To bring you an even more maniacal posting pace throughout the season, we're bringing on new correspondent Hannibal Montegna, who will be publishing tracts on a number of subjects throughout the season. You may know his earlier work writing under several pseudonyms of note and infamy. Enjoy.
In 2004, Swarthmore professor Barry Schwartz published The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, arguing that "offering more choice is not benign," as generally accepted by the almighty market, but rather that more choices are "a major source of stress, uncertainty, anxiety – even misery" that in large part accounts for troubling lows in Americans’ reported happiness levels over the last thirty years. We were once like goldfish, he argues, content with the possibilities within our meager bowls, blissfully unaware of its restrictions. But as so many constraints continue to be removed – the bowl is being broken – individuals are left gasping in the free world, frozen in a tyrannical trial of endless choice.
Professor Schwartz is not a football fan. If he were, the Dark Age of limited choices – one game per week, at the discretion of a single network, as likely to be North Carolina-Wake Forest on any given week as USC-Notre Daeme – would be a dead idea, buried in the remote-less past, where it belongs. We demand games! All day! And every night of the week! Some choices can’t be wrong, and a paralyzing dilemma between "football" and "more football" is one of those choices. You live in privileged times; give thanks.
Just so you have no excuses:
Thursday Night Blowouts
8 p.m. • LSU at Mississippi State ESPN
How long you last with this one is a true measure of your dedication. By turning it on, you’re conceding to a deep need in your soul for the game; under normal circumstances, no one would watch the modest ambitions of hyped-up, hopeful, hard-working, maroon-clad gnomes trampled underfoot by a careless Goliath’s boot. And make no mistake: if Mississippi State’s defense keeps it mildly interesting (in this case, that means "within two touchdowns") through halftime or a turnover/lazy punt coverage bug afflicts the Tigers, it will be an achievement. The trampling will ensue. With this knowledge, then, those who flip to the Leader at the start of the game are open, unrepentent addicts. Those who stay are heroes. Watch for: Amid a torrent of grassroots emotion, the precise moment when Mississippi State’s distant but surging fantasies are crushed. Also: parents in the stands. Hi mom!
Hors d’oeuvre: Tulsa at UL-Monroe (ESPN2)
The first Bowl Subdivision kickoff of the season is actually in Monroe, an hour before foot meets ball in Starkville, if you’re interested in ceremony, inauguration, etc. and don’t have a happy hour in your general vicinity, you poor rural soul.
Watch for: Gus Malzahn’s potentially
<b>Gratuitous Friday Night Buzzkill</b> <b>8 p.m.</b> • Washington at Syracuse <i>(ESPN)</i> Your local high school is kicking off its breakthrough season, which should automatically invalidate any notions you have of watching Washington and Syracuse. The Huskies are actually starting a <strike>high school quarterback, anyway, some teen hearthrob whose inarticulate, slightly acne-scarred hunkiness will send your nostalgic – as well as, unbeknownst to you at this comfortable stage of the relationship, desperately needy – girlfriend to the lurid back pages of <i>Scout.com</i>, thereby bringing the omnipotent wrath of Homeland Security down on your laptop with child pornography charges that <i>you can’t prove you’re not guilty of</i>, resulting in a decade-long, rape-filled prison sentence, a series of increasingly tight-fitting ankle bracelets, embarrassing encounters with neighbors and lifelong scorn from tomato-wielding old ladies.</strike> So check out the high school game instead, <i>without</i> the laptop, and pay that lady some attention! She’s not getting any on Saturday, after all. <i>[EDSBS legal would like to note that Jake Locker is a 19-year-old redshirt freshman, and therefore eligible to be gawked at in lewd and inappropriate fashion by adults of both genders. We regret the error.]</i> <i>Watch For:</i> The debut and coronation of new Earth Emperor Jake Locker, <a href=" />you lucky, lucky future subjects
<b>Gratuitous Friday Night Buzzkill</b>
<b>8 p.m.</b> • Washington at Syracuse <i>(ESPN)</i>
Your local high school is kicking off its breakthrough season, which should automatically invalidate any notions you have of watching Washington and Syracuse. The Huskies are actually starting a <strike>high school quarterback, anyway, some teen hearthrob whose inarticulate, slightly acne-scarred hunkiness will send your nostalgic – as well as, unbeknownst to you at this comfortable stage of the relationship, desperately needy – girlfriend to the lurid back pages of <i>Scout.com</i>, thereby bringing the omnipotent wrath of Homeland Security down on your laptop with child pornography charges that <i>you can’t prove you’re not guilty of</i>, resulting in a decade-long, rape-filled prison sentence, a series of increasingly tight-fitting ankle bracelets, embarrassing encounters with neighbors and lifelong scorn from tomato-wielding old ladies.</strike> So check out the high school game instead, <i>without</i> the laptop, and pay that lady some attention! She’s not getting any on Saturday, after all. <i>[EDSBS legal would like to note that Jake Locker is a 19-year-old redshirt freshman, and therefore eligible to be gawked at in lewd and inappropriate fashion by adults of both genders. We regret the error.]</i> <i>Watch For:</i> The debut and coronation of new Earth Emperor Jake Locker, <a href=" />you lucky, lucky future subjects.
12:00 – There is a garage. It is kind of a mess. This is your last chance.
Main Course: East Carolina at Virginia Tech (ESPN)
You’ll want to catch the start of this one, if only for the genuinely emotional scene in Lane Stadium. If it’s smart, ESPN will do what it does worst, which is stay out of the way and let the story unfold organically, with no intrusive interviews, talking heads rambling over the ceremony, scrolling tickers or logos cluttering the screen. Surprise us, Leader. Less is more. Watch For: The Hokies’ emergence onto the field. The Pirates won’t be worth hanging around for beyond Tech’s first defensive touchdown.
The ‘Flip’ Button Was Made For:
UAB at Michigan State (ESPN2)
UAB is woefully young, in addition to being UAB, but, in the same vein, the Spartans are the Spartans, and capable of anything at any moment. Including losing to UAB. Both head coaches face uphill battles in their first season. Watch For: MSU looking fantastic behind new quarterback Brian Hoyer, building Spartanite hopes before the inevitable, permanently debilitating mid-season crash.
3:30 – In the Swing
Main Course: Georgia Tech at Notre Dame (NBC)
We hate to encourage the Irish’s exclusivity contract with the Peacock for home games, but damn if Charlie Weis doesn’t know how to market a gutted, rebuilding team whose only recognizable players a) have not (and apparently will not) taken a snap in a college game or, b) are best known for being for repeatedly torched and a sport that isn’t football. A good three-way always wakes up the echoes, even if in this case it involves dudes, one of whom is Jimmy Clausen, and we kind of know who comes out on top. Although, since the original assumption was in favor of junior Evan Sharpley, is the Demetrius Jones’ "leak" just Pas-de-Calais-style subterfuge, designed to get Tech’s last-second prep work irretrievably geared toward the quarterback draw and read option? Another notch in the strategic cap of Professor Weis. Watch For: Jon Tenuta’s blitzing bandits to pound whoever starts for the Irish into submission, or at least three interceptions. Ask Jason Campbell, Charlie Whitehurst, Brandon Cox, Kyle Wright, Sean Glennon, all young, pummeled and picked losers as favorites against the Jackets in the last three years: Tenuta’s is not the defense a quarterback longs to face in his tender stages.
The ‘Flip’ Button Was Made For:
Missouri vs. [Team Redacted] (ESPN2)
We count this as one of the more interesting games of the day: it’s a regional clash between comparably huge, BCS conference schools who expect to be in bowl games at the end of the year, for one, which should always be encouraged in this age of I-AA playdates, and a pair of young, athletic quarterbacks with a lot to prove. Juice Williams and Chase Daniel are microcosms of their respective teams, really: Williams was statistically atrocious in his first season but flashed signs of promise with maturity, just like [Team Redacted] as a whole, and Daniel’s terrific numbers belie a lingering suspicion of fraud that will continue to hover around Mizzou until it beats somebody, anybody, worth a damn. [Team Redacted] does not qualify, yet. Watch For: The physical and spiritual epiphany that is Arrelious "We Refuse to Call Him Reejus" Benn’s debut.
Regionalism Is the Last Refuge of the Remote: Washington State at Wisconsin • Nevada at Nebraska • Wake Forest at Boston College (ABC)
Wake-B.C. has the most appeal on its face for East Coasters, as dead obvious as it is to everyone that the Deacs have a better chance of actually being possessed by demons than repeating as ACC champs, but Washington State comes into Wisconsin with a senior quarterback and more teeth than anyone outside the West Coast will give the Cougars credit for. Most likely P.J. Hill – who is very fat for a running back, but not quite that fat – will do what Kenny Irons did to WSU’s defense in last year’s opener, which is run for almost 200 yards without breaking a sweat. Even if not many people are still suggesting Wisconsin is a cupcake-fed fraud, though, anything less than a thorough stomping here will revive all the same chin-scratching. Watch For: Sam Keller to earn at least a little Heisman hype after throwing for 400 yards against Nevada in his first game or the ‘Huskers.
6:45 – The Wild Card
Oklahoma State at Georgia (ESPN2)
Toughest decision of the day: it’s early in the fourth quarter in South Bend. Notre Dame’s down 11, driving, with a chance to make the game interesting, but you’re also curious about this rocket-fueled Oklahoma State offense you’ve been hearing about the last three months, and how Georgia’s young pups on the lines are going to hold up to a decent challenge off the bat. Do you risk flipping over for the full effect of a possible shootout that gets out of hand in a hurry, thereby missing a potentially classic finish? Or stay put for a dud and miss Adarius Bowman shocking the home crowd with a quick strike and a touchdown dance too risque for replay? These are important decisions, and in the tradition of the late, great Bill Walsh, don’t rely on your emotions in the heat of the moment. Chart that shit out before hand – "Stay tuned to ND-GT if: Notre Dame’s starter is still in the game; Turn to OSU-UGA if: Calvin Johnson’s "little brother" Melville, a strikingly similar-looking chap who somehow failed to appear on the pre-game depth chart, delivers a jaw-dropping performance with accurate passing – practice it, and you’ll be confident in your choice when the time comes. You can’t win on Saturday if you don’t win on Wednesday and Thursday. Watch For: Matt Stafford’s "maturity," for better or worse.
8:00 – Prime Time Prime Time Prime Time
Tennessee at California (ABC)
You’ll be LOOKING LIVE!! at beautiful Berkeley, California, where SEC fans have their second crisis of choice: continue with an OSU-Georgia tilt of unknown virtue or narrative, or flip over to join The Power T in mocking Cal’s like, whatever, sort of entrance:
The Bears and Vols are the roasted pig on a spit of the day, the grand culmination, and it can’t possibly look like last year’s one-sided debacle in Knoxville. Of course, last year’s one-sided debacle didn’t seem like it could devolve as rapidly and decisively as it did, either, letting the air out of Cal just slowly enough that viewers could still chase straws after every first down, shrieking like Homer Simpson, "It’s just 14-0! It’s still good! It’s still good!" Until Robert Meachem scored again, and our little Barts acknowledged the grim reality: "It’s gone, man."
Now, Robert Meachem really is gone, and Nate Longshore and flambeed corner Syd’Quan Thompson are a year older and wiser and in a more friendly environment, this game won’t be like. It can’t possibly... Watch For: DeSean Jackson against Tennessee’s untenably green secondary, and the coronation (deserved or not) of chiseled new stars on the Vol defense.
The ‘Flip’ Button Was Made For: Kansas State at Auburn (ESPN)
You might remember Kansas State from such upsets as "Texas 2006," but the specific chain of injuries, fumbles and blocked kicks that put KSU over the top in that game aren’t really the duplicable kind. Humongous quarterback Josh Freeman notwithstanding, the Wildcats are still a step below this level of competition athletically. Watch For: Freeman carrying undersized Auburn rushers around on his back like a buffalo fighting off a pack of leopards. He’ll go down eventually. They all go down.
¡Viva las Provincialistas!
The Big Ten Network, such as it is, unfurls its crisp, velveteen banner at noon with a ghastly triptych of ritual Championship Subdivision slaughter: Appalachian State at Michigan, Youngstown State at Ohio State, Florida International at Penn State. The number of people interested in these sub-Globetrotter farces combined will barely fill any of the towering host stadia, but hearty Midwestern thrill-seekers can rest with the knowledge their beloved conference is fighting for their right to fall asleep to grisly massacres in the name of the old alma mater. For a small fee, of course. And as long as you don’t subscribe to Comcast.
BTN takes the afternoon off from live coverage but goes on at 8 p.m. with the rare Hoosier State showdown between Indiana State and no doubt "emotional" Indiana – who, it should be noted, fell last year to I-AA Southern Illinois – making either that or Tim Brewster’s Minnesota debut against always dangerous Bowling Green the network’s inaugural Game of the Week. We all have to start somewhere.