It has been way too long since the talk about college football has been about the game on the field. So here, at long last, is Tony's Top 10 for the first weekend of the 2010 season.
1. Who is going to show up for the Tar Heels? This was going to be the breakout year for Butch Davis at North Carolina. It still could be. But the investigation into possible academic improprieties in the Tar Heels program is, at the very least, unsettling as UNC prepares to take on LSU at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. I thought the Tar Heels had a real shot in a game that LSU's Les Miles really needs to win for his quality of life. But it is hard to see UNC being focused on the task at hand. Marvin Austin, their great defensive tackle, has already been suspended. And Austin will have some company this weekend.
|It will take some getting used to not seeing Bobby Bowden roaming a sideline. (AP)|
3. Joker vs. Charlie: Neither Joker Phillips nor Charlie Strong are all that concerned about history. They just want to win. But it is worth noting that when Kentucky travels to Louisville on Saturday, it will be the first time that two African-American head coaches have squared off in a season opener in the history of Division I-A football. Phillips takes over for Rich Brooks at Kentucky and Strong, the long-time Florida defensive coordinator, finally gets his shot at Louisville. It will be the first game for both men as a head coach.
4. Just call him "Precious": His mother does. Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley learned from the best in the business. His father, Vince, is in the College Football Hall of Fame. Dooley's former boss, Nick Saban, is going to be in the Hall of Fame. He played at Virginia for George Welsh, who is in the Hall of Fame. And his high school coach, Billy Henderson of Clarke-Central of Athens, Ga., is one of the best in the state's history. But his mother, Barbara, still calls him "Precious." The former attorney, who must clean up the mess Lane Kiffin left behind at Tennessee, coaches his first game for the Volunteers against UT-Martin. It looks like a tough season for Dooley. There are a lot of holes in that lineup.
5. Rich Rod just has to beat UConn: Rich Rodriguez is 8-16 and could really use a break of some kind. Connecticut returns 16 starters from a team that finished the 2009 season on a four-game winning streak, including a win over South Carolina in the PapaJohns.com Bowl. Denard Robinson will be the quarterback and he needs to do something special. I'm telling you, if Michigan loses to UConn, Rich Rod is done.
6. John Brantley: Yeah, no pressure on the guy. A regular quarterback would be pretty intimidated with the prospect of replacing Tim Tebow. All Tebow did was win a Heisman Trophy and a couple of national championships and become a living, breathing icon in his four years at Florida. But Brantley was born to be a Florida quarterback. His daddy was a Gator QB. His mom was a Gator and his uncle, Scott, was a helluva linebacker for the Gators. This is what John Brantley was always supposed to do and he'll show it, starting on Saturday against Miami (Ohio).
7. Dayne Crist for Heisman? This much we know: Brian Kelly can flat coach quarterbacks and because of it Notre Dame will be relevant again sooner rather than later. Kelly has brought a new sense of discipline to Notre Dame's players. The locker room stays clean. They practice outside in the cold. This guy gets it and as soon as he starts getting some athletes to play defense, Notre Dame will be a factor again. I am very eager to see how it goes against Purdue on Saturday.
8. Fly in the Ointment, Part I: I know a lot of people are pulling for No. 3 Boise State in Monday's game with Virginia Tech at FedEx Field in Landover, Md. Those people would like to see the little guy get a shot at the BCS National Championship Game. But there are also a lot of people pulling against Boise State, hoping that the Broncos can be eliminated early as a national title contender. Every athletic director and commissioner of a Big Six conference would like to see the Boise Love Train come to a screeching halt right out of the gate.
9. Fly in the Ointment, Part II: While everybody is talking about Boise State as the primary BCS Buster, do not go to sleep on TCU. Despite losing the great Jerry Hughes and an NFL linebacker in Daryl Washington, this could be Gary Patterson's best team in Fort Worth. But the Horned Frogs are playing my Pac-10 dark horse, the Oregon State Beavers, in Jerry Jones' playpen in Arlington, Texas. This is going to be a very good game.
10. Tubs starts over with the Red Raiders: After 14 years as a head coach in the SEC (four at Ole Miss, 10 at Auburn), Tommy Tuberville has the task of replacing Mike Leach's wide open offense at Texas Tech. Tuberville's formula for winning has not changed: Run the ball, play defense, be good on special teams and make plays in the fourth quarter to win. Tuberville won a lot of games, including a run of six straight over Alabama, with old school football. But his first game is against a coach who is not old school in SMU's June Jones. It will be interesting to see the mood, and the size, of the crowd in Lubbock on Sunday night.
Watch The Tony Barnhart Show every Tuesday at 9 p.m. on The CBS College Sports Network .