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Season Openers: College Football’s Blind Date

by on September 10, 2015 6:00 AM

Last weekend marked the return of an American tradition as college football’s season began. 

By the end of opening week fans were either wildly excited or completely panicked about their team’s season ahead.

An opening win proves your team is invincible, a loss means you don’t see how they can beat anyone on the schedule.

The season opener is like dating; not a completely blind date but close. You know what team you root for—because you have a type. Expectations for that first date are based on recruiting, the number of returning starters and things the coaches say about the team. You have an expectation of what that first date will be like but you don’t know for sure.

Recruiting is like the kind of car your date drives. If your date drives a Ferrari you figure they’ve got money, drive fast and lead an exciting life. But the car may break down or it may belong to a friend or your date may not know how to drive a high-performance car. Maybe the beat-up car has a great engine and your date can drive like a NASCAR driver.

Returning starters are like looks and intelligence. From a distance your date may seem attractive and smart until you sit down across from them. Then you realize there is a lot of make-up to cover major flaws or that they couldn’t spell cat if you spotted them the C and the T. All the positive things a coach says may just be a sales job that rings hollow.

You just don’t know until the season starts.

With college football season openers the anticipation builds all year long. You get a sneak peek at the team at the spring game, but that is like just seeing your date hanging with their friends. There is no pressure and no real competition.

But like friends talking up your potential date, ESPN and other media outlets build hype towards the season all summer long.

By August, you’ve essentially looked at your team on Tinder and you’ve swiped right. You’ve picked out that jersey you’re going to wear and decided whether painting your face is too much make up. Maybe you go to the game shirtless and paint your body.

Finally the day arrives, the ball is kicked off and a few hours later you have a better idea what you’ve got.

When that first game is over it’s the only thing you have to judge how the rest of the season will go. Maybe your team/date was so dazzling with amazing moves on the dance floor you can’t wait to see what happens next week.  Maybe they threw up on you and you dread the next game that you’ve already reluctantly committed to. If the season goes badly in the first few weeks you start looking around at other teams secretly wondering if perhaps Alabama or Oregon might be on Ashley Madison.

In your study of the team that one game is all the data you have to go on, but it’s really too small a sample size to assess the whole season. Even after a season opener you don't know how good your team is because you won’t know how good the team you just played is for a few weeks.

In 1995 Penn State opened by beating Texas Tech on a last-second Brett Conway field goal. Fans were dismayed at the closeness of the win until Texas Tech finished 9-3 and in the top 20. In 1989 Virginia upset Penn State. Who knew in week one that UVA would go on the win the ACC? After a disastrous start in 1983 Penn State finished 8-1-1 down the stretch with wins over #3 Alabama and #5 West Virginia.

The season is long and one game does not make the whole year. But that doesn’t stop media types after only one week from predicting who will be in the playoff and posting bowl projections.

Ohio State’s  “All-New QB Review” opened to rave reviews after new H-back Braxton Miller made the spin move seen round the world. They’ve been penciled in as a playoff team lock. Notre Dame dismantled Texas so they’re a lock too. But who knows how good Texas is yet?

No matter how well or how poorly your team played there is still a lot of football left to play. It is the ultimate in reality television. The unscripted unknown outcome of the games captures our attention.

So after one week whether your team had all the right moves or your team let you down you know you'll be back. That is the fun of college football it is a marriage made in Heaven. We remain tied to our teams for better or for worse.

Even if your team does let you down, stay with them. Your roving eye is best left to NFL Fantasy Football.

State College native and Penn State graduate Jay Paterno is a father, husband and political volunteer. He’s a frequent guest lecturer on campus and at Penn State events and was the longtime quarterbacks coach for the Nittany Lions. His column appears every other Thursday. Follow him on Twitter at
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