The college football season begins at the end of the month…and although I know we all spent the offseason not at the pool reading and doing crosswords but completely focused on the minutiae that is football 24/7. For those who decided to either get a life or leave the country briefly…:

Alabama starts where they finished. Again. The two-time defending National Champs begin 2013 ranked #1. Bad omen? The Crimson Tide began 2011 #1…and that’s the only time in the last four years they didn’t go on to win the title. As serious as they are down there, I’m surprised Tide fans didn’t try to stuff the ballot box for other teams.

Johnny Manziel is in a heap of hurt. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner has been a magnet of attention this past offseason…from living up the celebrity role like few college athletes can (his family is loaded) to allegedly signing autographs for cash. Partying at the University of Texas in Austin (an insult to Longhorn fans because they think they’re too good to hang out with Aggies…and an insult to Aggie fans because why would he want to hang with those snobs instead of his own kind?). Tweeting how he can’t wait to leave College Station. I’m surprised Manziel didn’t challenge the devil himself to a fiddling contest. All while the rest of the SEC lies in wait…

Introducing the American Athletic Conference (of America). The broken pieces of the Big East added a few schools from Conference USA–and like the Beatles album “Yesterday and Today” that didn’t really exist in the UK…a league is born. No butcher cover here–this is a conference I’m sure many will not care about. Two schools already have their bags packed for the ACC (Louisville) and Big Ten (Rutgers). I hope they use velcro on the league flag.

Speaking of changes, the ACC is “Now with 17% more!” as Syracuse and Pitt join the league this fall. The Orange caught fire after one of their favorite alums watched them rally past South Florida on Halloween weekend…and the Panthers still haven’t been the same since they ditched the Tony Dorsett/Dan Marino era royal blue jerseys with gold helmets and script “Pitt” as opposed to “PITT”. Just what ACC football needs…two schools that have won national titles but haven’t won 10 regular season games since the Reagan Administration. But don’t get that ACC Map tattoo just yet–the league adds Louisville (after the Cardinals load up on American Athletic Conference swag) while waving goodbye to founding member Maryland. And that’s not including the league allowing Notre Dame to stay married to its independence while treating the ACC like a cheap mistress for its “needs” in sports it doesn’t make a ton of cash in.

Maryland looks to turn the corner in Coach Randy Edsall’s third year…and after 2011’s surprise implosion and last fall’s injury riddled stagger, six wins and a bowl before the Terps go into the Big Ten would be beyond huge. Lightning rod Stefon Diggs returns to provide thrills and chills at Byrd Stadium…the only question being who will be his big play partner? Quarterback CJ Brown is back after missing 2012 with a torn ACL…while transfer Ricardo Young already is familiar with Coordinator Mike Locksley’s offense. The much maligned offensive line of last year (39 sacks allowed, 2.6 yards per carry) needs to gel better this fall…and the defense needs to make more big plays (4 interceptions, 16 fumble recoveries and 28 sacks). The schedule plays in a manner that would lead one to believe November will be nail-biting as the Terrapins zero in on six wins.

Virginia couldn’t decide last year if Phillip Sims or Michael Rocco would own the quarterback job…and this year the Cavaliers won’t have that decision to make as Sims is at Division II Winston-Salem State and Rocco landed at Richmond. Instead-Coach Mike London’s hopes rest on a trio of redshirt freshmen. Door number one is David Watford…who completed 41% of 74 passes two years ago. Door number two is Greyson Lambert…who sounds like he wears an ascot underneath his uniform. Door number three is Matt Johns…whose grandfather Tom Schreiner played for Gettysburg. Maybe he was in Phi Gam with my Uncle Jeff.

Virginia Tech tries to bounce back from an uncharacteristic six loss season where special teams were a far cry from the BEAMER BALL! of old…Thursday Night turned from Hokie Heaven to Hokie Hell…the defense was gashed with numbing regularity and VT needed to beat Boston College in overtime and Virginia by a field goal to keep its bowl streak alive. Logan Thomas is back…and the offense has been spruced up accordingly. Alabama (yes, the #1 Crimson Tide) awaits August 31st.