Tampa Bay Buc blackout ain't a bad thing

Then at 3;30 there is a bevy of big time match ups.  Over on NBC you've got the classic Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry.  I have to admit that as a USC fan I pretty much loath the Irish, though I do like new coach Brian Kelly (a vast improvement over Charlie Weis.  I could never get over the fact that Notre Dame tore up his contract in his 2nd year for an outrageous 10 year extension, and then slowly realized he wasn't exactly all that).

Also at 3:30 you've got the Ohio State Buckeyes taking on "The U", the University of Miami Hurricanes on ESPN concurrently on ABC, the Florida State Seminoles going to Norman to face the Oklahoma Sooners.

At 7 p.m. two of the sport's greatest programs, Joe Paterno's Nittany Lions of Penn State then face off the defending national champion Crimson Tide of Alabama.  And there are at least 25 other games available on your basic Bright House or Verizon set up.

The great thing about the college game is, it truly is about the experience: the tailgaiting, the bands, the fans (especially if you're an alum or just have long time ties to a particular school).  These are all things that you don't necessarily get with the pros (okay, the drinking, you do.  Although the NCAA does not allow alcohol to be served in stadiums on college campuses, which is why you can't a get drink at most stadiums during the game).

In fact, the big story going into the season is how the NFL realizes that because it's the ultimate television sport (never more so than with the advent of HD televisions), they'll try as best as possible to reproduce the experience at home at the game.  Which is why the biggest whoop to do last year with the construction of Cowboys Stadium in Texas was for their gargantuan scoreboard, with huge screens to watch replays. And in the new stadium in New Jersey for the Giants and Jets, those teams are offering fans  free smart-phone applications that can be used to view video replays, updated statistics and live feeds from other games – but only while inside the stadium.

So while the pros do what they must to reproduce the pleasures of watching on your couch, the real deal, college football, is now in full swing, will be until only early December.  The fact that it's so short makes it all that more intense.

My condolences to all of you Tampa Bay Buccaneer fans, bummed that for the first time since the 20th century (and for the first time ever at Raymond James Stadium in the regular season), your beloved men in orange won't be available to watch this Sunday at 1:00 p.m.  However, unlike the pre-season when this happened on two occasions, you won't be deprived of football, as WTSP will instead offer the Buffalo-Miami telecast (which is almost as unappealing as Cleveland-Tampa.  As Tom Jones with the St. Pete Times reports this morning, every other game available for CBS to broadcast in Tampa would have been a better choice).

For the first time ever, the media-research firm Nielsen has developed a system for ranking the popularity of NFL teams based on each team's local and national TV rankings, how often they're mentioned on the Internet, and how many visitors they attract to their official websites.  The Nielsen Sports Media Index lists the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the 2nd least popular team in the NFL, trailed only by the St. Louis Rams. My favorite clubs, two of the most iconic franchises ever, the SF 49ers and Oakland Raiders, didnt fare that much better, with the Raiders only 25th and the Niners 27th in those rankings.

But that's all fine and good.  Best of luck to whomever you're rooting for this fall. The season opened last night to a less than stellar performance in the Superdome as the New Orleans Saints beat the Minnesota Vikings, 14-9.  Some of the play was pretty sloppy, which was really frustrating considering these teams played four meaningless games, presumably so they would be poised to play to their full potential last night.

However, can I turn your attention on to what all college football fans are salivating about this weekend?  That is,  a spectacular array of out of conference games that will be better than anything will see on January 1, due to BCS, which scatters the major bowl games throughout the first week of January.

For local fans, what could be finer than watching the USF Bulls traveling to Gainesville to take on the Tim Tebow-less University of Florida Gators in front of an estimated crowd of 90,000.  That comes your way at 12:21 p.m.


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