Preparing for season-openers, poll watching, BCS forecast and more
Well football fans, the season is officially upon us.
We here at SI.com figured you might enjoy even
Since there's nothing to recap yet, it's time to focus on opening weekend.
Many of you have presumably been staring at that first name on your team's schedule for the past eight months. Behind the scenes, coaches have been staring at hours upon hours of the opponent's game film.
In a typical week, coaches have only about 24-to-48 hours to break down an opponent and prepare a scouting report for their players. For the season-opener, they've had since January -- or very close to it. I was curious to find out how coaches' preparation for the opener differs from preparation for a regular game. To find out, I spoke to Georgia defensive coordinator
There are several intriguing matchups this first weekend -- Oregon-Boise State, Alabama-Virginia Tech, Oklahoma-BYU -- but Georgia-Oklahoma State and Minnesota-Syracuse will be near the top of my radar.
Georgia-Oklahoma State could be a season-defining opener for both teams. The Cowboys have never been ranked this high entering a season (their previous best: No. 16 in 1985), and they're a near-touchdown favorite over last year's preseason No. 1 team. They need a big non-conference win like this to be taken seriously as a national player. For Georgia, an upset would go a long way toward restoring confidence after last year's disappointing finish; conversely, another blowout in a high-profile game would not bode well for a team that again faces one of the nation's toughest schedules.
Minnesota-Syracuse, meanwhile, hardly belongs on the A-list, but there's an undeniable curiosity factor surrounding ex-Duke point guard
Let's start, though, with Georgia-Oklahoma State. Martinez, whose 13th-ranked Bulldogs jump immediately into the fire against the No. 9 Cowboys, may be more familiar at this point with
"Anybody we play that we don't play on a regular basis, we spend more time in preparing," said Martinez. "We prepared all offseason."
Georgia's coaches aren't completely unfamiliar with
With the dual-threat Robinson (3,626 total yards last year) at the helm, Hunter (1,555 rushing yards) in the backfield and Bryant (1,480 receiving yards) split wide, Oklahoma State averaged nearly 41 points per game last season en route to the Holiday Bowl.
"It all starts with [Robinson]," said Martinez. "We prepare for running quarterbacks more often than not nowadays, so we're used to that, but it doesn't negate the fact we have to defend him. And it makes it tougher that he's got a guy in the backfield [Hunter] that's extremely talented. They run the ball so well that you've got to start there."
Martinez has been catching heat in Athens ever since his normally stingy defense gave up 40-plus points in its three losses last year to Alabama, Florida and Georgia Tech. A road opener against one of the nation's most prolific offenses from a year ago would not seem like an ideal way to start.
However, over the course of head coach
"The problem with the first game is you don't know what new stuff they may give you. You've got to be careful that you don't spend too much time chasing ghosts," said Martinez. "You feel better in that you have more time to ask questions. You're constantly asking around [the office] -- 'What do you think of these guys? What would you do here?'"
While Georgia readies itself for a top 10 opponent, Minnesota would appear to have a far less rigorous test at Syracuse, winner of just 10 games over the past four seasons. For co-defensive coordinator Cosgrove, however, the Orange present a preparation nightmare.
Syracuse is under the direction of an entirely new coaching staff, led by former New Orleans Saints offensive coordinator
For Cosgrove, that's meant researching not only the Orange but: "Tennessee [where offensive line coach
"We're been preparing for a lot of different things," said Cosgrove, who remembers Paulus well from recruiting him while at Nebraska. "You can't get too fancy with what you want to do."
My reaction to the latest AP and Coaches polls (or BCS standings):
In fairness to the voters, their ballots were due before the Hokies lost star RB
It's scary to think what the Jackets could achieve with nine starters returning from the nation's No. 4 rushing offense. The Hawkeyes are getting overlooked because they lost star RB
Each week, I'll update my projected BCS lineup (as necessary) based on the latest week's games. Here's my preseason edition:
I know it's unoriginal, but Florida and Texas are the cream of the crop in my eyes, with the Longhorns edging Oklahoma due largely to the vast difference in experience between their respective offensive lines. Hopefully the Sept. 12 USC-Ohio State game will be entertaining, because there's a fair chance we'll see them rematch (again) in the Rose Bowl. I can't see the Trojans reaching the championship game with a true freshman quarterback and two new coordinators.
Speaking of rematches, how 'bout another Sooners-Boise State Fiesta Bowl? It's a toss-up for me between Ole Miss and Alabama in the SEC West, though the Tide may be in better shape for the BCS if they don't play in the SEC title game. I know I said Penn State's too high, but the Nittany Lions will always be a popular draw if they just finish in the top 14. Rutgers is my put-a-gun-to-my-head Big East pick, but five other teams could just as easily win that league.
Nevertheless, Rodriguez has a huge problem on his hands. The fact that several
The bigger question: Who the heck will Barkley throw to? Starting receiver
• In 1982, Miami had both
• BYU is my pick to win the Mountain West (
• I worry that expectations may be running a bit too high in Nebraska for
• Cincinnati coach
• In less than a week's time, ballyhooed Tennessee freshman
• Ohio State's opener Saturday against Navy will mark the first time a service academy has visited the Horseshoe since 1931 -- and the Buckeyes are rolling out the red carpet. Former astronaut and Ohio Sen.
• Missouri coach
• I have a feeling one of these three Pac-10 also-rans from a year ago -- UCLA, Stanford or Arizona State -- is going to sneak into the top three in the final conference standings. I just can't decide which one. The only thing that's certain: Cardinal coach
• Former Nebraska national championship QB
• Finally, coaches are a paranoid bunch to begin with, so I guess I shouldn't be too surprised
Granted, the timing is not ideal, but most reports indicate H1N1 is
(Of course, by writing this I probably just guaranteed myself swine flu.)
Saturday night against LSU,
Remember when the mere sight of The Visor struck fear in SEC opponents? Watch as the South Carolina coach talked after practice last Saturday about the state of his team heading into the Thursday night opener at NC State. Is this the sound of a confident coach?
Mini-previews for three of this week's biggest games.
That's it for this week. Enjoy the games, folks. Submit your questions for Wednesday's Mailbag, and look for my report from Thursday night's Oregon-Boise State showdown.