbits (@Texas Christian University)
9:00 pm: Clemson Tigers v. Auburn Tigers (@ Auburn University)
Sunday, September 4th
7:30 pm: Notre Dame Fighting Irish v. Texas Longhorns (@ DK Royal Stadium, Texas)
Monday, September 5th
8:00 pm: Florida Seminoles v. Ole Miss Rebels (@ Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium, Florid