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The Weekly Primer is hooked on college football

The Weekly Primer is hooked on college football and here to help you prep for Mizzou action and the big games of the week.

Mizzou Talking Points Walkthrough

Missouri’s season kicks off at home with a known unknown. The last time Missouri played Missouri State, America was still patching up after the first World War. In baseball, WAR had not been invented yet, but Babe Ruth was lapping the field in the statistic.

Despite playing this in-state competition fewer times than they have squared off against teams like Fordham, Iowa Pre-Flight, or Grinnell, Mizzou fans will find a familiar face across the sideline.

Longtime Missouri assistant Dave Steckel is at the helm for the Bears of Springfield, and his return to his old stomping grounds provides an easy storyline. Once the action begins on the field and the results predictably tilt in favor of the Tigers, the astute fan will watch the action in hopes of gleaning insight for the upcoming conference clashes.

For Missouri to make noise in the SEC this year, the known unknowns will have to become known strengths. Swiftly. young defensive backs like DeMarkus Acy and Jordan Ulmer will need to be up to speed; a green linebacking corps that got a taste of action last fall will need to dictate that action; and a host of capable bodies will need to resurrect the #DLineZou moniker.

Fail these tests, and a we will see a repeat of 2016’s, um, generous defensive performance.

As for knowns, Missouri’s offense will score a lot of points this year. Enjoy it.

Keegs’ Poll: Top 5 Games Of The Week

  1. Alabama vs Florida State (Atlanta, GA) - 8 PM ET, ABC. Could it have been any other game? The best game of opening week is possibly the best game of the season and almost certainly the best Week 1 game in history. This is a playoff-caliber matchup and the crown jewel of Labor Day Weekend. Plenty of ink, both real and electronic, has been spilled on this game, and I have little to add. Savor it.
  2. Florida vs Michigan (Arlington, TX) - 3:30 PM ET, ABC. Another matchup of high-profile programs, this one with markedly less juice. Touchdowns in this game will be sparse and occur mostly by accident. This will be a close game, likely tense, and about as exciting as a batch of errands. Your NFL-only friends will watch this game; the discerning fan will find some more fashionable fare lower on the ticket.
  3. Louisville vs Purdue (Indianapolis, IN) - 7:30 PM ET, FOX. Such as this game! Skip the rock fight and turn into Extreme Points Elimination Showdown. Hard to imagine a game with the reigning Heisman winner being underrated, but here we are. This is due to the opponent, which is a mistake; Purdue will be one of the most entertaining bad teams in the sport. QB David Blough was productive last season and will light up scoreboards in new head coach Jeff Brohm’s basketball-on-grass offense, last seen averaging 45 ppg at Western Kentucky.
  4. Texas A&M at UCLA - Sunday at 7:30 PM ET, FOX. Can I interest you in watching a head coach’s hot seat get dialed up a few more notches on live TV? The loser of this game will be in for some uncomfortable late-game lingering camera shots and heaps of message board furor. Oh, plus a pair of potential high draft picks in UCLA QB Josh Rosen and Aggies WR Christian Kirk.
  5. BYU vs LSU (New Orleans, LA) - 9:30 PM ET, ESPN. A number of games could have fit in this slot, but ultimately the idea of watching Derrius Guice run the football is more fun than anything else. LSU is rightfully a hearty favorite in Vegas but will be without dynamite edge rusher Arden Key, and BYU already has a game under their belts. The last competitive game of Saturday night should be an entertaining one.

A Few Words of Affection and Consternation Carefully Chosen

Typically this space is reserved for a glowing review of a person, team, thing or trend the author finds particularly delightful in the sport. Today: a different approach.

College football is back! Technically, it started last Saturday with a few games of minor import and one bout with a powerful headliner taking a few jabs from an overmatched and eventually exhausted upstart. But our national obsession begins in earnest this week, and not a moment too soon.

A country that is so divided and fraught with tension can set aside differences every Saturday and enjoy the purity of sport. We may worship at different altars throughout our everyday life — at the altar of money, equality, power, education, the arts, or whatever god you have chosen to erect. But For 14 fall Saturdays, we put that aside and come together to worship the pomp, the pageantry, and the performances of amateur pigskin.

At a time when our country is seemingly torn asunder with hateful speech and divisive politics, when our institutions and traditions — for better or worse — are threatened to their very core, college football stands as a proud beacon of unique Americana from coast to coast.

That said, it is still a sport of bargaining. Like a defensive coordinator playing one-on-one coverage to sell out to stop the run, or the blocking schemes that sacrifice a route to help protect the passer from a star edge rusher. So must we work through some ugly elements (and this tired metaphor) to enjoy the game.

Are you revolted when the multi-millionaire coach screams at an unpaid player on the sideline in front of a national audience? Are you sickened that a sport that prints money can figure out how to distribute it to everyone but the actual workers who practice it? Do you consider how much physical, mental, and emotional health these employees risk to line the pockets of television networks, universities, play callers, soft drink companies, etc? Do you see how off-field violence is judged lighter than a college superstar turning newfound fame into some cash or toys?

Honestly, I am.

We can and should speak out against the things in this sport we detest, regardless of the size of our platform. We speak out because we love this game, and that love requires us to bargain.

We must never overlook the exploited labor, but for four hours we will allow ourselves to forget about their needs and be thrilled by their athletic exploits.

We must never allow a coach or institution to sweep away violence against women on his campus, but we are fascinated as that coach’s offensive schemes change the way the game is played.

We must hold our institutions accountable for the damage this sport wreaks on young men’s brains and bodies, but we will always cheer louder for the big hit.

I am in love with this sport. I love the fight songs and the passionate fans and the century-old cathedrals where we enjoy it. I love the tailgate scenes and the cliched arguments and the unique schemes. I love the band on the field and holy buckeye and the kick six.

The sport has hooked me. I must never let it off the hook.