COLLEGE FOOTBALL IS BACK. OUR LONG NATIONAL NIGHTMARE IS OVER.
...well, unless you’re a fan of Maryland, or possibly Michigan State, or maybe even Ohio State depending on your perspective. Your nightmare might still be going on for a while.
So can we offer you some red-hot Mountain West Week 0 action to make up for it?!
HELL YEAH WE CAN.
Personally, for the second consecutive year, my significant other is stuck working during the day. Unfortunately, unlike last year, there are no early-afternoon games (it was BYU-Portland State or some shit) to make up for it. But we’ll power through—anything for a little more college football in our lives, right?
Where We Be, What We Be Drinking
MNW: The wife wants to go check out the neighborhood bowling alley tonight, which I’m totally fine with—it reminds me of the 32-laner in my hometown, a delightfully trashy place. Once that’s over with, though, I’m on the couch when she goes to bed early because she works tomorrow. I’ve got a growler of O’So (Stevens Point) Mango Groove, some MobCraft Laughing Clown imperial chocolate stout, and Summit Skiprock hefeweizen. FOOTBALL.
Boilerman: With the new season upon us, I’m going with a bit of a purge this weekend to prepare for the main event. Anything in the fridge is fair game. There’s some Yuengling, some Two Hearted Ale, and a Brother Thelonious. We shall see how the night devolves once the kiddos hit the hay.
87townie: I’ll be paddle surfing at the beach. I’m still in summer mode, so a Hendricks, elderflower, and lime cocktail or three will be had on the deck in the twilight...once it’s cool enough to be outside.
UMass Minutemen vs. Duquesne Dukes
Warren McGuirk Alumni Stadium, Amherst, MA
4:30pm CT | Eleven Sports Network
Is this actual football? No. No it is not.
The Dukes (of Pittsburgh, in case you were curious) have won four conference titles this decade alone under Jerry Schmitt, though that’s never included better than a 9-2 record. OK.
Once the Dukes have licked their wounds from what should be an ass-whooping by UMass today, they will head home and take on something called Lock Haven. I follow a great deal of college sports and take pride in knowing most every D-1 school and mascot, along with plenty in my own region. I could not tell you what the fuck a Lock Haven is.
As for UMass, they’re still here, and Mark Whipple—the guy who looks like he’d be slumped over the Poughkeepsie VFW bar with a half-full bottle of Narragansett in front of him with the label peeled off—should have his spread offense finding its groove. Mark Whipple, Wikipedia says, also counts Troy wunderkind Neal Brown in his coaching tree. (Me neither.) Watch for QB Andrew Ford, the gunslinging lefty, and WR Andy Isabella to sneak behind the defense.
Could they give up a few points? Sure, but no one gives a shit. This is UMass-Duquesne at 4:30 on Saturday, August 25, from some 17,000-person stadium where there will still be only 4,500 people. It’s on Eleven Sports Network. I will watch this out of principle.
Pick: No one cares; hopefully it ends 55-29.
Rice Owls vs. Prairie View A&M Panthers
Rice Stadium, Houston, TX
6pm CT | ESPN+
Bill Connelly suggested that Rice could become the “Stanford of Conference USA football,” and if there’s a more boring concept that taking a school that hasn’t been relevant since the 1980s and turning them into a boringly consistent, plodding team in a conference that I care more for 63-56 scorelines than “oh look at that competent play for Rice what-ho,” I don’t know what it is.
Give me the M.O.B. doing shows calling out Baylor for being a corrupt shitshow and keep Rice weird.
Anyhow, something called Mike Bloomgren is now coaching Rice, and he apparently was the OC at Stanford. I personally am not running a Stanford offense at Rice, but your mileage may vary. I am not doing research into the specs of the Rice OL, but I am going to assume there are not 5 hogs, each getting degrees in nuclear physics and weighing in at 6’7”, 315, lining up on the OL for Rice each week. Good luck, coach.
If you want to watch this on ESPN+, QB Miklo Smalls has a good name and could be fun, but really it’s Rice’s four-RB stable that will grind Prairie View A&M—yes, the school that lost 80 straight games spanning two different decades—into a fine powder. The Panthers were a fine 6-5 last year, but that’s in the SWAC.
Whatever, you’re not watching this game, you’re getting dinner or taking a quick pass-out nap until Hawaii-CSU. Sorry to have wasted your time.
Pick: Rice, but not by as much as you’d like Rice to beat PVA&M by.
CSU Stadium, Fort Collins, CO
6:30pm CT | CBSSN
Odds: CSU -15 | O/U 57.5
HELL YEAH THIS IS REAL FOOTBALL AND YOU CAN INJECT IT RIGHT INTO MY VEINS.
For some reason, Colorado State has decided that they will be opening each season a week earlier, last year playing their Week 0 game at home against Oregon State (a non-competitive 58-27 ass-whooping of the Beavers) and this year hosting a Mountain West conference matchup with Hawaii, who is no stranger to weird scheduling, being the namesake of the rule allowing teams to play a 13th game each season.
It’s hard, I think, to not be a fan of what Hawaii is almost perpetually doing—fighting the realities of D-I football and the overwrought pronunciations of obnoxious NPR hosts while stuck on the islands and trying to remain even vaguely competitive. June Jones ain’t walkin’ through that door any more, and Timmy Chang is but a memory. Compounding matters, while the Wahine used to be good for a couple late-night ESPN or CBSSN viewing parties with their 11pm CT home kickoffs, they’re now relegated to the Mountain West app—which I will definitely be trying to explain to my wife when I download it and get caught in the living room at 2am with a dying six-pack of Summit EPA.
I digress. Nick Rolovich had to burn it down in Honolulu and start over after a 7-7 start (with a bowl win!) gave way to a 3-9 collapse. He is replacing, as Billy C notes, his QB, RB, three of his top four WRs, an All-MWC LT, and more on defense. Um.
It sounds like QB Cole McDonald (parents never gave him a chance, did they?) will get the start, having won a 7-way QB race. He can run (8.6 ypc), and perhaps we could see the run-and-shoot add a lot more RPO to go with the production of slot man John Ursua.
A 57.5 O/U feels like it’s begging for an over unless the Rams’ defense can fix its 2017 swoon. A switch to a 4-3 defense in 2018 might help the rams, but they’ve never made it into the top half of S&P+ defense under Mike Bobo. New DC John Jancek—formerly at Tennessee—likes to attack, attack, attack, and that creates the potential for some fun disruption and some blown-ass coverages. We’ll see if the Rams’ D can hold up against an unknown Wahine spread.
CSU is rebuilding on offense, too, but they’re coming down from a peak of the 12th-best offense per S&P+ in 2017. Washington transfer K.J. Carta-Samuels will take over for program legend Nick Stevens, but the Rams also lose Dalyn Dawkins and four of their top five receivers. Izzy Matthews is a workhorse at RB, and Olabisi Johnson is a sure-handed WR, but...maybe the Rams have some offense weapons they’re hiding. I don’t know.
And so we’re stuck hoping, essentially, for the potential that Hawaii-CSU seems to offer: a lot of unknowns, but unknowns with no real promise of playing a lot of defense. This is one of those that, if you turn it on late, could be 41-3 or 34-31 or 14-0, and there’s really no telling which it could be. If you get CBSSN, it’s at least worth a short peek. And the Wahine are always worth a little rooting for.
S&P+ Pick: CSU +10.7
MNW Pick: Colorado State, 37-28
Who you got?
This poll is closed
CSU to cover
CSU wins, Hawaii covers
Aggie Memorial Stadium, Las Cruces, NM
9pm CT | ESPN2
Odds: Wyo -4 | O/U 44.5
This one is tougher for me—there’s the sentimental favorite in New Mexico State (who, we’ll mention again, just went bowling and won a bowl for the first time in 51 years), and there’s the fun, weird thing Craig Bohl has built a mile above sea level in Laramie. Very least, this is a game I’m legitimately excited to tune in to once the wife has gone to bed.
In the post-Josh Allen era, the Cowboys...well, they’re just reloading, because that’s what Craig Bohl programs do. But it’s not the offense in Laramie—it’s a defense that is legitimately elite, weighing in at 7th in S&P+ in 2017. They lose three starters. DE Carl Granderson and DT Youhanna Ghaifan combined for 15.5 sacks and are made to destroy QBs. I believe “disruptive” is what the kids are calling it these days.
Turn around on offense, and it’ll stun you to learn that Bohl has built a massive OL. Oh, it won’t? Mountain-of-a-man LT Zach Wallace (6’7”, 310) anchors a line that returns all but 10 starts. Besides those 10 starts and Allen, all that the Cowboys lose on offense is a fullback. 18 seniors. Just reloading.
WR Austin Conway (with a 72%!!! catch rate) will be the security blanket for redshirt freshman Tyler Vander Waal, who beat out senior backup Nick Smith—who was an even more mediocre version of Allen—to earn his first start for Wyoming.
But that’s not what the Cowboys want to do, which is run the ball down your damn throat.
It would have been a heaping helping of Trey Woods and Kellen Overstreet, but both are injured. So senior Nico Evans—a guy described as having a shoulder “stacked high with chips”—gets the call. Evans ran for 19 yards on 11 carries. We’ll see. I’m not counting out Craig Bohl, though.
And, as always, this:
Playing host to Bohl’s Cowboys will be New Mexico State, who have come up with some ridiculous goods under Kent State cast-off HC Doug Martin but face the new uncertainty of college football independence, cast off now from the Sun Belt.
We’ve previewed the Aggies a little more comprehensively in our Beyond the Empire series, but I’d expect to see NMSU’s defense blitz the shit out of the Cowboys and try to disrupt Vander Waal in his debut.
I told you to take the under on the Minnesota-NMSU game, and this one doesn’t feel any different. QB Nick Jeanty lost the starting job to JUCO transfer Matt Romero, and the new QB will rely on a deep offensive line (including a massive LT of their own, Sage Doxtater at 6’7”, 343) to protect him and kick-start RB Jason Huntley, who replaces star Larry Rose III.
All that said, I’ll still be tuned into this one, beer and snacks at the ready. It could be some derp-tastic offense at points, but the defense and line play serve as a nice warm-up to what we’re all here to do, which is watch and talk Big Ten football. As far as I’m concerned there’s no real loser in this one—though apparently the states’ Attorneys General have bet New Mexico green chile and pistachios versus Wyoming chocolate and Chugwater Chili. FOOTBAW’S BACK.
S&P+ Pick: Wyoming +4.5
MNW Pick: NMSU, 21-17
Aggies or Cowboys?
This poll is closed
ROOTIN’ TOOTIN’ COWBOY JOE
THE OTHER GUY WITH A MUSTACHE AND GUNS
That’s a lot on four nonsense games. Here’s your Open Thread! Thanks for tuning in to Off Tackle Empire all summer for your Big Ten chatter—we’re looking forward to another football season with you. Usual rules apply! Tell us where you’ll be and what you’ll be drinking in the comments, share any picks you have, and come enjoy the games with us!