Football life in Happy Valley resumes after a horrific period. (Gene J. Puskar / Associated…)
Each Friday during the season, national college football columnist Chris Dufresne handicaps what's worth watching, and skipping, on Saturday's menu of games.
Ohio at Penn State
9 a.m., ESPN
Football life in Happy Valley resumes after a horrific period in which former assistant Jerry Sandusky was convicted of child sex abuse charges and Joe Paterno died, in January, at age 85. Several top players, including tailback Silas Redd, have transferred from Penn State, leaving first-year Coach Bill O'Brien to start over almost from scratch. The Nittany Lions face a four-year bowl ban and a pretty tough first opponent in Ohio, led by former Nebraska coach Frank Solich. The Bobcats capped a 10-4 season last year with a win over Utah State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. It was Ohio's first bowl victory.
6 a.m.: Notre Dame vs. Navy at Dublin, Ireland, Channel 2.
9 a.m.: Buffalo at No. 6 Georgia, KDOC; Northwestern at Syracuse, ESPN2; Appalachian State at East Carolina, FS West; Western Michigan at Illinois, ESPNU.
Miami at Boston College
Apologies, but this was the best TV game we could find in the heat of the first weekend's midday sun. Turn back the clock and pretend it's 1984 with Doug Flutie throwing that miracle pass to cap an epic win over Bernie Kosar-led Miami at the Orange Bowl. OK, reality check: The real-time programs are in survival mode. Fourth-year BC Coach Frank Spaziani (20-19) might need to win this game if he plans on coaching a fifth year. Miami is coming off a disappointing 6-6 season as it braces for possible major sanctions from the NCAA.
Noon: Southern Mississippi at Nebraska, Channel 7; Richmond at Virginia, Prime; Nevada at California, Pac-12.
12:30 p.m.: Bowling Green at No. 23 Florida, ESPN; Iowa vs. Northern Illinois at Chicago, ESPNU; Tulsa at Iowa State, FS West.
1 p.m.: Colorado State at Colorado, FX.
4 p.m.: Auburn vs. No. 14 Clemson at Atlanta, ESPN; North Texas at No. 3 Louisiana State, ESPNU; Jackson State at Mississippi State, FS West.
4:30 p.m.: Hawaii at No. 1 USC, Channel 11.
No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 8 Michigan at Arlington, Texas
5 p.m., Channel 7
This neutral-site opener could have huge implications in the BCS title chase as Alabama prepares to defend its national championship and Michigan tries to notch a credibility win for the Big Ten against an elite Southeastern Conference foe. Alabama lost star running back Trent Richardson and several heavy hitters on defense but returns Nick Saban, the only coach to win three BCS titles. Michigan Coach Brady Hoke led the Wolverines to an 11-2 record last season and returns Heisman-candidate quarterback Denard Robinson. Saban said this week that Robinson reminded him of former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton. If that's the case, Alabama had better not jump to a 24-0 lead.
Arkansas State at No. 5 Oregon
7:30, p.m. ESPN
Defending Pac-12 and Rose Bowl champion Oregon opens the season with the usual uniform tweaks and a new quarterback. Redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota won the starting job over Bryan Bennett to replace Darron Thomas. Ducks insiders are raving about Mariota's dual-threat potential and see him as a future Heisman candidate. Bennett contemplated a transfer this week after losing the job but was talked into staying by Coach Chip Kelly. Arkansas State isn't a pushover. The Red Wolves are reigning Sun Belt Conference champions. Arkansas State has a first-year coach in Gus Malzahn, a former Arkansas and Auburn assistant. Malzahn says he wants to make Arkansas State "the Boise State of the South." Historians will note Boise State shocked Oregon in Eugene a few years back with a young quarterback named Kellen Moore.
5 p.m.: Rutgers at Tulane, CBSSN.
7:30 p.m.: San Diego State at Washington, Pac-12; No. 4 Oklahoma at Texas El Paso, FS West; Toledo at Arizona, ESPNU.