The storylines are rich: The once-untouchable conference is vulnerable, after Jimbo Fisher and Florida State unseated the SEC by modeling a program after, of course, the SEC; the Buckeyes and Urban Meyer are out to prove that they're still the big brother, free to give noogies to the little boys of the Big Ten; Texas has discarded the ol' bull Mack Brown for Charlie Strong, who apparently got in trouble before his office furniture even arrived for not being what the big-hat-wearin' boosters had in mind; Steve Sarkisian is rumored to be on the hot seat and has not yet led his Trojans through jumping jacks; Oregon welcomes back Marcus Mariota, who might just keep me catnappin' through the midnight matinee; and Les Miles ... well, is sure to do something.
But overshadowing it all is a great anticipation -- and uncertainty -- for a first-ever playoff, the one thing that might possibly distract from Jameis Winston, who won the last-ever BCS title under a cloud of an accused sexual assault for which he was never charged, then, bizarrely, was issued a citation after stealing ... crab legs?
If this season is not going to be wilder than a drunken goat-roping, I do not know what is.
But the objectivity will, of course, not be a cure-all for anything; the process will continue to be flawed and inexact, as the BCS was. To believe otherwise is to ignore all common sense and deny human nature, and human nature is essential; we included the computers in the process but never really trusted them. No system constructed of plastic, metal and glass can really take into account the subtleties, the emotional import of a single moment. But this new panel will not be infallible either.
The selection committee, mind you, does not purely comprise football professionals; it includes athletic directors, former coaches, one former football writer, a lieutenant general, a former secretary of state, Archie Manning, Scarlett Johansson and Thor, the mighty god of thunder. And angry fans from Southern California to South Texas to South Florida will soon dog-cuss the esteemed members in chat rooms and call-in shows until they exhaust their vocabulary -- though in some areas, that should not take long.
You can bet Condoleezza Rice will recall, fondly, ancient tribal disputes in the mountains of Pakistan and be condemned by the fine people of SoCal as a smarty-pants Stanford professor. Tom Osborne will be called a no-account Big 12 traitor on the Interweb by Wing Nut from Corpus Christi and scowl himself silly. And Pat Haden will be vilified by the folks in Okeechobee as a sandal-wearing West Coast hippie.
But that's all right. This might be -- at least for us laymen who think this stuff is supposed to be fun -- a joyfully unpredictable year. Don't misunderstand. I want my teams to win every time. But it will always be human drama, human failure and redemption that make this ride worthwhile; you can't polish that, or make it fit onto a series of straight, neat lines.
"HE GRIEVED AND grieved and grieved over that play," said Helen Lewis, who married Tommy Lewis less than two years before that Cotton Bowl. "He was a captain, you know? But people always wanted to talk about that one play." Over their long life together, they would be out to dinner and someone would say: "Oh, you're that Tommy Lewis."
Later, when that person had walked on, she would tell her husband:
"Tommy, I am so sorry."