Finally, game week.
But it’s not just any game week. It’s game week leading up to one of the most anticipated college football seasons ever.
The anticipation is local and national.
Coach Butch Jones’ first Tennessee season is all about commitments.
Will he hold on to the 24 recruiting commitments he has accumulated for the 2014 class when the record takes a downward turn?
Will the Tennessee fans who have rallied behind their enthusiastic coach remain as committed once the losses start mounting against a schedule overloaded with good teams?
From a fan’s perspective, the magnitude of those losses might be a factor. The early betting lines have the Vols as a 25-point underdog to Oregon and a 27-point underdog to Alabama.
Losses might not matter to the recruits, who committed to Tennessee after its three consecutive losing seasons and the hiring of a coach whose only other head-coaching gigs were at Central Michigan and Cincinnati.
If Jones could sell himself and the Vols under those circumstances, he just might be capable of closing the deal with almost all of those recruits in February — regardless of the record.
The anticipation for UT’s season is further heightened by the quarterback competition, which started in the spring with Nathan Peterman and Justin Worley and continued this preseason with the addition of true freshmen Joshua Dobbs and Riley Ferguson.
Because of his experience, Worley is expected to get the starting nod when Jones announces his No. 1 quarterback Monday. But if it has taken Worley this long to separate himself from three quarterbacks who have never played a college game, you have to wonder if he can hold the job.
While the Vols have four quarterback candidates, the SEC has three Heisman candidates at quarterback — AJ McCarron of Alabama, Aaron Murray of Georgia and You Know Who of Texas A&M.
Johnny Manziel won last year’s Heisman and should be the favorite to win another. Instead, his eligibility is in question amid allegations that he received money for signing autographs.
College football wouldn’t be as much fun without Manziel. But it won’t be lacking in exceptional quarterbacks.
And they aren’t confined to the SEC. Among the most heralded: Tajh Boyd of Clemson, Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville, Braxton Miller of Ohio State and Marcus Mariota of Oregon.
If you’re looking for a new name, there’s redshirt freshman Trevor Knight of Oklahoma. He supposedly made life miserable for the Sooners’ starting defense when he impersonated Manziel on the scout team leading up to the Cotton Bowl.
Alabama is seeking a record-setting third consecutive national championship. And it seemingly has the resources to pull it off.
In fact, this Alabama schedule is more conducive than its last two to winning a national title.
If UT fans can’t get giddy about the possibility of their archrival making history, they might be encouraged by developments out West.
Former Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin, who abandoned the Vols for USC after the 2009 season, could lose his job.
That would set off a Boomsday-like celebration in Knoxville.