Purdue and Notre Dame renew their rivalry today.
College football is loaded with traditions and rivalries.
And there may be no other program in America that is as rich in its football history as Notre Dame.
When one thinks of Notre Dame's rivals, one's thoughts may turn to Southern California, Michigan, Navy and Michigan State. And, to be sure, those are great rivalries.
But, today, Notre Dame will face its instate rival, Purdue, and I would put the Notre Dame–Purdue rivalry up against any of those others.
It was a fixture in the first six seasons that the legendary Knute Rockne coached the Fighting Irish, but they stopped playing each other after the 1923 season and didn't revive the series until a couple of years after Rockne's death in 1931.
I don't know if it was regarded as a rivalry in those days — if it was, it was a sporadic one that went between meetings for years at a time.
The series didn't become an annual thing until 1946, but the schools have faced each other in every year since, often producing memorable performances.
Of course, rivalries are always more interesting if at least one of the teams is ranked — and, this year, the Irish are ranked.
Whether they will be ranked when the season is over is another matter.
But it can be said — without reservation — that Notre Dame is ranked this weekend.
Idle: #9 West Virginia
- Western Kentucky at #1 Alabama, 2:39 p.m. (Central) on SEC Network: These teams have only met once, in 2008, and 'Bama won, 41–7.
But I don't think anyone who watched 'Bama dismantle Michigan last week could possibly doubt that the Tide can handle Western Kentucky, probably by a wide margin.
I pick Alabama.
- #2 USC at Syracuse, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ABC: This will be the second straight year these teams have played.
That's quite an improvement in frequency, considering that the teams had met only twice prior to that — in 1924 and 1990.
The Trojans have won all three previous meetings, and, while I expect them to lose at least once this season, this won't be a weekend when they lose. I have to go with USC.
- Washington at #3 LSU, 6 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: This is the third time these schools have met on the football field.
LSU won both of the previous encounters by an average margin of 17 points. The Tigers are tough to beat in Baton Rouge, and I feel confident in predicting that LSU will win this game.
- Fresno State at #4 Oregon, 5:30 p.m. (Central) on Pac–12: These two teams have actually played each other eight times before.
It's been an interesting series. Fresno won the first two games, but Oregon has won every contest played since 1996.
As good as the Ducks have been for the last few years, I fully expect Oregon to win this game.
- Florida A&M at #5 Oklahoma: These teams will be meeting for the first time.
But this is OU's home opener. I don't know if the Sooners are the fifth best team in the land, but I'm confident that Oklahoma will be able to handle Florida A&M.
- Savannah State at #6 Florida State, 5 p.m. (Central) on ESPN3.com: These teams will be meeting each other for the first time.
They have no history to help observers anticipate the outcome.
But is that necessary? It seems to me that Florida State should cruise to victory in this one.
- #7 Georgia at Missouri, 6:45 p.m. (Central) on ESPN2: Missouri's first SEC opponent is a team they have only played once before — in the January 1960 Orange Bowl.
Georgia won that game, 14–0.
Obviously, a game played more than 50 years ago has little in the way of insight to offer. But, in general, Georgia is probably the favorite to win. The Bulldogs, after all, were undefeated on the road last year, and they have won more than three–fourths of their road games since 2000.
However, Missouri was 5–1 at home last year, and the Tigers have won 80% of their home games since 2000.
Besides, Georgia will be without four defensive starters. So this looks — to me, at least — like the irresistible force meeting the not–quite–as–immovable object. I think it will be a close game.
In what will probably be regarded as an upset, I will take Missouri to win by, perhaps, a field goal.
- Louisiana–Monroe at #8 Arkansas, 6 p.m. (Central) on ESPNU: This is one of those series the Razorbacks started after they joined the SEC 20 years ago.
It wasn't part of the Arkansas experience I had in Fayetteville. The schools first met more than a decade after I finished school there.
But this will be the 10th time they have played, and Arkansas won the first nine by an average margin of about three touchdowns.
I watched Arkansas' season opener on the internet last week, and I had some issues with the defense (which, supposedly, would be better this season). The Razorbacks might very well struggle against top–ranked Alabama, their opponent next week, but I see no reason why Arkansas should not beat Louisiana–Monroe.
- East Carolina at #9 South Carolina, 11:21 a.m. (Central) on SEC Network: These teams first met in 1977, and South Carolina won the first eight encounters.
But East Carolina has held the upper hand in five of the eight games played since 1991.
And it is tempting to pick ECU to win this one, but I think South Carolina is just too good — and should win by three touchdowns.
- #11 Michigan State at Central Michigan, 2:30 p.m. on ESPNU: Believe it or not, the first two times these schools faced each other, Central Michigan was the winner.
This will be the ninth time these schools have squared off, and Michigan State has been 5–1 since losing those first two meetings.
But this year will be different, if only because Central Michigan will be the host — for the first time.
Is that going to change the outcome? I doubt it. I pick Michigan State.
- Ball State at #12 Clemson, 11:30 a.m. on ACC Network: There is an interesting pattern in this rarely played series.
The first meeting came in the 1992 season. Clemson won that game. The teams did not meet again for 10 years. Clemson won the 2002 rematch.
Both games, like the one that will be played today, were played at Clemson. And I expect the outcome to be about the same — Clemson by about 20 points.
- #13 Wisconsin at Oregon State, 3 p.m. (Central) on FX: When these teams met last season, it was their first meeting in 50 years.
But the outcome did not change, only the margin. Wisconsin barely won the 1961 encounter, but the Badgers rolled over the Beavers last year.
I expect Wisconsin to win by perhaps a touchdown.
- Central Florida at #14 Ohio State, 11 a.m. (Central) on ESPN2: These schools have never faced each other before, and I am inclined to believe that the Buckeyes will win the game.
I know that is based on the schools' reputations (or lack thereof), but I also know that UCF has had a fair amount of success in recent years. So I expect a close game — say, Ohio State by five.
- Austin Peay at #15 Virginia Tech, 12:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPN3.com: This one is a first, just like the Florida State game.
And I am inclined to believe that Virginia Tech will be an easy winner. Nothing more needs to be said.
- #16 Nebraska at UCLA, 6:30 p.m. (Central) on Fox: This may be the most entertaining game on the schedule, and it is already an interesting series.
These schools have faced each other 10 times — but it has been nearly 20 years since their last encounter.
Both schools have hosted the other five times, and home field advantage clearly plays a role in the outcome. Nebraska is 4–1 in its home games against UCLA, and UCLA is 3–2 in its home games against Nebraska.
Consequently, the smart pick when these teams are facing other is the home team, whichever team that may be.
UCLA is the home team this time — and the Bruins might very well win the game — but I'm going to go with Nebraska.
- New Mexico at #17 Texas, 7 p.m. (Central) on Longhorn Network: These teams have played each other twice before, but this will be their first meeting since 1988.
The outcomes of those previous meetings were remarkably consistent. Both were 47–0 victories for Texas. Those other two games were played in Austin, as tonight's game will be.
Texas has struggled in recent years — but not as much as New Mexico, which has finished 1–11 in each of the last three seasons — and the Longhorns have lost as many as they have won in Austin in the last couple of years, but I expect Texas to prevail, probably by a wide margin.
- #18 Oklahoma State at Arizona, 9:30 p.m. (Central) on Pac–12: Historically, OSU holds a 5–3 advantage over Arizona.
But that really doesn't mean much to the current groups because, before the teams resumed their series in the 2010 Alamo Bowl, they had not met since World War II.
Arizona had a rough season last year. The Wildcats enjoyed modestly better years in the preceding seasons, and they will be hosting the Cowboys for the first time since 1942 — which also happens to be the last time Arizona beat Oklahoma State.
Oklahoma State is not the same team that went 12–1 last year, but the Cowboys do still have some of the talent that made that season possible. I expect Oklahoma State to win.
- Air Force at #19 Michigan, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ABC: These teams have played only once before — in 1964 when Michigan prevailed, 24–7.
The Wolverines didn't cover themselves with glory last week against Alabama, but I expect Michigan to notch its first win of the season this week.
- Grambling at #20 TCU, 6 p.m. (Central) on FSSW: TCU was idle last week — so no one really knows if the Horned Frogs are worthy of being ranked.
This season is going to be one in which TCU will have to prove itself — repeatedly — against some old foes — Texas, Texas Tech, Baylor — and some fairly new ones — Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State.
I don't believe, though, that the Frogs will face much of a challenge in their season opener. I pick TCU to win this one.
- Miami (Fla.) at #21 Kansas State, 11 a.m. on FX: These teams met for the first time last season, and it was a pretty close game. KSU won but only by four points, 28–24.
The rematch is being played in Kansas, as was last year's game, and I expect the same outcome — but not the same margin. I think Kansas State will win by a wider margin this time.
- Purdue at #22 Notre Dame, 2:30 p.m. on NBC: This has to be the oldest series on today's Top 25 schedule.
These schools met for the first time in 1896, and this will be the 81st contest between them. Notre Dame has dominated the series, winning 53 times, including the last four in a row and six of the last seven.
I expect Notre Dame to make it five in a row, but I think it will be close.
- Missouri State at #23 Louisville, 2:30 p.m. on ESPN3.com: I don't know much about Louisville — except that the Cardinals have had some pretty good seasons in recent years.
And all I really know about Missouri State is that the school was known as Southwest Missouri State when I was in college at Arkansas.
But I have heard nothing that would lead me to conclude that Missouri State is capable of going into Louisville this afternoon and winning this game.
Just the opposite, in fact. I think Louisville will win by a wide margin.
- #24 Florida at Texas A&M, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: The Aggies officially begin their existence as members of the SEC today.
Their opponent is Florida, a team the Aggies have played twice before — but not since the 1977 Sun Bowl.
Most people probably will pick the Gators in this game, but the Aggies have won roughly three–fourths of their home games in the last three years. I'm going to pick Texas A&M in an upset special.
- Duke at #25 Stanford, 9:30 p.m. (Central) on Pac–12: This isn't a very extensive series — the teams have met only three times — but the visiting team has won every time.
Actually, I think that pattern will change this year. I expect Stanford to win, perhaps by three touchdowns or more.
Other than jet lag, I expect Duke to bring little to tonight's game.