Football is under siege — from parents, doctors, academics, a Kennedy, even from Buzz Bissinger, the guy who wrote the definitive book on football, Friday Night Lights. This makes us sad. Football is a wonderful game perfectly suited to the American spirit, and we’d miss it if it went away. We love us some Eagles, but for true passion — from guys who aren’t making millions a year to take the field — you can’t beat college football. Here are eight upcoming games featuring local college teams that should offer lots of rivalry, fun and excitement, not to mention cheerleaders and marching bands. Catch as many as you can — while you can.
Temple vs. Penn State
September 5th at Lincoln Financial Field
Granted, Temple hasn’t beaten the Nittany Lions since, oh, 1941. (They’re 3-39-1. Eek.) But this could be the year! Last season, then-second-year coach Matt Rhule led the Owls to a 6-6 overall season (4-4 in the American Athletic Conference) and was robbed of a bowl bid. (Boo!) Meantime, Penn State, in its first year under coach James Franklin, went 7-6 — but only 2-6 in the Big Ten. (They did squeak past Boston College in the Pinstripe Bowl in overtime, 31-30.) And though last year no school in Temple’s nascent AAC beat a ranked opponent, USA Today says the conference’s future looks bright — and predicts Temple will finish second in its Eastern division (behind Cincinnati, if you must know). Incidentally, though rumors of an on-campus stadium on North Broad continue to swirl, Temple just signed an agreement with the Eagles for two more one-year options to play at the Linc. Kickoff for the teams’ season opener is at 3:30.
Lincoln vs. Cheyney
September 5th at Cheyney
Lincoln revived its football program in 2008; the only game the Lions (1-9 overall; 0-7 in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association’s Northern division) won last year was the season opener against the Cheyney Wolves, who finished 0-11, 0-9 in the Eastern division of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC). (Cheyney is on probation with the NCAA through 2019 for student certification infractions.) Lincoln defensive back Brion Robinson has been named to the preseason All-CIAA team. Both teams are led by veteran interim head coaches — Herb Pickens for Lincoln and Chris Roulhac (the fourth head coach in five years) for Cheyney. But these longtime HBCU rivals’ annual “Battle of the Firsts” is always hard-fought. Kickoff at 1 p.m.
Villanova vs. Delaware
September 19th at Villanova
The Wildcats’ traditional top rival is the University of Delaware, and the teams’ longstanding “Battle of the Blue” will be fought this year on September 19th at ’Nova. The Blue Hens are in their third year under coach Dave Brock, and though they’ve come down a peg from their heady heyday (6-6 last year, 4-4 in the Colonial Athletic Association), they went to the FCS National Championship Game as recently as 2010 (Villanova just missed), and their supporters always turn out en masse. CAA opponent Villanova, under head coach Andy Talley, has become a perennial powerhouse (11-3, 7-1); they lost to Sam Houston State, 34-31, in the FCS quarterfinals last year. Game time: noon.
West Chester vs. Kutztown
October 10th at West Chester
While nobody was really looking, West Chester’s Golden Rams built themselves a nice little dynasty; they went 11-2 overall, 8-1 in the PSAC last season and have been in the NCAA DII playoffs for the past two seasons. Preseason rankings put them second in their Eastern division and 23rd in the country. Kutztown, which is celebrating a century of football this season, is no slouch, either, finishing 6-5, 5-4 last year under new head coach Jim Clements; they’re in fifth place in the Eastern division in preseason polls. WCU senior tight end Tim Brown, out of Upper Darby High, had a breakout season last year, setting single-season school records for receiving yards and touchdown carries, and was named to the College Football America 2015 Yearbook. Kickoff is 1 p.m.
Penn vs. Princeton
November 7th at Penn
Okay, the real must-see is Penn’s first encounter with Columbia, now coached by Al Bagnoli, who helmed the Quakers (2-8, 2-5) for decades and won nine Ivy League titles before resigning at the end of last season. But you’ll have to travel to NYC on October 17th (game time: 3:30) to catch that matchup. Closer to home, the Princeton Tigers (5-5, 4-3), under head coach Bob Surace, march into Franklin Field for a noon game on the 7th. Neither team is expected to go far this year, but this is the Homecoming game, and you get all that Ivy League pomp and pageantry — plus toast.
Ursinus vs. Muhlenberg
November 7th at Ursinus
It’s the Bears vs. the Mules at 1 p.m. in Collegeville, and it should be a stubborn battle, seeing as Muhlenberg (9-2, 8-1, with an NCAA tourney bid) is picked to finish second in the Centennial Conference, while Ursinus (7-3, 6-3) is picked for third. (Johns Hopkins sits at number one.) D3football.com has the Mules at 25th in the country in its preseason poll. Both Ursinus head coach Peter Gallagher and Muhlenberg’s Mike Donnelly are their programs’ all-time-wins leaders, but Gallagher has home field advantage — this year.
Rowan vs. the College of New Jersey
November 13th at Rowan
Jersey fans can take in some Friday-night lights at this conference-finale game in Glassboro, set for 7 p.m. Last season, Rowan head coach Jay Accorsi took his Profs (7-4, 6-1 — the goofiest nickname in sports?) to a share of the NJAC crown (the seventh in his career) and was the conference’s co-coach of the year, but the team lost in the first round of the NCAA tourney. The TCNJ Lions were 2-8, 1-6 against a tough slate of opponents last year in head coach Wayne Dickens’s second season. He’s coached DI and DII teams as well as in the CFL.
Delaware Valley vs. Widener
November 14th at DelVal
DelVal’s a university now, and alum Rasheed Bailey had a flashy performance in the Eagles’ preseason opener. Even better news for the Aggies (9-2, 8-1)? They’re picked to finish second in the Middle Atlantic Conference preseason coaches’ poll. The not-so-great news? Widener (12-1, 9-0) is picked to finish first. But that should make this Senior Day/Keystone Cup match against the Widener Pride a doozy, with second-year DelVal head coach Duke Greco, one of the school’s all-time leading passers in his playing days, pitted against Widener’s first-year chief, Jim Kelly, former head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL. Kickoff in Doylestown is at 1 p.m.
Follow @SandyHingston on Twitter.