It’s time. Finally.
It seems as though every offseason gets longer and colder — well, okay, maybe not so much colder here in the southeastern United States — but you follow what I’m saying. We’ve spent too bleeding long away from college football, to be succinct.
As the month of September rolls around, college football appears, and so does this here little feature. Many of you have been reading — poor souls — since day one, and others are new to the feature. Want the lowdown on who we are and what we do? Just want the breakdown for the first three games on this week’s slate? All you need to do is plunk that little play button right below this block of text, and you are set. We’ve also moved the trivia question to the podcast, so you can go test your knowledge, too! Once you’ve done that, come on back here and read the rest of what we have to say about this week’s big games!
We also have a new bonus this year, so scroll to the bottom for that! On to the games first, though…
Keyword Search (all times Eastern and rankings AP)
#11 Michigan vs. #17 Florida (AT&T Stadium | Arlington, TX)
3:30pm | ABC
- Roster shenanigans: No one seems to be completely assured of the rosters on either side, for different reasons. Florida earlier this week announced the suspensions of running back Jordan Scarlett and receiver Rick Wells, bringing to a seemingly impossible ten (author’s edit: and even more since this was written) the number of Gators given the week away from this contest. These two join a cast of many, including 2016 club-leading receiver Antonio Callaway (54 rec., 721 yards). Scarlett toted the rock 179 times for 889 yards in 2016, including five scores. Michigan, meanwhile, has endured an offseason of scrutiny about its 2017 club, culminating in a FOIA request by NJ.com — which was denied — in pursuit of the list. Harbaugh eventually released the roster in a stripped-down version, but continued his gamesmanship by not — as of press time, anyway — releasing a two-deep or any further detail.
- Stuck in neutral: Michigan has opened its season on neutral ground just once in 137 seasons, a 41-14 throttling by Alabama to lift the 2012 lid. It is also 2-2 in its last four season-openers against non-Michigan schools, including the loss to Alabama and a 2015 loss at Utah. Those losses were equaled by home victories against Appalachian State and Hawaii. Florida, meanwhile, has won its last 27 season-openers, with Ole Miss being the last team to clip the Gators (24-19 in 1989). Exactly zero of those games were played at neutral sites.
- You don’t score until you score: Florida’s sports information department notes this week that the first dent of the scoreboard by the Gators will place them in somewhat exclusive company. Florida is tied with BYU for the second-longest streak of games with points scored in NCAA history, at 361. Should the Gators snap that string this week, they would be all alone in second place, behind — coincidentally enough — Michigan (365 games between 1984-2004).
Print that, tweet that, whatever: When a team has “or” on its QB depth chart twice and 10-plus suspended players, that makes things a bit tough. Can McElwain do it?
BYU (1-0) vs. #13 LSU (Mercedes-Benz Superdome | New Orleans, LA)
9:30pm | ESPN
- Neutralized?: LSU’s sports information department notes that this is the sixth time in eight seasons in which the Tigers have opened the season on a neutral field. This field would have been more neutral, and would have represented the Tigers’ fourth season-opener in Texas during that period, but Hurricane Harvey necessitated a move eastbound to New Orleans. The Bayou Bengals have lost just one of those contests, last year’s 16-14 loss to Wisconsin in Green Bay.
- We’re going streaking: That loss to Wisconsin last season was LSU’s first non-conference loss in 52 straight games, following a defeat to Virginia Tech that began the 2002 campaign. The Tigers have won 54 of their last 55 games against non-SEC foes.
- What a rush: BYU’s leading rusher, Squally Canada, tallied just 98 rushing yards in BYU’s opening-week (sorry, we don’t use the unrecognized term “week zero” here) victory over Portland State. The sledding appears to get no easier, as the Tigers’ rush defense ranked 13th in the 2016 season, surrendering just north of 117 rushing yards per outing. LSU opponents found the end zone on the ground just seven times last year, tied for second with Louisville behind Alabama’s five.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: BYU looked listless at times against an FCS team last weeek. The Cougars can’t afford to sleepwalk early.
#25 Tennessee vs. Georgia Tech (Mercedes-Benz Stadium | Atlanta, GA)
8:00pm (Monday) | ESPN
- Under pressure: This game will be an interesting test of Tennessee’s defensive line pressure, with a number of new names lining up in that technique. SEC sacks leader Derek Barnett (13 in 2016) has departed, as has Corey Vereen (7). Two redshirt sophomores, a true junior and a redshirt junior are listed among the starters on the Vols’ two-deep, with monstrous Jonathan Kongbo and Darrell Taylor on the ends. Their ability to get up the field and disrupt the Georgia Tech edge run game will tell the tale.
- Removing the sting: The Ramblin’ Wreck rushing attack took a bit of a shot in early August, when running back Dedrick Mills was kicked off the team. Mills ran for 771 yards and 12 scores last season, pacing the Jackets. Tech lists redshirt sophomores KinVonte Benson (no carries in ’16) and Quaide Weimerskirch (one carry for zero yards) atop the depth chart at B-back, with true freshman Jerry Howard (Rock Hill, S.C./Northwestern HS) listed just behind both. Fellow freshman Jordan Ponchez-Mason may also see some snaps.
- A new quarterback…or two?: Long-time Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs is now taking up residence in Pittsburgh as a Steeler, so his 2016 understudy Quinten Dormady (11-for-17, 148 yards last year) may be taking the reins. So, too, may redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano, who once famously said that he would “run away with” the starting role on Rocky Top. Either player will be called upon to effectively manage a potentially quick-strike Volunteer offense, but the option of a two-quarterback system is apparently still on the table.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Georgia Tech attempted just 160 passes last year. They need to control the clock and tempo to beat the Vols.
25 years ago, Florida and Alabama played in the first SEC championship game. As a way to commemorate that occasion, we’ll include a special new feature each week. Since I’m a music dork and a sports fan, what better way to tie in those two things by letting you sample the number one song on the charts 25 years ago today? You’ll laugh! You’ll cry! You’ll wonder why anyone ever bought any of these songs!
What a debut we have, too.
If, like me, you’ve seen the movie Boomerang so much that you can quote it in inappropriate situations (“Now, Marcus…I hear a girl at the office..” — yeah, I’ll stop there), you remember the soundtrack. There’s not a bad track on the entire thing, and Boyz II Men really capped the record with this hit that seemed to play every 15 minutes.
(Those coats at the 1:20 mark, though…)
Ladies and gentlemen, Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road”, the first number one we’ll feature from 25 years ago.
We’ve also, sadly, reached the end of the road for this feature. Follow me (@sportsmatters) or us (@FBSchedules) on Twitter for all the college football content you could ever need!
Until next week, enjoy the games. Also, Texas, we love you. You’re in our thoughts and prayers.