It began Thursday night, and will keep our TV sets occupied every Saturday for the next 14 weeks, culminating with the BCS National Championship Game Jan. 9 in the Superdome.
"It" is college football. Its uniqueness in the sports realm makes it even more special.
* The pregame traditions, like the Wolverines running out under the "Go Blue" banner, Script Ohio, Howard's Rock at Clemson, the smoke tunnel at "The U" or the flaming spear going into the ground in Tallahassee.
* The mascots, especially the live variety. Traveler, Ralphie, Mike or Bevo. Even the "war eagle" that flies around Jordan-Hare just before kickoff.
* The bands, who play the fight songs. While Saints fans love to "stand up and get crunk," how can you not love The Victors, Yea Alabama, Boomer Sooner, On Wisconsin, the Notre Dame Victory March and Fight On, just to name a few.
* The variety of offenses. Never on Sunday will you see defensive coordinators scratching their heads over trying to defend the spread option or triple option.
* The pageantry, whether it's homecoming on any campus, the uniformed parades at West Point and Annapolis or the upper deck swaying in College Station during the Aggie War Hymn.
* The tailgating. It's a competition unto itself, and much like the on-field product, the SEC is at the top of the list. In some locales, they start arriving on Wednesday for a Saturday game.
* The playing surfaces. They can be pretty cookie-cutter on Sundays. But on Saturdays, you'll find orange and white checkerboard end zones in Knoxville, the old school diagonal lines in the end zones in South Bend, and yard-line numbers every five yards and double goal posts in Baton Rouge.
* The water cooler talk. As much as I would love to see a playoff decide a national champion, the week-to-week chatter about polls, games and "who's going where" separates college football from its competitors.
Thursday was merely an appetizer. The main course arrives Saturday.
Now there is one thing I don't like, and that's all of the awards and the candidates for these awards. Let's let the season start before we start declaring who is a candidate.
Fifty-two Saturdays ago, I sat at my father-in-law's house in Alabama watching one of his favorite teams, Auburn, open its season with a quarterback I had never heard of, Cam Newton. Think the Auburn media relations team â€“ or anyone else for that matter â€“ was calling Newton a "Heisman Trophy candidate" before his first snap?
Everyone is a candidate this time of year. Let's see what happens on the field for a little while before we start discussing the award candidates.
With another football season upon us, that also means another season of Lenny's Top V, where we go into soothsayer mode on five area games each week. Let the fun begin!
I. Where else to begin but Jerry World for the biggest game of opening weekend between LSU and Oregon. The off-field issues in Baton Rouge seem to have (thankfully) taken a back seat to game week and what's actually happening on the field. While most want to focus on what the Tiger offense will do under Jarrett Lee, the key matchup in my mind is Oregon's fast-break offense against an LSU defense that has to answer some questions in its front seven. This one's a toss-up, and I wouldn't be surprised to see overtime. Tigers by 3.
II. Tulane opens year five of the Bob Toledo era at home against Southeastern. The biggest problem with FBS-vs.-FCS matchups is that the FBS team has everything to lose, the FCS team nothing to lose. I like what I've seen and heard from the Green Wave in preseason camp. Now let's see how it translates on game day. Tulane by 10.
III. Southern will travel to Nashville to open its season with Tennessee State as the Jaguars look to start the bounce-back from a 2-9 season. TSU was just 3-8 last season, but the Tigers' three wins all came against other HBCU teams. TSU by 11.
IV. Louisiana-Lafayette has a tough opening test on the road against top-10 Oklahoma State. The Cowboys don't know what to expect from the Cajuns and first-year head coach Mark Hudspeth, who has kept cameras out of his preseason practices. This one might be closer than the experts think. Cowboys by 20.
V. Southern Miss gets a late-night start to its season with a made-for-TV 9 p.m. kickoff at home against Louisiana Tech. The Golden Eagles are one of the favorites in Conference USA's East Division, and for a change, USM has a friendly schedule, both in and out of conference play. USM by 14.
Enjoy your opening weekend of the college football season.
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