DJ Gallo's Varsity Tailgate returns!
Ahhhhhhh, yeah. The Varsity Tailgate is back for another season. Please celebrate responsibly.
As you may have noticed, there are no college football games this weekend, as this weekend is dumb. So this edition of the Varsity Tailgate is the season preview edition. But, so no one's head explodes, we're keeping the usual categories. Let's begin.
Game of the Week
Hmm. Each edition of the Varsity Tailgate offers up a few Games of the Week. But again, there are no games this week. Let's just look at the Games of the Year instead. Cool? Cool.
Game of the Year
No. 4 Florida at No. 1 Alabama -- October 2
Alabama and Florida haven't met in the regular season since 2006, back when the Crimson Tide only won six games -- the same number of games Nick Saban's Miami Dolphins won that year! How adorable. The two were clearly always meant to be together.
Of course, Alabama and Florida also played each other in 2008 and 2009, but that wasn't until the SEC championship game. They're pretty much playing in the SEC championship game again this year; it's just being held two months early.
Another of the Year
No. 7 Oklahoma at No. 5 Texas -- October 2
The Red River Rivalry is always worth watching -- but even more so this year because it has national title implications and it will be interesting to see if the Longhorns and Sooners go ahead and play football like they normally do or just roll around naked for three hours in all the cash they made from their Big 12 deal. (I say compromise by playing on a turf field made out of shredded $1, $5 and $10 bills. Who uses those worthless things anyway?)
Oh, and yes -- that's right. It's not a typo. Florida-Alabama and Oklahoma-Texas both happen Oct. 2. You might want to go ahead and block that weekend out now or start saving up for one of those Flo TVs. Maybe you can get a loan from the Longhorns or Sooners. Don't make Jim Nantz taunt you a second time!
Yet Another of the Year
No. 3 Boise State vs. No. 10 Virginia Tech -- September 6
So any chance Boise State has of playing in the BCS title game in this, the year the Broncos supposedly have their best chance at playing in the BCS title game, all comes down to their first game of the season, Sept. 6 at FedEx Field in Landover, Md. -- basically a home game for Virginia Tech.
No pressure, Broncos! But I hope you've been having good preseason practices. Because your entire season happens in 10 days. Again: no pressure.
Still One More Game of the Year
No. 13 Miami at No. 2 Ohio State -- September 11
If Ohio State can handle Miami, it would signal that the Buckeyes are for real and could roll through their Big Ten schedule and into the BCS title game. But if the Hurricanes can pull the upset we'll know that they're back and a national title contender out of the ACC, thereby raising the stakes for their Sept. 23 game the following week at 15th-ranked Pitt in a game which could determine how good the Panthers are and whether they can somehow get into the national title picture, assuming they win at Utah on Sept. 2 against a good Utes team that could make its own BCS case by beating Pitt and No. 6 TCU on Nov. 6.
It's quite simple.
Cupcake of the Week (or Year)
Florida International: The ... (does a quick web search) ... Golden Panthers (thanks, Internet!) have a nonconference schedule that would terrify a BCS conference school, as it contains multiple BCS conference schools. Crazy!
FIU opens with Rutgers and then goes on the road to play Texas A&M, Maryland and Pitt. The Golden Panthers were 3-9 last year playing out of the ... (hops back onto Google) ... Sun Belt Conference (you rock, web!). So they're going to get killed and open the season 0-4. (Or 1-3. They can probably handle Maryland pretty easily.)
By the way, last year FIU played Alabama and Florida ... and lost by a combined score of 102-17. This is one program clearly dedicated to being the nation's most delicious cupcake. And for that they are to be commended. Although FIU basketball coach Isiah Thomas probably wishes his was less a cupcake school and more a popcorn one.
Cupcake Recipe of the Week
Whoa, whoa, whoa. There's no way I'm giving out cupcake recipes before the season starts. You must wait for dessert.
Rivalry Game of the Week/Year
Michigan at No. 2 Ohio State -- November 27
Alabama-Florida and Texas-Oklahoma were already mentioned, so I'm going with the wildly unoriginal pick of Ohio State versus Michigan, mainly for nostalgia reasons. Because in the new Nebraska-ized Big Ten, Ohio State and Michigan might be split into separate divisions and they may no longer play every year; or, if they do, it might not be the traditional last game of the regular season.
Either way, Ohio State president Gordon Gee says of Michigan: "We want to beat them twice." Umm, Gordo -- was that supposed to be a shot at Michigan? If so, it didn't work. Because right now Wolverines fans are thinking: "Wait? What? We could lose to Ohio State twice in a season now? That means we'd be good enough to make the Big Ten title game! YES! We're back, baby!"
Heisman Candidate in the Crosshairs
Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama. Terrelle Pryor, QB, Ohio State. Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas. Those are the players who currently have the best odds in Vegas to win the Heisman Trophy. So it will probably go to one of them.
Of course, last year at this time it was a stone-cold lock that the Heisman would go to Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow or Colt McCoy. But then Bradford got hurt and Tebow and McCoy didn't put up big numbers, so Heisman voters had to put a tiny bit of thought into it. Although not too much; they just went with the guy who had the best offensive stats on the top-ranked team. The Torretta option. Still, though: Last year's Heisman wasn't determined in the preseason, which had to be incredibly annoying for voters. Let's hope this year's Heisman race doesn't require as much thought.
Tim Tebow Fact of the Week
Hmm. It might be tough to keep this category this season. I don't think it can work. Let's try John Brantley, Tebow's replacement. I doubt he can compare. But we'll give it a try.
Here is your John Brantley Fact of the Week: As a high school senior in 2006, Brantley set the Florida high school career record for touchdown passes with 99. Huh. That's not too bad for a fact. Oh. The record of 98 was previously held by ... Tim Tebow? OMG!
Brantley is also a Family, Youth and Community Sciences major ... the SAME MAJOR TEBOW HAD! Double OMG!
If Brantley can man up and start circumcising some Filipinos, we might have something here.
Mascot Fact of the Week
The No. 9 Iowa Hawkeyes are the only Top 10 team that hasn't been mentioned so far in this preview column, so let's use this spot to look at Herky The Hawk, Iowa's mascot.
Herky -- short for "Hercules" -- was created in 1948. But in the early '80s Iowa updated its mascot, basing his appearance off Iowa wrestling legend Barry Davis and Mighty Mouse. Really. And since we know what Mighty Mouse looks like, I guess we can assume this Barry Davis fellow had a beak and wings. No wonder he was so good at wrestling. He probably also had carny strength.
Tailgate Tip of the Week
Like the cupcake recipe, this will have to wait. However ... notice anything around this column? Anything at all? Anything charcoal-related? That's right -- the Varsity Tailgate now has a sponsor.
I don't always grill with charcoal, but when I do, I prefer Kingsford. For I am the most interesting semi-satirical college football writer in the world.
(By default. I'm also the only one.)
Quote of the Week
"Let me just say this: When you've been in coaching as long as I have, we know the reputation of almost all the coaches out there that have been around a long time. So I guess what I would say is that article's not very surprising. That's about the least I should say about it. We all have a reputation, especially guys who've coached 20 years or so. It's hard to hide whatever your reputation is." -- Steve Spurrier, on reports of UNC assistant John Blake's links to (unscrupulous!) sports agent Gary Wichard.
Note: Spurrier didn't say this quote this week. It's from two weeks ago. But I think it's Oh-snap-ness (Oh-snap-itude? Oh-snap-osity?) remains.
Stat of the Week
7: Not counting Alabama and Boise State, which both went undefeated last season, Middle Tennessee State has the longest winning streak in the nation. And here's a fun fact: The team wraps up its regular season on Dec. 4 against ... Florida International! Man, the Fightin' Isiahs can't catch a break.
Charlie Weis' Hot Seat Temperature
Hmm. Another category that might not make it through Season 2 of the Varsity Tailgate. Weis, of course, is no longer in college football. He's the offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs, a team which should serve as a nice stepping stone for Weis to one day making it back to the pros. But just because he's coaching semi-pro ball now doesn't mean his seat is still not quite warm. In fact, it might be hotter than ever; he's sitting on a huge battery.
By the way, for the Notre Dame haters among you, don't worry that you'll have a harder time disliking Notre Dame with Weis and Jimmy Clausen gone. You see, it turns out new coach Brian Kelly's offense is so freaking awesome that long-established television broadcasting structures simply cannot contain it. See? Your dislike was easily restored.
Lane Kiffin NCAA Violation of the Week
Oh, this is definitely a category that will make it back for Season 2. Stayed tuned.
Name of the Week
Next Thursday's games -- the first games of the 2010 season (YAY!) -- will happen before next Friday's edition of the Varsity Tailgate, so let's take our first name from Thursday night's Ohio State-Marshall game. Jazz King, WR, Marshall -- Jazz King unfortunately is a physical therapy major, not a jazz major. That's probably because he already knows all one can know about jazz, what with being Jazz King. And make sure to tune in to the game on Thursday night in case the cameras catch a shot of his brother, Chess King, who will be dressed in the finest 1980s fashions.
Stone Cold Lock of the Week/Year
You know the unbridled joy you have about a new college football season? I feel the same way! Enjoy it. Because in a little over three months, a computer will once again pick the two teams that get to play for the national championship.
Damn you, computerssssssss!
(But please use yours each Friday to read the Varsity Tailgate. See you next week.)
DJ Gallo is the founder of SportsPickle.com. His first book, "The View from the Upper Deck," is available from only the finest bargain book retailers. His next book project will be released soon. You can follow him on Twitter at @DJGalloESPN.