Fall’s almost here – bring on football

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For diehard college football fans, the length of time between New Year’s Day and Labor Day weekend can seem an eternity. But the wait is over, finally. Welcome back, football.

The beauty of the sport at the collegiate level is the potential for so many outcomes at schools from all over the country.

No. 21 Texas A&M kicked off at No. 9 South Carolina Thursday in the first major game of the new season. Wake Forest traveled to the University of Louisiana-Monroe.

But college football rivalries come in all sizes. Appalachian State University travels to the University of Michigan’s Big House Saturday, hoping to recapture the unfathomable magic that helped the Mountaineers beat the Wolverines in one of the great upsets of all time in 2007.

Closer to home, Duke takes on Elon University, East Carolina plays N.C. Central University. Georgia Southern plays at N.C. State University. The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s challenges off the field continue – coach Larry Fedora announced a one-game suspension of four players following an alleged hazing incident. The Tar Heels will play Liberty University Saturday.

And Rocky Mount adds its own games to the pageantry of autumn. N.C. Wesleyan College begins its fourth year of football on Sept. 6 in its home opener against Stevenson University. We’ll also welcome the annual Down East Viking Classic on Sept. 20, when Elizabeth City State University plays Benedict in Rocky Mount.

Wherever your allegiance, whatever’s at stake, there are few pleasures in sports that offer the competition, excitement and fierce loyalty of college football on a fall afternoon.

Join a tailgate party, grab a cold drink and bring on the games.