It's gameday! (sorta).

NORMAN, OK - OCTOBER 1: Quarterback Keith Wenning #10 of the Ball State Cardinals hands off in the first half against the Oklahoma Sooners October 1, 2011 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated Ball State 62-6. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)

IU's 2012 debut is still 24 hours away, but tonight, for the first time in 234 days, college football will be played. As has become the custom over the last few years, there are loads of Thursday night games tonight, both televised and not televised. In fact, four of IU's twelve opponents will begin the season before the traditional noon Saturday start of the season:

  • Ball State (-3) hosts Eastern Michigan at 7 p.m. tonight (ESPN3).
  • Massachusetts (+22) makes its FBS debut in a road game against Connecticut at 7:30 tonight (ESPN3).
  • Michigan State (-6) hosts Boise State on Friday at 8 p.m. (ESPN).
  • Navy (+15.5) is the nominal home team in a game against Notre Dame in Dublin, Ireland that kicks off at 9 a.m Saturday (CBS).
  • Although not an IU opponent, Minnesota (-8.5) visits UNLV at 11 p.m. tonight (CBS College Sports Network).
The more traditional part of the schedule begins on Saturday. In addition to IU's prime-time game against ISU at 8 p.m., here's the rest of the Big Ten schedule:

  • Northwestern (-2) at Syracuse, noon (ESPN2).
  • Ohio State (-24) hosts Miami of Ohio at noon (BTN).
  • The Bill O'Brien era begins as Penn State (-6) hosts Ohio U at noon (ESPN).
  • Tim Beckman makes his Illini debut when Illinois (-10) hosts Western Michigan (ESPNU).
  • Nebraska (-20) hosts Southern Miss at 3:30 (ABC).
  • Wisconsin (no line) hosts Northern Iowa at 3:30 (BTN).
  • Iowa (-10) hosts Northern Illinois at 3:30 (ESPNU).
  • Purdue (no line) hosts Eastern Kentucky at 3:30 (BTN).
  • In the game of the week, Michigan (+14) plays Alabama at Cowboys Stadium near Dallas. This game and the MSU-Boise game are the only games in the nation that involve two ranked teams.
So, what do we think about this slate? While I'm happy to have college football underway, opening weekend isn't what it used to be. While the Michigan-Bama and Sparty-Boise games are the most intriguing from a competitive standpoint, from IU's perspective the games I will be keeping an eye on are Northwestern-Syracuse, Illinois-WMU, Penn State-Ohio, and Notre Dame-Navy, to see if we might have any hope of upsetting any of those opponents. Regardless, it's great to be talking about games for the first time since the end of the NCAA Tournament.
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