Oh, it's a wonderful thing.
One thing I'd like to do this year is break down where you'll see games if you have satellite television. Obviously, everyone's local cable might be different, but if you have DirecTV, you'll get channel numbers of games I'm picking in parentheses. Note that this will be for national games only. Games on ABC or FSN will be listed as such, as channel numbers for ABC vary, as do the FSNs that carry the national games (i.e. Wake Forest at Baylor Thursday night, which isn't on FSN North because of Twins baseball).
I don't remember how I did last year, and I'm too lazy to look it up, so we'll just go ahead and start with the 0-0 slate, just like every team.
(Well, Nebraska may be an exception, since Bo Pelini will probably get fired after his team's first loss. In the minds of many Nebraska fans, they're 0-3 without playing a game.)
UTEP at Buffalo --> The Bulls made great strides last year, but they start a new season with a doozy. The Miners disappointed greatly in 2007, and Mike Price is determined to get them back to the postseason. I like the talent UTEP has, and I think they'll find a way to eek out a road win in what should be a tough environment.
The pick: UTEP
North Carolina State at South Carolina (ESPN, channel 206)--> Steve Spurrier doesn't know what he has with this Carolina outfit. They look like they're a quarterback away from being a real threat, but no one - not even the Ol' Ball Coach - knows if they have that quarterback. NC State thinks they have a gem in redshirt freshman Russell Wilson, who beat out senior Daniel Evans for the job. Throwing him out in front of 80,000 fans for a night game doesn't seem that smart to me.
The pick: South Carolina
Wake Forest at Baylor (FSN regionals, check listings)--> Wake is legitimately ranked in most polls, mainly because of experienced quarterback Riley Skinner and wily coach Jim Grobe. Baylor has the wide-open spread attack thanks to new coach Art Briles. I think Briles will do fine there, but there's no way that the Bears' defense can slow down the Demon Deacons in this game. They just don't have the horses.
The pick: Wake Forest
USC at Virginia (ABC/ESPN2 reverse mirror)--> Frankly, Al Groh's bunch doesn't have a shot here. USC may have lost a ton of offensive talent, but Virginia lost a ton of talent. Without Chris Long anchoring that defense, even an inexperienced USC line is going to push them around. The Trojans have a multi-pronged running attack, and it should be enough to assure that new signal-caller Mark Sanchez is comfortable in the pocket before he has to do anything important.
The pick: USC
Utah at Michigan (ABC/ESPN2 reverse mirror)--> I'm worried for Michigan. New offensive starters all over the field, a new coach bringing new systems, and an opponent loaded with talent and experience. No matter who RichRod goes with at quarterback, Brian Johnson of Utah is the best one on the field. He's finally healthy, and Utah is primed for an upset. I have a hard time pulling the trigger, because Michigan will be hell-bent on avoiding what happened last year. But I still think Utah is the better team right now. In November, I don't know that I'll be able to say that.
The pick: Michigan
Appalachian State at LSU (ESPN, 206)--> App State still has Armanti Edwards, the best player in Division I-AA, and they still have a ton of skill players who are out to prove they were overlooked by the big schools. Such motivation is tough to measure if applied properly, and it clearly is in Boone. However, the "sneak-up" factor is up, out, and gone. There's no chance LSU overlooks this game. The first-ever matchup of defending college football national champions will likely fizzle into a blowout by the third quarter. But it was fun while it lasted.
The pick: LSU
Alabama vs Clemson at Atlanta (ABC, regional)--> Great opening weekend matchup, but there really is only one question heading into this one. It surrounds the Tigers, because if Clemson plays to their potential, they're the best team in the ACC and a two-touchdown winner in this game. However, they have a tendency to come up short in bigger games, and as much as we may all dislike Nick Saban, it's hard to deny he's one of the best. I'll take Clemson, but I envision a game that is closer than it should be.
The pick: Clemson
Michigan State at California (ABC, regional)--> Cal's decision to go with Kevin Riley over incumbent starter Nate Longshore is an interesting one. Perhaps Riley is just a better fit with the other new starters along the offense. No matter what, the Bears should be able to run the ball at will against Sparty's porous defense. Even though I expect Javon Ringer to do the same ot Cal, Michigan State doesn't have enough on either side of the ball to win.
The pick: California
Illinois vs Missouri at St. Louis (ESPN, 206)--> This was one of the best openers last year, as Illinois fought back from a huge deficit and should have won. They did it largely without starting quarterback Juice Williams, who was injured early. Williams has Regus Benn to throw to, and there are highly-rated players all over the defense. Missouri still has Chase Daniel and Jeremy Maclin, and they are one of the serious threats to sneak into the BCS.
The pick: Missouri
OTHER GAMES (home team in CAPS - all games Saturday unless noted)
Oregon State over STANFORD (Thursday) (ESPN2, 209)
Virginia Tech over EAST CAROLINA (ESPN, 206)
INDIANA over Western Kentucky (Big Ten Network, 611)
NORTHWESTERN over Syracuse (ESPN2, 209)
WISCONSIN over Akron (BTN, 623)
OHIO STATE over Youngstown State (BTN, 610)
PENN STATE over Coastal Carolina (BTN, 617)
IOWA over Maine (BTN, 608)
Tcu over NEW MEXICO (Versus, 604 HD, 603 SD)
MINNESOTA over Northern Illinois (BTN, 610)
OREGON over Washington (FSN regionals, check listings)
COLORADO over Colorado State (Sunday) (FSN regionals, check listings)
Fresno State over RUTGERS (Monday) (ESPN, 206)
UCLA over Tennessee (Monday) (ESPN, 206)