At some level, it sounds kind of strange to hear it asked whether Michigan, which only has more college football victories (888) than any other program in history, is strong enough to keep up with mighty Alabama. The fact is, however, the eighth-ranked Wolverines may be feeling the pressure on Saturday night, given this is the biggest game of the nonconference schedule in the Big Ten. It will be an even tougher test for Michigan since Fitz Toussaint, its top running back, remains under suspension.
Rich Rod's third try
He enjoyed success at West Virginia and bombed at Michigan, and now Rich Rodriguez is ready to take the field as the head coach at Arizona. Rodriguez spent last season working in television and said that gave him a better outlook on coaching and made him itchy to return.
"I think it fueled some hunger," he said in an AP interview. "I was going to be hungry anyway, but I'm starving right now."
The Wildcats, who open Saturday night at home against Toledo, have some decent skill people on offense but lack depth on the defensive side.
Likes 'em angry
The last time we saw Urban Meyer coach a football game, he was shaking hands with Joe Paterno after Florida defeated Penn State in the 2011 Outback Bowl. Now Meyer, the winner of two national titles with the Gators, is back in his home state coaching No. 18 Ohio State, and he's trying to use the Buckeyes' dismal 2011 season - 6-7 record, NCAA penalties and suspensions - as fuel for this year.
"I'll utilize any form of motivation I can to get guys angry because I love coaching angry teams," Meyer told reporters. "There's nothing like a group of kids that really want to prove someone wrong or prove something to someone."
After Hurricane Isaac
For a while, it was touch-and-go for Rutgers, wondering if the team would be able to travel to New Orleans for its opener against Tulane while Hurricane Isaac was blowing through. But the game is on for Saturday night after officials at Louis Armstrong International Airport, which lost power during the storm and was closed Thursday, said they would be ready for Rutgers' chartered flight to arrive Friday. The Superdome, site of the game, got through the storm without any damage or leaks.
The game marks the debut of new Scarlet Knights head coach Kyle Flood.
Oregon coach Chip Kelly spent time during the summer running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. He has done something almost as daring by choosing freshman Marcus Mariota as his starting quarterback for the Ducks' first game against Arkansas State.
Kelly, who listened to a pitch from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before deciding to stay at Oregon, is trying to lead the No. 5 Ducks to their fourth straight Pac-12 title. Even though Oregon lost LaMichael James, the nation's leading rusher last season, it has one of the nation's most exciting players in De'Anthony Thomas, who scored 18 touchdowns in 2011.
The opening game for third-ranked Louisiana State won't be affected by Hurricane Isaac but other disruptions have been plaguing coach Les Miles for the last few weeks. He dismissed Heisman Trophy candidate Tyrann Mathieu from the team and may be without linebacker Tahj Jones (academic issues) for Saturday night's game against North Texas. But the debut of 6-foot-5 quarterback Zack Mettenberger restores an LSU passing game that has been relatively dormant the last few years.
The new rules
You might have seen it Thursday or Friday - the fact that the college football kickoff is now made from the 35-yard line, and a touchback puts the ball on the 25 instead of the 20. It's all in the name of player safety, as officials have learned that more injuries occur on kickoffs than any other aspect of the game.
In addition, players about to run down the field to cover a kickoff may not get a 10- or 15-yard running start - they must line up and start within 5 yards of the 35. One more rule change is that on an onside kick, a potential receiver may not be hit before having a chance to make the catch.
Games of the Week
Michigan vs. Alabama, 8 p.m. (Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas), 6ABC: A rebuilt Alabama defense gets to cope with dynamic Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson right out of the chute. But the Crimson Tide can control the ball with their running game led by Eddie Lacy, escorted by a massive offensive line.
Ohio at Penn State, noon, ESPN, WNTP-AM (990), WNPV-AM (1440): After an endless offseason of mostly bad news, the Nittany Lions will be fired up - perhaps too much so - to get back to football against the experienced Bobcats.
Notre Dame vs. Navy, 9 a.m. (Dublin, Ireland), CBS3: The Fighting Irish are without suspended running back Cierre Wood and will take the field with first-time starter Everett Golson at quarterback.
Miami (Ohio) at Ohio State, noon, Big Ten Network: Urban Meyer returns to the sideline with his home-state Buckeyes, who have a defense with the potential to dominate up front.
Bowling Green at Florida, 3:30 p.m., ESPN: The Gators will come out with two quarterbacks – Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel – alternating series against a Falcons team coached by former Villanova assistant Dave Clawson.
Clemson vs. Auburn, 7 p.m. (Atlanta), ESPN: Clemson's chances to secure bragging rights for the ACC over the SEC have been reduced because star wide receiver Sammy Watkins is sitting out a suspension.
Hawaii at Southern California, 7:30 p.m., Fox29: The Trojans unveil Penn State transfer Silas Redd in a potent offense that they hope will have them challenging for a national championship.
- Joe Juliano
Contact Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @joejulesinq on Twitter.