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The 2015 college football season kicks off Thursday night, and as we brace ourselves for the plunge, a season primer is in order. First, the story drawing the most coverage going into Week One:
Ohio State's starting quarterback and Heisman aspirant (the Report has vowed to avoid the phrase "Heisman hopeful" this year) Braxton Miller suffered a season-ending shoulder injury on August 18. The Buckeyes (#5) looked like a national championship contender at 11-1 in futures odds, trailing defending champ Florida State, Alabama and Oregon. Miller underwent (successful) surgery this week, leaving the team in the questionably able hands of his backup. Thus, the storylines for Ohio State's season, will be - in chronological order - as follows:
- Woe to the Buckeyes, Braxton Miller is out! (Pretty much played out.)
- Who is this J.T. Barrett guy? Oh, he's the new starting quarterback, a redshirt freshman. (Ongoing.)
- We are all behind J.T. (Ongoing.)
- That said, J.T. Barrett is not the next Johnny Manziel. (Ongoing.)
- Can J.T. Barrett be the next Johnny Manziel? (Begins Saturday afternoon, following OSU's victory over Navy.)
- J.T. Barrett, unlikely hero. (Week Four, following wins against Virginia Tech and Kent State.)
- J.T. "The Distributor" Barrett manages conservative OSU offense. (Week Five, after the Ohio State defense bails out J.T. in an error-riddled W over Cincinnati.)
- Ohio State, back on track! (Week Six, an easy victory at Maryland.)
- J.T. Barrett: serviceable. (Returning to action at "The Shoe" after a bye week with a victory over . . . Rutgers.)
- . . . but Ohio State is still in the hunt for a Big 10 title! (After a humbling loss to Penn State in Happy Valley.)
- Not yet mathematically eliminated! (W, vs. Illinois.)
- Still, probably going to a New Year's Day bowl! (L, an ugly one, at Michigan State.)
- Maybe a good one! (Wins over Minnesota and lowly Indiana.)
- All things considered, beating Michigan was probably too much to expect. (Following a loss to the hated Wolverines on November 29 to end the regular season.)
- Can Braxton Miller play in the bowl game? (November 30.)
- Ohio State, Miller, will have to find a way to win. (Read: "no." December 1 - December 31.)
- Buckeyes end season with hard-fought loss in Outback Bowl. (January 1, 2015.)
- Will Braxton Miller go pro? (January 2 onward.)
There it is: the Buckeye's season in a nutshell. (Zing!*)
Storylines you won't be able to avoid and will likely absorb as through osmosis:
- Unavoidable: Braxton Miller, et al. (see above), championship will be decided by four-team playoff, Jameis Winston: will he, won't he?; Florida State, will they or won't they? (ditto)
- Championship committee: Who is this Condoleezza Rice woman and does she know anything about football?
- Worth tracking: Will Johnny Football eclipse Tim Tebow's record for MMALCPDNFLC? (Most-mentions-after-leaving-college-for-a-predictably-disappointing-NFL-career?)
- One to watch: Leonard Fournette.
- Pac-12: just like the SEC, only not as good but with more conference games.
- Bob Stoops: sick of the SEC. (Just like everyone else who won't play on the SEC Network . . . or in the championship game.)
Storylines that merit discussion but won't get much treatment, because they won't fit into pregame, halftime, or primetime:
- The Big 5 (formerly Big 6) power conferences (ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-12, the SEC, and to everyone's consternation, Notre Dame) are trying to secede from the NCAA.
- Should be assigned reading: more on stipends, the role of power conferences, the David-Goliath dynamic in the FBS, and the Ed O'Bannon case.
- A new helmet won't solve the NCAA's head injury problem, nor will a $70 million study to test current and former athletes for brain injuries.
- The words of coaching legend Bill Snyder: "The concept of college football no longer has any bearing on the quality of the person, the quality of students. Universities are selling themselves out."
Taking a look at the preseason rankings . . .
- Teams we like: Mississippi State ("Others receiving votes"), Florida (Others), Nevada (Others), Northwestern (Others), Michigan (Others), Iowa (Others), Houston (Others), Akron (unranked), South Florida (unranked).
- Ranked teams we aren't buying: Auburn (#6), UCLA (#7), Clemson (#16).
Now let's turn to our feathered friend, the first fowl of foresight, the cock of conjecture, the gallus gallus domesticus of divination, the College Football Report Sacred Free Range Chicken.
The Picks, Week One:
- Wake Forest at University of Louisiana-Monroe (-2), Thursday, 6 p.m.
- #2 Alabama (-26) at West Virginia, Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
- Louisiana Tech at #4 Oklahoma (-38), Saturday, 6 p.m.
- #13 LSU (-5) at #14 Wisconsin, Saturday, 8 p.m.
* In a nutshell, get it? See, the Buckeyes are named after a tree, and . . . forget it. We're still shaking off the rust, people! Work with us!
Mike Luce is our man on campus. He welcomes your comments.