Right now, we're all looking for answers. We want so badly for our preseason beliefs to develop, but the unknown only adds to the excitement. (Side note: We're so pumped, we almost showed up at work this morning with the William Wallace face paint. Aye.)
Here are five things we're keeping an eye on in the SEC this weekend:
1) Which defense makes the most plays in Clemson, S.C., on Saturday night. We know each offense is stacked -- Clemson and Georgia each has one of the nation's top six quarterbacks and a legitimate first-round skill-position weapon to go with him -- and we know each defense is rebuilding. If we figure that each offense will make a slew of plays, then we assume that the low number of defensive stops will make each magnified. So which defense makes the biggest single play? We say Georgia. Jordan Jenkins, meet the world; world, meet Jordan Jenkins. Say hello, everybody.
2) Which new coach has the best SEC debut? Mark Stoops and Kentucky have the scariest against Bobby Petrino and Western Kentucky in Nashville. (Yes, Kentucky-Western Kentucky is in Nashville. Go figure.) The others -- Bret Bielema's Arkansas team hosts Louisiana-LaFayette; Butch Jones and the Vols host Austin Peay; Gus Malzahn and the Auburn Tigers welcome Washington State -- are at least double-digit favorites. You know where our attention will be -- Finding Nick Marshall Mize... REEEEE-gardless -- but each offers a new beginning for proud fan bases starving for football relevancy.
3) More newness, please. OK, we're pretty stoked to see how the Volunteers handle themselves. (Side note: This is far and away the best time to schedule a cupcake for the opener. The last thing this program could have used was a season-opening grudge match that could have led to a potential loss and the fans thinking, "Here we go again.") Butch Jones and Co. have a slew of hurdles. They have to find playmakers. They have to craft a legitimate quarterback out of the group of Steady and the Potentials they watched all preseason. They have to unteach everything Sal Sunseri -- SAAALLLLL!!! -- taught the defense. (You have to admit, Sal's Vols were sooooo cute when they tried to tackle folks.) They're dealing with a lot of stuff. Game 1 should be a rout -- the Vols are favored by 50, for crying out loud -- but the details will lead to discoveries this week in Knoxville.
4) How impressive is Alabama against Virginia Tech? The Vegas numbers on the Tide are staggering. Alabama is a 3-to-1 pick to win the BCS. Led by Alabama, Vegas favors the SEC in an SEC-vs.-the rest of the country in the BCS chase. Alabama is favored in every game this year, and barring injury or amazing surprise will have been favored in 53 consecutive games after the regular season is concluded. Alabama is a 20-point favorite over Virginia Tech, and the Tide's closest spread at the moment is being a 7-point favorite at Texas A&M. We believe Bama covers Saturday. By a lot.
5) Sneaky good one in the alphabet soup bowl. We like this LSU team more than most, and believe the Tigers will handle TCU in Dallas on Saturday night. There are so many excellent hooks to this game. TCU-LSU, brought to you by Alphabits cereal. Or, the Purple Power Play between TCU and LSU, and it would be awesome if Prince played halftime in old-school "Purple Rain" get-up. On the field, we believe LSU has the best trio of head coach and coordinators in college football. That helps rebuilding the offense. Plus, the two best playmakers on the field -- Jeremy Hill and Odell Beckham -- play for LSU. That's enough for us.
GRAB THE REMOTE
It's finally here, and you need a road map for the minefield that is the college football TV landscape. Grab the remote, your beverage of choice and buckle up -- the best regular season in sports is under way (times are Eastern):
Buffalo at THE Ohio State, noon, ESPN2
The host Buckeyes will roll, of course. Hey, their schedule is filled with cream puffs and cupcakes, and that's fine. Still, look for No. 6 for Urban Meyer's bunch. Yep, Mr. Vonn Bell from Ridgeland High likely will get some playing time.
Rice at the Texas A&M Manziels, 1, ESPN
Well, the first half will give SEC fans an early look at what Texas A&M will look like next year without quarterback Johnny Manziel, who was placed under double-secret NCAA suspension that will last exactly 30 minutes of actual game time for being "unknowingly" involved in an NCAA infraction. This entire mess has been comical and the single most ridiculous NCAA circus ever -- and that's saying something. When Johnny Football is eligible to return -- about 2:30 p.m. Saturday -- here's hoping they blare "Turn Up the Radio" by the one and only Autograph.
Mississippi State vs. Oklahoma State, 3:30, ABC
We think the Cowboys will roll in Houston, but what if ... What if the Bulldogs -- the SEC's 10th or so team -- whips the Big 12 favorites? And remember, Mike Gunday's a man. He's 46.
Alabama vs. Virginia Tech, 5:30, ESPN
This one will be over quickly -- just don't mention it to Nick Saban. He hates talk like that. And depth charts. And anyone who does not like puppies, walking in the rain or Chinese food. Go figure. Logan Thomas, go hide.
Washington State at Auburn, 7, ESPNU
Nick Marshall law starts as the Gus Bus leaves Jordan-Hare against the Pirate Mike Leach. Good times -- and the over/under on pass attempts is 70.
Georgia at Clemson, 8:22, ABC
The game of the day. Here's hoping Brent Musberger finds him a 23-year-old vixen in the crowd and compliments her and everyone blows a gasket.
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...