The wait between games during college football's offseason is a brutal one. At 234 days, it's the longest layoff of any major sport in America. We spend nearly twice as much time every year between college football seasons as we do actually enjoying the world's greatest sport.
Thankfully, rightfully, our collective patience will be rewarded because the slate of games on the season's opening night is incredible. The powers that be have combined to give us a slate of 17 games to whet the appetite for the 2013 season, and nearly every one of them has a storyline with something to offer.
North Carolina at South Carolina (6 p.m. ET, ESPN): The first in a three-game ACC-SEC grudge match on opening weekend, this is a border battle that doesn't happen nearly often enough these days. The Cocks and Heels will meet for the 56th time, and first since 2007, with UNC owning a 34-17-4 all-time edge. South Carolina looks at this game as a springboard to an SEC championship (and more) run, and North Carolina hopes to again finish atop the ACC Coastal Division standings without sanctions keeping them at home. Oh, and there's the little matter of Jadeveon Clowney's final opening game.
Tulsa at Bowling Green (7:15 p.m. ET, ESPNU): A pair of programs that were among the best non-BCS teams in America, only nobody outside their own walls noticed. The reigning Conference USA champions, the last time we saw Tulsa they were putting a whipping on Iowa State in the Liberty Bowl, while Bowling Green posted the nation's most underrated defense and came within a touchdown of playing for the MAC title.
Utah State at Utah (8 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1): After decades of looking up at BYU and Utah, Utah State finally finished a season as the undisputed king of football in Utah. With Gary Andersen gone and Matt Wells running the show, how long can the Aggies hold the belt? This game will also double as the first time you've ever watched Fox Sports 1.
Ole Miss at Vanderbilt (9:15 p.m. ET, ESPN): Outside of a certain team that wears crimson, perhaps no one in the SEC finished 2012 feeling as good about where they stood than these two programs. Coaching staffs with a fresh perspective and the ability to sell the positives at places where other staffs couldn't. Recruiting that's operating four or five levels above where it stood historically. Vanderbilt closed 2012 with on an unheard of seven-game winning streak, while Ole Miss finished decisive victories in the Egg Bowl and Compass Bowl. And one of them will start the 2013 campaign 0-1.
Rutgers at Fresno State (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU): Despite lying nearly 3,000 miles apart, these programs so much in common they could be twins. Each team rode a defense that was the tops of its respective conference to a 9-4 record in year under a new coach. Each program sees one monster program (Boise State, Louisville) standing between where they are now and where they want to be at the end of the year. Each program always wears red, except for when they wear black. Consider this a random late December bowl game played four months early.
USC at Hawaii (11 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network): Lane Kiffin, opening a "have a good season or....let's just have a good season and not worry about it, okay?" season on Oahu. What could possibly go wrong?
On top of that, opening night offers nine FCS-on-FBS matchups where we could see the little guys riding home with a win in darn near all of them:
Liberty at Kent State (6 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
Presbyterian at Wake Forest (6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
Indiana State at Indiana (7 p.m. ET, BTN)
Illinois State at Ball State (7 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
Southern Utah at South Alabama (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
Towson at Connecticut (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
Western Carolina at Middle Tennessee (7:30 p.m. ET, TBD)
Jackson State at Tulane (8 p.m. ET, TBD)
Sacramento State at San Jose State (10 p.m. ET, TBD)
To fill in around the edges, there are two more games, Akron at Central Florida (7 p.m. ET, ESPN3) and UNLV at Minnesota (7 p.m. ET, BTN), where the visitors are starving to get last year's taste out of their mouths, while the home favorites ask themselves "there's no way we lose to these guys... right?"
Normally the NFL is the entity stealing ideas from college football, but luckily the college game has learned from The League how to turn the season's first Thursday from opening night into an EVENT. And speaking of the NFL, as if those 17 college offerings weren't enough, all 32 professional teams will be in action that night as the preseason comes to a close.
Consider this your first warning: make sure the remote is packed with fresh batteries and the refrigerator is fully stocked with ice and your beverage of choice. After all, it's been a long offseason. You've earned it.