Mark your calendars

Phil Consuegra

After 16 years of school, there are some things that you just know are coming.

You know it’s back to school time when your parents seem on edge at the beginning of August.

You know it’s back to school time when you see the same Staples commercial over and over again.

You know it’s back to school time when the Dell people start sending you countless pieces of literature (Sorry guys, I have a Mac).

But most importantly, you know it’s back to school time when you can smell football in the air again. You can hear the college drums beating over the trees on the way to the stadium. You can feel the excitement.

There’s something unique about football here in the United States. It’s a phenomenon, really. It doesn’t matter how rough our week has been, how sad our teams are doing, or how busy we are on a weekend. We always make time for football on Saturday and Sunday.

This Saturday, we’ll all gather around the ol’ TV box to watch some college football that we have sorely missed.

I know I have waited – and waited, and waited – for this season to start, for a few reasons. Not just because I missed the sport itself, but because I missed the atmosphere, the ambiance, if you will, of college football.

If you’re a National Title contender, you’re season is practically over if you lose one – just one – game. As much as we hate the Bowl Championship Series, as I have articulated over the past two years many times, we just love to argue about it. (Yes, Auburn deserved a shot last year. I’m still steaming.)

We’ve got some hot matchups over the course of the season, and as always, yours truly has developed a bit of a “viewer’s guide” for those of you wanting to schedule vacations around the biggest games of the year.

Without any further ado, here’s Phil’s pocket guide to College Football:

Saturday, September 3: Boise State at Georgia. Can Boise State hang with the big boys of the SEC? Georgia only lost two games last year, but had its talent leave for the NFL (QB David Greene, DE David Pollack). DJ Shockley takes over at the helm for the ‘Dawgs, but Boise State has been licking its chops for this game for a long, long time. The Broncos only lost one game all last season, and will be in the hunt for a BCS berth this year. I hate to say it, being from Georgia, but it’s rebuilding time in Athens. Prediction: Boise State, 21-17.

Monday, September 5: Miami vs. Florida State. We’ll get our first look at the Miami Hurricanes, who come off an extremely disappointing season. If UM sophomore quarterback Kyle Wright is truly the next big Miami QB, then we’ll know right away with this tough Labor Day test. Prediction: Miami, 24-17.

Saturday, September 24: Tennessee at LSU. Tennessee is one of my picks to make the National Title game, and after coming off a tough trip to visit Urban Meyer and the Gators in the Swamp, the Vols visit the Bayou and another title contender in LSU. Erik Ainge was given the reins over Rick Clausen, but there’s no way that QB controversy is over if Ainge begins to falter. Those two games, at Florida and at LSU, will determine the entire season for Tennessee. Prediction: Tennessee, 14-10.

Saturday, October 8: Oklahoma at Texas. I’m going to say it. This is the year. This is the year Texas finally beats Oklahoma. This is also the year Texas wins a national title. The stars are aligned for a classic contest between the top two teams in the Big XII, and Texas quarterback phenom Vince Young, a Heisman contender, will make sure the ‘Horns are ready. Prediction: Texas, 28-20.

Saturday, October 15: USC at Notre Dame. Charlie Weis has brought a new attitude to Brady Quinn and the Irish, who will be ready to face the Trojans and ruin their season. If Weis can do to Brady Quinn what he did to Tom Brady, wow. The Irish are on their way to the top once again. After last year’s whitewash, South Bend will be happy to greet Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush for a little revenge. It’s a new era in Notre Dame, and the glory starts right away. Yeah, baby, upset central in a tight one. Prediction: Notre Dame, 27-24.

Saturday, November 5: Miami at Virginia Tech. This game will determine who goes to the BCS as the ACC representative. Va. Tech looks solid, as always, but can Marcus Vick actually live up to the hype and stay out of trouble? If he can, VPI rolls and takes Miami and the ACC. The last time the Hurricanes came into Blacksburg, they got their clock cleaned. It’ll be closer, but the Hokies take it. Prediction: Virginia Tech, 24-20.

Saturday, November 19: Ohio State at Michigan. This is always a war, and this season will be no different. Michigan QB Chad Henne continues to improve and rise to the top of his game. Ohio State is balanced and ready for a dogfight. You’ll want to watch the Henne – Steve Breaston duo, as they have the opportunity to do great things for the Wolverines. The Buckeyes will counter with QB Justin Zwick and Heisman longshot Ted Ginn, Jr., but the simple fact that this game is in the Big House will push the advantage to Blue. Prediction: Michigan, 35-28.

Saturday, November 26: Florida State at Florida. Urban Meyer gets his first shot at Bobby Bowden and the Seminoles in the Swamp. Matchups like these are what make rivalry week so great. These two teams just plum hate each other, and the Swamp will be rocking. Look for Gators QB Chris Leak, who will be toward the top of the Heisman list, to try to make one final case for the trophy by trouncing on his rivals. Prediction: Florida, 35-31.

Folks, enjoy the ride. Another great college season is in the making.

Enjoy this season’s mystique and atmosphere while it lasts. College football, in the end, reflects college itself; it goes by so fast, you don’t even notice it.