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Let’s do the WEEK ZERO BIG GAME thing every year

Now that Week 0 is a yearly thing, every Week 0 needs a true primetimer. Here are some good options for 2020.

Getty Images. Banner Society illustration

Major American football season is now over. TIME TO TALK ABOUT THE NEXT ONE. This article first appeared as an edition of the country’s best college football newsletter. Subscribe!

Back in August 2019, we suggested a really good idea (given to us by a head coach!) to move all bowl games to Week 0. That’s probably not happening, but it’s likely that a fancied Week 0 featuring big-time teams will be a thing in 2020 and beyond.

That’s because in 2019, ESPN moved Orlando’s Florida vs. Miami game to August 24 and saw a huge ratings success. The network pushed for an NCAA waiver allowing the game to be played in Week 0 so it could “celebrate college football’s 150th anniversary,” and that wonderful nonsense was good enough for the NCAA to stamp an approval.

The NCAA still has a bylaw preventing most FBS teams from playing before the Thursday preceding Labor Day weekend, but now that TV has discovered a new way to boost ratings on an otherwise dormant weekend, you can bet more waivers will be granted soon.

With that waiver in mind, let’s make sure there’s a great primetime game we can all enjoy in 2020’s Week 0.

Florida vs. Miami was fun! Let’s keep doing it!

Already, there are six games featuring FBS teams in Week 0, thanks to the NCAA’s two-pronged exception that if you’re playing at Hawaii or ARE Hawaii, you can schedule an early game. Additionally, waivers are commonly granted for overseas games.

This is the current slate for Saturday, August 29:

  • California at UNLV
  • Hawaii at Arizona
  • Idaho State at New Mexico
  • New Mexico State at UCLA
  • UC Davis at Nevada
  • Notre Dame vs. Navy (in Dublin, Ireland)

Hey, that’s not bad — by the time August rolls around, we’ll watch ANY college football — but it’s lacking a proper game for primetime, since Notre Dame-Navy will almost certainly be played during morning hours in the U.S.

ESPN (or FOX or CBS), do what’s right. Use your power over a sport played by unpaid labor to manipulate the schedule for more ad sales revenue. We know you can do it. We believe in you. We also believe you and the NCAA can find a reason to have a waiver approved so any of these games can move to August 29:

West Virginia vs. Florida State
Current date: Sept. 5

The 2020 Chick-fil-A Kickoff will feature three (!) different games in Atlanta over the course of seven days. In addition to Noles-’Eers on Saturday of Week 1, Georgia and Virginia will play Labor Day night and North Carolina and Auburn will meet the following Saturday.

Why not spread that out? Since the Falcons will still be in preseason, the stadium should be available in Week 0.

FSU was the Florida Power 5 program left out of the big Week 0 game last season. So how’s this for a bullshit NCAA waiver: the Noles should get to start practice a week early and enjoy an extra bye because Miami and Florida did last season, even though FSU has a whole new coaching staff and it’s a different season now. Maybe they just call this “The Bobby Bowden Classic” and try for another history-minded waiver.

West Virginia wouldn’t mind national exposure as it continues a rebuild under second-year head coach Neal Brown. You probably didn’t watch 5-7 WVU last year, but Brown beat Ed Orgeron’s LSU with Troy. So yeah.

Michigan at Washington
Current date: Sept. 5

You know who needs national exposure? The Pac Frickin 12. And you know what high-profile 2020 game featuring one Pac-12 team seems slightly more winnable than USC vs. Alabama?

New UW head coach Jimmy Lake wants a flashier product, so what better way than a Week 0 showcase against a national brand?

Will Wolverine fans complain August football is another example of amateur athletics sullying itself for money? Probably, but it’s nice to buffer a week of West Coast travel with a bye, ain’t it, nerds?

Surely Michigan graduates can find some obscure piece of history that can become a waiver excuse for the football team’s week-early trip to the West Coast.

Texas at LSU
Current date: Sept. 12

Let’s go straight-up NFL-style. Ed Orgeron’s Tigers (1.) won the national title last season and (2.) beat Texas in a close game while (3.) getting into a fight in the media about Austin’s locker room air conditioners, adding to a healthy amount of contempt between these programs.

Moving this game up would likely bother both coaching staffs, especially LSU. The Tigers are rolling over a lot of personnel, which might give Texas some kind of advantage. But we’re talking about LSU raising a banner at home in the humidity of August in Baton Rouge. Good luck with that.

Colorado at Texas A&M
Current date: Sept 19

HEY WAIT A MINUTE IS TEXAS DOING SOMETHING DIFFERENT WELL DAMMIT YOU BETTER BELIEVE THE AGS ARE FOLLOWIN’ SUIT. The Aggies have an advantageous 2020 schedule (Clemson is gone, and they don’t see Bama or LSU until the last two weeks) and could begin a potential 6-0 or even 10-0 run with a national spotlight solely on the Aggies. Take that, team-specific cable networks! In fact, if Texas gets a Week 0 game, Peak A&M would be to kickoff the night before on Friday.

For Colorado, the Pac-12’s publicity need still applies, as does the Buffaloes’ need to better recruit Texas and the South under former UGA assistant Mel Tucker. And CU is 6-3 all-time against their former Big 12 neighbors!

Houston at Washington State
Current date: Sept. 12

HOO BOY is this gonna be wild and points-y. Former Hawaii head coach Nick Rolovich (no stranger to Week 0) is taking over Mike Leach’s old offense, and Dana Holgorsen needs a win over a P5 to prove his 2019 redshirt strategy (don’t call it tanking, even if it might’ve been tanking) works. There might not be a HISTORIC RATINGS DRAW in this game, but you might see two quarterbacks on the field at the same time to throw a triple reverse four-verts.

And here’s your waiver, per Banner Society editor Jason Kirk: “Sir, this is also the 150th anniversary season of Houston hosting the first State Fair of Texas.” That, football fans, is AMERICAN HISTORY THE NCAA SHOULD HONOR.

Also the game is in Pullman, Washington, a global wrinkle in weather patterns. It could be 90 degrees, snowy, or both.

On the website, we’ve been talking scheduling beyond just Week 0. Considering how to use Ambition Tiers to schedule appropriately, finding the 15 most overmatched teams ever, proposing ADs handle all scheduling deals live on air during a tight time window, and tracing all of today’s They Ain’t Played Nobody arguments back to the beginning of the sport.