SEPTEMBER IS FOR back-to-school sales, Mets fans waiting till next year and a new season of college football. This report will cover everything from the juiciest early season games to why Jake Locker rode a fire engine. Somebody tell Chris Pronger's newest best friend to get out of the way (he's in here, too) - the Daily News' annual national preview is rolling through:
1. Remember how pumped Buckeyes fans were 3 years ago when Terrelle Pryor chose Ohio State over Penn State, Michigan and Oregon? Oh, if they only knew. "When he first got here, I don't think too many people liked him really. He was kind of a punk," said senior linebacker/safety Tyler Moeller. "But now I have the utmost respect for him. He's a great player and a great leader, and I'd follow him into battle any day."
2. Miami plays at Ohio State in Week 2, the 'Canes' first visit to Columbus since a loss in 1977. Aside from avenging a controversial defeat to the Buckeyes in the 2002 Fiesta Bowl, Miami should find out whether quarterback Jacory Harris has fully recovered following offseason thumb surgery.
3. ESPN takes over for Fox in televising the BCS bowls for the next 4 years. The National Championship Game is Monday, Jan. 10, in Glendale, Ariz.
4. Expect plenty of hostility on Oct. 16 when Texas and Nebraska meet for what could be the final time as Big 12 rivals. (They could meet in the conference championship.) Remember last season when Texas was given an extra second to avoid Nebraska's monumental upset and kick the game-winning field goal?
5. Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs, who set the NCAA record for QBs with 27 rushing touchdowns last year, wants to run for president in 2040.
6. Former quarterback Andre Ware on one of the challenges Alabama running back Mark Ingram faces in trying to repeat as Heisman Trophy winner: "Everyone wants to say, 'I hit the Heisman winner,'" said Ware, the 1989 winner, now an ESPN analyst. "You become everyone's claim to fame, so to speak...everyone wants that shot to say that they beat the Heisman winner."
7. Ingram is the seventh Heisman winner to return since Archie Griffin won his second in 1975. Billy Sims, the 1978 winner, is the only other running back. Sims finished second to Southern Cal RB Charles White in 1979.
8. No Notre Dame coach has ever won a bowl game in his first season. The last three guys (Charlie Weis, Ty Willingham and Bob Davie) went to a bowl game, but none won it. The Irish started competing regularly in bowls in 1969.
9. Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker is back for his second season, even though the Colorado Rockies selected him in the first round and gave him a $1.4 million contract. The money doesn't kick in until he commits fully to baseball, something the redshirt sophomore is still trying to decide.
10. Parker was taken with the 26th pick, right before the Phillies took Germantown Friends pitcher Jesse Biddle.
11. In addition to replacing Tim Tebow and a half-dozen other stars, Florida has four new assistant coaches this year. The Gators, still ranked fourth in the preseason, play at No. 1 Alabama on Oct. 2.
12. Alabama figures to have the tougher time being undefeated by the time the Florida game rolls around. The Tide hosts Penn State on Sept. 11 and takes a dangerous trip to Arkansas 2 weeks later. Florida's most difficult game figures to be at rebuilding Tennessee on Sept. 18.
13. The Razorbacks open with a couple of softies when Tennessee Tech and Louisiana-Monroe come to Fayetteville, but don't expect Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett to chalk up the wins ahead of time. Mallett was a backup at Michigan when the Wolverines were stunned by Appalachian State in 2007. "I kind of learned my lesson from that as far as overlooking people," he said.
14. Don't expect Utah's politicians to give up their fight against the BCS monopoly now that the Utes will join the Pac-10 in 2011. Utah State remains in the WAC - at least until the merry-go-round starts again.
15. Oklahoma has the toughest replacement job since NBC decided on Conan O'Brien for Jay Leno (whoops). The Sooners, who had three of the first four players taken in the most recent NFL draft, still should be in decent shape. Quarterback Landry Jones stepped in when Sam Bradford got hurt and had 418 passing yards in the win over Stanford in the Sun Bowl.
16. Washington quarterback Jake Locker, a potential No. 1 NFL pick next year, rode on the back of a firetruck in his hometown of Ferndale, Wash., on July 24 during Jake Locker Day.
17. Boston College is sticking with quarterback Dave Shinskie, a 26-year-old sophomore who got as high as Double A in 7 years of minor league baseball. Inspirational linebacker Mark Herzlich (Conestoga High), who battled a rare type of cancer in 2009, now is dealing with a stress fracture in his right foot.
18. Michael Dyer is the most anticipated running back to hit Auburn's campus since Cadillac Williams in 2001. However, Mario Fannin, a Doak Walker candidate, is still the starter. Cam Newtown, a Florida transfer who backed up Tim Tebow, is the quarterback.
19. TCU's Tejay Johnson is one of the best safeties in the country and his major centers on working with the deaf. He is now able to sign with his deaf cousin, Laqueena, and is in good shape to get his degree in May.
20. The sixth-ranked Horned Frogs have one of the more interesting tilts of the opening weekend when Oregon State visits for a game at nearby Cowboys Stadium.
21. After 14 consecutive 10-win seasons from 1987 to 2000, Florida State has only one since. Jimbo Fisher takes over for Bobby Bowden, and quarterback Christian Ponder anchors the offense.
22. FSU's biggest question is its defense, which gave up an average of 30 points last year (94th in the nation). Fisher brought in Mark Stoops from Arizona as coordinator and set up an interesting visit to Oklahoma, which is coached by Mark's brother, Bob Stoops.
23. Virginia Tech's offense is evoking memories of 1999 when Michael Vick ran them all the way to the national championship game. (And where have you gone, Peter Warrick?)
24. Glad you asked. Warrick, the MVP of the Sugar Bowl that capped Florida State's 1999 championship, is coaching at his old high school and will be inducted FSU's Hall of Fame on Friday.
25. Back to Virginia Tech. Hokies running back Ryan Williams and quarterback Tyrod Taylor were the second and third choices for Atlantic Coast Conference preseason player of the year behind Florida State's Christian Ponder. Virginia Tech and Florida State don't meet in the regular season, but could in the ACC championship game on Dec. 4 in Charlotte.
26. Third-ranked Boise State, the other non-BCS conference team in the preseason top 10, travels to Landover, Md., to take on 10th-ranked Virginia Tech. Broncos coach Chris Peterson calls it the biggest game in the program's history because it is finally a chance "to prove people right" that BSU deserves such a high ranking.
27. BSU fans think quarterback Kellen Moore is poised to make a run at the Heisman. Just know this potato breath: not only does the BCS control the top bowls, but the last player outside the big boys to win the Heisman was BYU's Ty Detmer in 1990.
28. How could Michigan have the worst defense in the Big Ten last year and still Brandon Graham emerges as a first-round pick and Eagles starter? The Wolverines' 2010 already is off to a rough start after cornerback Troy Woolfolk broke his ankle in camp and was lost for the season. As many as five true freshmen could see time in the secondary.
29. It was Woolfolk who said quarterback Tate Forcier no longer deserved to start because the sophomore wasn't working hard and had lost the trust of his teammates. Not good.
30. Texas defensive lineman Sam Acho has made five humanitarian trips to Nigeria and, on his most recent visit, brought a few teammates. Acho's a notorious bookworm, leading coach Mack Brown to quip, "He's smarter than our coaches, so we don't want to get into discussions with him about anything other than football."
31. Notre Dame is a little worried that NBC's knack for lengthy commercial breaks might disrupt new coach Brian Kelly's no-huddle offense. The peacock network will have five shorter commercial breaks per quarter rather than four slightly longer ones. Notre Dame Harvey and the rest of his boys from South Philly have to be thrilled with the extra chance to grab a cold one.
32. Kelly's arrival might benefit wide receiver Michael Floyd the most. Kelly's initial evaluation was that Floyd had talent, but was a lazy route runner. That seemed to wake up Floyd (6-3, 227), who has NFL potential.
33. USC is prohibited from winning the Pac-10 championship, participating in a bowl game and from receiving votes in the coaches poll. The Associated Press (media) has the Trojans at No. 14 in the nation and second in the conference, behind only Oregon.
34. Sophomore Darron Thomas beat out senior Nate Costa for the Oregon starting quarterback job. Thomas' most significant action came 2 years ago when he nearly rallied the Ducks from a 24-point fourth-quarter deficit against Boise State. Thomas redshirted last year, as Jeremiah Masoli ran the show.
35. Masoli stole and smoked his way off the Oregon team and landed at Mississippi. Masoli, who graduated but has a year of eligibility, could play this season if he is granted a waiver by the NCAA based on finding a graduate program Ole Miss offers that Oregon does not. Now that's shady.
36. Northern Illinois got a boost in the spring when defensive lineman Jake Coffman decided to return. Coffman, 26 and a Marine who served in Iraq, had thought about quitting football to get a job.
37. The Huskies, favored to win the Mid-American Conference West, host East Division-favorite Temple on Oct. 9. Four of UNI's first five games are on the road, including visits to Iowa State, Illinois and Minnesota.
38. Texas will use less spread formation now that Garrett Gilbert is the quarterback and all-time great Colt McCoy was demoted to the Cleveland Browns. Gilbert was thrown into the inferno as a true freshman, when McCoy got hurt very early in the BCS title game loss to Alabama.
39. Wisconsin returns 10 starters on offense, but the Badgers won't be taken seriously until Weeks 7 and 8 when they play Ohio State and Iowa, respectively. The Badgers lost to both teams last year to derail a 5-0 start. The Ohio State game is at home.
40. Chicago Blackhawks forward Adam Burish, who played at Wisconsin, brought the Stanley Cup to a Badgers practice during training camp. Burish was the guy who called Chris Pronger "the biggest idiot in the league" right after Chicago beat the Flyers in the Cup finals.
41. Iowa's strength is its defense, especially the line, where end Adrian Clayborn is a monster. Eagles offensive line coach Juan Castillo's son, Greg, plays safety for the Hawkeyes.
42. For an example of what a big business college football is, read the pilot study done by the Iowa City visitor's bureau that estimates the Hawkeyes' seven-game home schedule generates more than $100 million in revenue.
43. Down in the Bayou, LSU is still feeling the sting of squandering the last 30 seconds in last year's 25-23 upset loss to Ole Miss. (It's similar to how Eagles fans replay the end of Super Bowl XXXIX.)
44. Tigers coach Les Miles, who followed up the 2007 national championship with (gasp!) records of 8-5 and 9-4, respectively, needs a big season. "We love coach Miles," said cornerback Patrick Peterson. "As a team, we have to play better to help defend coach Miles."
45. UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel hopes to build on the momentum gained from the end of 2009 when the Bruins won four of five, including an EagleBank Bowl win over Temple. "We've got to break out, no question," the coach said. "But it's one thing to say it. It's another thing to go about it."
46. Let's see where the Bruins are after Week 2 when Stanford, one of the Pac-10's better teams, visits the Rose Bowl.
47. Stanford's best player is quarterback Andrew Luck, but 6-8 redshirt freshman tight end Levine Toilolo might be its most intriguing. Pronounce his name La-Veen Toy-lo-lo.
48. Pittsburgh, the Big East favorite, can become a BCS sleeper if it can negotiate Thursday's season opener at Utah. Tailback Dion Lewis is coming off a 1,799-yard freshman season, but has only one returning starter on the offensive line.
49. How juiced is Connecticut for Saturday's season opener? "Since we realized we were playing Michigan, this has been on our mind," said tailback Jordan Todman. "When we were working out in the summer, we put their helmet up in the weight room to remind us what we were working for."