Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.
In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts.
This week’s topic: Which Week 0 game are you most excited for?
Ahem... In a big, booming voice a la The Rock (the entertaining wrestler, not the guy who made Jungle Cruise): Finally! College football has come back... To our sports-viewing lives. And this could not have happened soon enough, Gene, because honestly, I am starting to feel a little weird about betting on the Little League World Series. Not enough to stop, mind you. But it has become quite evident that I need something else to occupy my time and place wagers on. You know how this stuff goes.
So it is great that Week 1 of the CFB season is upon us, but not before... That’s right, Week 0! And I am going to be honest here real quick; I do not understand Week 0. If the powers that be wanted to schedule one or two marquee matchups and make a real spectacle out of it, that would make sense. As it is, we have seven ‘meh’ games to look forward to this weekend, which is too many to make things feel special but not enough to really wet the ol’ whistle. I guess beggars can’t be choosers, though. Right?
None of this weekend’s games are truly spectacular or special, but still, college football is back. And to celebrate and/or ring in the new season, Gene and I decided to write about which Week 0 game has us most excited for the return of this glorious, glorious sport (and season).
For me, this was an easy one. I am most excited about Navy vs. Notre Dame, a re-scheduled game from the pandemic being played in Dublin, Ireland. And I will be absolutely dialed in for several reasons.
First and foremost is the pageantry of it. A matchup between historic ND and the freaking US Naval Academy, in one of the most beautiful places on Earth!? Are you kidding me? How could one not romanticize this occasion? It also helps that I have a wee bit or Irish in me as well, which makes the event even more special. And let’s not forget that last year’s Aer Lingus Classic was Nebraska vs. Northwestern. So to go from Scott Frost and Pat Fitzgerald to pretty much anything/anybody else is just a massive, massive win for all.
Another reason I am excited about this game is that I actually enjoy watching Navy football. Call me a sicko if you want, but the triple option is a thing of beauty. I love it with all my heart. It (triple option) is fun to watch because it is incredibly sophisticated and complex, in my opinion. I mean, multiple reads of the opposing defensive line and linebackers are not easy to pull off in what equates to the blink of an eye.
But Navy is and pretty much always has been very effective with their version of the triple option. The offense might look different in 2023, with Ken Niumatalolo no longer in the fold, but I would guess that this specialized rushing attack will still be the Midshipmen’s bread and butter.
And of course, the most intriguing aspect of this game is the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. You know ‘em, I know ‘em, and the Ohio State Buckeyes know ‘em. The two teams will face each other again in late September, so as a Buckeye fan, Week 0 is a nice little preview of the enemy. Of particular interest to me is new ND quarterback Sam Hartman. The former Wake Forest signal caller threw the ball all over the yard for the Demon Deacons, but this ND team is and has been lacking proven weapons on the outside. Will he infuse new life into their passing game?
On the other side of the ball, the Fighting Irish return a bunch of players from a unit that ranked No. 22 in total defense last season (YPG allowed). But Marcus Freeman’s squad also lost Isaiah Foskey and Brandon Joseph, two former All-Americans. So will others step up? Is old friend Javontae Jean-Baptiste going to come back and haunt OSU? I doubt it! But we will see – or begin to see – this freaking Saturday!
It’s so close I can taste it, Gene. Come 2:30 ET on Saturday afternoon, I might find myself chugging Guinness and diving into a Shepherd’s pie. And it’s all because of Navy vs. Notre Dame.
I thought this would be a fun topic to tackle with Josh being that college football is upon us — sort of. Week 0 is here, and I thought to myself, “wow, there has to be at least one or two fun games to dive into this week! Any college football is good college football!”
And then I looked at the slate.
Navy vs. Notre Dame is likely the most intriguing option on the board. Not only is it the first game of the day, making it the first official game of the 2023 season, but it will take place in Ireland, adding an extra level of fun to the opener. Will the game be close on the field? Probably not, as the Fighting Irish are favored by nearly three touchdowns. However, service academies do tend to keep things relatively interesting, and if nothing else it will give us a glimpse at what Notre Dame is bringing to the table this year before their matchup with Ohio State.
There are a couple of real stinkers on this list, too. FIU vs. Louisiana Tech as the night cap? I’ll pass on that one (still probably a good chance I catch a few snaps). Hawaii vs. Vanderbilt in a battle between two of the worst programs in their own respective divisions? Think I'm good there too.
Then there are a few potentially fun games between lesser brand names. UTEP vs. Jacksonville State at 5:30 p.m. ET should be a pretty evenly matched football game, with the Miners currently listed as a one-point favorite on the road. Ohio vs. San Diego state could be interesting as well, and there’s nobody stopping you from rooting on the in-state Bobcats as 2.5-point underdogs. UMass vs. New Mexico State? ...it exists!
The game I'm most interested in is ironically probably going to be one of if not the biggest blowout of the day, and that is of course San Jose State hitting the road to face off against USC.
The Trojans are obviously interesting to Ohio State and the rest of the Big Ten as they will be joining the conference next season, but for now they enter the year as the Pac-12 title favorites. It’s easy to see why too, as Caleb Williams returns as one of the nation’s best quarterbacks. Do I think that Lincoln Riley runs a Mickey Mouse offense that makes all of his QBs look better than they are and leads to inflated stats and boosted Heisman Trophy campaigns? Yes, yes I do, but there is no denying that Williams is talented.
He should have little issue picking apart the Spartan defense this weekend, but I’ll be interested to see who steps up in that USC wide receiver core with Jordan Addison off to the NFL. They do return both Tahj Washington and Mario Williams from last season, but Arizona transfer Dorian Singer may come in and steal the spotlight. Guys like Zachariah Branch, Raleek Brown and Duce Robinson will also provide receiving threats from all over the field.
The offense should pick up right where it left off, but the real spotlight will be on that Alex Grinch led defense. It seemed very odd that Riley willingly brought one of the nation’s worst defensive coordinators with him from Oklahoma to the West Coast, but he got exactly what he bargained for when the Trojans ranked 94th nationally in scoring defense. This unit has a bunch of talent, and added even more with Georgia transfer Bear Alexander to join returnees Calen Bullock and Eric Gentry. Still, I will not trust a defense coached by Grinch until I see it.
We likely won’t learn all that much about USC in a game they should win rather handily, as they’re favored by more than 30 points. Still, it will be a first-look at this years’ College Football Playoff hopeful Trojan squad that Ohio State could very well see on the schedule before next year if the two teams were to meet in the postseason.