College football is all about the stories — the rivalries, the personal connections and the connection to history.
Alabama’s trip to Texas A&M, provided Johnny Manziel plays, is notable for the title implications and the rematch from the most exciting game from 2012.
But it’s also a game between programs that despite their shared history with Bear Bryant, Gene Stallings and Dennis Franchione, have played only five games all time. Alabama is making only its second trip to College Station after winning there in 1988.
That is the underlying backstory of that game, and it’s not the only game with an intriguing storyline attached.
Sure, every rivalry game or conference game has their own story. We tried to look a little beyond that in our list of 15 Backstory Games for 2013 — connections between the two programs, a history between the coaches or just recent news that could give the game an extra edge.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL'S TOP BACKSTORY GAMES FOR 2013
Aug. 29 North Carolina at South Carolina
The "What Could Have Been" Bowl
North Carolina has faced Steve Spurrier only once since he returned to the college game, but the Tar Heels have to wonder what may have been if things turned out differently. After he was fired by the Washington Redskins, Spurrier kept an eye on the North Carolina job, but the Heels elected to keep John Bunting for one more year. And during his feud with a Columbia, S.C, columnist last season, Spurrier casually mentioned waiting for the North Carolina job to open while he was looking to return to college football.
Aug. 31-Sept. 7 Georgia at Clemson, South Carolina at Georgia
Aaron Murray’s Last Chance
South Carolina fans may be quick to mention Aaron Murray is 0-3 against the Palmetto State (all South Carolina matchups). Murray will have a chance to remedy his 0-fer against the Palmetto State twice early in the season.
Aug. 31 Boise State at Washington
The "Haven’t We Met Before" Bowl
Bowl organizers say they try to avoid rematches, or in this case, a pre-match. Boise State defeated Washington 28-26 in the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 22 and now meet in the 2013 opener. And this isn’t the first time bowl games disregarded Washington’s schedule: Washington faced Nebraska three times between Sept. 18, 2010 and Sept. 17, 2011 thanks to a Holiday Bowl meeting in between a home-and-home series.
Aug. 31 LSU vs. TCU
The Suspension Bowl
TCU coach Gary Patterson was openly critical of the way LSU’s Les Miles handled the suspension of running back Jeremy Hill, who was allowed to play in the opener after a team vote. Miles has not committed to levying a suspension as part of Hill’s punishment after the running back violated probation by being charged with simple battery, but Patterson was not impressed. Patterson, it’s worth noting, suspended defensive end Devonte Fields for two games for a violation of team rules and kicked key players off the team last Februrary when they were arrested as part of a campus drug investigation. “My whole team would vote Devonte to be back on the team because they all want to win,” Patterson told reporters. “But that don’t teach life lessons.”
Sept. 7 Florida at Miami
Sunshine State Sayonara
Florida and Miami used to play each other every season, but it’s been an on-again, off-again series since 2000. The Gators and Hurricanes have met five times since the end of the 2000 season, including two bowl games. This will be the last game until the powers-that-be agree to a new series, and that appears unlikely. Will Muschamp will be the fifth Florida coach to face Miami since 2000 (Steve Spurrier, Ron Zook, interim coach Charlie Strong and Urban Meyer). Al Golden will be the fourth coach to face Florida in that span (Butch Davis, Larry Coker and Randy Shannon).
Sept. 14 Maryland at Connecticut
The Edsall Bowl
Randy Edsall bolted town after leading UConn to the Fiesta Bowl, and the Huskies were not that understanding. Edsall later said he regretted leaving without meeting with his players, but we’re still curious what kind of reception the former coach gets at Rentschler Field. Maryland lost 24-21 to UConn last season in College Park.
Sept. 14 Ole Miss at Texas
The Most Rare Road Trip
Ole Miss hasn’t played in Austin since 1925 when the Longhorns won 25-0. Last season’s meeting in Oxford (a 66-31 Texas win) was the first regular season meeting since then.
Sept. 21 Michigan at Connecticut
Michigan Heads East
Michigan has played out West, in the Southeast and at Syracuse and Boston College in recent decades. All of those games were against established programs more or less. This trip to Connecticut may be Michigan’s most bizarre non-conference road trip since playing at Marquette in 1944 (Michigan won that game 14-0).
Oct. 5 Ole Miss at Auburn
The "How Far We’ve Come" Bowl
Joneboro, Ark., is the Cradle of SEC Coaches after the last two Arkansas State coaches stayed there one year before getting SEC jobs. More striking, Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze and Auburn’s Gus Malzahn where high school head coaches less than a decade ago.
Oct. 5 Washington State at Cal
The Lubbock Bowl
Mike Leach has built himself quite a coaching tree, but he’s rarely faced any of his disciples on a regular basis. That changes with Sonny Dykes now in the Pac-12 at Cal. Leach and Dykes go back to Leach’s first major coaching job as offensive coordinator at Kentucky. Moreover, Dykes is the son of Leach’s predecessor at Texas Tech, Spike Dykes.
Oct. 10 Rutgers at Louisville
The "See Ya" Bowl
Louisville’s win over Rutgers last season determined the Big East championship in the final season for the league under that name. The same matchup might determine the American Athletic Conference, though neither team would be around to defend a potential league title as Louisville heads to the ACC and Rutgers leaves for the Big Ten. These two teams also delivered one of the most memorable moments in Big East football history when an undefeated Rutgers knocked off an undefeated Louisville on a Thursday night in November in 2006.
Oct. 19 Florida at Missouri
Gators Go North
Columbia, Mo., is the northern-most destination in the SEC, which makes it the furthest north Florida has traveled for a game since 1991. That’s not to be confused with the longest regular-season road trip Florida takes, which remains Arkansas in terms of mileage. The last time Florida played this far north was a 38-21 in 1991 to Syracuse.
Nov. 9 Boston College at New Mexico State
The Questionable Game of the Year
Minnesota visits New Mexico State on Sept. 7, and that’s not even the strangest game on New Mexico State’s schedule. Boston College visits Las Cruces, N.M., in early November for the where-did-this-game-come-from event of the year. Keep in mind, this is generally the time of year when SEC teams invite New Mexico State to campus for an easy win for Homecoming.
Nov. 16 San Jose State at Nevada
David Fales’ Return
San Jose State quarterback David Fales is an NFL draft prospect and perhaps the top QB playing outside of the major conferences, but he started his career at Nevada in 2009. He had a bit of trouble cracking the starting lineup with a junior named Colin Kaepernick already entrenched.
Nov. 30 Boston College at Syracuse
The Orange Envy Bowl
Steve Addazio’s big coaching break came in 1995 when Paul Pasqualoni hired him from the high school ranks to coach the offensive line at Syracuse. His son, Louie, started his career at Syracuse. Even at Temple, Addazio spoke glowingly about Syracuse. Boston College perhaps has reason to be thankful it hired Addazio more than a month before Doug Marrone left for the Buffalo Bills. Otherwise, would Addazio #BeADude for the ‘Cuse instead?