What a weekend
Stock up on drinks and snacks. Make sure the remote has fresh batteries and put the cellphone on vibrate. This just might be the best weekend of the sports year. College football games galore, and good college football games at that. The start of the NFL season. The U.S. Open tennis tournament. And, we're still in the heat of the pennant race. Here's a breakdown of the weekend in sports.
It's hard to remember the last time a regular-season Saturday in college football had this many intriguing games. The day kicks off with USF visiting Florida (Noon, Ch. 38) for the first football meeting between the two schools. We can't really tell anything from USF's victory against Stony Brook and everyone seems to want to bury the Gators after they struggled against Miami of Ohio last week. Still, it's hard to see USF hanging with the Gators, who are looking to make two statements: one, that they are much better than they played last week and, two, letting the state's high school recruits know that their program is on a much higher level than USF. You get the feeling that Urban Meyer wants to put his foot on the throat of USF and not let up until he has scored as many points as possible. Winning or even staying close would be a major boost to USF's program, but I just don't see it.
Miami actually believes it can compete for a national championship, but we will see exactly where the Hurricanes are come Saturday. There aren't many places in the country that are tougher to prove yourself than Ohio State's Horseshoe. It feels like Ohio State quarterback Tyrelle Pryor has finally figured it all out. I'm not saying Miami can't win, but it would be a surprise if it did. That game can be seen at 3:30 p.m. on ESPN.
Florida State fans are excited about the Seminoles trip to Oklahoma (3:30 p.m., Ch. 28) for two reasons. One, FSU looks new and improved and, two, Oklahoma looks vulnerable. But you still get the feeling that FSU is going to have to win a shootout if it is going to win at all.
Two the nation's most storied franchises -- Alabama and Penn State -- play in Tuscaloosa (7 p.m. on ESPN). Okay, full disclosure: I love Penn State football. But with a freshman quarterback, Penn State has no chance at Alabama. Hate to admit it, but this game might get out of hand. Alabama should win easily.
Those aren't the only marquee games. There's still a buzz about Notre Dame-Michigan (3:30 p.m., Ch. 8) even though both programs have fallen on hard times of late. Both, however, look like their gaining some traction again. I'm taking Michigan in a close game. There also is Georgia-South Carolina (noon, ESPN2), BYU-Air Force (4 p.m., Versus) and Oregon-Tennessee (7 p.m., ESPN2).
I've said this before: there is no better day in tennis and very few days in sports that are better than the final Saturday at the U.S. Open. (Coverage begins at noon on Ch. 10) It's two men's semifinals and the women's final, which has the potential to provide 10 or more hours of incredible tennis. Top seed Rafael Nadal should get past 12th seed Mikhail Youzhny, but the other semifinal -- No. 2 seed Roger Federer vs. No. 3 Novak Djorkovic -- could turn into a classic. But does anyone want to see anything other than a Nadal-Federer final on Sunday?
We, of course, won't see the Bucs-Browns game here because of the blackout. Is that good or bad? The replacement game is no great shakes -- Bills at Dolphins (1 p.m., Ch. 10). But the two other games Sunday are good ones: Eagles against the Packers (4 p.m., Ch. 13) and Cowboys against the Redskins (8 p.m., Ch. 8).
Whenever the Rays take a day off -- as they did Thursday -- we tend to forget about them for a moment. But this another key weekend with a three-game trip to Toronto. If the Rays can win two of three maybe everyone can start to breathe a little easier about this playoff chase.
Okay, so here's how I plan on watching a little of everything this weekend::
9 a.m.: Eat a BIG breakfast because it's going to a be a long day.
10 a.m.: Watch ESPN's College GameDay, the best sports show on TV, until noon.
Noon: Watch first quarter of USF-Florida game.
12:30: Channel surf to catch Georgia Tech-Kansas and the first of the men's two U.S. Open semifinals.
1 p.m.: Check out the first couple innings of the Rays-Blue Jays game on Sun Sports, while checking in on USF-UF during the commercials.
1:45: Back to the U.S. Open for a spell. Keep tabs on the Rays.
2:15 p.m.: Watch the final 10 minutes of the USF-UF game.
3:15: Remember to eat something while resting the fingers because the remote is about to get crazy-busy.
3:30: Finish off the Rays game. Then surf-surf-surf: FSU-Oklahoma, Michigan-Notre Dame, Miami-Ohio State, U.S. Open.
6 p.m.: Pick the closest college football game and stay with it until the end. Only go to other games during commercials.
6:45 p.m.: Say hi to my wife to confirm she's still speaking to me. Make sure kids are okay.
7 p.m.: Watch Penn State and Alabama until the score starts to get away from Penn State. That should last an hour or so.
8 p.m.: Watch U.S. Open women's final from wire-to-wire.
9:30 p.m.: Catch the rest of Bama-Penn State and maybe a little of HBO's Boxing After Dark.
11 p.m.: Tell wife I'm coming to bed ... just as soon as this Stanford-UCLA game is over.
8 a.m.: Mass at St. Jude's in St. Pete because you can't spend all weekend doing nothing but watching sports.
9:30: Breakfast while watching Sports Reporters on ESPN.
11 a.m.: Watch ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown.
Noon: Run back and forth between Countdown, Fox NFL Sunday and CBS's NFL Today, while sticking mostly with Fox because it has the best pregame show.
1 p.m.: Watch Rays-Blue Jays on TV, while listening to the Bucs-Browns on radio.
4 p.m.: Three straight hours of flipping between the U.S. Open men's final and Packers-Eagles game.
7 p.m.: Try to write a column on everything I've seen the past two days.
8 p.m.: Turn on Redskins-Cowboys, but not really pay attention.
Midnight: Turn to something -- ANYTHING! -- that doesn't involve sports.
Five after midnight: Fall asleep on the couch.