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SportsPulse: No more practices. No more scrimmages. Football is finally here. Trysta Krick looks at how kickoff weekend in college football became the spectacle it is today.
USA TODAY Sports

Last Saturday’s soft launch to the college football season at least allowed fans to see some live action. But the slate largely lacked for drama, and Thursday night’s kickoff to the first full weekend is similarly unlikely to feature close finishes.

Still, there are reasons to watch, especially for those of us who’ve missed the game since January.

Here are a couple of highlights: 

No. 2 Ohio State at Indiana

8 p.m. ET, ESPN

This gets the distinction of being the season’s first conference game. That is unusual for the Big Ten, which generally doesn’t open league play until late September. But it will also offer a first look at one of the top playoff contenders. Specifically, observers will be curious to see how the Buckeyes’ retooled offense performs.

One thing hasn’t changed, as veteran J.T. Barrett will still be at the controls. As an added subplot, it is former Hoosiers’ head coach Kevin Wilson now coordinating that unit for OSU. Indiana’s defensive personnel figures to be overmatched regardless, but it might take the Buckeyes a possession or two to find its rhythm.

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Hoosiers’ QB Richard Lagow provides a veteran presence both on and off the field, and he has a superb deep target in the person of WR Nick Westbrook. But they will have their hands full with the OSU defense, with all-star talent at every level.

Tulsa at No. 11 Oklahoma State

7:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1

This one might be closer longer. The Cowboys, after all, hail from the Big 12 where defense is sometimes optional. The Golden Hurricane will have a new starter at QB, most likely junior Chad President, but should still find ways to score with a veteran line paving the way for talented TB D’Angelo Brewer.

But QB Mason Rudolph, RB Justice Hill and WR James Washington lead a loaded Oklahoma State attack that should post a very big score.

Buffalo at Minnesota

7 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network

The debut of P.J. Fleck at Minnesota.

Fleck coached Western Michigan to a historic season last year, 13-1, the only loss came to Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl. That big success earned him a shot in the Power Five. And after all the talking and hype, Fleck’s boat set sail against a former MAC rival.