You have washed your foam finger.
You have found your old pom-poms. Your jersey is clean. Your hat is still good.
Yep, you are ready for the college football season.
But how, exactly, are you supposed to pull for your team in a weekend without drama. Victory is assured. Forty points seems inevitable. This isn’t like, say, Tennessee. Or Clemson. This is laugher weekend. A chance to sing the old alma mater, cheer for a touchdown or six and envision this week’s long passes as being repeatable against a real opponent.
If you are a Florida fan, for instance, this is the first real statement that new coach Jim McElwain has said. Oh, you want to like McElwain if for no other reason than he’s not Will Muschamp, last year’s head coach who had a lot of people weary.
Will McElwain really bring the offense back to Gainesville? We’ll get a glimpse this week. Fans will want to see the quarterbacks, Will Grier and Treon Harris, perform. They’ll want to see big plays from either of them. They’ll want to see efficiency. They’ll want to see long drives.
Gator fans will want to see playmakers in the form of Demarcus Robinson, Brandon Powell and tight end Jake McGee. They want to see a strong offensive line, perhaps the weakest unit on the Gators with the injury to freshman Martez Ivey. They want to see a solid running game – because Florida fans want it all – in Kelvin Taylor.
And, yeah, they want to see some defense. Not primarily, but the Gators are going to expect their defense to be a difference maker in close games this year with Vernon Hargreaves, Jon Bullard and Antonio Morrison.
In all, the Gators need to see enough to make them believe this is a team capable of surprising people this year and going from the 5-6 wins projected to 7 or 8.
FSU wants to see that the excellence has not passed. The last two years, the Seminoles won one national title and made another playoff. This team isn’t supposed to be that good, but it is higher ranked than anyone on its schedule. FSU needs to show that it will be good once again.
Start with newly named quarterback Everett Golson. FSU fans would like to see enough explosion and efficiency from him to convince them that coach Jimbo Fisher made the right move.
They’re going to want to see enough flashes from running back Dalvin Cook to show that missing most of training camp will not have any lessening of his abilities. They’re going to want to see that a rebuilt offensive line is solid. They want to see that Fisher was just being a coach, and not a realist, when he criticized the receivers earlier in camp.
Defensively? The Seminoles need to be smothering against North Texas, because in games against Clemson and Georgia Tech, it gets harder. Josh Sweat makes his debut at defensive end, and fans hope he can finally provide some of the missing pass rush.
Also getting a lot of scrutiny will be cornerback Jalen Ramsey and linebackers Terrance Smith and Reggie Northrup.
In Miami, where they play Bethune-Cookman, most eyes will be on quarterback Brad Kaaya, who is expected to make the Hurricanes a surprise in the ACC. Kaaya threw for 3,198 yards and 26 touchdowns last year. Fans want to see him get off to a sizzling start.
Running back will raise an eyebrow, especially after this week’s announcement that Gus Edwards will miss the season. That puts the ball in Joe Yearby’s hands.
A lot of attention will be paid to head coach Al Golden, whose seat is heating up after the past few seasons when the Hurricanes haven’t been the impact program they used to be.
And at USF? Against Florida A&M, fans are likely to judge the impact of the new offense and new defense of coach Willie Taggart’s program most of all.
After that, they’ll want to see if Quinton Flowers can be the quarterback the program has needed, and particularly, if he can throw it well to become that.
They’ll want to see some size, and they’ll want to see some speed. This might not be the make-or-break season that has been talked about – Taggart might get a fourth year so he has at least a full recruiting season – but fans are dying to see some progress to get back to the days when USF won a lot of big games against a lot of big opponents.
Running back Marlon Mack, as always, will be worth watching. But USF has to show that it is beyond getting whacked by programs such as McNeese State.