Opening kickoff is just a week away, but who’s counting, right?
Well, I am, which is why I went all medieval English with the title above, to give this anticipation the gravitas it deserves.
You can almost taste the artichoke chutney dip you were forced to try at last year’s opening tailgate, because it was the offering brought by your best dude’s then new GF. A vegan, she was. Not a problem this season, his latest gal pal is a pigskin-loving carnivore of the highest order, renowned for matching the guys rib for rib from a full rack at Dreamland one Saturday after the Tide rolled. Besides her granddaddy played for the Vols. For General Neyland himself, when their single wing was all that. Before “Rocky Top” was even penned by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant.
Which fosters this query. Is the Butch Jones Era ready to kick it in gear in Knoxville? Will the Volunteers meet their lofty expectations, after a season when they proved a squad of 45 minute men playing a 60 minute game, can Tennessee find its way into the orange and white checkerboard endzone enough to be relevant?
So, yeah, the diehards of Pigskin Planet — my hand is raised — are way more than ready.
And a fascinating college football season it appears it shall be.
Sure the Usual Suspects sit atop the preseason polls, but questions abound. Will Nick Saban do it again, thereby cementing his status as the Best Ever, proving you can prevail with an untested signal caller, and making houndstooth so passé in Tuscaloosa?
Is Stoops — Bob — sitting just outside the CFP conversation cannily full with confidence, knowing this is arguably his best ever squad of Boomer Sooners?
Is Stoops — Mark — finally going to lead his Cats to as many victories as defeats, and land his charges revved to the max for a date in beauteous Shreveport against Anybody State in the Independence Bowl? What happens if UK falls to resurgent Southern Miss in the opener?
Is this the first season since pre-self destruction Johnny “I Used To Be Johnny Football but Now I’m Johnny Too Bad” Manziel that the best player on the gridiron will be . . . Caucasian? From one of them academic schools no less?
Christian McCaffery, come on down, your invite is assured to NY for that post season trophy ceremony.
Though Leonard Fournette will have something to say about the whole Heisman deal. Unless that foot in a boot thing is more serious than announced. Don’t forget he was an absolute for sure lock last season, until about halfway through the Bayou Bengal campaign when all of a sudden he wasn’t anymore.
Are these names really on the Dead Man Walking list? Les Miles. Gus Malzahn. Sure, we understand Kevin Sumlin, Charlie Strong and Darrell Hazell — You’re forgiven if the latter’s name doesn’t immediately ring a bell, he coaches Purdue — but the mentors at LSU and Auburn sitting on hot seats?
Well, we’re not going to have to wait long for it all to start sorting out. Opening Weekend is the time to make a call and finagle an invite from your old pal who just turned his basement into a Five Screen Man Cave.
In one Top 25 match up, the Crimson Tide face the Men of Troy in the JerryDome. In another, Oklahoma travels to Outside the Power 5 power Houston to battle the Cougars.
Strong’s Longhorns host beleaguered Notre Dame. (How zesty is that matchup, fraught with back stories?) Sumlin’s Aggies host UCLA. Malzahn’s Auburn Tigers host Dabo’s Clemson Tigers. Miles’ LSU Tigers travel to the Land o’ Cheese to face the Badgers in fabled Lambeau.
Plus, for shits and giggles, you got the Seminoles vs. the Johnny Rebs and Georgia vs. North Carolina and ever tough Kansas State visiting the Silicon Valley Cardinal.
Plus your very favorite team, whomever that is, against Whatstheirname A & M.
Whew. I mean opening weekend is like waking up to a Denny’s Double Berry Banana Pancake Sticky Bun Steak & Eggs Skillet Lumberjack Grand Slam breakfast. After such a feedbag, can we possibly have room for lunch, dinner and post-season CFP dessert?
Of course. We are nothing if not gluttonous for football.
There’s too much tasty stuff to savor. (Except for that dip referenced in the lede.)
While it might not seem apparent from all the media hype, there are schools in the Big Ten not coached by Jim Harbaugh which are worth considering. The league looks more competitive than ever. At least for its Big Four. All of whom are starting the season the old fashioned way . . . against patsies. The Wolverines welcome Hawaii to the Big House. Pope Urban’s Buckeyes host neighbor Bowling Green in the Horseshoe. Iowa welcomes Miami (OH). And the conference champ two of the last three years, ever overlooked Sparty, hosts Furman.
Will the ACC really grab two slots in the Final Four? And if so, are Clemson and Florida State the locks, or might Louisville or North Carolina sneak in? The Tar Heels and especially the Cardinals have schedules that will cause the “experts” to take notice if they get a hum going.
Will Chris Petersen’s UDub Huskies be the surprise team that Pigskin Pundit Laureate Phil Steele predicts? Will the Horned Frogs continue to ride the crest of their stupefying triple OT comeback against the Quack in the ignominious defeat at the Alamo since Bowie and Travis fell to Santa Anna? (If only the Americans had used the Build A Wall defense.)
Will Ole Miss be as good as a team with that many illegal players ought to be?
What about Baylor minus Art Briles minus Ken Starr? Will the veneer of faux contrition hold them in good stead on the gridiron?
Thaw out them brats, let’s get this party started.
— Seedy K