Here's why (and how) the college football season is kicking off in Australia

Hawaii coach Nick Rolovic and Cal coach Sonny Dykes accept gifts of surfboards ahead of their season-opening game in Sydney on Saturday. It will be the first significant American football game played in Australia since 1999. Rick Rycroft/AP Photo

College football's Kickoff Week begins in earnest next week, but the season's first college football game comes on Friday night (ESPN/WatchESPN, 10 p.m. ET).

In Australia.


California and Hawaii will kick off the 2016 season live at noon local time in Australia, 17 hours ahead of America's West Coast -- and 20 hours ahead of Hawaiian time.

"It'll be a unique experience for sure," Cal coach Sonny Dykes said. "Everything is an unknown."

The Sydney College Football Cup will be the first college football game played in Australia since 1987, when BYU defeated Colorado State in Melbourne. The game was organized by Destination NSW (New South Wales), the government agency for promoting tourism and events in that region of Australia.

The country's goal is to attract an NFL game to Sydney in the future. Cal and Hawaii -- two of the geographically closest teams to Australia -- found ways to fit the game into their schedule a week ahead of college football's official Kickoff Week.

There will be college bands, hot dogs and even a kiss cam at the game, one which Cal athletic director Mike Williams said will amass a profit for his university that's over "seven figures." The game is expected to yield more than a typical home game against a lower-level opponent -- even after all travel expenses are tallied.

But what about the logistics involved in transporting a major college football team from the Bay Area to Australia?

As the designated "home" team, Cal is responsible for all necessary equipment in Australia, so everything on the field at Sydney's ANZ Stadium -- originally built to host the 2000 Summer Olympics -- will represent the fruit of eight months of intense planning and preparation.

The Bears sent scouts to Australia in February to appraise the complexity of the challenge.

Shipping thousands of pounds of football equipment 7,432 miles isn't simple. Much of it arrived in the cargo hold of the Boeing 777 charter that was provided to Cal at a discounted rate by Virgin Australia founder Richard Branson. Some larger items -- such as practice-field goalposts -- made the trip by boat in June.

Then came the hurdle of obtaining passports for 75 of the Bears' 105 players.

"That was a nightmare," Dykes said.

Finally, the flight itself -- an epic trek from San Francisco International Airport to Sydney that lasted 15½ hours -- required its own special preparation.

Following an intentionally draining double-practice day meant to induce immediate sleep on the flight, Cal took off Saturday at 11:30 p.m. Pacific Time, with business-class seats reserved for the team's linemen.

Cal's plane crossed the International Date Line, so it landed in Sydney at 7:30 a.m. local time Monday, meaning that Sunday essentially disappeared for the Bears.

Coaches awoke players about seven hours into the journey to simulate a standard Sunday morning routine, which featured yoga and light jogging aboard the plane. The team wore compression pants to stimulate blood flow, and players ate four full meals and hourly snacks during the flight to stay energized.

"We used every tool at our disposable to make sure the guys arrived fresh," Dykes said.

The Bears' buses went straight from Sydney Airport to the practice field, where former Cal great Marshawn Lynch made an appearance and coaches began administering a full day of work -- one designed to keep players up until nighttime so that they would rise on Tuesday already acclimated to the 17-hour time difference.

Fun and games followed. The staff booked a climb of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, reserved time for players wanting to check out the famous Opera House and organized two beach trips. Dykes said that he was planning to surf in Australia.

"When you have an opportunity as an 18-year-old to go across the world to a different continent, to see a completely different culture, and to explore a place you might have never have an opportunity to explore, just the impact that can have on your life is great," Dykes said. "It's something you can't put a value on."

The actual game that will conclude this weeklong trip will continue with the theme of novelty. It'll be the first game for new Hawaii coach Nick Rolovich, and Cal will break in new quarterback Davis Webb. The unfamiliarity, though, will have begun several months before kickoff, when Cal first embarked on the challenge of hosting a game on the opposite side of the world from Berkeley.