Ah, yes, folks. Football is back. College football, to be specific, and for that, we should be grateful.
I mean, let's face it. The offseason that we just endured was one of the worst in memory. Perhaps the worst of all time, actually. And it's not exactly hard to figure out why: There was the Jerry Sandusky thing, and then there was the Freeh Report about the Sandusky thing, and then there was Penn State's response to the Freeh Report, and then there was the NCAA swooping in to put Penn State into exile, and then there was Penn State's reaction to that. I mean, that was pretty much the entire offseason.
But that's in the past now. For the first time in what seems like an awfully long time, we can finally get back to talking about ... football. Just ... football.
Week 1 brings us a not-so-great, but not-so-bad, slate of games, highlighted by the big one down in Dallas, the sort of big one over in Atlanta, an interesting one over in Ireland and, yes, a very important one up at Penn State.
Who will win on this Opening Weekend? And who won't? Well, find out here, in our Week 1 edition of Games Worth Watching for the 2012 season.
No. 24 Boise State at No. 13 Michigan State (Friday, 8 p.m., ESPN): This one has flown a bit under the radar. But I'm not sure why, as there are plenty of interesting storylines here. Boise arrives in East Lansing faces a slew of questions about its resiliency--and its depth--after the departure of All-Everything quarterback Kellen Moore. Many seem to believe that the Broncos will fall far down the college football ladder now that Moore is gone, but the reality is, coach Chris Petersen has done pretty much nothing but win since taking over the Broncos, and I don't expect that this will change much anytime soon. The Broncos, as always, will be well-coached, physical, smart and, importantly, more athletic than people give them credit for. The Spartans, meanwhile, need to prove that they're worthy of all that talk out there--talk that they might just make a run for the Big Ten crown. Boise State 28, Michigan State 24
Notre Dame vs. Navy (In Dublin) (Saturday, 9 a.m., CBS): Just what Brian Kelly needed in what many are (correctly) calling his make-or-break year in South Bend: A season-opening trip to Ireland to take on the always crafty Navy Midshipmen--and the always-daunting Triple Option offense. There's never really a good time to play against a Triple Option team, but I suppose playing one in Week 1 might help somewhat; at the very least, you would think, the Irish would have had most of the offseason to prepare for it. That might give them just the edge they need here. Notre Dame 31, Navy 24
Ohio at Penn State (Saturday, noon, ESPN): This game needs to happen. Not just for Penn State. For all of college football. That university, and this game, needs to move forward, needs to start talking about Bill O'Brien, needs to let the Nittany Lions at least try to move forward. It won't always be pretty in the years to come, but it will be football, and say what you will about the problems of this game of ours, I happen to think that some football--football normalcy, that is--might do Happy Valley a world of good. Penn State 23, Ohio 20
No. 14 Clemson vs. Auburn (Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPN): Everything I know about Clemson tells me that this is precisely the kind of game that Clemson does not show up for. Hence, this result. Auburn 34, Clemson 17
No. 8 Michigan at No. 2 Alabama (Saturday, 8 p.m., ABC): It's the big one down in Big D. Or, well, Arlington. Here's the thing about this game. We already know that 'Bama is good. And we already know that, even if 'Bama somehow manages to lose this one, they can still make their way back into the national title discussion. Besides, we all understand now that the winner of the SEC gets an automatic bid to the BCS National Championship Game, right? The same does not apply to Michigan. So, taking talent out of the equation here for a moment, you could make the case that this game means a lot more to the Wolverines than it does to the Tide. Does that matter? Well, a little bit. But not enough. Denard Robinson will keep things close, and the Wolverines will hang around for a while, but they can't hang with the Tide for 60 minutes. Alabama 27, Michigan 17