We have officially entered that awkward phase of the summer when we’re still too far away to really dig into the upcoming college football season—but all we’re left with is the CFL to quench our football thirst.
No matter, let’s dig into some of the big matchups waiting for us on Labor Day Weekend—a weekend of college football made even better by the fact that, but for a week, it’s not encumbered by the presence of the NFL on Sunday and Monday.
This season there are huge (yuge, even) games on Saturday night, Sunday night and Monday night. Try your best to get out of any plans you’ve been roped into—weddings and lake trips included—because you will miss some fantastic football while you’re trying in vain to keep track of the action on your iPhone.
Michigan at Notre Dame
Sept. 1 | 6:30 PM CT on NBC
After the debacle of not playing each other for a few seasons, Michigan returns to South Bend with aspirations of avenging a 31-0 whooping the last time the teams played in 2014.
The pressure is on Michigan to go into South Bend and get a W. Harbaugh has certainly done good things in Ann Arbor, but that hasn’t stopped some from whispering about how plans of becoming a Big Ten and national power haven’t quite materialized yet.
A win against Notre Dame sets the Wolverines up to be undefeated heading into the gauntlet of their league schedule, with a murderer’s row of Wisconsin, Michigan State and Penn State waiting in back-to-back-to-back weeks.
Alabama vs. Louisville in Orlando
Sept. 1 | 7 PM CT on ABC
This one makes me a little sad. It’s really too bad this game couldn’t have happened last year.
Lamar Jackson versus the Alabama defense would have been must-watch TV. Athletic quarterbacks have given Alabama some issues over the years and seeing the most electric quarterback since Vick run headlong into the Tide would have been a dream scenario.
Alas, we get a new look Louisville offense against a reloaded Alabama defense in Orlando to start the season.
The Louisville defense fell off a cliff last year and their 8-5 record was mostly due to the magic of Mr. Jackson. Alabama should be able to have its way with Louisville, whether it’s Tua Tagovailoa or Jalen Hurts doing the bulk of the damage.
For his part, Tagovailoa could end up being the best quarterback that Nick Saban has had in Tuscaloosa—and the potential connection between he and wide receiver Jerry Jeudy is mouth-watering.
Miami vs. LSU in Dallas
Sept. 2 | 6:30 PM CT on ABC
LSU dominated out of conference games for over a decade. The Tigers went to Dallas and handled TCU and Oregon. They beat Wisconsin in Houston and North Carolina in Atlanta. No worries. Home-and-home matchups with West Virginia and Washington were no sweat. Virginia Tech came to Baton Rouge and, of course, lost. This was LSU’s calling card.
And then 2016 and 2017 happened.
A loss to Wisconsin in Green Bay to start 2016 and then an unfathomable loss to Troy in Baton Rouge last season has LSU reeling a bit.
Miami, on the other hand, is on the ascension. With Mark Richt, they seem to have found some stability after a volatile past decade and they’ll get their chance at a famous scalp on the season’s first weekend.
LSU can calm its fan base with a win, at least for a week, but the pressure is certainly on the Tigers. Are they still the dominant national power who won two national championships in the aughts and basically a third in 2011? Or is this the team that has struggled at various times over the past few seasons?
Virginia Tech at Florida State
Sept. 3 | 7 PM CT on ESPN
A huge ACC matchup right out of the gate has the Hokies traveling to Tallahassee on Labor Day to take on the Seminoles.
Florida State was just plain awful last season without starting quarterback Deondre Francois, who they lost in the opener against Alabama. Was 2017 a mulligan or is this just who FSU is now?
You’d like to think that losing one player (even a quarterback) wouldn’t completely destroy a team, but Francois might be that good. In 2016, with Francois as a freshman, FSU ranked third on offensive S&P+. Last year, without him, they dropped to an appalling 75th. The passing game dropped from 13th in 2016 to 30th last year with backup quarterback James Blackman.
Francois is a plus in the passing game as well as the running game and will fit snugly in new head coach Willie Taggart’s spread attack. This is an exciting matchup between a potentially high flying FSU attack and a Hokie defense that was supremely dominant in 2017.