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Texas A&M Football

Storyline Saturday: What to watch in college football's Week 1

September 4, 2015

Ah, the opening weekend of college football. What a joyous time to be alive.

It’s been compared to Christmas morning, but that’s not really fair. Christmas is only one day, and you’re usually disappointed in the presents you receive anyway. How many socks and Walmart gift cards does one person need?

But college football, now that’s a gift that keeps giving.

While the big storyline at Texas A&M is what’s going on in Houston, there’s plenty to keep you entertained across the country. You want new coaches' debuts? You got them. The big games that could serve as a measurement for the rest of the year? Bingo.

It’s about to get real, and the odds are you just can’t wait any longer.

Let’s tear this beautiful present open, wrapping paper be damned.

The big games

Who: No. 20 Wisconsin vs. No. 3 Alabama
When: Saturday 7:00 PM (CT) on ABC
Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas

You’ve known about this game for months. How could you not? It’s been plastered on every commercial break of seemingly each sporting event for the past few weeks. As annoying as some of you may find that, the game deserves the buildup. Both teams are likely to contend for conference titles, but there’s quite a bit of unknowns with this one.

First, which one of Saban’s quarterback quintet will line up under center? As good as Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake are, you cannot compete without a solid QB. Second, with their third coach in four seasons and the departure of Melvin Gordon, how strong can the Badgers be? If the answer is really good, this game could set the stage for a crazy fall.

Kirby Clarke, TexAgs Gus Malzahn's Tigers must back up the hype by not letting Louisville get the jump on them. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"left","Size":"large","Caption":"Gus Malzahn\u0027s Tigers must back up the hype by not letting Louisville get the jump on them.","MediaItemID":48393}
Who: Louisville vs. No. 6 Auburn
When: Saturday 2:30 (CT) CBS
Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Ga.

Whatever your opinion of Bobby Petrino might be, there’s one thing you cannot dispute when it comes to the Louisville head man: the guy knows the SEC. There was the successful tenure, then incredible departure at Arkansas. But, he also manned the sidelines of Jordan-Hare Stadium as Auburn's offensive coordinator in 2002.

Petrino also knows he isn't supposed to win this game as a ten-point underdog. Will that take some pressure off his squad as it faces what many suspect will be an SEC West favorite?

Who: No. 1 Ohio State vs. Virginia Tech
When: Monday 7:00 (CT) ESPN
Where: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Va.

Last season Ohio State had all the answers. Well, almost. With the amazing quarterback depth, the incredible rushing prowess of Ezekiel Elliot and the ability to win big games down the stretch, the Buckeyes are left with just one thing to prove. Can they get revenge on the only team they fell to last year? While the ten-point favorites will be out to make a statement, you can never be certain of how teams will handle success. If it were to happen again, regardless of how unlikely it is, the potential for an upset this early makes this game a must-watch. At least for the first half.

The new coaches

When big programs aren't successful, people get angry. Judging by the new lineup across the country, there were a lot of people with red faces last fall.

First and foremost, there’s Jim Harbaugh at Michigan.

Harbaugh takes over after Brady Hoke’s four-year reign in which the Wolverines' record got progressively worse each of his final three years. Last year's 5-7 record meant Michigan failed to beome bowl eligible for just the third time in 30 seasons.

Enter Harbaugh. With the BIG 10 seemingly on the rise, it will be fascinating to see if he can revitalize one of the proudest names in college football. (On Thursday night the Wolverines lost on the road to Utah to open Harbaugh's tenure.)

Then there’s the rest of them.

Brandon Jones, TexAgs Former Texas A&M receivers coach David Beaty is one among several new faces looking for strong debut seasons. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"right","Size":"large","Caption":"Former Texas A\u0026M receivers coach David Beaty is one among several new faces looking for strong debut seasons.","MediaItemID":45828}
David Beaty makes his debut at Kansas, a program whose recent history needs no recollecting. Mike Riley at Nebraska will be yet another interesting storyline in the Big Ten. After the Huskers' 9-3 year in 2014, anything upward would be impressive.

Beyond those, we’ve got the new man at Florida, an Aggie graduate in Chad Morris at SMU, Pat Narduzzi leaving his long-term home in East Lansing for the ACC and Pitt's head job, as well as countless others.

In a sport that’s constantly changing, these moves could well be one of the stories of the year.

The new men under center

Across the country, programs are having to turn their team over to a new leader. If they’re lucky, they have seen glimpses of what their new starting quarterback is capable of.

Take Oklahoma for instance. In 2013 Baker Mayfield played well enough to be named Big 12 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year. That was at Texas Tech. As far as transfers go, they feel pretty good.

Sharing that boat with Bob Stoops is Jimbo Fisher. With the departure of Jameis Winston, the Seminoles appeared destined to go with an unproven under center. Then, they landed Everett Golson.

An experienced option, having taken Notre Dame to a title game in 2012, Golson is better than your average next guy up — but he’s no Winston on the field.

In other places, guys have actually come up through the program and waited for a spot to clear.

Jeremy Johnson is getting plenty of hype at Auburn, as is Mike Bercovici at Arizona State. Both men have displayed similar arm strength in their fill-in roles, but how will they handle the starter spotlight?

The list goes on and on.

Seth Russell takes the reins at Baylor, and the Bears appear to be just fine with that. In his two seasons down on the depth chart Russell has shown the ability to chunk it deep, while also posing a run threat. With a school so reliant on offense, his performance will be critical.

So, whether it’s Malik Zaire at Notre Dame, Chad Kelly at Ole Miss or one of the countless others, some newcomer is going to make himself a household name.

Who will it be?
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