|Can ballyhooed transfer Russell Wilson cut down on his turnovers at Wisconsin? (US Presswire)|
Toe (finally) meets leather on Thursday and here are 10 things that we STILL don't know:
1. Are the Aggies about to embark on their farewell tour? It sure seems that way. Media reports from the state say that Texas A&Mcould announce that it is leaving the Big 12 before the end of the week. The SEC is expected to extend an invite at some point, but it appears nothing is set in stone. So here is my question: If SEC membership is Plan A, do the Aggies have a Plan B?
2. Is Isaiah Crowell the real deal? A lot of Georgia's hopes for a bounce back (from 6-7) in 2011 rest on the young shoulders of Crowell, a true freshman running back from Columbus, Ga. Remember that even the great Herschel Walker didn't start his first game as a true freshman in 1980 against Tennessee (but he did start every game after that).
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Georgia coach Mark Richt worked hard to get this guy, to the point of saying on national signing day that he wouldn't be surprised if Crowell "got the rock" in the opener against Boise State on Sept. 3 in Atlanta. Crowell was highly recommended by the recruiting services. They say he is good. But is he Marcus Lattimore (South Carolina) good? Is he Michael Dyer (Auburn) good? If he is, Georgia has a shot this season to win the SEC East.
3. Will Miami quarterback Jacory Harris play against Maryland and, if so, how many interceptions will he throw? Harris, one of eight Miami players who have been ruled ineligible in the wake of the booster scandal, says he expects to play against Maryland in College Park on Sept. 5. There are many Miami fans who believe, given Harris' 39 interceptions in three seasons, the offense is better entrusted to Stephen Morris.
4. Is Jarrett Lee ready to return to prime time? Speaking of interceptions, no quarterback has had a worse season than Lee did for LSU in 2008. He was thrown into action before he was ready and gave up 16 interceptions. Seven -- that's right seven -- were returned for touchdowns. But he didn't quit and he didn't transfer. He just kept working and kept playing. Now Lee finds himself as the starting quarterback on Saturday night against Oregon in Arlington, Tex. Coaches love guys like Lee.
5. Can Casey Pachall continue in the footsteps of Andy Dalton? With the possible exception of Barrett Trotter (who has to replace Auburn's Cam Newton), nobody has a bigger set of shoes to fill than Pachall, a 6-foot-4 sophomore from Brownwood, Texas. Dalton was the most successful quarterback in TCU history (36-3) and closed out his remarkable career with a win in the Rose Bowl. Gary Patterson will tell you that his program is far enough along that the next guy is ready to step up. The Horned Frogs open on Friday night at Baylor.
6. Is Jadeveon Clowney really that good? Ellis Johnson, the defensive coordinator at South Carolina, does not gush about players. He calls Clowney, the freshman DE from Rock Hill, S.C., "the most physically gifted player I've ever recruited." By the way, he joins a South Carolina defense that led the SEC in quarterback sacks last season.
7. Who is this year's Auburn? Until Arkansas lost running back Knile Davis, I thought it had a good chance to be the Hogs of Bobby Petrino. Now I have a new favorite dark horse: the Virginia Tech Hokies. Yes, they have a new quarterback in Logan Thomas and a new running back in David Wilson. Both are very gifted. Look at the schedule.
8. Will the Russell Wilson experiment work at Wisconsin? It looks like a no-brainer. You add a big, athletic quarterback who can make plays to a team that already has a great running game. But this word of caution: Wisconsin was plus-14 in turnover margin in 2010 and committed only nine turnovers the entire season (the fewest of any team in FBS). Wilson threw 25 interceptions his last two seasons at N.C. State.
9. How badly will Stanford miss Jim Harbaugh? I know The Cardinal has Andrew Luck, the best quarterback in college football. But why do I keep getting the sense that Stanford lost more than a head coach when Harbaugh went to the 49ers? I talked to several people who played against Stanford last season and they kept coming back to the same thing: Stanford was surprisingly TOUGH. Does that toughness remain under new coach David Shaw?
10. Who's going to play quarterback for Alabama? Nick Saban has been keeping an air-tight lid on the competition between redshirt sophomore AJ McCarron and redshirt freshman Phillip Sims. Saban hasn't released statistics from the Alabama scrimmages and has said, in a state where every nugget of information and speculation is pure gold, "this is not going to be a public debate."
OK, coach, no debate.
But here are a couple of facts: McCarron played in all 13 games as a redshirt freshman last season and completed 62.5 percent of his 48 passes. Sims redshirted last season. So expect McCarron to start against Kent State and, more importantly, to be the guy who trots out there first at Penn State on Sept. 10.
Another fact: With this team it doesn't matter who plays quarterback. His job will be to hand the ball to Trent Richardson and complete an occasional third down pass to move the chains. This Alabama team will be built on defense and running behind a veteran offensive line.
The Tony Barnhart Show returns Sept. 7 at 9 p.m. on The CBS Sports Network.