Joe Meyer and Dave Brown preparing for the Sept 15, 1984, football game between Colgate and Army at  Michie Stadium on the campus of West Point. Army defeated Colgate that day, 41-15.
NEW YORK—After the longest offseason in major sports, college football is back this weekend with a handful of games. Nebraska and Northwestern open the season in, of all places, Dublin, Ireland, as part of the Aer Lingus College Football Series.

Some fans, especially those in West Virginia and parts of western Pennsylvania, would say the season doesn’t really start until Thursday, when the Mountaineers of Morgantown, W.Va., visit Pittsburgh for another edition of the Backyard Brawl. (Watch out for this Pitt team in ’22, we hear from one of our field reporters.) There are plenty of other contenders as the season opens, including the defending champion Georgia Bulldogs.

In the annual college football VMAIL Weekend preview, our loyal correspondents from around the nation—and their respective tailgates—weigh in with their expectations for the upcoming season. And, as a special element, we get the rundown of what makes Sept. 15 so special for one of our contributors. Have a great season!

 Dave Brown (second from right) and his college friends get together at a recent game at Colgate.
 Colgate alum Austin Murphy—and a fraternity brother of Dave Brown—is the author of one of the college football fan’s must-reads.
Dave Brown
Chief Executive Officer

Inevitably the weather will cool, Fall will arrive, and college football will once again grab hold of the interest of alumni and fans around the country. The photo above (and at the top of VMAIL Weekend) is of me and my play-by-play partner Joe Meyer, announcing Colgate football on WRCU on Sept. 15, 1984, from Michie Stadium on the campus of West Point. Quite the dapper duo…in a mid-80s’ student budget wardrobe kind of way.

Colgate football has a history of playing most games on the road. It made the WRCU “job” fun as we would head off to various colleges every Friday, studying the stats, memorizing names tied to uniform numbers and playing mix tapes while studying paper maps and trying not to get lost.

I am sure most alums could argue persuasively their college had the best fill in the blank: tailgating, stadium, weather, food, band/fight song etc. But I can tell you if you’ve never been to a game at West Point you should go, and you might just change your mind about your school. The campus is stunning, the tailgaters know they are on special grounds, the cadets in full dress parade by, and the mission of the Army is evident wherever you look.

On this day back in ‘84, Army avenged the Colgate win the year before, by a 41-15 drubbing. They had unveiled the wishbone offense that season and threw the ball in this game three times...while having three 100-yard rushers gaining a total of 440 yards on eighty-one carries. Joe and I did our best with that result setting the scenes, keeping our voices upbeat, and being professional throughout. As I recall, it was easy to do that at West Point.

As I looked at that picture and recalled the game, I was amazed to see the date…six years later, on the same September day, I wed my college sweetheart. Many fond memories over those six intervening years leading to a far, far happier day then the Colgate outcome! Time, like Army football that day, does march on.

Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett IV kisses the college football championship trophy after January’s 33-18 victory over Alabama.
Mark E. Schaeffer, OD
Dr. MES Consulting

Dawgs On Top!

Looking back at last year's VMAIL Weekend column, who would have known the year would have ended with a national title for the Georgia Bulldogs? After a 41-year drought of finishing the season as champs, UGA looks poised to compete for another title. Coach Kirby Smart has created a culture of excellence and hunger for more.

Last year's identity relied heavily on a stout defense that shut opponents out of the end zone and an offense that put up numbers with a walk-on quarterback. This year look for the offense led by offensive MVP of the Orange Bowl and BCS championship game, Stetson Bennett IV, to find talented targets all over the field.

Returning key offensive weapons include Brock Bowers, AD Mitchell, Kenny McIntosh, and we’re also excited to see the next class of Dawgs rise up to the challenge. The defense will have to reload across the “Front 7,” losing a lot to the NFL draft, but having highly touted recruiting classes makes the unknowns less worrisome.

The schedule sets up nicely with an early test against the former defensive coordinator, Dan Lanning, in his new role as the Oregon Ducks head coach. Expect to see UGA continuing to excel in the SEC and hopefully in the hunt for another national title.

Even with a national title, experts are continuing to doubt UGA as contenders even with a strong roster, favorable schedule, and leaders all over the field and sideline. Kirby Smart is in a perfect place to use this as motivation for the Dawgs to have a successful 2022 campaign.

As always, GO DAWGS!

 It’s going to be quite a day in the Anderson house when dad’s Wolverines take on son Max’s Buckeyes in late November at the Horseshoe in Columbus.
Eric Anderson
Chief Executive Officer
AEG Vision

My alma mater—Michigan—is looking to follow-up on its first college football playoff appearance and first victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes in forever. (Can any OSU fan forget seeing the back of Hassan Haskins’ jersey running untouched into the endzone for five TDs in last year’s 42-27 Wolverines’ victory?)

The Wolverines “lost” Haskins, Aiden Hutchinson and other key players to the NFL draft—but both veteran QBs Cade McNamara and J.J. McCarthy return with a revamped offense/defense. We are a pre-season Top 10 with aspirations to replicate 2021—but would settle for a victory over OSU in C-bus (my son’s alma mater) and a strong showing in the Big 10 (or Big 16 with USC and UCLA).

We’ll be 10-2—see you in the Rose Bowl!

Scott Jens, OD, and his wife, Cheryl, take in a game at Wisconsin’s renowned Camp Randall Stadium.
Scott Jens, OD
Executive Business Coach
Chief "Why" Officer

The Wisconsin Badgers have developed the reputation as a formidable foe on the gridiron, although recent seasons have given the college football world a reason to consider them suspect, at best.

Entering this 2022 season, the Badgers return junior quarterback Graham Mertz as well as last year’s freshman running back sensation Braelon Allen, along with a strong defense still led by coordinator Jim Leonhard, which in 2021 ranked as #2 in the nation. With the forthcoming growth of the Big Ten from California powerhouses USC and UCLA, 2022 is the season in which Wisconsin needs to demonstrate a level of competence that could give it a chance to get to the Big Ten Championship game against the most likely foe, Ohio State (the teams play in the regular season at The Horseshoe on Sept. 24.)

The Badgers continue to reign as one of the premier gameday experiences in the nation, from tailgates to the Jump Around experience, and this year brings a newly renovated south end zone premium seating area and a brand new turf field named after coaching legacy Barry Alvarez. While this biased fan hopes for another trip to Pasadena like in 2020 (although this time with a win), a schedule that delivers tough games on the field will likely bring the Badgers two or three losses.

On Wisconsin!

 The McDougall family are riding the excitement of the University of Pittsburgh football’s resurgence and Kyle McDougall’s spot in the Pitt Band.
 Mike McDougall and his daughter Anna outfitted for a Pitt game.
Mike McDougall, APR, Fellow PRSA
McDougall Communications

As a kid growing up in New York State’s North Country—only a few miles from the Canadian border—college ice hockey was more important than football allegiances. The same held true at my alma mater, Boston University, where our now-defunct Division 1-AA football team toiled in obscurity while the men’s hockey team was a perennial national championship contender.

Fast forward a few decades to 2019, when my oldest son, Kyle, joined the University of Pittsburgh Varsity Marching Band. The family subscribed to the ACC Network (yes, that channel exists!) and began tuning into Pitt games to catch a glimpse of the baritone section when the broadcast cut to a commercial break or after a scoring drive. We hit the road for a couple of games at Heinz Field, joining other parents who boldly proclaimed they were “here for the band.”

But then a funny thing happened—a Pitt team that had found little success since the 1980s’ Dan Marino era began showing signs of life. Kyle pointed to unknown junior QB Kenny Pickett, saying he had an NFL-caliber arm. Finishing 8-5 with some disappointing late-season losses, Pitt managed to squeak into the Quick Lane Bowl on Boxing Day (I’m sure you didn’t watch, but we drove eight hours to Ford Field in Detroit to take in the spectacle).

Even as COVID hit, the band played on, with recorded audio piped into the stadium and life-size band member cutouts placed in the stands. The team made progress—and what started as a love of the low brass section turned into genuine fandom for a resurgent team.

Last season, with Pickett’s Heisman run (before becoming the Steelers’ first round draft choice), the Biletnikoff winner, and a New Year’s Six Peach Bowl appearance (yes, we were there), I’d inexplicably become a Pitt football guy, attending several home and away games.

Heading into the ’22 season, there’s a sizable stack of Pitt logo gear in my closet, and my social media feeds are filled with Pitt player, coaching, and even recruiting updates (and band updates and videos, too). While I’d never make a respectable prediction about this year’s team’s prospects, it has the right momentum and character to deliver some solid entertainment over the next few months.

And come Thursday, Sept. 1, don’t come looking for me in the office. I’ll be in the upper deck of newly-renamed Acrisure Stadium, shouting as Pitt takes on West Virginia in the reboot of the sold-out Backyard Brawl, cheering on the 300+-student marching band, and singing along with 70,000 others to Sweet Caroline. It’s a school I didn’t attend, in a state in which I have no roots, and a program that many counted out, but one that makes me proud to support.


Bart Welch with his daughter, Karli, who works for the Clemson football team.

Karli Welch with Clemson football players Tyler Davis (l) and Jordan McFadden.
Bart Welch – ABOC
Director, Key Accounts – U.S. & Caribbean

It’s odd to read the college football previews and hear that Clemson “slipped to 10-3” in the 2021 season, but that truly is the sentiment among many of the Tigers’ faithful.

But we’re back strong in 2022, and with a somewhat light early-season schedule look for Clemson to run off a bunch of big wins through October (assuming a Tigers’ victory over up-and-coming Wake Forest in late September).

Here are a few reasons for our optimism:

The Tigers have perhaps the Best Defense in the country this season, and the entire D-line will play in the NFL at some point. Junior quarterback DJ Uiagalelei is going to have a shining season, and many believe Clemson has the “best running back room in the country,” led by Will Shipley.

Clemson also has new coordinators on both sides of the football, and you might say we’ve got a bit of a “chip on the shoulder” after last year’s finish out of the college football playoffs. We do need our wide receivers to step up, and that will be one of the areas to watch.

The offensive line returns a more experienced group of players and they have an awesome new coach, Thomas Austin, and we’re thrilled to have our placekicker BT Potter back for his sixth season.

All things considered, Clemson should be right there in December when the four teams are named for the BCS Championship Series.

 Keith Cross (r) with his brother, Kevin, and his godfather Francis “Butch” Mahoney, who recently passed away, at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the campus of Notre Dame, under the iconic, “God Country Notre Dame,” entry door.
Keith M. Cross
Global Strategic Account Manager
Consumer Products

Nothing says welcome to Fall like College Football—and nothing says College Football better than a Top 10 match up with, in my humble and fully biased opinion, the most storied program in all of college football—#5 Notre Dame visiting #2 Ohio State!

What better way for our Fightin’ Irish of Notre Dame to welcome in our new head football coach—Marcus Freeman, than in a matchup against his own Alma Mater! Make no doubt about it—this will be a huge game with season long consequences for the winner and loser.

With our new coach and the Irish having the top ranked recruiting classes in the country for 2022 and 2023—there is a lot of excitement in South Bend and it sure seems like ND will “Wake up the Echoes…” with a win over OSU and our return to college football royalty.

This season for Notre Dame will be one that sets the tone for the next few seasons under Coach Freeman. He will need to prove to the incoming recruits that not only can they win—they can be dominant against the best. Although it may be a season too soon to say they run the tables, go undefeated and win a National Championship this year, that will be the expectation over the coming years! But a win to start it all off at OSU would certainly be a huge steppingstone to having the Irish “Shake Down the Thunder from the Sky….”!

I’ll end with a favorite quote from one of Notre Dame’s legendary coaches—Ara Parseghian: “Gentlemen, at Notre Dame we have one goal and one goal only—Undefeated National Champions”

Go Irish—Beat the buckeyes!!!

Amelia Hetfield is an avid Badger and University of Wisconsin alum.

Amelia Hetfield
VP of Stores
Wisconsin Vision, Heartland Vision, Eye Boutique

Wisconsin’s specialty for decades has been our running game, and this year we have the opportunity to see what standout sophomore running back Braelon Allen can do after a record breaking freshman season. We still have a few juniors and seniors from our incredible defense of 2021, and knowing what Paul Chryst and DC Jim Leonhard can do with young defensive recruits, I expect to see Wisconsin defense ranked second or third in the B1G and perhaps even top 5 overall. The biggest variable is QB Graham Mertz, but with our ability to depend on the run game and hold opposing teams to minimal points, I’m looking forward to great season!