NCAA football season set to kick off

Expectations are high for USC quarterback Matt Barkley as the NCAA football season gets underway....

Expectations are high for USC quarterback Matt Barkley as the NCAA football season gets underway. (DANNY MOLOSHOK/Reuters file photo)

TODD SAELHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:35 AM ET

So long, RGIII, Andrew Luck and a sickening story that ended with Penn State and Joe Paterno falling from grace.

Hello, Matt Barkley, the swan-song of non-playoff football and a Texas A&M two-step that makes zero sense.

For my money, only one of those three 'hellos' is a welcome one, and it's the one wearing No. 7 for the No. 1-ranked USC Trojans.

Finally, we get to see one of the best players in college football in quarterback Matt Barkley play in meaningful games since the program is coming off a two-year probation for Pete Carroll-led recruiting violations.

Who do you like this year? At No. 1, USC's a no-brainer with the Heisman Trophy frontrunner Barkley. In their final year of a two-season probation, the Trojans put up 10 wins.

Also watch for upswings in Texas -- which lacked consistency with a young offence last season -- in Sweet Georgia -- which should live up to expectations placed on it last year -- and in Michigan -- which only gets better with QB Denard Robinson one year wiser and a true Heisman threat.

Oh, and don't forget to forget these programs -- Penn State, Meyer and Ohio State, North Carolina and possibly UCF (pending appeal). Due to a wide array of infractions, their wins won't count this year as none are bowl-eligible. Too bad, I was looking forward to seeing QB Braxton Miller lead Ohio State to a strong season.

Whatever happens on the field this fall, let's learn from what happened off the field last year. What happened at Penn State affects everyone.

FIRST DOWN

Let me get this straight -- Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden is sliding into the starting pivot spot with the NFL's Cleveland Browns over former Texas star Colt McCoy? 'Scapegoat' is the term that comes to mind for a team that gave McCoy no weapons to work with last season. If Weeden works out, it'll be because he's got support. He's got Alabama running back Trent Richardson and second-year receiver Greg Little "¶ The knock on NCAA QBs is they never translate college success to the big leagues. Tell that to Weeden, Stanford's Luck (Indianapolis Colts), Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill (Miami Dolphins), Baylor's Robert Griffin III (Washington Redskins) and Wisconsin's Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks) -- all named NFL starters already. It's a bumper crop, boys "¶ OK, so here goes. The Aggies and Missouri are now in the SEC -- that's the Southeast Conference, geographically far removed from College Station, Texas, and Columbia, Mo. Then, there's West Virginia in the Big 12 with schools in Texas and the Midwest. Huh? Do you need a map to figure out who's who in the zoo?

FOURTH AND GOAL

Honey Badger, what did you do? Didn't Mama Badger ever tell you, 'Say no to drugs?' "¶ More problems for LSU and head coach Les Miles after dismissing Heisman finalist Tyrann 'Honey Badger' Mathieu for repeated substance abuse. Top rusher Michael Ford and promising linebacker Tahj Jones are in academic hot water and could be suspended "¶ On that note, anybody want to put LSU back on that pedestal they were on last season? I'll take that bet, just as I did last year, insisting Alabama was the better team. Pundits love Florida State. I like Nick Saban and Alabama, again, along with QB Aaron Murray and Georgia "¶ How 'bout picking the championship combatants? My early prognostication is USC to beat Alabama. Ya, it's no big leap of faith, but 'Bama is still the squad to beat, and the Trojans' stats back my decision, including that USC is 22-11-1 all-time vs. SEC teams "¶ If you're keeping score, my bowl predictions went something like this against the spread: 18-of-35, including 13-of-20 on best bets.

todd.saelhof@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNToddSaelhof


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