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Klonsinski: Opening Week must change

| Friday, September 11, 2015

The best game of the opening week of college football wasn’t in Blacksburg, Virginia, or Evanston, Illinois, nor was it in Dallas, Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, Houston or Charlotte, North Carolina.

It happened in Missoula, Montana.

The weekend before FBS play started, No. 1 North Dakota State, the four-time defending national champion in FCS, squared off with No. 12 Montana, a team that used to be as dominant as North Dakota State in the early and mid 2000s and is now on the rise again.

Facing a fourth and goal from the one-half yard line with six seconds left in the game and the host Griz down 35-31, redshirt junior running back Joey Counts took the handoff and was about to jump over the pile of humanity forming at the goal line. Instead, though, he made one of the best cuts I’ve ever witnessed and squeaked through into the end zone off the left side.

Griz 38, Bison 35. Final score.

What a start to the college football season, I thought to myself at the time — and not just because I’m from Big Sky Country. I was so excited for the next weekend when FBS action started, so sure the game I had just witnessed was a great omen.

Before it even started, however, I already knew I’d be sorely disappointed. And I wasn’t let down.

When I first heard Montana and North Dakota State were kicking off the season, I immediately started getting excited for it. When I looked at the rest of college football’s opening weekend, though … nothing.

In the only matchup of the weekend featuring ranked teams, Alabama and Wisconsin was largely a snoozer. Ohio State on Monday night took all the drama out of its rematch against Virginia Tech. TCU finally woke up to avoid an upset bid from Minnesota, while Texas A&M rolled Arizona State, and North Carolina couldn’t hold on to the ball long enough to earn a win over its neighbor to the south. Northwestern pulled off the only noteworthy FBS upset of the weekend in about the most Northwestern way possible, defeating No. 24 Stanford, 16-6, in an ugly, sloppy and defensively-dominated bore.

The NCAA owes BYU and Nebraska a spot in the college football playoff this year: if not for the Hail Mary grab by Cougar senior receiver Mitch Mathews, the first week of the season would have been an absolute waste instead of just a total loss.

But I guess that’s what happens when 45 of the 85 FBS games this weekend featured an FCS opponent against an FBS team.

That statistic is absolutely absurd.

Even Mother Nature was sick of it: Toledo versus Stony Brook and McNeese State versus LSU, would-be game numbers 46 and 47, were both cancelled part of the way through the game due to inclement weather.

Those screaming at the NCAA to reduce the number of games on the schedule have a perfect example to use now. It would have been better if this weekend had never been played.

From the fan’s perspective, what’s really that enjoyable about watching your team beat up another team 69-6, like Georgia Tech over Alcorn State? Same with Clemson’s 49-10 beating of Wofford. How about Ole Miss hanging 76 on Tennessee-Martin, Navy’s 48-10 beating of Colgate, Appalachian State’s 49-0 drubbing of Howard, or Miami’s 45-0 shutout of Bethune-Cookman?

Was this weekend even worth playing? The NCAA has said player safety is one of its top priorities, but the very fact this weekend happened doesn’t support that stance at all.

When the best and most interesting game of the opening weekend was between two FCS teams, college football needs to address the problem.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Zach Klonsinski

A History graduate, Zach spent all four of his years on campus as a resident of Knott Hall. Hailing from Belgrade, Montana, he covered a wide variety of sports in his time at Notre Dame, including Football, Hockey, Men's Basketball, Men's Soccer, Women's Tennis, Fencing, Rowing, Women's Lacrosse and other events around campus. You can contact him in his post-graduation travels and job search at [email protected]

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