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WATER IN THE DESERT: GAMES YOU'LL WATCH WHETHER YOU LIKE THEM OR NOT

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At this point, you're likely going to hit bottom. Baseball's death march schedule grinds on, and you likely don't care. If the World Cup was distraction for you, it's over...and Italy won, just to grind the salt a little further into the growing wound of boredom. Chances are that like a jittering meth addict smurfing from one pharmacy to the next buying single boxes of Sudafed, you're whoring yourself out to any form of sports entertainment that will take you: dominoes on ESPN2, IRL racing on ABC, the odd hunting show on OLN. (You know it's bad when, looking up from your copy of Phil Steele, you find yourself saying "That IS a nice buck, Johnny!")


"Honey...where did you put the noose--I mean, rope?

Never fear: the college football preview season (intense, non-blogosphere mode) is on the way, giving you an excuse to tear your eyes away from the Alabama-Tennessee 2003 replay CSS has been showing on a loop the past three weeks. We present Week 1 of the college football season as broken down by our categories of interest.

Week One:

Gimme gimme gimme candy! game: South Carolina at Mississippi State, 8 p.m., August 31st.

This marks the moment in the season where you will turn on your television, fall backwards into plush piece of furniture of your choice, and begin weeping profusely with gratitude toward the manic depressive god who would be so cruel as to deprive you for seven months and then give you back football and all its attendant glory.

The rest of the weeping will come from watching Miss. State's offense attempt to keep pace with the Cock 'n Fire. Second half highlights will include Sylvester Croom looking confused and Spurrier nervously checking the waterproofing on his new dye job.


Steve Spurrier's hair, sponsored by Glidden.

Outsourcing Scoring to Indian prodigies Game...Nevada at Fresno State, Thursday, September 1st, 10 p.m.

The Pistol formation meets the Hillstache in a WAC matchup where scoring will come in monsoons. Also comes on at 10 p.m., which means it will also qualify as the Why Are You Watching This When You Could Be Making Love to Your Spouse/ Marital Strife? game of the week.

Quirky-ass Intersectional Matchup of The Week: Vanderbilt at Michigan, in what could reasonably be titled the 90th Percentile Bowl. Michigan fans will somehow find a way to bemoan their team's performance in this blowout. (38 points? Is that all Lloyd's got on Vandy?) Vanderbilt fans will shed a quiet tear in defeat, dried by silken handkerchiefs applied gently by the hands of Indonesian manservants.


"Lovey, those Wolverines were positively uncivilized. Magongo! More gin!

Marquee Fraud of the Week: Miami at FSU. Monday, September 4, 8. p.m. Musberger's going to attempt a sale of this game's recent atrocious history as "two defenses slugging it out like old heavyweights." What used to be required viewing has faded, though, and not just as a result of two offenses that have been in decline for four years. The game's status as a conference matchup has weakened the allure of the game, turning the nastiest bar brawl in town into a simple spat between neighbors who'll sort it all out in conference anyway over the course of the year, turning national title implications into a fight to see who gets to go to Jacksonville. And that doesn't make for easy motvational speaking for coaches, since"Come on, guys--this is for JACKSONVILLE!!!" doesn't add up in the motivational spice department.

Realm Of Possibility Upset Pick: Utah at UCLA. September 2, 7:00 p.m. It's early. Things happen. Like possibly losing on home court to Utah, who's not a bad team at all. Which is to say they're pretty good, and you (meaning UCLA here) are flaky on the defensive side of the ball. Potentially the '06 version of TCU/Oklahoma '05.

James Randi Is Rolling Around In His Grave and He Hasn't Even Died Yet Upset Pick: USC at Arkansas, for the second year running. There's no way this will happen. None. It is not possible, even if you sent the esteemed corpse of George Plimpton out to qb for the Trojans. (He'd still be more mobile than Chris Weinke ever was.) But for bang for your lunatic buck, picking the 'Hogs with a freshman qb against the other guys in the Rose Bowl last year maximizes your mad wagering genius potential like no other matchup. How crazy a bet would this be? Pete Carroll will be mind-wrestling with a guy who was coaching high school last year in this one. Yes, just let that one sizzle on the mental grill for a while...


Would stand a chance against the Hogs.

Man Versus Unmuzzled Kodiak Game: SMU at Texas Tech.

Over/under is listed as "goddamn!" This is a term from differential equations which you have forgotten.

Game of Inestimable Significance: California at Tennessee. September 2nd, 5:30 p.m.

Bellwether, litmus test, whatever...this game means something, dammit. First: how's Phil looking? If he's forty pounds overweight and sucking objects to his ass from passing gravitational attraction, advantage Volunteers. With Cutcliffe back, the margarita chugging and nacho inhalation of his glory days should have the Volunteers' brain trust in sugar-fueled form. If Phil's gone slim, then Ainge throws four picks to a perpetually underrated Cal D and Marshawn Lynch runs a brutal ball-control plan to perfection, essentially out-Volunteering the Vols in one of the flat-out coolest intersectional games seen this coming season. There's so many different variable to this game--Tedford's tenous qb situation, the unknowns of Cal playing on the road in the SEC, whether Tennessee's gotten their head into something more than shambles after '05--that betting on Phil's ever-cavitating waistline seems as good a bet as any.

And finally...The Freaks 'n Geeks Bowl: Notre Dame at Georgia Tech. Sept. 2, 8:00 p.m. There may be no stadium in America with fewer hours of sexual flight time than Bobby Dodd on September 2nd as Notre Dame arrives to face the Yellow Jackets. Aside from spectacular displays of sexual frustration, the game should feature Brady Quinn launching his Heisman campaign in dramatic fashion against a Georgia Tech D that, if you believe their Emerald Bowl performance, can't defend a slot post. We're guessing Charlie noticed that, too. Just in case Tech keeps this close, watch for Reggie Ball to find a new, nut-crushing, and previously unseen way to blow the game, like stripping his own man on a potential TD play, spiking the ball on fourth down, or simply handing the ball to an oncoming rusher out of kindness.


Atlanta, September 2nd. Hide your daughters.