In mere hours, our long footballless national nightmare will end.  Exactly seven days before the NFL returns for reals, college ball kicks off tonight.  Even with a concert by Kid Rock and two bands you don’t care about, followed by a throwdown between the last two Super Bowl Champs, college ball starts better.  Much better.

Why?  Ramifications.  Whoever loses that Packers-Saints game will be down a tiebreaker that might matter when we get to January.  When Saturday is done, two national title contenders will just about be toast.

Intrigued?  Here’s what you need to know to dive into warmup weekend before the big boys get started next week.

Go Southeast Young Man. Want to know who wins the national championship?  Just watch the Southeastern Conference.  Four SEC teams have combined to win the last five national titles.  This season’s game of the year is either the November brawl between #2 Alabama and #4 LSU, or it’s this Saturday’s throw between #3 Oregon and #4 LSU.  In case you were wondering, 7 of LSU’s 12 games are against ranked teams.  Beat ‘Bama, and they’ll play their eighth ranked team in the SEC Championship Game, or as we like the call it, the National Championship Semifinal.

Did we say that either #3 or #4 goes out of the running Saturday night?  Yep, we did.  Just to make things more interesting, LSU’s starting quarterback is a little suspended after a bar brawl.  Meanwhile, Oregon will be missing their defensive stud, who got popped going 118mph in a car he doesn’t own after smoking all the weed.  In case you haven’t guessed it, both teams have extremely capable replacements.

While we’re at it, #19 Georgia plays #5 Boise State on Saturday too.  Boise used to be this adorable little underdog.  Those days are in the archives.  Georgia is ranked 18 spots lower than their fans approve of, meaning that their not-so-cuddly head coach (at 3:20 of this horrifically lame video) may be on the chopping block by Sunday morning.

In other words, when you’re waking up to a pleasant three-day weekend Sunday morning, two marquee teams will be waking up to a bleak world filled with ennui.

Nothing Makes Sense Anymore. Welcome to football idiocracy.  The Big 10 now has 12 teams.  The Big 12 has 10 teams.  (Well, for the moment anyway.)  The Pac-10 – a perfect combination of five pairs of archrivals, with everybody playing everybody every year – is now the Pac-12 after adding those two bitter rivals, Utah and…Colorado.

The Big 10 Champion might be Nebraska.  Wait…what?  In their first year in the Big Tenwelve, they’re the obvious choice to win the Legends Division.  Then, it’s on to the Big 10 Championship Game (huh?), probably against Wisconsin.  (Yes, the Big 10 named their divisions “Legends” and “Leaders”.  Apparently “3 Yards” and “A Cloud Of Dust” were too hokey.)

Texas A&M is about to break up with their archnemesis, Texas, and head for the SEC, possibly finally killing off the Big 12 in the process.  Boise State, having left the WAC for the Mountain West will begin a conference rivalry with TCU.  The rivalry will also end this year, since TCU is heading for the Big East next year.  (Whaddya wanna bet that move never happens?)  Next year, Fresno State, Hawaii, and Nevada – also known as the only other WAC schools whose football programs don’t suck – join Boise in dumping the WAC for the MWC.

The guy who runs the Pac-12 took a run at Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State last offseason.  In 2012, expect the Pac-12 to go after Texas and the Oklahoma schools.  The SEC will, no doubt, not be far behind.  Whatever happens, both conferences will probably be up to 16 teams before long, with the Big 10 becoming the Big 14 or Big 16.  The Big East and ACC will both lose some teams in the process and have to combine to survive.

Hello, four 16-team superconferences.

The Locals. Let’s see if we’ve got this right: UCLA had better be a bowl team, but we can absolutely guarantee USC won’t be one.  For both schools, things might be getting better, or they might be getting much, much worse.

The Trojans finish up their two-year bowl ban this season, so after that, things should get better, right?  Not so fast.  2012 is the year they start losing scholarships.  2012 is also the year they probably lose überquarterback Matt Barkley to the NFL.  On the other hand, they’re still loaded with highly-rated recruits, and Lane Kiffin seems to be acting like a grown-up leader.

On the third hand, if they finish with the 82nd best defense in the country again this year, things will get ugly in Trojanland.  On the fourth hand, given how many “highly rated recruits” wash out, losing ten scholies a year for the next three years is going to make things very, very tricky downtown.  And not that SoCal football fans are fickle, but remember that ‘SC pulled 45,000 for Pete Carroll’s debut.

Across town, UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel is on the hot seat.  After going 4-8 twice in three years, Skippy better at least make a bowl game this year, or he’s done in Westwood.  The good news is he’s got a good skill players and a ton of talent on defense.  The great news is that the Bruins finally have a stud quarterback who reminds everyone of the last great all-around athlete who took them to the brink of a national championship.  The bad news is that Brett Hundley’s a true freshman.  While he learns the ropes, Rick gets to choose – or not – between two juniors who keep getting hurt just when it looks like they’ll turn the corner.

The Bruins catch one huge break this year.  While USC misses the official conference victim, Washington State, (and Oregon State) in this year’s new unbalanced schedule, the Bruins miss Oregon (and Washington).

Whether you like to wear blue or red with your gold, expect your Saturdays to be a gut-churning experience this Fall.

General Craziness. Nothing makes sense any more.  Cheaty McSweatervest is out at Ohio State.  At least eight Hurricanes are temporarily out at Miami, with more scandal fallout to follow.  The Big 12 is looking like a lounge lizard in a conference meet meat market.

And finally, a big strong Florida linebacker is being terrorized.  By a giant cockroach.  In his apartment.  Don’t believe us?  Just check his Twitter feed.  Here’s a taste for you.


You go, Jelani.  The rest of us need to head over to the c-store and load up before we get extremely reacquainted with our couches for the next five months.

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September 1, 2011 at 10:58 am | Football, KCAL Crew, KCAL Rocks, Sports | No comment