With four games slated for this Saturday and 86 scheduled over the Labor Day weekend, it’s time to stop talking about college football and start watching it.
In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, it’s time to “put up or shut up.”
Following are a handful of fascinating facts designed to arm you with something to say should it get awkward at the chip and dip, or the beverage cooler, or the chicken-wing sauce station.
The Aggies and Cardinals share the disadvantage of regular-season meetings with (1) Alabama and (2) Clemson in 2018. Texas A&M gets the Tigers in Week 2 (Sept. 8) in College Station and then travels to Tuscaloosa in Week 4 (Sept. 22). Louisville opens vs. the Tide in Orlando and then waits to visit Clemson until Nov. 3.
As of July 1, the Liberty University Flames, hailing from Lynchburg, Virginia are officially an FBS Independent. The Idaho Vandals take the opposite route, moving down from the Sun Belt to the FCS as members of the Big Sky conference.
Liberty turned the crank on its football operations in 1973, moved from Division II to I-AA (now the FCS) in 1989 and were members of the FCS Big South conference from 2002-2017. They are led by former Kansas coach Turner Gill and won’t be eligible for bowl action until 2019.
The Terrapins haven’t played a schedule devoid of FCS-action since 2005, scoring a perfect 12-0 mark in those games. For Rutgers it’s been since 2003, earning a 14-0 record vs. the FCS from 2005-17, including beating two such opponents in 2009. That leaves Northern Illinois, who hasn’t gone FCS-free in 21-years, or since 1997. The Huskies are 15-5 vs. the next-level during that stretch.
THREE first-ever matchups are scheduled between members of the same Power conference
One of the legacies of realignment is that there are still a handful of relocated programs who haven’t played all the other schools in their “new” league. In 2018, the ACC features two of these first-ever matchups while the Big Ten has one.
Georgia Tech travels to Louisville on Friday, Oct. 5 for the first-ever clash between the two schools. That’s followed by Illinois making the trek to Maryland on Saturday, Oct. 27 and Pitt visiting Wake Forest on Saturday, Nov. 17.
TEXAS TECH opens vs. a non-conference Power opponent for the first time in 16 years
Texas Tech gets the ball rolling vs. Ole Miss in Houston (Saturday, Sept. 1 at 12pm EST on ESPN), marking the first time since 2002 that it has opened with a Power opponent. It goes a long way in explaining why the Red Raiders are enjoying a 15-0 run in season openers.
Tech kicked off the ’02 season at (13) Ohio State, falling 45-21 in what would become 9-5 campaign. The last time it started a season against a Power team at a neutral site was 59-years ago, in 1959, when it met Texas A&M in Dallas and won 20-14.
The Ducks open the season with a visit from Bowling Green (Saturday, Sept. 1), the same team that hits the road to play the Yellow Jackets in Week 5 (Sept. 29). That leaves Utah, which plays at Northern Illinois on Saturday, Sept. 8 (Week 2).
The trio of first-ever MAC matchups completes the conference circuit for Georgia Tech, Oregon and Utah, who will now have played at least one current member of each of the ten FBS leagues.
NORTH CAROLINA plays a game in the state of California for the first time in 20 years
Though the Tar Heels trekked as far west as Utah in 2004 and Arizona State in 2002, they haven’t played in California since 1998. That team made the trip to Stanford in Week 2, losing 37-34 on their way to a 7-5 record in Carl Torbush’s first season after taking over for Mack Brown.
UNC opens its 2018 campaign on Saturday, Sept. 1 at Cal, a 4pm EST start on FOX.
EIGHT teams will start the season with a conference game
The Mountain West, Big Ten, American Athletic, and ACC all kickoff league play during their first week in action in 2018. In Week Zero on Saturday, Aug. 25, Hawaii travels to take on Colorado State at 7:30pm EST on CBSSN.
On Thursday, Aug. 30 Northwestern opens at Purdue at 7pm EST on ESPN and (21) UCF visits UConn in the same time slot on ESPNU. The holiday weekend wraps up with (19) Florida State hosting (20) Virginia Tech on Monday, Sept. 3 at 8pm EST on ESPN.
(23) TEXAS isn’t playing a school from the state of Texas during Thanksgiving weekend for the first time since 1917
The Longhorns are scheduled to travel to Lawrence to play Kansas the Friday after Thanksgiving in 2018, snapping a 100-year streak of playing an opponent from the Lone Star State over the holiday weekend.
Texas did play Texas A&M in 1917, but the game took place on Tuesday, Nov. 20, the week before Thanksgiving. The Longhorns squared off with Arkansas on Turkey Day that season, blanking the Hogs 20-0 in Austin.
From 1918-77 Texas and Texas A&M clashed each Thanksgiving week. From 1978-79 the Longhorns rotated between the Aggies and Baylor, meeting the former ten times and the latter on seven occasions. From 1996-2011 it was back to A&M, the rivalry suspended only after the Aggies fled to the SEC in 2012.
Since then, the Thanksgiving festivities have been held in Austin, welcoming either TCU (in 2012, 2014 and 2016) or Texas Tech (in 2013, 2015 and 2017).
The Cornhuskers and Buffaloes met 63 times from 1948 to 2010, each time as co-members of the Big 7, Big 8 or Big 12. They haven’t met since. The only other action in series history came in six games played between 1898 and 1907. Both schools were Independent for the first five of these meetings, Nebraska joined the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association in 1907. Colorado went to the Rocky Mountain Conference in 1910.
This year’s game, the front end of a home-and-home, is slated for Saturday, Sept. 8 (Week 2) in Lincoln at 3:30pm EST on ABC.
The Wildcats and Aggies, scheduled to meet Saturday, Oct. 6 at Kyle Field, haven’t clashed since 1953, also Bear Bryant’s final season at Kentucky before moving on to, ironically, Texas A&M.
Bryant compiled a 60-23-6 record in eight seasons (1946-53) in Lexington, including leading the 1950 team to an 11-1 mark, an SEC title and a No. 7 finish in the final AP. He also led the Wildcats into their only two games vs. Texas A&M – the 1952 contest in College Station – a 10-7 win – and the 1953 game in Lexington, a 6-7 loss.
He took over as the head coach and athletic director at A&M in 1954, compiling a 25-14-2 mark in four seasons. The ’56 squad went 9-0-1, won the Southwest Conference and finished No. 5 in the final AP.
In 1958 Bryant moved on to his alma mater, Alabama, where he would win six national titles in 25 seasons.
In a bizarre and rare scheduling twist, Liberty and New Mexico State are slated to meet in Las Cruces, N.M. on Saturday, Oct. 6 and again in Lynchburg, Va. on Nov. 24. It’s the first time in the modern era that two top-level college football teams have met twice in the regular season.
The phenomenon appears to be out of need rather than desire, both teams newly independent with holes to fill in their schedules. Liberty joins the FBS ranks as an independent this season while New Mexico State says farewell to the Sun Belt.
Ball State’s football program kicked off 94-years ago in Muncie, Indiana, only about a two-and-half hour drive southeast from Notre Dame Stadium. It’s a trip the Cardinals have never made – that is until Week 2 when they’ll finally clash with the powerhouse Irish.
The state of Indiana is home to four FBS programs – Notre Dame, Indiana, Purdue and Ball State. This year’s clash between the Irish and Cardinals will mean that each of the four schools will have met at least once.
Ball State is 3-13 vs. fellow Hoosier state teams: 0-8 vs. Purdue and 3-5 vs. Indiana. It is also slated to play at Indiana this season.
The Buckeyes are on a 58-0 run vs. their 2018 foes – 22-0 vs. Indiana, 9-0 vs. Minnesota, 6-0 vs. Michigan, 4-0 vs. Maryland and Rutgers, 3-0 vs. Nebraska and TCU, 2-0 vs. Michigan State, Oregon State and Purdue and 1-0 vs. Penn State.
(22) Boise State (25-0) and (3) Georgia (22-0) are the only other programs on a winning streak against their combined set of 2018 opponents.
As for Kansas, it’s the only team that’s currently suffering a losing streak vs. its entire field of foes – 0-13 vs. Oklahoma, 0-11 vs. Texas Tech, 0-9 vs. Kansas State, 0-8 vs. Baylor and Oklahoma State, 0-6 vs. TCU, 0-4 vs. West Virginia, 0-3 vs. Iowa State and 0-1 vs. Central Michigan, Rutgers and Texas. It adds up to an 0-65 skid.
The Warriors, Midshipmen and Owls all pick up an extra game this season due to the “Hawaii Exemption.” It’s an NCAA rule that allows teams that schedule a road trip to Honolulu the option of booking an extra regular-season home game to recoup the extra travel costs. Hawaii is afforded the same opportunity.
Navy travels to Hawaii in Week 1 while Rice visits in Week 2. The Warriors other FBS home opponents – Wyoming, Nevada, Utah State, UNLV – all opted to stick with a 12-game schedule in 2018.
The Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 members that schedule two Power opponents in non-conference play ultimately choose to play 11 of their 12 regular-season games vs. Power foes. It further illustrates the inequality of a nine-league game format (the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12’s policy) vs. an eight-game set (the ACC and SEC’s blueprint).
Here’s the only non-Power opponent each of the seven honor roll schedulers will play in 2018: Cal – FCS Idaho State, Ohio State – Tulane, Purdue – Eastern Michigan, Texas – Tulsa, USC – UNLV, Washington – FCS North Dakota and West Virginia – FCS Youngstown State.
Historical data courtesy of Sports Reference-College Football.