Wimpy season openers are a college football tradition. Among other things, they give major coaches a little leeway when it comes to suspending players who messed up during the summer.
Hard to fight that kind of self-serving momentum, but ESPN keeps doing it with splashy Kickoff Classic showcase games, plus that quirky College Football Playoff crew has got people fretting over strength-of-schedule, too.
Florida State, for instance, opens with Ole Miss in Orlando in 2016, followed by Alabama in Atlanta in 2017.
Florida gets Jim Harbaugh and Michigan at Cowboys Stadium to open the 2017 season. Miami’s there the following year to open against LSU.
But what do we get this year? One more guilt-free swing at the pinatas for the state’s top three.
On Sept. 5 FSU ramps it up against Texas State, 7-5 a season ago in the Sun Belt.
The Hurricanes keep it in-state with Bethune-Cookman. The Wildcats went 9-3 last year to earn a spot in the Top 25 of the smaller Football Championship Subdivision.
That leaves New Mexico State for the Gators. The Aggies are Sun Belt bottom-feeders, 2-10 last year, but not too proud to schedule their own wimpy opener in 2014. That was a 28-10 win over Cal Poly of the FCS.
How do we make any of this interesting? Why, by ranking the runts, of course.
I figure Texas State would handle Bethune in a tight game. The Bobcats are coached by Dennis Franchione, who made people mad by the way he left head coaching positions at TCU, Alabama and
Texas A&M. He had winning records at each of those stops, which is saying something. Maybe he’s
finally found his comfort level at (wait a minute while we look this up) San Marcos, Tex. Either way, the guy can coach.
Bethune would splatter New Mexico State, meanwhile, if they were to play, which means that new Florida coach Jim McElwain benefits from the softest of the three sparring partners.
Matter of fact, this is as close to a do-over on last year’s storm-canceled Idaho opener as the Gators could get. Idaho went 1-10 last year, and that single victory was against New Mexico State.
I’ll say it again. If the weather had lifted for even half of a game against Idaho, Florida would have been 8-5 in 2014. Not enough to save Will Muschamp’s job but not quite as pitiful as his final season is portrayed. Some pretty stout SEC rivals – Auburn, LSU and Texas A&M – only made it to eight wins last year and Steve Spurrier couldn’t get there at South Carolina.
All right, that’s the best we can do to set the opening table. Go to the games. Howl at the moon. Kick up some dust. Enjoy it while you can. It won’t be so casual for anyone the rest of the way.