Well folks it’s March, and like it is at this time every year, college hoops hysteria is sweeping the sporting world.
And believe us when we say, here at Crystal Ball Run, we’re digging the college hoops as much as anyone... heck, half of our staff is seriously considering quitting the website all together and applying to Florida Gulf Coast for grad school.
But that’s another story for another day, because today we’re going to do something different at Crystal Ball Run and rather than try to compete with college basketball, instead we’re going to embrace it. How do we plan on doing that? Well, by labeling this week “Sweet 16 Week,” and allowing each of our writers to share a list of 16 things that they’re excited about for the upcoming college football season.
First up: Crystal Ball Run co-managing editor Aaron Torres shares his ‘Sweet 16’ list of the 16 games he is most looking forward to the most for the upcoming 2013 season.
As always, you’re encouraged to share your thoughts- not to mention what games you’re looking forward to- in the comments section below.
16. Alabama vs. Virginia Tech: Saturday, August 31 5:30 p.m. (Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA)
For those who say that SEC teams don’t play tough out of competition, they clearly haven’t paid much attention to the Alabama Crimson Tide the couple years. Alabama has opened with a marquee opponent in three of the last five seasons, including last year’s beat down of Michigan at Jerry’s World in Dallas.
And as we enter a year where Nick Saban will try and win his fourth National Championship at the school (no, I can’t believe I typed that either), it only seems appropriate that the Crimson Tide open their season in the same building (the Georgia Dome) against the same opponent (Virginia Tech) that their first title run began with in 2009.
15. Kentucky vs. Western Kentucky: Saturday, August 31 TBA (LP Field, Nashville, TN)
Yes, I already know what you’re thinking: “Aaron, have you been hanging out with Marshall Henderson? Because there’s no way anyone in their right mind would ever put this game on a list like this.”
Well to answer your first question: No, I have not been hanging out with Marshall Henderson (thankfully), but do need to disagree with you on Western Kentucky-Kentucky ending up on this list. Because when it comes to this game, there are two very important things to remember:
A. Kentucky fans absolutely adore Mark Stoops, a man who has literally done everything right since the day he took the job back in November.
B. Kentucky fans also absolutely loathe Bobby Petrino from his days at Louisville. And in case you forgot, Petrino just so happens to be the new head coach at Western.
So what’s the point in all this?
Well, it’s just that Stoops wants to stay on the right side of Big Blue Nation, he better win this game.
14. Notre Dame at Michigan: Saturday, September 7 8:00 p.m.
When Notre Dame agreed to join the ACC in all sports except football, something had to go in terms of football scheduling, and unfortunately that “something” is a great rivalry with Notre Dame. The 2013 season will mark the last time these two will play in Ann Arbor, before the series shifts to South Bend in 2014 and disappears into the college football realignment abyss after that.
Regardless, this should be a good one. Heck, if it’s even half as good as the last time this game was played at the Big House, college football fans should be in for a treat.
13. Texas A&M at LSU: Saturday, November 23 TBA
After losing everyone short of Les Miles, the equipment manager and a couple ball boys off their 2012 roster, we all understand it’s going to be a weird year for the LSU Tigers. It seems almost certain that a streak of three straight 10-win seasons will come to an end in 2013.
At the same time, this is match-up will still be a big one. Like, really, REALLY big. Remember, LSU is the last team to beat Texas A&M, so when factor in a little Aggie revenge with a little home-cooking for LSU (likely at night) this will likely be one of the most hotly contested games- on and off the field- that’s played all year.
Also, go ahead and look at the date of this year’s game. It’s scheduled for November 23, meaning that if A&M can somehow survive Alabama early in the season, this could be the Aggies last big hurdle between a potential SEC West title.
And we all know that if the Aggies can win the SEC title, they’ll almost certainly be playing for a BCS title also.
12. Florida at Miami: Saturday, September 7 TBA
Florida will have “bigger” games this season, but this will be the first true test for the Gators revamped defense. And when they do take the field at Sun Life Stadium, the Gators will be matched up with a wildly underrated Miami club which returns 18 total starters, including a number of key players on an offense which averaged 31 points a game last season.
Plus, admit it: The idea of Will Muschamp strutting around South Beach in a linen shirt and white pants has you excited too, doesn’t it?
11. Tennessee at Oregon: Saturday, September 14 TBA
So what will we have when these two teams get together at Autzen Stadium in Week 3 next season? Oh, just your run-of-the-mill Week 3 match-up between two first-year head coaches who desperately need a victory here for entirely different reasons.
Starting at Oregon, if you’re Mark Helfrich, well, do you really want to lose your third game as a head coach? More importantly, do you really want to see your BCS National Championship dreams end before the start of conference play? Because I’m pretty sure if you’re planning on keeping your job beyond... like, October, you’re probably going to want to win this game.
Meanwhile, for Butch Jones, well, if I can give you one piece of advice, it’s do yourself a favor and don’t look at your team’s early season schedule. Do that and you’ll see a trip to Florida following this one and a visit from Georgia a few weeks after that.
Yup, this is a huge one for both programs. For entirely different reasons.
10. Florida vs. Georgia: Saturday, November 2 3:30 p.m. ET
You don’t need any fluff from us here: For the second year in a row, this one could (and likely should), decide the SEC East title race.
9. Notre Dame at Stanford: Saturday, November 30 TBA
In 2012, Notre Dame secured a trip to the BCS title game with a huge West Coast win on the last weekend of the regular season against USC. In 2013, the Irish could do the same at Stanford.
Of course on the flip-side, this game could also be a nice little springboard for Stanford into their second straight Pac-12 title game (the Cardinal will start the year in everyone’s Top 5), which in turn could lead to a BCS title game appearance as well.
8. UCLA at USC: Saturday, November 30 TBA
On the same weekend as Notre Dame-Stanford, UCLA and USC will square off six hours down the Pacific Coast. This one won’t determine a spot in the National Championship game participant, but it could very well determine the Pac-12 South winner (depending on what Arizona State has to say about things).
More importantly, could it be Lane Kiffin’s last game at USC?
7. Oklahoma vs. Texas: Saturday, October 12 TBA (Cotton Bowl, Dallas, TX)
Speaking of a coach who needs a big win against a long-standing rival, how about Mack Brown at Texas? It’s been four years since the Longhorns beat Oklahoma, and more importantly, many believe that Brown needs to win the Big XII to keep his job into the 2014 season.
And yeah, if history has shown us anything, it’s that if you don’t beat Oklahoma, you’re probably not winning the Big XII either.
So, you know, good luck coach.
6. LSU at Alabama: Saturday, November 9 TBA
Again, the 2013 LSU Tigers won’t be your typical Les Miles-led club, but at the same time, we still expect a typically epic match-up when these two get together in Tuscaloosa for their annual early November tussle.
I mean seriously, when these two teams get together do they ever disappoint?
5. Florida State at Clemson: Saturday, October 19 TBA
The ACC Championship Game may be played in early December, but as we’ve discovered the last couple seasons, the league race is pretty much decided when these two teams get together.
And oh by the way, do you remember when these two got together last year? It was one of the forgotten great games of the entire 2012 season.
4. Wisconsin at Ohio State: Saturday, September 28 TBA
Given that this is a match-up between last year’s Big Ten paper champion (Wisconsin) and the conference’s people’s champion (Ohio State) this was already going to be a good one.
But then add in the fact that it will also be the Big Ten debut of new Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen, that the Buckeyes have real National Championship aspirations, and that no one played Ohio State tougher in Urban Meyer’s first year in Columbus than the Badgers did (losing 21-14 in overtime)?
Yeah, this one has a chance to be one of the great games of the entire season.
3a. Georgia at Clemson: Saturday, August 31 8:00 p.m.
3b. South Carolina at Georgia: Saturday, September 7 TBA
Alright, I’m just going to be real here: Before I started doing research for this article, I had completely forgotten that Clemson and Georgia agreed to open the season against each other in 2014. I also had no idea that the SEC’s schedule-makers decided to move the ‘Dawgs match-up with South Carolina back to Week 2 of the regular season after a one-year, early-October hiatus last year.
So you can imagine my utter disbelief when I saw that Georgia plays not one, but both of these opponents to open the 2013 season. And by “utter disbelief” what I actually mean is “I damn near fainted.” Sadly, I’m pretty sure Mark Richt had the same reaction.
Seriously though, is there a single team that could go from BCS contender to completely irrelevant faster than the ‘Dawgs this year?
2. Oregon at Stanford: Thursday, November 7 TBA
In 2012, David Shaw and Kevin Hogan finally did something that Jim Harbaugh and Andrew Luck couldn’t the previous two years: They ended the Ducks’ strangle-hold on the Pac-12, upsetting Oregon in Autzen. In the process, it also launched the Cardinal to an eventual Pac-12 title win and Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin.
Well with most of their team back and a rematch against the Ducks in Palo Alto, could a 2013 victory launch them to a BCS title game?
1. Alabama at Texas A&M: Saturday, September 14
The defending National Champion. The defending Heisman Trophy winner. Johnny Football vs. Nick Saban. Alabama vs. Texas A&M.
It doesn’t get better than this.
At least not in 2013 anyway.
For all his insight, analysis and opinion on college football, please follow Aaron Torres on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.
Follow Crystal Ball Run @CrystalBallRun.