There is an ancient Division 1 athletic department tradition about opening the football season against certified wimps. The idea is to make sure you win the first game no matter how degrading it is to play a Division 1-AA school.
The game you want to open with is the game San Diego State opened with last year. Their first 2010 contest was against dark-horse Nicholls State Colonels, out of Swampland, Louisiana. Nicholls State is a Division 1-AA school with a student enrollment of 5172 (SDSU has 30,000+ undergraduate students). Who cares? What counts is the scoreboard. The Aztecs did what they had to do, got past Nicholls State, squeaking out a 47-to-0 win. Nicholls State went on to a respectable 4-7 season-racking up victories over Bacone College, Southeastern Louisiana, Northwestern State, and Texas State.
Crushing victory is what you want in Week 1. Sadly, even wimps have their day. In 2008, the Aztecs played their first game, at home, against California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. And lost 27-29. The Cal Poly Mustangs are Division 1-AA, and you can bet they’re looking forward to another dominating season in the Great West Conference, which, by the way, consists of Cal Poly and four other teams: UC Davis, North Dakota, South Dakota, Southern Utah.
There’s more. Almost too much goodness to take in. This year there will be a rematch! San Diego State opens their 2011 football season come Saturday night, at Qualcomm, against those very same California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo fighting Mustangs. Be there! Be proud to pay full ticket price, and while you’re strolling past novelty stands and gift shops, why not treat yourself to a few quality snacks? (San Diego is favored by 23 points).
Presenting a few other rock ’em, sock ’em Week 1 matchups. I should note that most of the Big School teams mentioned below have the grace to schedule Division 1 opponents, albeit opponents who are carefully picked to guarantee a Big School win.
Akron at Ohio State (Saturday, 9 a.m.). Buckeyes by 33½, O/U 48. The University of Akron Zips are coming off a near-perfect 1-11 season and look to better that in 2011, striving for a 2-10 finish. Stats can be deceiving. Not all of the Zips’ 2010 losses were by their average loss margin of 19 points. Some losses were much closer than that. Consider the heartbreaker against Gardner-Webb. True, the Zips lost in overtime by one point, but, given four or five lucky breaks, they could have won that game. Think about it.
Louisiana–Monroe Warhawks at Florida State (Saturday, 12:30 p.m.). The Seminoles rank no. 6 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll and are favored by 29½ points, O/U 52½. Louisiana–Monroe came so close to salvation last year. Regard their last game, an epic battle against loathsome rival Louisiana-Lafayette. Louisiana–Monroe lost by one point. Think about it.
Louisiana-Lafayette at Oklahoma State (Saturday, 4 p.m.). Oklahoma State favored by 37½ points, O/U 62. The Ragin’ Cajuns had a below-par year in 2010, allowing 30 points in 8 of 12 games. Every opponent scored at least 22 points. True, Louisiana-Lafayette racked only three victories, but one of them, people, was against their fiendish Swampland nemesis, aforementioned Louisiana–Monroe. So, you can call 2010 a good season, with a much better one coming up. The Ragin’ Cajuns return 12 starters from last year’s 3-9 team.
A word about Louisiana. I don’t know why there are so many chump schools on this list from Louisiana. Swamp fever, inbreeding, floods, plagues, hurricanes, the ghost of Huey P. Long? I don’t know. All the Box can say is, “Keep up the good work, fellas.”
UNLV at Wisconsin (Thursday, 5 p.m.). Our brothers in the Mountain West Conference are projected to lose to Wisconsin by 35 points, O/U 56. Last year the Badgers went 11-2, and UNLV went 2-10. But, if you believe that 2-10 is a transposed number and the true figure is 10-2, then the fact that UNLV gave up an average of 473.9 yards per game doesn’t matter.
UC Davis Aggies, of the Great West Conference, at Arizona State University, of the Pac-12 conference (Thursday, 7 p.m.). ASU is favored by 35½ points. The Box urges you to make the drive over to Phoenix and attend this game. All the Great West football-playing schools — UC Davis, North Dakota, South Dakota, Southern Utah, Cal Poly — have bailed on the conference. The Great West has been downsized by the sports-industrial complex, so this game will be history-making. And, hey, the Aggies could win despite the fact that they’re a pack of scurvy conference killers.