Try to adjust your eyes during Week 1. It's going to be a challenge with multiple televisions, browsers, iPads, Smart and adult beverages open at the same time. The 2021 college football season is upon us in full with 14 games involving at least one ranked team, five of which feature a pair of ranked opponents.
Among them is top-five matchup between No. 3 Clemson and No. 5 Georgia that just might be the game of the year … with 14 weeks left on the schedule.
Can Georgia afford a loss? What does the Trevor (Lawrence) to D.J. (Uiagalelei) handoff look like? Is this a College Football Playoff preview?
That's ignoring the obvious: Is No. 1 Alabama any good? Of course it is.
Now, are you ready? Of course you are.
There is at least hope this season will be completed without cancellations. Hawaii initially won't allow fans because of COVID-19. No. 16 LSU is requiring fans to be vaccinated or tested. Two states over in the same conference, Georgia is opening Sanford Stadium wide open. Come one, come all.
But to what? By the time of the Bulldogs' home opener on Sept. 11, they will have found out about their season, not just that Clemson opener.
"Every game is a measuring stick, right?" Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. "... No different in this game. It will be a national measuring stick for people to say, 'Oh Georgia's here,' or 'Georgia's gone,' It's life. it's what the world is made of."
Smart is chasing his second SEC title as well as his second College Football Playoff berth. To get there, he almost certainly has to beat Nick Saban for the first time. No other Saban assistant has accomplished that feat. So yeah, Clemson is a huge hurdle.
Georgia quarterback JT Daniels, in his fourth season, is attempting to play a full campaign for the first time in his career. A passel of his best targets are already missing. LSU transfer Arik Gilbert is out with "personal issues". Leading receiver George Pickens continues to deal with a knee injury. Promising tight end Darnell Washington is out, as is Dominick Blaylock (ACL).
This could be a playoff elimination game or a playoff preview. You ready? Just ask Nakobe Dean. "They could set the ball out on the concrete, and I'd be hyped up to play," Georgia's linebacker said.
By most any measure, Miami has the QB advantage
Heading into Saturday's opener against No. 1 Alabama, there's not much doubt that No. 14 Miami's D'Eriq King has a leg up on Bryce Young. Let's face it: Young has never started a game. Heck, he wasn't officially named the Crimson Tide's starter until Monday.
King has accomplished more. Much more. Heading into his sixth season and 32nd career start, he has 9,600 total yards. Young might have more upside, but King is a proven commodity. The man has accounted for 110 career touchdowns overall.
It's natural to overreact to Week 1, but at least let it play out first.
Yes, Alabama is a 17.5-point favorite, according to Caesars Sportsbook, and Young's future is as bright as a meteor shower. Of the last eight Alabama quarterbacks to start a season for the first time, five have won national championships. Two (Mac Jones and Tua Tagovailoa) set all-time pass efficiency records.
Meanwhile, 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of Miami's last national championship. King is 20-11 as a starter and coming of an ACL tear. We know his ceiling. We don't know how high Young can climb.
There is a lot more to any game than the quarterbacks. King is the embodiment of the dual-threat signal caller that used to deal Saban's defenses fits. But this defense is being called Saban's best since the early days. That would be 10 years ago when Bama was the last team to average less than double digits surrendered per game (8.2 in 2011).
Sophomore linebacker Will Anderson Jr. is being labeled the next great one. Junior linebacker Christian Harris is a Preseason All-American. It's not a Bama defense without a difference-making nose tackle; D.J. Dale fits the description. Cornerback Josh Jobe had 11 pass breakups.
Come to think of it, does King have a chance?
Who needs the alliance when we've got these games?
Boise State at UCF -- Thursday: A possible New Year's Six elimination game for Group of Five powers. Andy Avalos (Boise) and Gus Malzahn (UCF) make their debuts. The over/under of 68.5 is currently the highest total on the board.
No. 4 Ohio State at Minnesota -- Thursday: With two defenses in need of rehabilitation, may we suggest a shootout? In reaching the CFP National Championship, the Buckeyes went from first in yards per play allowed in 2019 to 78th in 2020. Minnesota went from a top 10 defense to 72nd. C.J. Stroud replaces Justin Fields armed with the nation's best collection of wide receivers.
No. 23 Louisiana at No. 21 Texas: Now we know why Billy Napier stayed. The Ragin' Cajuns might just be the better team headed to Austin. There will be no intimidation after Louisiana wiped the floor with Iowa State last year in Ames. Steve Sarkisian goes from Mac Jones to Hudson Card. If only Bijan Robinson could play defense.
No. 19 Penn State at No. 12 Wisconsin: The Badgers will pass more without a dominant running game. The new quarterbacks coach (head coach Paul Chryst) can't wait. Penn State will find out if last year was a COVID-19 one off when it started 0-5.
San Jose State at No. 15 USC: Upset special in the making. Squint and you can see the defending Mountain West champions matching up with the Trojans. The offensive line returns intact. At his third stop, Nick Starkel (four touchdown passes vs. Southern Utah) might be one of the best quarterbacks west of the Rockies. USC's only opening day loss in the last 23 years was to No. 1 Bama in 2016.
No. 16 LSU at UCLA: Dorian Thompson-Robinson (11 of 20 vs. Hawaii) has to be much better against a real defense. Hawaii was dreadful. LSU will be coming from Houston after leaving Baton Rouge with Hurricane Ida bearing down. These Tigers are all Max Johnson's after Myles Brennan broke his arm.
No. 9 Notre Dame at Florida State: As of Monday, Mike Norvell still hadn't picked a starting quarterback. Both incumbent Jordan Travis and UCF transfer McKenzie Milton may play for the Seminoles. The Fighting Irish are too talented coming off a second playoff appearance in three years. Wisconsin transfer Jack Coan and 1,000 rusher hope to break in a rebuilt offensive line.
Clemson five-star freshman RB Will Shipley has been getting rave reviews in camp. The Tigers could use his all-purpose abilities after losing Travis Etienne and finishing 11th in ACC rushing last season … The season begins at Alabama (Young), Clemson (Uiagalelei) and Ohio State (Stroud) each with starting quarterbacks from California having traveled a combined 8,800 miles to play college football back East … Embattled (officially) Nebraska coach Scott Frost (12-21 in his fourth season) would have to go 15-1 to match the record of the immortal Bill Callahan (27-22 in four seasons). The Streak (barely) lives. Nebraska announced two donors bought up the remaining tickets vs. Fordham and will give them to disadvantaged youth. Sellout No. 376 going back to 1962 is official ... UCLA is coming off its second-smallest crowd in its 39-year history in the Rose Bowl with LSU coming to town … Special shout out to TCU (vs. Duquesne) which had four openers cancelled due to COVID-19 last year before finally opening against Iowa State … Blessings to Mark Richt. The former Miami coach, who is fighting Parkinson's disease, spoke to the Hurricanes last week. He remains the author of Miami's best season (10-3 in 2017) since 2003