It’s that dreaded time of the year for sports fans.

What do we really have to hold onto in the middle of the summer? I mean, besides the beach trips, lake days, oppressive heat, outdoor concerts, cookouts and sweet tea. I’m talking sports here. Exactly – we’re usually caught in the doldrums.

This year, at least, we had the World Cup to help hold off our hunger. But let’s be honest, if you are anything like me, the soccer action down in Brazil didn’t really cut it.

It was like being thrown a couple potato chips when you’re ready for steak dinner. Ah, what a tease. Yes, the brief transformation into Soccer America, a country that suddenly found a passion for the biggest global game, was fun and all. But oh, how the fire burned out quickly.

All in all, the World Cup just ignited your ravenous sports hunger that much more. Am I right?

And then what are we left with? Yes, I know baseball lumbers on. But it just doesn’t move the meter enough for most of us. The season is just so dang long.

Oh, that’s right. The Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest is always a July 4th highlight. Joey Chestnut pounding 60+ dogs is disgustingly intriguing. But that’s a one-hour event.

There are the country club events. Wimbledon is a royal tradition for tennis fans like me, but once again, it doesn’t grab the attention of the masses – especially with the lack of a real American contender in the men’s game these days. And while the the US and British Opens are crown jewels in the golfing world, much like tennis, it’s for a more narrow audience.

Alas, summers are generally reserved for looking ahead – for hanging out on the back porch, grilling out and talking up your favorite football team’s (college or NFL) chances this fall, for defending your baseball club’s bid to win the World Series, and in this part of the country, even prognosticating and handicapping the upcoming ACC basketball season.

We all maintain bountiful hope in July. It’s your opinion against the guy next to you. Nobody can say you’re completely bonkers. Well, unless you predict the Browns to go and win the Super Bowl or something silly like that…

But overall, the summer represents a painfully long stay in sports purgatory.

However, there’s good news! We’re almost ready to receive that yearly call up to sporting heaven. August is right around the corner.

And that means preseason NFL football. Heck, training camps are already underway. Easy, now. Try to contain your excitement. On second thought, don’t. For me, I’m most excited for the return of college football less than a month from now. For many, college football is a pseudo-religion. You can count me in that pool of people. I’ve always been transfixed by the rare mix of pageantry, rivalries, passion and pride on display on Saturdays. Growing up in the South probably has a lot to do with it!

And so, I am exceedingly pumped up for my return to the cozy confines of the Kenan Stadium press box August 30th, when the Tar Heels welcome Liberty to town to kick off a new era – the inaugural season for the College Football Playoff.

What else am I looking forward to keeping tabs on this fall? US Open tennis, the Carolina Panthers and Luke Kuechly, FSU and Jameis Winston, the Ryder Cup (can the USA finally win it again?), ACC basketball (Duke > UNC?), high school football (my pregame radio show) and a tradition unlike any other: football tailgating.

What do you have your eyes fixed on? There’s a sports lover’s dream out there about to become a vivid reality.

But for now, we must endure. We can do it, because we know what’s on the horizon. We can survive the dog days of summer.

You can follow Matt on Twitter @moakes3