The biggest week one college football storylines

It’s Wednesday and that means it’s time to kick-off our college football roundtables. TSS Associate Editors Bart Doan and Terry Johnson join staff writer Kevin Causey and special rotating guests in our weekly roundtable discussing all things college football.

Earlier this week we discussed the college football media. Now it’s time to focus on the games. Joining us again this week is TSS writer and the man behind The Next Wave Football, Ryan Palencer….

Question: What is the biggest story you will be following in week one of the college football season?

Ryan Palencer:
On Twitter @RyanPalencer

The biggest story that I’ll be watching is the collection of big matchups in the Big Ten.

Minnesota and Michigan open the season for the conference on Thursday night, before Wisconsin and Nebraska join the party with big games on Saturday. Then, Ohio State caps opening weekend with a compelling game against Virginia Tech, which was the only team to knock off the Buckeyes last season. The most intriguing matchup is Michigan against Utah. Nobody really expects Minnesota or Wisconsin to win against top-five-ranked teams in the nation, but Jim Harbaugh brings some interest to the Wolverines’ season.

While Ohio State will be heavy favorites and Nebraska starts the Mike Riley era with BYU, the opening weekend could set the tone for the conference. Last season, the Big Ten was viewed as a bit overrated before Urban Meyer’s bunch took the title. This season the conference could kick that label early on.

Bart Doan:
On Twitter @TheCoachBart

There are a lot of intriguing stories … Chris Petersen returns to Boise, power programs Texas and Notre Dame meet for the first time since 1996, the return of Jim Harbaugh to Maize and Blue … but for my money, it’s Alabama versus Wisconsin. The Tide, for all the preseason predictions of their continued success and national contention, have real questions at quarterback (like … who will it be?) and how they make up for Amari Cooper.

Wisconsin is a massive unknown as well, again, in spite of its recent consistency and success. This is true even through rocky off-field periods in terms of coaching changes. Will the beat roll on as usual with Paul Chryst on the sidelines? Who will replace Melvin Gordon, who, like Cooper, was an unmatched national talent at his position last season?.

Both teams reasonably sit in the recesses of their apartments and dorm rooms and talk about playing for and winning a college football championship — without the use of Natty Light — to help spur those thoughts on. It’s a real possibility. These are two programs with similar identities of slamming it down your throat at will, with physical football. This year — more than any recent one — both harbor major questions that need to be answered in order to gauge whether that success will just rattle on unfettered.

Kevin Causey:
On Twitter @CFBZ

I am most interested in the progression that Charlie Strong is making at Texas. The Longhorns have a tough matchup as they travel to Indiana to face Notre Dame. Charlie Strong is coming off a 6-7 season in which his team lost its last two games by a combined 62 points.

Will Strong have his team ready to play? Does he have the right players for his system? Are the players buying in? Will they finally get it?

This is only Strong’s second year at Texas. Growing pains are expected. We also live in a “win now” society. Can Texas show it belongs against a Notre Dame team that I expect is a bit over-rated, or will the Horns get blown off the field as they were several times last season?

The progression of Charlie Strong and the Texas Longhorns will be the storyline I will eagerly watch in week one.

Terry Johnson:
On Twitter @SectionTPJ 

There are a couple of story lines I am watching for in week one.

The first story is actually a question: “Exactly how good is Michigan?” Yes, I picked the Wolverines to be the most improved team in the Big Ten this fall, but I still don’t know whether they’re ready to compete for the conference championship. The season opener against Utah will certainly answer that question. How well Michigan performs against a stellar pass rush that led the nation in sacks will determine whether the team has enough firepower on offense to compete for the B1G title.

The other thing that I’ll be watching closely is the Texas A&M defense. While I don’t expect John Chavis to turn things around immediately, I am curious to see how much better the Aggie D will be under his leadership. Playing against an explosive offense that returns seven starters from a unit that finished 16th nationally in scoring offense will show exactly where the A&M defense is right now, and how much work – if any – needs to be done before SEC play begins.