LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The disclaimer always must come first: There is no guarantee college football will be played as scheduled this season.
You know the flashing light -- COVID-19, the novel coronavirus.
But if the games are played as scheduled, the four area BCS programs are positioned to earn more love than usual because of the shuffled schedule.
All four will open under the lights. Nobody will play on Saturday, Sept. 5.
Locally that Saturday will be Kentucky Derby Day. But across the country, Sept. 5 will be the day college football commands the stage with game after game after game.
Florida State-West Virginia. Purdue-Nebraska. Alabama-USC. Northwestern-Michigan State. Michigan-Washington. You get the picture. It will be a crowded TV window.
It won't be for Louisville, Kentucky, Indiana and Western Kentucky. They're playing on Wednesday (U of L); Thursday (UK and WKU) and Friday (IU).
The 2020 season is actually booked to begin with six games on Saturday, Aug. 29. Notre Dame vs. Navy was supposed to be the headliner that day but it has been postponed.
On Wednesday, Sept. 2, there is one game on the schedule -- North Carolina State at Louisville -- after the game was pushed up one day on Monday.
The good folks in Las Vegas have yet to post a line on that game, but Louisville handled N.C. State by two touchdowns in Raleigh last season. The Cards are also 4-2 against the Wolfpack since U of L joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2014.
All three college football yearbooks I have purchased -- Athlon; Lindy's and Street & Smith's -- pick Louisville second in the ACC Atlantic, behind Clemson.
The Wolfpack are picked sixth (Lindy's or Street & Smith's) or fifth (Athlon). N.C. State won only four games last season and seven of its eight defeats were by at least two touchdowns. There is grumbling about coach Dave Doeren.
N.C. State will carry a six-game losing streak to Cardinal Stadium. Its quarterback, Devin Leary, completed only 48 percent of his throws with eight touchdowns and five interceptions. That is dreadful quarterback play.
I'm not an oddsmaker, but Louisville figures to be at least a 13-point favorite.
Kentucky and Western Kentucky are booked for two of the 15 games scheduled Thursday, Sept. 3.
The headliners that night will be Clemson-Georgia Tech and Oregon State at Oklahoma State -- and perhaps not in that order if Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy keeps embarrassing himself.
Kentucky gets Eastern Michigan at Kroger Field. Mid-American Conference teams have earned a reputation for making Power Five opponents sweat in September.
Eastern Michigan contributed to that reputation last season by winning at Illinois a week after the Eagles lost in Lexington by three touchdowns. Illinois wasn't great but the Illini did rally to make a bowl game.
Nobody will expect much from this Eastern Michigan team. The Eagles are picked to finish last in the West Division of the MAC by two publications and next to last in the other.
For WKU, the challenge will be not looking past Chattanooga to its games at Indiana and Louisville later in September.
Chattanooga is an FCS program that split its 12 games last season. ESPN's Football Power Index puts WKU's win probability at 96.2 percent.
On Friday night, Sept. 4, Indiana will draw the spotlight. It will also play a Wisconsin program that has defeated the Hoosiers in 10 consecutive games.
Defeated is a kind word. Wisconsin has won those 10 games by an average of 36 points. From 2010-through-2013, the Badgers beat the Hoosiers by 63, 52, 48 and 48.
Early spreads are available at three locations, according to Brian Edwards, a senior handicapper at VegasInsider.com. The Badgers are the unanimous pick with the Hoosiers getting at least 12-1/2 to 13-1/2 points.
The Hoosiers are a trendy pick to finish fourth in the Big Ten East. They don't have to win at Camp Randall Stadium. But they can't be rolled by 63, 52, 48 or even 36 on a night when the next best game is North Carolina at Central Florida.
Not with all of college football watching.
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