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Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Woe is this college football week

By Ivan Maisel
ESPN.com

If it's Saturday, and the marquee game is No. 23 Arizona State at No. 5 Stanford, then, yes, questions must be asked. How did this happen? What have they done to my weekend? And should we all become fans of the MEAC?

That's the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, and, in its eyes, this is a huge weekend. Florida A&M is at No. 4 Ohio State, Bethune-Cookman plays at No. 8 Florida State, Savannah State plays at No. 16 Miami. That's just the FBS opponents. Don't forget that Delaware State plays at FCS No. 1 North Dakota State.

And ESPN's "College GameDay" will be there.

North Dakota State football
The No. 1 team in the FCS, North Dakota State, will be hosting GameDay on Saturday.

If there were any doubts that this Saturday's schedule arrived a little light at weigh-in, GameDay's decision to go to North Dakota State confirmed it. Let no one diminish the glow of success emanating from the Bi-zun, as Chris Fowler has taught me to pronounce it, Fargo style. But the reason GameDay is going to Fargo is that there isn't a compelling game in the other 49 states.

How does Brent Musburger let this happen? There are only 14 Saturdays from Labor Day weekend through Thanksgiving weekend. Is it really that hard to make sure every single one of them has a game worth anticipating?

First of all, neither Musburger nor anyone else is the master scheduler. The networks, including my own, sometimes serve as matchmakers. But no one on a national level is saying, "Hey, you. Go play them."

The bulk of scheduling is done at the conference level. Every conference does it a little differently. The Big Ten, for instance, announced its 2013 schedule in April 2011; the ACC didn't do so until February 2012; and the American just finished its slate on Thursday. At least, it felt that way. Of course, the ACC and the American did have some membership issues.

The point is that if a conference takes into consideration other games scheduled around the country, that factor is pretty far down the list. That said, each conference tries to show a little leg to the TV networks every Saturday. And, in the cool light of the preseason, if you looked at this Saturday's schedule, it didn't seem so homely.

Kansas State at Texas? That's the defending Big 12 champion against a nine-win team with 19 returning starters. That looked good until the Longhorns forgot how to play defense.

Tennessee at No. 19 Florida? Auburn at No. 6 LSU? In recent years, those have been games that shook the world -- literally in the case of the latter. This is the silver anniversary of the earthquake game, which LSU won, 7-6. From the mid-1990s through the early 2000s, all of college football stopped for the Vols and the Gators.

The Vols are coming off a 59-14 loss at No. 2 Oregon. The Gators are two weeks out from a five-turnover performance in a 21-16 loss at Miami. Auburn just broke a 10-game conference losing streak.

There is quality this weekend, just not on Saturday night. No. 3 Clemson plays at NC State on Thursday night. The last ranked opponent to come into Raleigh lost. The Wolfpack upset No. 3 Florida State last season, 17-16. On Friday night, the Mountain West has its best game of the regular season, with Boise State playing at Fresno State. What's that? The Broncos lost their opener, at Washington, 38-6? Moving along …

I'm not going to suggest that Michigan State at Notre Dame will change your life, much less your weekend. There's no putting lipstick on this Razorback, not even with Arkansas playing at Rutgers. Those of us in search of entertainment always can hope someone hides a mike somewhere near Nebraska coach Bo Pelini.

The great thing about the schedule this Saturday is that it's only around for one week. Only 10 days are left until No. 6 LSU plays at No. 9 Georgia, No. 14 Oklahoma is at No. 22 Notre Dame and No. 21 Ole Miss plays at No. 1 Alabama. Some weeks, that schedule would qualify as merely good. From this vantage point, it looks great.