There's no better way to kick off the season than with two in-state powers going head-to-head. Miami and Florida State meet for the 31st time on Monday (ESPN Full Circle, 8 p.m. ET). Last year, both teams had questions at quarterback and relied on their defenses to keep them in ball games. Quarterbacks Kyle Wright (Miami) and Drew Weatherford (Florida State) proved themselves in their first seasons at the helm. Expect to see the coaches take the gloves off in this go-around.
Miami is coming off an offseason full of off-field issues. The Canes have six new coaches and a handful of suspended players, but the fact that they are playing in front of a national audience against a conference rival could be a rallying point for the team. The coaches will reinforce that they're happy with the team and the changes they've made.
Even though Wright will miss his best receiver (suspended senior Ryan Moore), Miami has the best returning defense in the country. If the Canes can get some juice from the offense -- look for new offensive coordinator Rich Olson to get his talented group of tight ends involved -- they'll be tough to match up with.
In 2005, Florida State had so many injuries to its offensive line that it lacked the necessary cohesiveness. Weatherford had a great year throwing the ball but should be even better this year with an improved running game. The Seminoles need to move the ball on the ground to take pressure off the passing game. Look for Florida State to get back to the offensive balance it was known for in its heyday.
Saturday night's Cal-Tennessee matchup (ESPN, 5:30 p.m. ET) might be the most interesting game this weekend. After a rocky 2005, which included coach Phil Fulmer's first losing season at Rocky Top, Tennessee enters the season with a very talented squad. The Volunteers could get a much-needed confidence boost with a win against the Golden Bears.
A loss, however, would test Tennessee's collective psyche. Like most SEC schools, Tennessee's rabid fan base gives it a huge home-field advantage. After an offseason of criticism and calls for Fulmer's job, a loss might overwhelm Volunteer Nation. If the crowd turns against them, it could be tough for Tennessee to bounce back.
UT opens the season against an outstanding team. But Cal, which boasts Heisman Trophy candidate Marshawn Lynch, is also under pressure. The Bears spent most of last season on the West Coast and don't have experience playing in the raucous SEC.
This game will answer important questions for both teams. Will Tennessee deal with adversity? Can Cal handle the atmosphere? The team that does will start the season with a huge advantage.
Texas coach Mack Brown announced Tuesday that the Longhorns' starting quarterback job would go to redshirt freshman Colt McCoy. I applaud Coach Brown's decision. Even if McCoy and freshman Jevon Snead were even in the preseason workouts, McCoy brings something important to the equation: experience. McCoy spent all of last season attending meetings, competing in practice and watching Vince Young lead the team to a national championship.