Week 1 Storylines: Set your DVR for Saturday
Nine key plot points for the weekend ahead:
• Football Jesus, bless this DVR. How the only two "real" games of the weekend wound up in the same 8 p.m. time slot on the same network is anybody's guess, but you'll have your pick of poison Saturday night: Georgia vs. Boise State in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff in Atlanta or LSU vs. Oregon in Arlington's ... whatever they're calling that game. (It's probably named after Jerry Jones' labradoodle or something, right?) Alert viewers will note this is the Broncos' second visit to the Peach State to face the Dawgs; the two teams last clashed in Athens in 2005, with Georgia running away, 48-13. Expect the boys in blue (well, white) to put up considerably more fight this time around. And while that game should be a hell of a romp (Andy Staples and I will both be on the scene, so say hidee if you're Georgia Dome-bound), the edge in curb appeal has to go to Ducks-Tigers for sheer curiosity: What on earth is going to happen in Arlington? Two teams down high-profile players to high-profile suspensions. A highest-octane offense versus a storied defense. Les Miles traversing fake grass. Anything could, should and will happen.
• Who blinks first? Of the three quarterback dilemmas addressed earlier this week in this space, exactly none have been satisfactorily resolved. South Carolina has added a new wrinkle by announcing Connor Shaw will start in place of official Campus Union favorite Stephen Garcia against East Carolina, though how many snaps Shaw will get is probably something even Steve Spurrier can't guess. (And the way East Carolina plays defense, it shouldn't be too difficult for Shaw to put on a miraculous performance. Remember this is a mirage next week, when the Gamecocks travel to Athens to open SEC play.)
• This week in shell games. Ohio State, Alabama and Texas also have the luxury of under-the-radar games against non-AQ outfits Akron, Kent State and Rice, respectively, in which to toy with their starting lineups. Texas has the added boon of having its contest broadcast on the nascent Longhorn Network, so there's a better-than-even chance you won't even hear about Garrett Gilbert getting yanked, if it comes to that.
• This is just a tribute. Tom Wort, Austin Box's fill-in at middle linebacker, will be the first Sooner to don the No. 12 jersey in honor of his fallen teammate. To add to his emotional duress (like Momma says, even good stress is stress), Wort is also taking over playcalling for the Sooner D. He'll be doing so across from a Tulsa offensive unit with question marks of its own: Quarterback G.J. Kinne is a stone-cold no-huddle star, but will be operating without the services Damaris Johnson, who was recently charged with embezzlement.
• The unprecedented sophomore. At the college level (and if you want to get particular, at the pro level as well), we've yet to see what a second-year Lane Kiffin team looks like. The party line on USC is its preparation of NFL players. The Trojans can uphold that bragging right, replace unwanted headlines with newfound respect and further burnish their street cred with a high-scoring win over a Minnesota team that's operating under a first-year head coach on the road.
• Avenge me? Keeping Case Keenum healthy for four quarters should be all Houston needs in order to enact toothy revenge against UCLA for getting the pinball quarterback laid up for the entirety of the 2010 season. And will Virginia Tech try to put some sort of hammer down against Appalachian State to douse any smoldering memories of the last time the Hokies invited an FCS team to tea? (And if the Hokies do, will they find the perennial Southern Conference powerhouse Mountaineers easy pickings?)
• Show your teeth. When does one of the most interesting matchups of the early season involve a highly-regarded Big Six program hosting a MAC team? When the former is Gary Pinkel's Missouri operating without a Gabbert or Chase Daniel in the pocket and the latter are the 2010 conference-bestriding Miami RedHawks, who also happen to be fielding an important new guy -- the one who carries a clipboard on the sideline. Former Michigan State OC Don Treadwell steps in for Mike Haywood, who orchestrated one of the most remarkable season-to-season reversals of fortune with the sad-sack RedHawks before blasting off for bigger things (or so he thought).
• Show your teeth II: The teethening. Five of SI.com's eight Crystal Ball panelists peg Notre Dame for a BCS bowl appearance this January. Stewart Mandel calls the Bulls the sleeper hit of the year. Somebody on our staff's going to get a head start on office swagger rights after Saturday in South Bend. • Culture clash. Denizens of the Grove: I know it's tough being the only unranked team in the SEC West right now, and that Ole Miss' time in the bottom of the well is wreaking havoc on the pleats in your outfit. I do not envy you your conference schedule. But please be nice to the visiting dignitaries from BYU. They've never seen anything like you.