If you stayed up past midnight on the east coast last night to watch USC-Oregon State right now you're blearily wiping your eyes and cursing the decision as lunch nears and all you want to do is crawl under your desk and sleep. If you're like me you might also be questioning why you let Birmingham, Alabama's finest talk radio show host, Ian Fitzsimmons of JOX radio, convince you to do shots in celebration of Mark Sanchez's fourth quarter interception. Shots only a few minutes before you have to stumble across the street to your hotel and lay in bed realizing that the most shocking game of the college football season is already complete. And it's still September. Which means that suddenly, amazingly, the national title game has no one's name written in. Hell, we don't even know who deserves to be number one. But, before we get to the weekend's six most interesting games, a bit more on USC-Oregon State. I hope you got a chance to watch. Thank God for Thursday night football. Otherwise this game would have kicked off on whatever crappy Fox affiliate carries the game, you'd have seen a score update sometime around 11 and started madly flipping through your cable channels to find out whether or not you even got the game. Only to find out that you don't get the station. Or if you did get it, you'd already be out the bar wallowing in your own team's loss or celebrating their victory. Thanks to the Thursday broadcast we at least had the opportunity to watch what went down. Games like this are what make college football the most unpredictable sport in America. Oregon State was a 25 point underdog. In the entire NFL season there won't be a 25 point underdog. The crowd was out of control, Oregon State got a couple of good breaks (a would-be interception turns into a touchdown pass with four seconds left in the first half?) and USC proves their mortal. Why do I enjoy watching and writing so much about college football? For the way momentum takes over the game. College players are held sway by the powers of their emotions much more than professional players. And a huge part of that is college crowds. Did you see how crazy the Oregon State students were? It was a mosh pit that featured a football game. There's a purity to this sporting emotion, a fullness to the hate. I firmly believe that Oregon State students hate USC. Their perceived arrogance, their perfect tans, their sunglasses, their fake breasts, their jock-itch, their Song Girls, and their constant ESPN-fellation. So much distate is manufactured for public consumption these days that I just don't believe most of it. When it comes to college games, I believe it. It's rare that I watch a sporting event featuring teams I don't care about and think, "Man, I wish I was there." Last night I wished I was in Corvallis, Oregon. Corvallis. Forget pointing to Corvallis, I couldn't even point to the correct region on a map of Oregon. And neither could you. But last night, I wish I was there. And so do you. Anyway, here's your primer on the six most intriguing games of the weekend UConn at Louisville (-2.5)- Apologies to the UConn fans who have been emailing asking how I haven't noted UConn's inexorable rise to Big East dominance. UConn's 4-0 but looked bad against Baylor last week. Louisville is 2-1 since their debacle at home against Kentucky. Why is this game worth watching? Because the line jumped out at me and because last year's game featured that immortal called fair-catch that turned into a punt return touchdown. This play was the difference for last year's UConn win. Anyway, this is another strange UConn line. Louisville is favored even though they haven't done much of anything this season. Does UConn have the strangest lines of any team so far this season? I think so. Arkansas at Texas (-27)- Arkansas fans are sitting in their outhouses, tearing pages off the old Sears and Roebuck catalogs repeating over and over again, "Bobby Petrino is an offensive genius," "Bobby Petrino is an offensive genius,", "Bobby Petrino is an offensive genius." Which makes them all sort of sound like elementary school kids saying they don't believe in the Bell Witch while they turn around in circles in front of a mirror. (Did people only do this in the South?) The theory was that a reflection of the Bell Witch would appear in the mirror. Anyway, what do both of these scenerios have in common? Merely saying the same thing over and over again, doesn't make it so. Arkansas is the worst team in the SEC by a wide margin. Should be some fireworks. Unfortunately for Arkansas, they couldn't refuse to reschedule this game after Ike.
Marshall at West Virginia (-15)- If Bill Stewart found a way to lose this game would he survive the night in Morgantown/Deadwood? I don't think so. What's more, I think it would turn into one of those The Wire-esque murders where everyone in the whole stadium knew what happened, why it happened, and who the shooter was but no one would talk. Come Sunday morning a few weary souls just trudge up the muddy hillside overlooking town and pound in an old wooden cross, say a few words ("A lifetime ago, Bill Stewart beat Oklahoma. Them was the days.") and life moves on. But, surely, surely, Bill Stewart isn't going to follow up road losses to East Carolina and Colorado with a home loss to Marshall, right? West Virginia fans would respond if they weren't so busy digging out their end-times shelter and restocking it with pork and beans.
Tennessee at Auburn (-6.5)- The reason I'm in Birmingham is to head over to this game. Going to Tennessee games is becoming like Chinese water torture. You know the drip of watery failure is coming, you're just not sure when. Will my team fumble inside the five, get a punt blocked for a touchdown or allow a punt-return for a touchdown, false start on a key third down play or jump offsides on a key third down play, there are so many questions and so few answers. Having said all that, anyone who has a clue what's going to happen in this game is a fool. The only certainty is it's going to be like two bingo winged Florida chicks kissing, painful yet you cannot look away. True story, former Auburn offensive coordinator Al Borges was at last week's LSU game and sat in the stands quizzically staring down at the field. Thinking, "You fired me for this?" Wisconsin (-6) at Michigan- Michigan and Tennessee's lockstop of college football awkwardness continues for yet another season. These programs are mirror images of one another. As I've said before, Michigan and Tennessee are to college football what dry humping is to sex. Both teams get you worked up and excited and then, inevitably, let you down and leave you chafed. There's a really good double entendre here with the spread offense but I'm just not seeing it. Anyway, Wisconsin is the last, greatest hope of the Big Ten not named Terrelle Pryor. At some point Michigan has to recognize that their defense isn't that bad and stop forcing the offense to give away points running an ill-suited scheme, right? Just to keep the games close. Probably not, but they should. If you're a Wisconsin fan this line being so low is a bit alarming. You're having your best season in a decade, Michigan is having their worst, and Michigan is still only a six point underdog? Alabama at Georgia (-6.5)- Georgia fraternity guy riding through campus in his Toyota 4-Runner discussing the game: "Oh My Fucking God, Georgia is wearing black! Woof, woof! Oh My Fucking God, Georgia is wearing black! Woof, woof. Turn up the Dave Matthews, dude. Oh My Fucking God, Georgia is wearing black!" Did you hear that Georgia is wearing black jerseys? That's huge. They're having a blackout. Which is different than keeping black's out of the game. That would limit the offensive explosiveness. Hopefully no one makes the latter mistake in a show of excessive blackout glee. Without a doubt this is Saturday's best game. If Georgia wins they're number one in the country, if Alabama wins do they have a legit argument that they should be number one in the country? Maybe. But, remember, Alabama's strength coach thinks Georgia's wearing black because they're going to a fucking funeral.
(It's at the 1:04 mark and is kind of hard to hear. Not so hard to hear that Mark Richt hasn't run with this and been appearing dressed entirely in black for his press conferences.) Strength coaches are the craziest bastards connected to sports. Seriously, they are. Usually you don't get to hear what they say because it's so graphic even 18 year old football players are like, "Man, I don't think he should have said that."