And so begins the BCS farewell tour in college football. Parting gifts optional.
Each week of the season, we’ll have the Tense 10. Ten games where the heat is on somebody to prove something. So with the first kickoffs of the last BCS season imminent ...
1. Georgia at Clemson: Pretty tough to be a top-10 national title contender and have a bayonet stuck in your hopes on Aug. 31, but that’ll happen to one of these two. No. 5 Georgia has played football for 120 years, and this is the first time the Bulldogs have ever opened against a top-10 opponent. Clemson, at No. 8, has its highest preseason ranking in 25 years. The neighbors, 59 miles apart as the Hail Mary flies, have avoided playing one another since 2003.
2. Alabama vs. Virginia Tech in Atlanta: The Tide schedule lists 12 opponents, but the true foe is History, meaning every week is vital, because History never blinks. Alabama is trying to become the first program ever to win four titles in five years. The roster includes 13 returning starters and 13 graduate students. Unlikely that Frank Beamer will have two mediocre Virginia Tech teams in a row.
3. LSU vs. TCU in Dallas: LSU watched 11 — count ’em — 11 underclassmen leave early for the NFL. TCU might have the best defense in the Big 12 (which ain’t saying a lot). So the revamped Tigers are in some peril here, but it is strictly against SEC policy for any member to lose to a non-conference opponent in a high-profile game.
4. Northwestern at California: Northwestern returns the bulk of a 10-3 team, and California comes off a 3-9 record that got its coach fired. So what could vex the Wildcats? Location, location, location. The Big Ten has more trouble going west than the pioneers ever did, with a perfectly awful 5-20 record in true road games against the Pac-12 since 2000.