Why do we love college football so? Perhaps it’s because in so many walks of life, the unknown gives rise to fear, concern and trouble. Trap the stakes inside 57,600 square feet of turf and straight white lines, though, and a foggy future breeds hope and excitement and the tailwinds of unbridled possibility.
It leads to bated breath for coaching debuts in Austin and Norman and, yes, Boca Raton, too. It raises our heart rates as high as expectations for golden-boy quarterbacks in Southern California. College football’s perpetual, annual newness means that even a game between No. 1 Alabama and No. 3 Florida State (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, ABC and ESPN App) — two of the sport’s past four champions, traditional powers with established leaders — comes with a unique dose of “Who knows?” built into its fabric.
This weekend’s greatest example of mystery theater will be played out on one of the sport’s most lavish stages. No. 11 Michigan meets No. 17 Florida at Jerry Jones’ AT&T Stadium on Saturday afternoon (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC and ESPN App) in a clash of three of football’s most recognizable brands. The Gators and Wolverines should be too big to fly under any radar, and yet what do we really know about what to expect from one of Week 1’s three matchups of ranked teams?
Jim Harbaugh and Jim McElwain would’ve left even Millard Fillmore asking for more information (“We know nothing!”) in the lead-up to their second head-to-head battle in the past three years. Harbaugh and the Wolverines doubled down on last year’s decision to not produce a depth chart by keeping the entire roster — flush with new faces — under wraps until three days before kickoff. McElwain has spent the past two weeks just trying to keep his roster together amid the suspensions of 10 Gators.
McElwain blinked first on Wednesday in their game of clandestine chicken by naming Feleipe Franks his starter at quarterback. Franks most likely won’t be the only quarterback on that sideline who gets a shot to prove himself against Michigan’s unproven defense, which is as young as it is promising.
“We’ve got a number of guys that’ll be in the soup literally for their first go-round,” Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown said. “… Big challenge for us. I’m excited for us just to play a game. I mean, just: Play. A. Game!”
So are we, Coach. So are we. The sun is setting on uncertainty. The question marks are stretching and straining to straighten themselves into exclamation points. College football has arrived again. It’s time to embrace the unknown in every game and every moment.