Fifty-nine days. That's how long we must wait to find out which two teams will face off in the BCS title game.
No, that's not the official end of the regular season. Technically, the winners that day when new No. 1 Alabama travels to No. 3 LSU and fourth-ranked Oregon visits second-ranked Southern Cal will still have other games to play.
Bama would still have to face Texas A&M and Auburn, though both contests will be in Tuscaloosa.
(And, no, unless Auburn can find a final game of eligibility for Cam Newton, there would appear to be no chance for the Tigers to repeat 2010's shocking victory from 24-0 down at Bryant-Denny Stadium.)
As for LSU, should the Tigers win they'd still have a treacherous trip to Arkansas on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
Southern Cal? Lane Brain and his Trojan horses must win at Washington before Nov. 3. USC must wear down UCLA and visiting Notre Dame after that weekend.
Finally, Oregon and the worst collection of uniforms in college football also would have to have topped Washington at home before Nov. 3 and then survive its annual Civil War against Oregon State on the road.
So even the winners of those two titanic tussles on Nov. 3 aren't guaranteed to win out. But they'd have the advantage. A big advantage. And those victors almost assuredly will be favored to win out, including their conference title games on Nov. 30 (Pac-12) and Dec. 1 (SEC).
Obviously, Bama has danger games at Arkansas on Sept. 15 and at Tennessee on Oct. 20. Both those teams should test the Tide's tenacious defense better than overrated Michigan did.
And LSU must visit Auburn, Florida and Texas A&M before Bama arrives, as well as hosting South Carolina. On those names alone, it would seem that the Bayou Bengals have the toughest road of the Fearsome Foursome on their quest to return to the national title game.
But regardless of all those possible potholes, the top four in the latest Associated Press poll also would appear to be the best four, though No. 5 Oklahoma might always sneak into that mix. So also might No. 9 West Virginia, which followed up its 70 points in last year's bowl win over Clemson by totaling 69 Saturday against Marshall.
To put that in perspective, the Mountaineers men's basketball team scored fewer than 69 points in 14 of its 33 games last season.
Regardless, it is almost impossible not to watch Alabama's season-opening crushing of then-No. 8 Michigan on neutral turf and not believe the Crimson Tide aren't the team to beat to wear the crown. With two titles in the last three seasons and again No. 1, they're returning to the Bear Bryant 1970s, when they were as much the Boss as Bruce Springsteen.
Nor are they the defending champs in name only. Bama is defending its title with arguably the best defense in the country, which is usually what best wins those crystal footballs.
A lot can happen in 59 days. Injuries. An inexplicable lapse in intensity. A white-hot opponent (Tennessee, come on down!) A bad break. Good as Bama was in 2009, had Mount (Terrence) Cody not blocked a last-second UT field goal, the Tide don't finish No. 1.
There's also always the chance that someone completely outside the Top 10 could make the same improbable run Auburn did in 2010, when Newton led a Tigers squad that began the season barely inside the Top 25 to the national title.
For instance, media darling Notre Dame looked better than it has in years in sinking Navy 50-10 in Ireland. Not that Irish coach Brian Kelly is necessarily buying ND's No. 22 ranking, labeling it "white noise."
Actually, most of the noise this week is colored crimson. And that's not likely to change much for at least the next 59 days.
Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...