Commentary

From revenge to rage, intriguing games provide story lines

Originally Published: August 25, 2008
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

There might be bigger games during the 2008 college football season, but only a few get the masses filled with revenge and rage.

Whether it's Houston Nutt returning to Arkansas as coach of Ole Miss or Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer crossing state lines into Alabama, several games offer intriguing story lines this season.

Here's a list of those games, which aren't always the best ones being played, but pretty interesting nonetheless:

Aug. 28: Jacksonville State at Georgia Tech (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN360)
The Paul Johnson era opens against a Division I-AA opponent. But Jacksonville State has a I-A quarterback: former LSU starter Ryan Perrilloux.

Aug. 30: Appalachian State at LSU (5 p.m. ET, ESPN, ESPN360)
For only the third time in history, two defending outright national champions meet on the playing field.

[+] EnlargeMichigan and Appalachian State
AP Photo/Duane BurlesonCan Appalachian State stun LSU like it did Michigan in 2007? Stay tuned.

The Mountaineers have won three consecutive Division I-AA national championships, and, of course, opened the 2007 season with a stunning 34-32 upset at Michigan. Defending national champions haven't played each other since 1994, when Division II national champ North Alabama lost 17-14 at defending I-AA national champ Youngstown State.

Aug. 30: Utah at Michigan (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
Lloyd Carr's final season as Michigan's coach opened with the aforementioned loss to Appalachian State. Rich Rodriguez's tenure could very well open with a loss to the Utes, who return 14 starters from a team that finished 9-4 in 2007.

Sept. 1: Fresno State at Rutgers (4 p.m. ET, ESPN, ESPN360)
Fresno State's Pat Hill and Rutgers' Greg Schiano agreed to play this game during a golf outing in Mexico this past spring. There is no mulligan for the loser.

Sept. 1: Tennessee at UCLA (8 p.m. ET, ESPN, ESPN360)
The Volunteers travel west to open a season for the second year in a row. California beat the Volunteers 45-31 last season, dropping Tennessee's record to 2-7-1 in games played in the Golden State.

Sept. 6: Miami at Florida (8 p.m. ET, ESPN, ESPN360)
It's hard to believe the Gators haven't beaten the Hurricanes in 23 years. Florida spoiled quarterback Vinny Testaverde's first start with a 35-23 victory in the Orange Bowl on Sept. 7, 1985.

[+] EnlargeUrban Meyer
Doug Benc/Getty ImagesIs this the year Urban Meyer and Florida bring down Miami?

The Hurricanes bounced back to rout Cincinnati 38-0 the next week -- a win that started their famous 58-game home winning streak. Miami has won its past six games against the Gators, including a 27-10 win in the 2004 Peach Bowl.

Sept. 6: Southern Miss at Auburn (12:30 p.m. ET)
It's an intriguing matchup of spread offense gurus: new Auburn offensive coordinator Tony Franklin versus new Golden Eagles coach Larry Fedora.

Sept. 6: Ole Miss at Wake Forest (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC, ESPN360)
On paper, it doesn't look like the sexiest matchup, but quarterback Jevan Snead and coach Houston Nutt get their first big test as Rebels. It's the first time an SEC team other than Vanderbilt has traveled to Winston-Salem, N.C., since 1979.

Sept. 6: Texas Tech at Nevada (9:05 p.m. ET)
Red Raiders coach Mike Leach takes his gambling style to Reno, where the Wolf Pack are more than capable of spoiling Texas Tech's BCS hopes.

Sept. 11: North Carolina at Rutgers (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, ESPN360)
Schiano gets to play his former boss, Tar Heels coach Butch Davis, near New York City on the anniversary of 9/11. Schiano was Davis' defensive coordinator at Miami from 1999 to 2000.

Sept. 13: Arkansas at Texas (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC, ESPN360)
The matchup of old Southwest Conference foes is the first big test for new Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino. Two decades ago, the No. 8 Longhorns upset the No. 3 Razorbacks 28-21 in Lou Holtz's second season as the Hogs' coach.

Sept. 13: Oregon at Purdue (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
The Ducks, who are trying to replace quarterback Dennis Dixon, travel to the school known as the "Cradle of Quarterbacks." It will be the Boilermakers' biggest nonconference test in coach Joe Tiller's swan song.

Sept. 13: Wisconsin at Fresno State (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN360)
Give the Badgers credit for having the guts to play Fresno State at Bulldog Stadium. Hill is calling it the biggest night in his program's history.

Sept. 13: SMU at Texas Tech (7 p.m. ET)
Former Hawaii coach June Jones has traded his floral shirts for cowboy boots as he tries to restore the Mustangs' once-proud tradition. The Red Raiders haven't confirmed if they are installing a triple-digit scoreboard before the game.

Sept. 18: West Virginia at Colorado (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, ESPN360)
The Mountaineers leave the beautiful hills of West Virginia for the mountain tops of Colorado. It is new coach Bill Stewart's first chance to prove he was the right choice to succeed Rodriguez.

Sept. 20: Notre Dame at Michigan State (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
The last time the Fighting Irish played at Spartan Stadium, they trailed the Spartans by 16 points at the start of the fourth quarter.

[+] EnlargeCharlie Weis
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesCharlie Weis and ND have a date with the Spartans on Sept. 20.

Quarterback Brady Quinn sparked an improbable comeback, and cornerback Terrail Lambert returned an interception 27 yards for a touchdown with 2:53 to play to give the Irish a stunning 40-37 victory.

Sept. 27: Tennessee at Auburn (TBA)
Auburn's sports information department is scrambling to figure out what to do with dozens of credential requests from subpoena servers. Any trip into Alabama is always an adventure for Fulmer.

Sept. 27: TCU at Oklahoma (TBA)
The last time the Horned Frogs played at Oklahoma's Memorial Stadium, they scored their biggest upset in nearly a half-century. On Sept. 3, 2005, TCU stunned the No. 7 Sooners 17-10, handing Oklahoma its first home loss since 2001.

Oct. 4: Rutgers at West Virginia (Noon ET)
For everything Schiano has done at the state university of New Jersey -- including rebuilding perhaps the worst football program in the country into a perennial winner -- the Scarlet Knights have yet to beat the Mountaineers during his tenure.

Oct. 11: Central Florida at Miami (TBA)
The Knights finally get a crack at the Hurricanes, who were last among the three traditional Florida powers to play Central Florida. The Knights hope to fare better than their previous three games against Florida and FSU: three losses by a combined 105 points.

Oct. 18: Virginia Tech at Boston College (TBA)
The Eagles ripped the Hokies' hearts out by scoring two touchdowns in the final 2:11 of a 14-10 win at rain-soaked Lane Stadium last season. Boston College won't have quarterback Matt Ryan to save it this time.

Oct. 25: Notre Dame at Washington (8 p.m. ET)
Fighting Irish coach Charlie Weis faces Tyrone Willingham, the man he replaced at Notre Dame. Irish fans face the coach they still blame for their current coach's struggles.

Oct. 25: Ole Miss at Arkansas (TBA)
Nutt returns to Arkansas, where he coached the past 10 seasons, with a better team than the one he left.

Nov. 1: Texas at Texas Tech (TBA)
After complaining about the officiating after last season's 59-43 loss to the Longhorns, Leach has petitioned the Big 12 to include at least one official from the 806 area code.

Nov. 1: Tulsa at Arkansas (2 p.m. ET)
The Golden Hurricane bring their high-scoring offense to Razorback Stadium for Arkansas' homecoming game. Tulsa co-offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn should feel right at home.

Nov. 8: Clemson at Florida State (TBA)
Will this be the last edition of the Bowden Bowl? If FSU doesn't get things turned around this season, Bobby Bowden might be very close to retirement. Son Tommy has won four of the past five meetings, a sure sign Daddy might need to step down.

Nov. 8: Kansas at Nebraska (TBA)
Let's count the reasons why Cornhuskers fans want to beat the Jayhawks. I can think of 76 off the top of my head. (If you weren't paying attention, last year's final score: KU 76, Nebraska 39).

Nov. 15: Notre Dame at Navy (Noon ET)
Ken Niumatalolo tries to become only the second Navy coach in 45 years to beat the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame wants to prove it's still good enough to beat teams like Navy.

Dec. 6: Arizona State at Arizona (8 p.m. ET)
After being outrecruited by the Sun Devils, Wildcats coach Mike Stoops suggested Arizona State was turning into a junior college. If Arizona keeps playing football like a JC, Stoops will be looking for a job in 2009.

Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.

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