Saturday Football Primer/Morning Open Thread

Sep 1, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Michigan Wolverines marching band member plays a trumpet prior to the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

The Game: (17) Michigan Wolverines 1-1 vs. Massachusetts Minutemen 0-2

The Details: Ann Arbor, MI, 3:30pm, Big Ten Network

The Weather: High 60s/low 70s, sunny

The Previews: Maize n Brew, MGoBlog, Touch The Banner, Burgeoning Wolverine Star

Other Previews: Q&A With The UMass FB Blog, My Q&A at UFB, Who Are You and Why Should We Care, Know Your Foe

Full Saturday Game Schedule: Here

Other games of note after the jump

(13) VA Tech 2-0 at Pittsburgh 0-2; Noon ET, ESPN U

The Panthers have had a difficult time finding their footing early this season, and ever since Dave Wannstedt left the program in 2010 (you could even argue since Wannstedt took over). They have a two touchdown loss to an FCS program at home, and a 24-point loss to conference rival Cincinnati on the road in a game in which Cincinnati themselves just looked so-so. But, I do believe the Panthers are better than advertised (could they be worse?) and will be competitive against the Hokies, if for nothing else than old times sake.

Because you have to watch something at noon, and watching Pitt further self immolate is at least semi-captivating.

(1) Alabama 2-0 at Arkansas 1-1; 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

Seven months ago, Arkansas was considered by many to be a pre-season top ten team and a potential darkhorse pick to compete for a championship. The Alabama v. Arkansas game in Fayetteville was expected to be a showdown on the national stage and a season-defining game for both teams. Fast forward past the scrap heap of Bobby Petrino's Harley-Davidson, John L. Smith's unwelcome arrival, key injuries and the Meltdown on Markham, and this game has devolved into an afterthought with Alabama coming in as a three touchdown favorite. Sufficed to say, a lot can change in seven months.

Arkansas is either going to come out and bomb the Tide for like 400 yards passing and make this an incredible game or John L. Smith is going to lose his marbles by halftime. Either way, this is must see TV.

Navy 0-1 at Penn State 0-2; 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC or ESPN 2

The option. Nothing like it. Nothing like defending it. You've no doubt heard the term "assignment defense" all week, which is exactly what Penn State will need to emphasize tomorrow against the Midshipmen. Teams have been burned big time by not preparing thoroughly for Navy's option attack. However, this isn't the typically talented Navy team we've come to expect over the last decade. In 2012, for the second year in a row, Navy is breaking in a new quarterback. But two weeks ago against Notre Dame, Trey Miller injured his ankle when a defensive lineman fell on him. He's feeling better after the bye week, but things are still iffy heading into State College.

Remember last week when everyone got a kick out of watching Michigan struggle to defend the option. Now imagine if the team trying to defend the option was reeling from two straight losses and has recently been compared to the Tunguska Event.

(18) Florida 2-0 at (23) Tennessee 2-0; 6:00 p.m. ET ESPN

While Muschamp made noise about Bowling Green going from vertical to horizontal passing and Manziel's running clearly took Florida by surprise, Tennessee's been running the same sort of traditional pass-heavy offense for about two years' worth of games now, with Tyler Bray almost in the teens in terms of starts and the personnel around him still best-suited for pyrotechnic passing. Florida's not going to be taken by surprise when the Vols line up and throw deep, because that's what these Vols do; Tennessee doing anything else would be disadvantageous, because it's not going to run to win and would be wasting its big-play receivers in a short passing game.

Few rivalries are more bitterly disputed than Florida-Tennessee. Add in the fact that Dennis Dooley is coaching for his job and Will Muschamp might be two years away from that and you have a veritable powder keg of excitement.

(2) USC 2-0 at (21) Stanford 2-0; 7:30 p.m. ET FOX

The writers behind Buffy coined the term "Big Bad" to describe the show's recurring villains. Each year, a new "Big Bad" would present itself and they'd grind their metaphorical muddy boots into the world's metaphorical suede couch until BAMF Buffy Summers vanquished them at season's end. The Big Bad, like Metro Man, was instrumental to the main character's development, if not existence. Beyond Buffy, the Big Bad could be the episodic, seasonal or chronically recurring antagonist, but their role was defined and important. Tony Montana had the right idea, and politely explained as much: "You need people like me. You need people like me so you can point your [expletive] fingers and say, ‘That's the bad guy.'"

Enter USC.

If this game comes anywhere close to the excitement of last year, it'll be well worth your time.

(20) Notre Dame 2-0 at (10) Michigan St. 2-0; 8:00 p.m. ET ABC

What changed is that not much changed. By that, I mean that four starters returned on an offensive line that was pretty good in the final few games of last season. MSU didn't run the ball particularly well against CMU, but the Chippewas were stacking the box and forcing MSU pass (which they did). Against Boise State, the line made enough holes and Bell has great vision to find them. He's also great at breaking tackles, not only because of his size, but his movement make it difficult to get a clean shot on him. (Remember Manti Te'o's missed tackle in 2010?). Getting him going is the most important part of the offense. When MSU runs the ball well, they almost always win.

The main event, ladies and gentlemen.

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