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Topsy hooked up with turvy for the entire 2007 college football season, and those crazy kids first met a year ago this weekend at the Big House.Appalachian State took its spread and its quickness and humiliated Michigan. Little did anyone realize that the Mountaineers' 34-32 victory at Michigan Stadium foreshadowed a season full of upsets. Thirteen top-five teams lost to unranked teams. Kansas finished 12-1 and No. 7 in the nation. Stanford beat USC. Pittsburgh beat West Virginia.
AP Photo/Duane Burleson
Appalachian State kicked off the chaos in '07.
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Knowshon Moreno is one of Georgia's 17 returning starters.
Not only is the top five filled with traditional powers, but those schools all field teams with a wealth of experience.No. 1 Georgia has 17 returning starters, give or take an early-season suspension. No. 2 Ohio State has 21 returning starters. No. 3 USC has eight returning starters on defense. No. 4 Oklahoma has the most experienced offensive line in the nation protecting sophomore Sam Bradford, the most efficient passer in the nation. No. 5 Florida has 17 returning starters. It's as if college football took a page from Major League Baseball before free agency, when you knew who played for which team. Al Kaline played right field for the Tigers. Willie Mays played center field for the Giants. And Rudy Carpenter played quarterback for the Sun Devils. Oh, check that. Carpenter plays for No. 15 Arizona State now, and this is only his fourth season as starter. It just seems as if he's been around since the '60s. There will be upsets this season, as surely as the tailgaters will return to Tiger Stadium. There will be surprising players and stunned coaches. But surprise connotes the unusual. The upsets will be noteworthy because they will stand out. Order may be boring. Order never entertains as well as chaos. But order will come as a comfort nonetheless.
Fans who yearn for more nonconference games among the powers that be in college football should take a good, long look at the Clemson-Alabama game Saturday night (ABC, 8 ET) at the Georgia Dome. The Chick-fil-A College Kickoff, as it is called, is the future of the sport.
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Cullen Harper and Clemson will face Alabama in Atlanta on Aug. 30.
What does an eight-time gold-medal-winning swimmer have to do with the opening of college football season? Hmmm, let's see.
Jerry Lai/US PRESSWIRE
What would Michael Phelps look like wearing a winged helmet instead of a gold medal?
Phelps is 6-foot-4 and nearly 200 pounds of hulk. His wingspan stretches from hash mark to hash mark, and his body fat is lower than Minnesota's winning percentage. There's a guy that any football coach would love to have.Since Phelps trains in Ann Arbor, surely Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez has dropped a hint. He is starting five freshmen in the Wolverines' debut of his no-huddle spread Saturday against Utah. One more novice -- one who would challenge Tiger Woods on the competitive spectrum -- couldn't hurt. "Oh, I would put him at wide receiver," Rodriguez said. "With those long arms, he'd be perfect." Linebacker? Safety? "He became a hero for my linemen when they heard he eats 8,000 to 10,000 calories a day," Rodriguez said. "I asked them, 'Do you understand how much he works out if he puts away 10,000 calories a day?'" Rodriguez watched Phelps swim the way that Ann Arbor -- and the rest of America -- did. "They say he didn't want to lose a race, even in practice," Rodriguez said. "What I saw," Rodriguez said, "was everybody else was breathing hard. He just won the race and he looked like, 'I'm ready to go again.' His conditioning was amazing." Phelps held a press conference in Schembechler Hall earlier this year. Rodriguez, in a meeting, didn't get to meet him. But Michigan plans to honor its Olympians at the Sept. 27 game against Wisconsin, and Rodriguez said Phelps is expected to attend. You know, Phelps has some eligibility left. "I think he's going to have some other things in his plans," Rodriguez said. "He's got some more golds to win."
Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send your questions and comments to Ivan at email@example.com.
1. Today is the centennial of the birth of Frank Leahy, who has the second-highest winning percentage (.864) in major-college football. Leahy, who coached at Boston College for two seasons and Notre Dame for 11 -- winning four national championships with the Irish -- trails only his own college coach, Knute Rockne (.881). Then again, Leahy will be forever in the shadow of the Rock. Two years ago, Notre Dame produced a T-shirt with the pictures of Rockne, Parseghian, Holtz and Weis. Leahy? Hello?
2. As I said over to your left, it's never smart to apply last year's events to this year's season. And I've read all about Florida's offensive talent. But with Percy Harvin running on one heel, all I can think about is the physical price that Georgia made Tim Tebow pay last season because the Gators had few other weapons. I'll feel a lot better about the Gators a lot more when I see backs Kestahn Moore and Emmanuel Moody give Tebow some relief.
3. Alabama has two freshmen in the starting lineup against Clemson. Colorado has eight freshmen on its two-deep roster. But most freshmen arrive with a five-star swagger only to be relegated to the ego-deflating reality of the scout team. Clemson coach Tommy Bowden told me he reminded his staff, on the day the scout-team lineup was posted last week, that there would be some counseling to do.
One of the best hidden statistics I have found for determining the success of a college football team is the number of cumulative starts among its offensive linemen. The magic number for success is somewhere around 75.
Let us stipulate that it's not kind to laugh at the misfortune of others. And let us admit that there's something about jock itch that awakens the 12-year-old giggles in all of us who aren't suffering from it.
Beano Cook joins Ivan in the ESPNU College Football Podcast to talk about the season openers, make some picks and more. Listen
Every coach is looking for the new Vince Young, the next Tim Tebow, the young Pat White. Listen to this coach:
"If we just spread people out and let the quarterback drop back and throw like the pros, you could play a consistent defense. But now you've got teams with two split receivers, with runners, and with quarterbacks who can run the option as well as throw. This simply generates more offense than any defense can handle."Frank Broyles of Arkansas said that to Dan Jenkins of Sports Illustrated in 1968.
If you miss Woody and Bo or if you aren't old enough to miss Woody and Bo and want to know what the fuss was about, keep an eye out for "War As They Knew It: Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler and America in a Time of Unrest" by Michael Rosenberg (Grand Central, $26.99), which comes out next month.
The Detroit Free Press columnist placed the Ten-Year War between Woody and Bo against the backdrop of the Vietnam War protests on their campuses. It's a compelling idea. But as Rosenberg's reporting illustrates, the two coaches carried such strong personalities that the activists pale in comparison. By 1975, the counterculture had become an afterthought, but the Ten-Year War had escalated. Read this book to marvel at Hayes and Schembechler.
That story, told as well as Rosenberg tells it, will never get old.