Let's not mince words: football's back, and the mostly-chaff opening weekend is a reminder that we're nowhere near the beginning of the conference games. Sure, LSU and Georgia are doing their best to carry the torch for the rest of the conference, but the rest of the schedule looks like clippings from Jeremy Foley's Discount Out-Of-Conference Games. (We're kidding, of course. Kentucky's actually going to Western Kentucky [ed. - um, and by Western Kentucky I meant Nashville, because they're totally the same place], and Florida would never leave Gainesville in September unless the conference schedule dictated that.)
In other weeks - when there's actually something to pay attention to - we'll take a look at what's going on around the conference. This week? Well, this week we'll just conveniently gloss over pretty much all the games that involve some poor paycheck-bound patsy, although I say that and yet Memphis is kind of convinced they have rivalries with both Ole Miss and Mississippi State, which no doubt comes as news to both schools. Also, I suppose someone could talk me into East Carolina and South Carolina having a thing, but I doubt it.
Anyway, after we're done chopping off all the games that don't matter, we're left with these three:
Ole Miss v. BYU. Credit goes to the Rebels for taking on BYU, who narrowly missed our opening Top 25 (you know, because opening T25s are based on things like science) and should be a quality team regardless. As far as Ole Miss goes, well, here's their two-deep, and this is my favorite part of that piece:
I know we just signed a good class, but our football team was not good last year. All we're saying by placing these freshmen at second in many of these races is that they're good but not quite as good as a lot of players who helped us lose eight games last year.
That might not be a good sign.
Georgia v. Boise State. Last we saw Georgia, they were busy hemorrhaging running backs and confusing our BlogPoll. Lest we think it's just us, don't worry - nobody has any clue what to make of them. It goes without saying that this is a key matchup on both sides (Georgia might be veering down our 2008 path with a loss here. but that's just a wee bit premature on my part, and on nearly every major college football pundit's part this time next week should Georgia lose here), and I'm a house divided on this. Generally speaking, I'm not always a pro-SEC guy in out-of-conference games; for one, this isn't basketball, where conference strength plays a role in who gets into the tournament (and don't tell the Rivals crew this, but it's tough to gauge conference superiority among 12-team conferences with a sample size of 6 games); if a SEC team runs the table, they'll make the title game, and even if they go 12-1 they have a very good chance. In this case, Boise State needs this game.
Regardless, we'll learn more about both teams from this game than from most other tilts this weekend. Should Boise dominate, it probably means that Boise State's as good as advertised (and Georgia has their own set of issues). If it's a close Boise State win, Georgia's in line to surprise the SEC East. If Georgia wins, then they're bonafide SEC Championship Game material (until their showdown with South Carolina, which is every bit as critical for the Bulldogs as this is). Regardless, leading tackler Bacarri Rambo ...well, just read this. Nobody has any clue, apparently.
LSU v. Oregon. This is The Showdown Of The Week, as it were - two top six sides battling it out for the title of Yeah, I Guess You Actually Deserve That Ranking, I Suppose. Oregon returns most of the key skill position players from last year's almost-championship team, but the offensive line is nearly patchwork. I have no doubt that they'll gel, but I'm not sure I'd want to be opening the season against a Chavis defense given time to prepare were I the Ducks. For what it's worth, we know what they'll do (I've probably written 5,000 words about it in the last calendar year, if not more), so it's not like it's a secret to Chavis, either.
As far as LSU's offense goes, um, well. Jordan Jefferson's on ice, Russell Sheperd is out, and Jarrett Lee's under center. But hey, Oregon also lost 6 starters on defense and Cliff Harris is suspended.
I'm a little concerned this game is going to be hideous. LSU's anemic offense coupled with what could easily be a stifling defense means we're all sitting around at 10:45 looking at a 7-3 game heading into the fourth quarter. Hopefully that's not the case, and hopefully we can at least make some determination about either team after this game. The worst scenario is a 14-13 affair that turns on a botched call late, but it's not like a Les Miles game would come down to that, right?