The Top Ten storylines to watch this weekend
We're not sure if things can possibly get a whole lot more exciting than they were on opening night last night, but we've prepared a list of the top storylines (as we see it) going into the opening weekend of the college football season.
1. The Texas A&M quarterback situation - Clarence McKinney and Jake Spavital certainly didn't envision this as their first game at Texas A&M. Say what you want about Johnny Manziel's suspension (or lack thereof), but McKinney and Spavital lost a chunk of the precious time available to get on the same wavelength with their enigmatic quarterback in real game action before the live bullets really start flying on September 14. Before that happens, though, the duo has to coax Kenny Hill through starting his first half of college football.
2. The head coaching matchup of the weekend - North Dakota State and Kansas State isn't your run of the mill FCS vs. FBS match up as the defending back-to-back FCS national champs head to Manhattan. Craig Bohl will have his guys ready to play and Bill Snyder will have his guys focused and not looking past one of the most dangerous FCS teams in the country. This one pits two of the games best head coaches against each other, and you can bet there is a ton of mutual respect between the two of them. To see how they both manage this game should be a must-watch for any aspiring head coach.
3. Georgia vs. Clemson - Let's be real, this is the only matchup of top ten teams in the first weekend of college football, do you really need any further reason for it to be one of our top 10 storylines of the weekend? It's going to be an exciting game.
4. Toledo heads to The Swamp - Yes, Matt Campbell is one of the youngest coaches in major college football. And yes, a MAC program playing in The Swamp is rarely a situation worth keeping an eye on during a busy opening weekend. However, Florida struggled mightily with (what turned out to be a very good) Bowling Green team last year on opening weekend in The Swamp, and you can count on Matt Campbell's crew being prepared to take on the Gators.
5. Kingsbury's style as a head coach - While many fans will be glued to Kingsbury's style in terms of clothing and sunglasses and such, we're going to be watching how he manages the game as a first time head coach against a team that's likely to put up their fair share of points in SMU.
6. Can Ohio be the upset team of opening weekend (again)? - Charlie Strong and Louisville have gotten a glutton of praise this offseason, and a lot of it earned after beating Florida (whom many believed to be one of the top teams in the country at the end of last season) in the Sugar Bowl. However, that was the same Louisville squad that got beat in triple overtime by UConn, who went on to finish 5-7. Ohio played the underdog last year and upset Penn State (granted that it was under VERY different circimstances), and our own Scott Roussel and Zach Barnett seem to think they can pull it off two years in a row. Take a look at the rest of our picks for this weekend here.
7. Teams traveling halfway (or more) around the country - Traveling all the way across the country for a game is never ideal, and as a staff there are things that you try to tweak every week to best prepare your team for the change in schedule, but doing it opening week when you're still trying to get a feel for the chemistry of your team and how they respond to adversity is a whole new story. Take a look at games like Northwestern traveling to Cal, BYU heading to Virginia, and Washington State playing at Auburn to see how well the coaching staffs have not only prepared their guys to play, but also how they prepare in a very different time zone (which often means a different frame of mind).
8. The discipline and physicality of Alabama vs. Virginia Tech's "Beamer Ball" - We're all well aware of how a huge special teams play can turn the tide during the course of a big game. Will a big play on special teams for Frank Beamer and his guys be enough to override the discipline and physicality that Alabama is going to bring to town? This will be one of the more exciting storylines to watch.
9. Managing the unexpected - You plan, you practice, you script, you prepare. But once foot meets ball and the clock starts spinning, no one knows what's going to happen. Whether it's a puking freshman, an out-of-nowhere turnover or a twisted knee, every game goes off script at some point. It's all about how you respond to adversity.
10. The game-changing special team breakdown - Because you know it's coming, and you can't wait to see which head coach shoots steam out his ears when it happens. Will "Beamer Ball" be the one to do it to Saban?