After a long spring and summer without college football, Week 1 of the regular season is finally upon us. There are no more spring games or fall practices to pretend to be interested in. And no more 'what if' questions plastered around the Internet. The Southeastern Conference football schedule kicks off Thursday, Aug. 30 when South Carolina travels to Vanderbilt and Texas A&M heads to Louisiana Tech.
All 14 SEC schools will play between Thursday and Monday, and some have tough or sneaky-good opponents to deal with. Week 1 is too early to call anything a trap game, but here are three football games this weekend that could greatly effect the SEC landscape:
1. South Carolina at Vanderbilt
The Gamecocks are coming off a school-best 11-win season and have running back Marcus Lattimore back from ACL injury. The 2012 season is filled with promise for South Carolina, and with a few bounces going in the right direction a win over Georgia wouldn't hurt the Gamecocks could land in Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game.
What the Gamecocks can't do is slip up in their season opener at Vanderbilt.
Vandy has a strong core of returning players, but likely isn't ready to compete for an SEC East title. They could, however, pounce on a conference foe that's possibly overlooking last year's 6-7 'Dores.
2. Auburn vs. Clemson
Not only does Auburn have to face a 14th-ranked Clemson team to start the season, Auburn has to do it on neutral turf at the Chick-fil-A Kickoff in Atlanta at the Georgia Dome Saturday.
Clemson has a couple of things going good, none more important than a returning Tajh Boyd who lit the college football world on fire last year with 33 touchdown throws. However, Clemson will be without its best skill player in wide receiver Sammy Watkins who is suspended for Clemson's first two games.
Auburn hired new coordinators on both sides of the football and returns a lot of starters from last year. Kiehl Frazier has been named the starter at quarterback and will throw and run behind an offensive line that brought back three giants.
Clemson beat Auburn last year, 38-24, but an Auburn victory Saturday could boost its SEC West credibility and turn the team from fringe status to contender.
3. Alabama vs. Michigan
For those of you who like top 10 matchups to begin the season, here's your holiday gift in September. The Crimson Tide host the Michigan Wolverines Saturday and both teams received first-place votes in the AP Top 25 poll, and are separated by six spots, Alabama at No. 2 and Michigan at No. 8.
A.J. McCarron will be asked to do more than just 'not make mistakes' in 2012 as the Crimson Tide are front-runners for a return trip to the BCS National Championship. A hiccup in Week 1, while not devastating, would send the wrong message to the college football world.
The quarterback on the other team, Michigan's Denard Robinson, is a Heisman hopeful and a senior leader. Robinson can do anything with a football in his hands, which poses a huge threat to the Alabama perfect season scenario.
But, Alabama showed last year a national title can be won with a marred regular-season record. A loss in Week 1, however, means there would be zero room for mistakes in a brutal SEC schedule.