At long last, football season is nearly upon us once again. As always, the offseason has left us hungry for more than just one Kansas State game each week, so we're looking for side dishes in the form of other interesting matchups.
Morse and I are here to help you choose the best games to watch and give you a primer for each one, along with predictions of what we believe will happen in those games. We might even argue some, and then you can come back the next week and make fun of the stupid predictions we made. If that ever happens. Naturally, our picks are For Entertainment Purposes Only, hence the title of this feature.
Obviously, it's a little slow going in the first few weeks, and we're actually doing this a day later than we normally will, if all goes according to plan. (Indeed, if all goes according to plan you'll get two of these a week. Just not this week, because pee-yew.) Anyway, here's a quick look at eight games to watch this week. All times CT.
OLE MISS (+1.5) over Vandy, Thursday, 7:15, ESPN
Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville TN
AA: What's this? A conference game on the season's opening night? Apparently there are no rules the SEC can't break. This one may be worth watching just to see how much of a train wreck Vanderbilt is after the awful, awful thing some of their (former) players did. I can't even make any jokes about that. Disgusting. Plus, here's our first chance to see if Ole Miss' recruiting class lives up to the hype. If they lose, it was all a sham.
JM: Ten years ago, the SEC trying to pimp this game as the season opener would have resulted in catcalls and cynical observations that they didn't care about ratings until Third Saturday. Now, though, Vandy's sort of good and the Ackbars have the greatest recruiting class in the history of graft. I mean, that's all well and good, but I'm not jumping all over a bunch of freshmen expecting them to start beating people. I don't even think Mississippi covers here. Line's too thin. Anchor Down.
SMU (+2.5) over Texas Tech, Friday, 6 p.m., ESPN
Gerald J. Ford Stadium, University Park TX
AA: Yes, this is a game you'll have to record or just watch during Fox Sports 1 commercials, obviously, but it might be worth it if the Mustangs can ruin Kliff Kingsbury's debut. Texas Tech hasn't lost a nonconference game since 2009 because they never play anyone, but SMU could pull this off with the help of a strong secondary led by Kenneth Acker, who picked off 13 passes last season. Plus, I'm not sure Kingsbury has accepted the idea that defense is necessary in football yet, so that over/under of 63 could be really low.
JM: One one side, we have Kliffy the Boy Wonder. On the other, we have June Jones and Hal Mumme. Seriously, is there any over here you wouldn't bet? As for the result itself, I'll grudgingly agree with Ahearn here. Until we actually see Kingsbury's troops in action, they're still looking like a bottom-third team in the conference, and since the Big 12 quite obviously sucks this year because no team cracked the top 10... well. Plus, SMU's quietly rebuilt itself into a quality program; not world-beaters by any stretch, but certainly more than capable of dispatching a mid-level AQ squad.
NC STATE (-14) over Louisiana Tech, Saturday, 11:30 p.m., ESPN3
Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh NC
JM: I'm sorry, I can't even take this line seriously. The Wolfpack may win this game, but there is just no way in hell they roll over LaTech. Did anyone even watch Tech play footbaw last year? Did people somehow miss the fact that they scored a billion points on Texas A&M? Oh, wait. I totally forgot LaTech hired Skip Holtz. Never mind, NC State's gonna blow them out.
AA: Louisiana Tech always seems to have a good quarterback capable of putting up a ton of yards, but looking at this year's team, they've got a new guy throwing to a bunch of inexperienced receivers. Sounds like a recipe for disaster in Week 1, especially with an awful defense. And yes, Skip Holtz.
OKLAHOMA STATE (-13) over Mississippi State, Saturday, 1:30 p.m., ABC
Reliant Stadium, Houston TX
AA: You've got a full Saturday to watch college football with Kansas State playing on Friday, but the morning slate is pretty much awful, unless Johnny Manziel doesn't play against Rice. OK, probably even if that happens. But it could be fun in the afternoon to see Clint Chelf and/or J.W. Walsh run by Mississippi State, who may be able to stick around for a little while. Maybe Mike Gundy will do something interesting.
JM: Gundy never does anything interesting on the sideline. His entertainment value is restricted to press conferences and meetings with contractors. The Stillwater Bond-os will probably win this game, but that 13-point line seems absolutely insane to me. If CLANGA loses that badly, Dan Mullen's going to go from "hottest head coaching candidate on the planet" to "fired" within three years.
Northern Illinois (+3) over IOWA, Saturday, 2:30 p.m., BTN
Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City IA
JM: Here's all you need to know, folks: this game opened at Iowa -6.5 and has closed to a field goal. If you think that's just a result of uninformed punters thinking "Hey, Northern Illinois played in a BCS bowl last year," I'd like to discuss some fascinating opportunities in real estate with you. The Huskies stayed close to Florida State in the Orange Bowl before wilting late; that's a depth issue at the end of a long season, not a talent issue. Iowa, on the other hand, just isn't that good. Let's also remember that last season the MAC was actually competitive with the Big Ten; you may not think winning a quarter of their inter-conference matchups is a big deal, but in terms of the pendulum of history that was actually pretty huge. Northern Illinois is going to win this one outright.
AA:: Northern Illinois lost this game by one in Chicago last season, then didn't lose again until that Orange Bowl game. Iowa and Purdue are probably the toughest tests for the Huskies this season until a November game at Toledo, and those are both bad Big Ten teams. I hate the Big Ten. NIU wins.
ARKANSAS (-11) over Louisiana-Lafayette, Saturday, 3 p.m., ESPN3
Frank Broyles Field at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium
JM: Oh, god, take the points. The Hogs will probably win this, but for God's sake, TAKE THE POINTS.
John L. Smith Bret Bielema might well do enough to avoid embarrassment on day one, but yeah, 11 points sure seems like a lot for an inexperienced team going up against maybe the best team in the Sun Belt. Ideally, this one will go down to the wire and maybe even a couple overtimes so ULL comes into Manhattan a little tired and banged up next Saturday.
TCU (+5) over LSU, Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPN
Cowboys Stadium, Arlington TX
AA: Am I being a Big 12 homer here? Probably. But in the second-best game of the day, the Horned Frogs have an important edge. Even if LSU running back Jeremy Hill gets to play after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor for punching a guy out at a bar a year after one for a sexual relationship with a girl, can that really compete with TCU quarterback Casey Pachall? The guy missed half a season because his drug problems were so serious. Now that he's back and playing with clarity to support the Big 12's best defense, this team could be scary.
JM: This is the biggest game of the week, for a variety of reasons. Location, certainly, and being the second part of the SEC-Big 12 doubleheader is, well, a pretty big deal too. I am not altogether certain that the Frogs are going to win this game, and if I'm being honest it's only because I'm not confident in LSU this year. That may change once I've seen them play, of course, but even LSU fans seem somewhat resigned to a horrible, terrible, miserable season in which they only win nine or ten games. I think they love the Mad Hatter enough that this won't result in calls for his ouster, though. One thing's certain: LSU will only face one other defense this year that has this much of a belief in inflicting bodily harm on their opponent. As for the offense, let's remember that TCU's mediocre record last year was at least partially driven by quarterback intoxication. I think TCU will definitely cover; I don't know that they win, though.
Georgia (+2) over CLEMSON, Saturday, 7 p.m., ABC
Memorial Stadium, Clemson SC
AA: I became a huge fan of Aaron Murray earlier this month when SEC coaches selected him as the league's top quarterback, rather than the Heisman trophy winner. I wonder what Johnny Football's parents thought. Anyway, Clemson can't beat a top 5 team from the SEC, no matter how good Tajh Boyd actually is (hint: really good) at quarterback. The college football gods wouldn't allow it. Silly ACC.
JM: You're being sarcastic, right? I mean, Clemson did beat LSU in the Peach Bowl last year. Also, Georgia is Georgia. Not only is Clemson going to win, UGA's not going to cover. The Clemson offense is still going to click, and their defense has improved markedly ever since that embarrassing loss to West Virginia in the Orange Bowl. This is the game Mark Richt was born to lose.
AA: For the record, LSU was ranked No. 8/9 and that was the Peach Bowl, so no one really cares. The point stands.