It's finally here, August 30th, the official opening of the 2012 college football season!
The South Carolina Gamecocks finished the 2011 season ranked ninth following the team's 30-13 win over Nebraska the Capital One Bowl (above photo) and coach Steve Spurrier's squad kicks off the 2012 season tonight ranked -- you guessed it -- ninth in the nation. File photo by Debra Edgar/sportspagemagazine.
Whether the gridiron program is the oldest in the nation – on Nov. 6, 1869 Rutgers edged visiting Princeton, 6-4 in the first recorded game – or among the five rookie squads kicking off their inaugural seasons, college campuses across the country are abuzz with pigskin pride.
National TV coverage begins tonight (Aug. 30) on ESPN with the season's initial kickoff set for 7 p.m. [all times Eastern DST] when No. 9 South Carolina and Vanderbilt square off.
There are a pair of 7:30 games Thursday, UCLA at Rice on CBSSN and Texas A&M versus Louisiana Tech on ESPNU. For night owls – not necessarily limited to Temple fans! -- there's a 10:15 p.m. game between BYU and Washington State on ESPN.
Friday's national telecasts include North Carolina State and Tennessee at 7:30 p.m. on ESPNU and No. 24 Boise State at No. 13 Michigan State at 8 p.m. on ESPN.
Saturday is traditionally the day for intercollegiate football to take center stage and the first day of September is no exception, beginning with a rarity, an early morning game (at 9 A.M.) when CBS airs a transatlantic battle between the Midshipmen of Navy and the Fightin' Irish of Notre Dame straight from the home of the wee leprechauns, Dublin, Ireland.
Other notable games on Saturday's crowded schedule include a noon kickoff for Ohio at Penn State on ESPN, Auburn taking on No. 14 Clemson at 7 p.m., also on ESPN, and a 7:30 p.m. start for Hawaii at top-ranked USC on Fox. At 3:30 p.m. Southern Miss visits No. 17 Nebraska and Miami travels to Boston College. Both games will be shown simultaneously on ABC or ESPN2, the specific channel dependent on the part of the country in which you live.
This weekend's featured game is being played in Dallas but it won't include the SMU Mustangs. Cowboys Stadium is the site as defending national champ Alabama, ranked second in the pre-season polls, takes on No. 8 Michigan. ABC televises the game Saturday, Sept. 1, starting at 8 p.m.
ESPN has obligingly filled the NFL-less Labor Day weekend void by scheduling a doubleheader for Sunday: Alabama State vs. Bethune Cookman at noontime; and Kentucky at No. 25 Louisville at 3:30 p.m.
Monday Night Football fans will have to wait a week for the pros but in the meantime ESPN offers Georgia Tech at No. 16 Virginia Tech at 8 p.m. on Labor Day night.
Regarding the Saturday night primetime game, it should be noted that Alabama and Michigan are both in the Top Ten all-time in total victories and winning percentage, with the Wolverines holding the top spot in both categories. However, Alabama vaulted to the top of the list of all-time national championships [since the Associated Press started ranking such feats back in 1936] when, earlier this year, the Crimson Tide took a ninth title to Tuscaloosa, breaking a tie with Notre Dame in the so-called "modern era" which began in the midst of the Great Depression.
The Irish haven't won a national title since 1988 when -- coached by Lou Holtz -- quarterback Tony Rice, RB Ricky Watters, the speedy Rocket Ismail, DB Stan Smagala and walk-on kicker Reggie Ho led the team to an undefeated season, including a memorable mid-season meeting with Miami. In what some have dubbed a contest between “The Catholics and The Convicts” (a reference to the bad-boy image fostered by Jimmy Johnson's squad from South Beach after they had worn combat fatigues in 1987 when arriving for the national title game which Penn State eventually won).
On Oct. 15, 1988, the Hurricanes blew into South Bend, sporting a 36-game regular-season winning streak and ranked number one in the nation but the fourth-ranked Irish survived the storm and prevailed 31-30, inflicting Miami's only loss of the season. A recent poll among Notre Dame alum ranked this as the greatest win in the school's history.
If one looks further back into the pre-AP era, Notre Dame can boast and additional four national crowns during the early 1900s; but that pales in comparison to the Yale-Princeton tandem which seemingly held a stranglehold on the national title in a college football universe dominated by the Ivy League. In the four decades after 1869, when the concept of a national gridiron champion came into existence, the tenacious B (for Bulldogs) won 15 national titles and in 1880 shared one with Princeton which, during those pre-AP years, took home 10 undisputed titles and shared one four other times.
Entering the 2012 season, these are the W-L-T, winning pct. and total games played for the nation's high-profile programs (courtesy Wikipedia):
*Yale, as all Ivy League teams, are not BCS members.
It should be noted that Penn State would have ranked sixth on the above list had not the NCAA -- in a somewhat controversial and certainly arguable ruling -- purged the school's 111 wins posted since 1998, the year in which the alleged sex scandal is said to have started.
According to Wikipedia, "The all-time win leaders in the FCS Subdivision and Divisions II and III are Yale (869 wins), Pittsburgh State (654 wins) and Wittenberg (707 wins), respectively. The leader in winning percentage leaders in the FCS Subdivision and Divisions II and III are Grambling (.706), Grand Valley State (.732), and the Saint John Johnnies from Collegeville, Minnesota (.707), respectively.
The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame (NFF) reports that this autumn there will be five college football teams scheduled to take the field for the first time ever, bringing to 33 the number of new football programs since 2008.
The schools are: Bluefield College (Bluefield, Va.): NAIA, Mid-South Conference, head coach Mike Gravier; Lindenwood University-Belleville (Belleville,Ill.): NAIA, Independent, head coach Jeff Fisher; Misericordia University (Dallas, Pa.): NCAA Division III, Middle Atlantic Conference, head coach Mark Ross; Point University (West Point, Ga.): NAIA, Independent, head coach Kevin Porter; and Wayland Baptist University (Plainview, Texas): NAIA, Central States Football League, head coach Butch Henderson.
"It's exciting to see the launch of these programs because they are giving high school players the opportunity of playing at different levels in regions of the country where those options did not previously exist," NFF President & CEO Steven J. Hatchell, adding that 17 more schools plan to begin football between 2013 and 2015.
"Football's popularity has never been greater, and the fact that so many schools are embracing it is a testament that more and more college administrators see the value of the sport to a student's overall educational experience," Hatchell said.
Let the games begin!