2009 College Football Season Underway

The season kicked off Thursday night with three top 25 teams getting the jump on a full weekend of college action. Most teams will see action on Saturday. Florida won the BCS National Championship last season, and is favored to repeat.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

The college football season opened last night with a handful of games. There was a game in the West that once upon a time would have attracted attention only in Idaho and Oregon.

The season begins for almost everyone else tomorrow at stadiums around the country. Commentator John Feinstein joins us now to talk about it. Good morning, John.

JOHN FEINSTEIN: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: So let's take a moment to look back first at last night's game between Oregon and Boise State. Talk to us about why that's so important.

FEINSTEIN: Well, Boise State is not in one of the BCS power conferences that dominate college football. And yet in the past it has fought its way into one of their bowl games, one of their lucrative bowl games, by going undefeated. And a lot of people felt that if they could beat Oregon, a ranked BCS team last night, they would have a chance, and will have a chance, to go undefeated.

They dominated Oregon, were ahead 13-0 in halftime, won the game, and now they are in the BCS bowl picture as a result.

MONTAGNE: Okay. So why don't we look ahead at one of those powerhouses, Florida - won the national championship last season and is a heavy favorite to repeat that this year. Do you agree?

FEINSTEIN: I think you have to agree, at least at the start of the season. They have Tim Tebow, a quarterback, the most versatile player in college football. Many of their starters who won that BCS National Championship have returned. They clearly have to be the favorite going in.

But Renee, they're opening the season tomorrow against Charleston Southern, which is a Division I AA school, a whole level down from the teams we're talking about. They're a 73-point favorite. People are going to pay money to watch a football game that is roughly the equivalent of Michael Phelps against me in 100 butterfly match race.

MONTAGNE: Hmm. But they are going to pay that money.

FEINSTEIN: They'll pay that money, and they'll sit in the stadium a lot longer than it would take for Phelps to race me in the butterfly.

MONTAGNE: Well, let's talk a little about quarterbacks, because you mentioned a moment ago Tim Tebow. There are people saying this is the year of the quarterback in college football.

FEINSTEIN: Yeah. I think it really is. Tebow has already won a Heisman trophy as player of the year two years ago. Sam Bradford at Oklahoma won it last year. Some people thought Colt McCoy at Texas should have been the winner. All three of them could have gone to the NFL but chose to return this year. And not surprisingly, Florida's ranked number one with Tebow, McCoy has Texas ranked number two, and Oklahoma is ranked number three with Bradford. So, yes, it is the year of the quarterback.

MONTAGNE: And even though most of the national championship contenders are the usual suspects, I'm wondering if you think that there are teams not in that group that could really make some noise?

FEINSTEIN: You know, there are a couple, potentially. Mississippi was the only team that beat Florida last year. They returned a great quarterback in Jevan Snead. And a lot of people think they could be a dark horse in Florida's conference and perhaps upset them.

Oklahoma State - usually we hear Oklahoma, not Oklahoma State - opens with the powerhouse Georgia tomorrow. If they get by that game, a lot of people will think that they're a potential dark horse too.

MONTAGNE: And John, finally, we all know that President Obama has weighed in, if you will, and come out in favor of a playoff to determine the national champion. Does that mean - I mean, he's the president. Does that mean we're any closer to that happening?

FEINSTEIN: No. You know, I think it was Socrates or Plato who first said we should have a football playoff. And they were ignored then. The BCS president sort of ignored President Obama. They came out and said the system is fine this past winter. It's like the emperor who has no clothes. They keep saying the clothes look beautiful when everybody knows they're buck naked.

MONTAGNE: John, thanks very much.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you, Renee.

MONTAGNE: The comments of John Feinstein. His latest book is "Change-Up: Mystery at the World Series."

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