The greatest week of the year has arrived: the start of the college football season.
Yes, beginning Thursday night, games will hit your TV screens nearly every night through December.
Heck, just wait until those MAC battles start showing on Tuesdays and we have seven consecutive days of action – including the NFL.
So, what should you be looking at this weekend in terms of the college gridirion season? Here’s a look at some of the more interesting storylines I – and you – will be following:
1. Kickoff Night
Right out of the gates, beginning in the early evening no less, we have an intriguing battle between North Carolina and South Carolina.
This might be one of the few defensive gems we have this year, as both programs rest their laurels on that side of the ball.
Of course, all-world defensive end Jadeveon Clowney will be the focal point, but don’t ignore the Tar Heels, who have produced some mighty fine players under the direction of Larry Fedora.
And, how could we ever forget about the Ol’ Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier, who will likely throw his visor a time or two.
Also, Southern Cal heads West, far West, to Hawaii for an 11 p.m. ET kickoff, while SEC foes Ole Miss and Vanderbilt square off earlier in the night.
All total, 17 games will be presented on Thursday, including eight on major networks.
2. Breaking Bad
SEC programs do not like being on the bottom.
Tennessee quickly replaced Derek Dooley. Auburn did the same, and both – along with the other universities that fired their coaches – are all trying to replicate the success of Kevin Sumlin and Texas A&M.
Arkansas brought in Wisconsin great Bret Bielema, the Vols hired Butch Jones, the Tigers looked to former coordinator Gus Malzahn, and even Kentucky made a change, hiring Mark Stoops – brother of Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops.
Can any of these new faces change the direction of the toughest conference in the land? In year one, doubtful, but they do bring a new energy level and the right kind of change to their respective programs.
3. Louisville…and the rest of the AAC
No, that is not a typo. The American Athletic Conference is not the same thing as the Atlantic Coastal Conference.
The AAC will be dominated by Louisville this year, and if that isn’t the case, the league will have a difficult time making any impact nationally.
Led by Teddy Bridgewater, the Cardinals will look to continue their hot streak that began with a victory over the Florida Gators in the Sugar Bowl last season.
The problem, though, is the schedule. Even if ‘Ville runs the table, will they have enough quality wins to compete in the national title game? I don’t think so, but that is why they play the games.
4. Remember the Big 12?
What once was viewed as the only conference – top-to-bottom – that could compete with the SEC big boys has hit a wall.
I am talking about the Big 12, which lost members like Nebraska in recent years and has struggled to make a strong impact.
People never forget about Texas and Oklahoma, they just don’t talk about them in the same light as an Alabama or LSU or Georgia anymore.
Maybe this is the year one of them puts it all together, as I am a firm believer in coaches Mack Brown and Bob Stoops – despite others constantly calling them out.
5. Johnny Football
All summer, Johnny Manziel has been the talk of college football.
Even before “Autograph-Gate” came about, “Johnny Football” was front and center on ESPN and in the limelight.
Manziel made an incredible impact on the game last year, but we must remember he almost didn’t start for Texas A&M after a charge of underage drinking came about in the offseason.
Manziel is still learning how to deal with fame, and pressure, and notoriety; this is just a young kid, give me a break, people.
While some of discussed his “problems” on the field, there is no doubting that in the college football world, nobody can come close to doing what Johnny Football can.