Fall Saturdays are synonymous with two things: English Premier League soccer and college football. Both sports are steeped in knee-high piles of tradition, fervent fan support and alcoholics. Despite one’s being an amateur endeavor and the other’s being a multi-billion-dollar international enterprise, they share more similarities than not and see crucial periods right around the beginning of November. English Premier League squads are battling for table position and college football teams are fighting for their post-season lives.
Herein, we’ve compiled the games this week from either side of the pond that mirror one another in importance. Take a peak and schedule your Saturday sports schedule accordingly.
Match-Up Between Two Behemoths That Might Suck
Alabama Vs. LSU (8 p.m., CBS); Manchester United Vs. Arsenal (8:45 a.m., ESPN)
Pundits can bill these games however they want: “Game of the Century,” “Clash of the Titans” or whatever. The hype for regular season match-ups between two monster squads like Alabama and LSU never really fulfills expectations, and hasn’t since Ohio State and Michigan–then number one and number two, respectively–posted 81 points in 2006. English Premier League soccer is a different story, since Big-Four clubs like Manchester United and Arsenal meet on a bi-annual basis; however, even they can fall into the mire of one-sided scorelines and boring, lopsided wins (like last year’s 8-2 United victory).
Granted, there are plenty of subplots that make these pairings interesting regardless: ‘Bama and LSU will play for a trip to the SEC and national championships, and United’s match against Arsenal sees Robin van Persie facing his former squad for the first time. However, don’t be surprised if the Crimson Tide plays the Tigers to a lethargic defensive mud wrestling match and United squeaks three points out of a one-goal win against the Gunners (as has happened three times in the past four years).
Mid-Table/Mid-Top-25 Match-Up That Might Be Interesting
Texas A&M Vs. Mississippi State (Noon, ESPN); Everton Vs. Fulham (11 a.m.)
Interesting correlation between these two sets of games: three of the four can f*cking score. With the exception of Everton, Texas A&M, Mississippi State and Fulham have been racking up points in their respective sports, with Mississippi State and Texas A&M notching at least 28 points in each of their games*, and Fulham scoring more goals than any other EPL squad not named Manchester United or Chelsea.
Everton, while not displaying the same offensive firepower, has become the pillar of success for mid-table EPL clubs, and even claims credit for a season-opening stunner against United at Goodison Park. None of these teams will contend for any sort of meaningful title this season, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t catch a few minutes when kicking off your Saturday slate.
Match-Up That’s Surely Going To Be An Embarrassing Blowout
Ohio State Vs. Illinois (3:30 p.m., ESPN); Tottenham Hotspur Vs. Wigan Athletic (11 a.m.)
In all fairness to Illinois and Wigan, they’re in transition. Sure, it seems like they’re always in transition (and, in the case of Wigan, it’s always a surprise to see that they haven’t been relegated), but neither team should go into any game expecting much. Illinois has been the laughing stock of an embarrassing Big Ten, and Wigan, well, they’re already sitting close to the dreaded EPL basement.
But neither Illinois nor Wigan are playing Indiana or Swansea: they’re playing high-flying powerhouses Ohio State and Tottenham, which can score in the time it takes to pour a beer. Ohio State’s led by sensational sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller (with a work-in-progress spread scheme that becomes scarier by the game) and Tottenham possess a fleet of attackers like Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon, Clint Dempsey and the indefatigable Jermaine Defoe to extinguish any sort of opposing momentum. Expect points and piss-your-pants excellence–just not from the Fighting Illini or Wigan.
Match-Up That Looks Like A Blowout But Might Not Be
Notre Dame Vs. Pittsburgh (3:30 p.m., NBC); West Ham Vs. Manchester City (1:30 p.m.)
Statistics and paper (the end product of wood pulp or recycled materials mashed together) indicate both Notre Dame and Manchester City will win handily over Pittsburgh and West Ham, respectively. Within the sports universe, paper means dick. Appearances are not always indicative of end results, so no one should expect that either game will end in routs.
Notre Dame’s coming off a program-defining win against Oklahoma last weekend, one which made this author renew his Catholic roots in the process. A letdown from that junkie’s high might keep this game closer than Irish fans want–especially when last season’s meeting ended 15-12 in the Irish’s favor. Manchester City, on the other hand, boasts one of the most impressive rosters in European soccer, but has conceded goals like a leaky levee in New Orleans. Count ‘em up, folks: 22 in all competitions, with four of those from Aston Villa. We’re not calling these upsets, but then again maybe we are.
* – Mississippi State only scored seven against Alabama, but then again it’s Alabama and journalists are discussing whether the Crimson Tide could beat a sh*tty NFL team. So kudos for those seven points.