The biggest game for any football team?
Often, it is the game against its biggest rival.
Or, if it has been a great season, the conference title game or the bowl game to close out the year.
Yet, there's no more important game than the first one.
Why? For several reasons.
First, it is the game for which the team has been preparing since the previous season ended.
Every team goes into the opener undefeated. Every team goes in with hope this is going to be the year.
By the time the openers are played, half of the teams have a loss. They already have learned their is somebody out there who is better than them. They only have one result to go by and it was bad.
There have been many Cinderella stories that have started with an upset win the season opener. Such a victory can make a team believe in itself and play over its head.
There are several local teams who play important games in week one. Let's take a look at them:
This year, that task will be more difficult if for no other reason than it is at Brooke, always a difficult place for opposing teams. One advantage the Big Reds will enjoy is that Brooke will have a new coaching staff that will be coaching its first live game.
PHS, with just seven starters returning, is going to be a young team. It would be great if such a team could open at home, but that's not the case.
The winner of this game is going to get a huge boost heading into week two. The loser will have to quickly pick up the pieces.
With all that has gone on at Penn State, this will be the most-watched game in the nation Week 1. More than anything else, Penn State needs to play a football game. It will be a highly emotional day in Mount Nittany.
For Ohio, this game represents an opportunity. The Bobcats are coming off the first bowl victory in school history. They have a quarterback in Tyler Tettleton who is capable of leading his team to a win no matter who is providing the opposition.
Plus, Ohio coach Frank Solich, thanks to his years at Nebraska, knows all about coaching in big games.
The Cats could set a tone for their season with an opening win. They even could get some recognition in the national polls.
WVU has won the previous six meetings and is a 20-point choice to sweep the seven-game series. Even those of us who enthusiastically supported the series can see it needs to end, at least for now.
The programs simply are at two different levels. West Virginia is a consistent top 25 team while Marshall is a middle of the pack Conference USA team that is starting to move up the ladder, but still has a long way to go.
Perhaps the Herd moved too quickly. Its move from Division 1-AA to the Mid-American Conference made sense. But then jumping to C-USA was a major leap for which the Herd wasn't totally prepared.
Doc Holliday will get that program rolling. But it takes time to turn things around, especially after five struggling years under Mark Snyder.
West Virginia, meanwhile, is enjoying its finest hours, having won three BCS bowl games in the past seven seasons.
OSU can't win the Big 10 title or play in a bowl game this season.
But it can use the season to show the rest of the college football world just how dominant it can be under coach Urban Meyer.
I know I grossly undestimated the star power of Meyer, who in spite of OSU's probation managed to sign one of the nation's top recruiting classes. There is nothing more dangerous than having one of the nation's top coaches at a destination university to which the top talent automatically gravitates.
OSU can show the rest of the nation this year that is going to return to powerhouse status, beginning in 2013. It can set a tone on Sept. 1 against an outmanned Miami.
Thus, the rivalry means more now than it did then. It isn't really a rivalry when you know who is going to win.
Whoever wins this game will take their first step toward a playoff berth. Whoever loses will have to rebound quickly to make the postseason.
You can bet Imlay Field will be overflowing with fans.
Contact Dave Poe at firstname.lastname@example.org