While just short of a handful of schools from two of the most powerful conferences in the country got a jumpstart on the 2010 season Thursday, the vast majority of the SEC and Big Ten will begin the year in earnest Saturday.
Here’s a quick look at a few of the story lines that could be spun throughout the day today.
Miami (OH) at No. 4 Florida (Noon ET)
THE LINE: Florida -38
THE PLOT: In Year One A.T. (Anno Timini), all eyes will be on John Brantley as he replaces a living college legend at quarterback. And what better way to get your feet wet at a big-time football program than at home with a ritualistic MACrifice? While you won’t be able to glean much from the results given the level of competition, there could be hints littered throughout the glorified scrimmage that Brantley, and thus the Gators, may very well be just fine.
THE PICK: Obviously, the only question here is whether or not the Gators cover in The Swamp. Just as obviously, there’s only one answer to that question — a resounding yes.
THE SCORE: Florida 276, Miami (OH) -6
UConn at Michigan (3:30 ET)
THE LINE: Michigan -3
THE PLOT: A renovated Big House. Likely a new starting quarterback. And the same old warmness below Rich Rodriguez‘ ass.
From NCAA investigations at two different schools to a horrific won-loss record his first two years in Ann Arbor, there’s little doubt that the hottest seat in America resides squarely underneath RichRod’s backside. And the coach enters his third year with the Wolverines with not only a question at quarterback — expect Denard Robinson to start, though — but with numerous questions in a secondary that’s been decimated by injuries and transfers.
Starting off with a loss in a refurbished home in a must-win year? That would not be the optimum result for a coach who could be pleading the case to keep his job at season’s end. An “L” in this Game One would not look good on the résumé he tosses on his new athletic director’s desk.
THE PICK: Uh-oh, RichRod. The Huskies return 16 starters from 8-5 squad, including their starting quarterback. Somewhere, Zach Frazer is licking his chops at the thought of facing a pencil-thin secondary. That said, the Wolverines eke out a win — I think — but do not cover.
THE SCORE: Michigan 21, UConn 20
San Jose State at No. 1 Alabama (7:00 ET)
THE LINE: Alabama -37.5
THE PLOT: No Mark Ingram, no Marcell Dareus? No problem, at least this week. Much like with other games involving ranked schools today, the Tide’s main goal will be to come out of the exhibition game relatively unscathed health-wise, setting themselves up for a big non-conference game next weekend in Tuscaloosa against Penn State and the SEC opener at Arkansas three weeks from today.
THE PICK: After much thought and some serious numbers crunching, we’ve gone out on a limb and decided that ‘Bama will both win outright and cover.
THE SCORE: Alabama 55, San Jose State 10
No. 18 North Carolina vs. No. 21 LSU (8:00 ET)
THE LINE: -10
THE PLOT: There may not be a coach in America with more pressure on him today than Les Miles. Playing against a school that’s down seven defensive starters, two offensive starters, and 13 players total due to the lingering NCAA investigation into agent-related issues, there is simply no way that Miles can afford to drop this game. Hell, given the fact that there are already rumblings that he has to win big this year in order to keep a secure hold on his job, there’s simply no way he can afford even a close win against such a gutted and decimated team. No pressure, Coach Miles.
THE PICK: There’s a part of my soul, way down deep where utter evil and heartlessness lurks, that would like to see the reaction that would come with Miles’ Tigers stumbling and falling to the Tar Heels. Not even Miles could stub his toes in such a horrific fashion, could he? I think not. Maybe.
THE SCORE: LSU 34, North Carolina 14