The Last 25 Hours Are The Hardest

Dan Shanoff writes a weekly college football column for Deadspin. Email him to let him know what you think.

So the season kicks off next Saturday. Well, it actually kicks off on Thursday, when contender LSU (Did you hear? Les Miles can't win when it counts!) plays nontender Mississippi State. (Did you hear? Sylvester Croom is black!)

Then it's on: Nearly half of Division 1-A teams will see their national title hopes effectively implode after the very first weekend. (I'm looking at you, loser of the Cal-Tennessee game.)

But not before ESPN puts on an eye-drying 25-hour pregame show running Wednesday night through Thursday night. If nothing else, that demands a drinking game, a sip for every hour:

Hour 1: 1 sip if...
USC is slurped. (Yikes: Gonna be a long night/day.)

Hour 2: 2 sips if...
Every time "Virginia Tech" and "tragedy" are used in the same sentence.

Hour 3: 3 sips if...
Lee Corso drops an F-bomb.

Hour 4: 4 sips if...
Lou Holtz makes an argument that makes your head hurt.

Hour 5: 5 sips if...
Mark May pats himself on the back for being disliked.

Hour 6: 6 sips if...
Chris Fowler gripes about the weekly location of GameDay.

Hour 7: 7 sips if...
They defile Boise State's Statue of Liberty play by re-enacting it on the in-studio field.

Hour 8: 8 sips if...
Kirk Herbstreit hates on the SEC. (Or if anyone rips the Big East.)

Hour 9: 9 sips if...
You're still up at 3 a.m. ET when Hawaii's practice comes on the air.

Hour 10: 10 sips if...
You've signed up for fantasy CFB and you're still tweaking your rosters.

Hour 11: 11 sips if...
Anyone swoons "Tebow."

Hour 12: 12 sips if...
You care if your cable operator signs up for the Big Ten Network.

Hour 13: 13 sips if...
You confuse Mark Schlabach with Mark Schlereth.

Hour 14: 14 sips if...
The new GameDay theme song makes you wince. (Nothing says "college football" like Fitty and Farrell!)

Hour 15: 15 sips if...
The new GameDay theme song includes a remix from the 7th Floor Crew.

Hour 16: 16 sips if...
Every time "Virginia Tech" and "Vick" are used in the same sentence.

Hour 17: 17 sips if...
Anyone mentions that Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom is black.

Hour 18: 18 sips if...
Anyone mentions that Alabama coach Nick Saban is a douchebag.

Hour 19: 19 sips if...
Rece Davis whimpers from exhaustion.

Hour 20: 20 sips if...
They run a heartstring-tugging profile of Marques Slocum.

Hour 21: 21 sips if...
You're scheduling your Friday night around watching Temple-Navy.

Hour 22: 22 sips if...
You sense any lingering bitterness when Bob Davie mentions that he used to coach at Notre Dame.

Hour 23: 23 sips if...
Anyone says "Spread."

Hour 24: 24 sips if...
Any reference to "Every Day Should Be Saturday" or "Orson Swindle."

Hour 25: 25 sips if...
Erin Andrews points at you and mouths "Yes... YOU."

This week's Trendspotting: "30 is the new 35." A new rule pushes kickoffs back from the 35-yard-line to the 30. Urban Meyer thinks it will be a big deal. MGOBlog's Brian Cook does not. I'm a huge fan of Brian's, but I'll go with the coach of the reigning champ on this.

More injuries? Fewer touchbacks? More TDs? Better field position? Unintended consequences and TBD gamesmanship? No one really knows how it will work out, which makes the new kickoff rule the biggest X-factor of Week 1, if not the season.

This week's Must-See Games:
1. Tennessee (No. 15) at Cal (12): Longshore/Jackson > Ainge/Whoever.
2. Wake Forest (34) at BC (28): Wake-up call that this ain't '06 anymore.
3. Florida State (19) at Clemson (41): FSU's offense STILL sucks?
4a. Kansas State at Auburn (18): Big 12 vs. SEC, Part 1
4b. Georgia (13) at Oklahoma State (42): Bulldogs overrated? Yes.
5. Georgia Tech (27) at Notre Dame (39): Who will be Irish QB? Really, who cares?

Send any/all email reactions, questions, gripes and tips to danshanoff-at-gmail-dot-com.