Y’all. We made it.

Somehow, someway, we made it through another offseason and we’re going to be watching live, SEC tackle football this weekend. That’s a beautiful thing.

You know what else is beautiful? We get 3 days on Labor Day weekend in which SEC football will be on our television screens. Starting Thursday night with Bowling Green-Tennessee, then 12 games Saturday with Ole Miss-Louisville in Atlanta as the dessert on Monday night.

Cheers to that.

I can hardly contain my excitement. As a result of that, here’s 1 thing I’m excited to see from every SEC team on the real opening weekend of college football season (in order of start time):

Bowling Green vs. Tennessee

When: Thursday, 8 p.m. ET

TV: SEC Network

What I’m excited to see — Josh Heupel’s passing game

Duh. I mean, is there another answer? Tennessee hasn’t had a top 60 passing offense since 2012. It’s long overdue for an offensive mind like Heupel who wants to take downfield chances in Knoxville. Against a bottom-of-the-barrel MAC school, there should be plenty of opportunities for Jalin Hyatt, Velus Jones Jr. and Tennessee’s wideouts to get targets. How many quarterbacks will Heupel play? That might be the better question. I say 2.

UL Monroe vs. Kentucky

When: Saturday, Noon ET

TV: SEC Network

What I’m excited to see — Wan’Dale Robinson’s role in Liam Coen’s offense

Credit to me for not saying that I’m most excited to see shots of Rich Rodriguez flipping out in the booth. The new ULM offensive coordinator will have those. But as for Robinson, the dynamic Nebraska transfer is going to be featured a ton in Liam Coen’s new offense. Will we see him used best in the slot? Will he take a bubble screen 50 yards to the house? Could he run some wildcat? The possibilities are endless, just like Robinson’s potential.

Rice vs. Arkansas

When: Saturday, 2 ET

TV: SEC Network-Plus

What I’m excited to see — Barry Odom’s full defense

When it was healthy in the first 6 games, Odom’s defense was one of the better units in the SEC. When it wasn’t as healthy, well, things fell apart. With 10 starters back, including a pair of preseason All-America candidates in Grant Morgan and Jalen Catalon, this should be more like the group we saw in the first half of 2020. In a favorable matchup against Rice, I think we see that group flex its muscles in a manner similar to the first half against Georgia in the 2020 opener. This time, however, it lasts all 60 minutes.

Alabama vs. Miami in Atlanta

When: Saturday, 3:30 ET


What I’m excited to see — Bryce Young vs. D’Eriq King

It’s unfair to just say I can’t wait to see Young in Bill O’Brien’s offense, though that is a top-5 preseason storyline for me. But seeing King come back from a torn ACL with a Miami team that returns 10 starters on offense should also be fun.

This spread is sitting at 3 scores in part because it’ll be King’s first game back from his injury, but also because Nick Saban dominates season-openers like few human beings (if any?) ever have. It has been 7 years since an Alabama opener was decided by less than 3 scores. But dare I say, we could get some fun back and forth with King and Young, as long as the Miami signal-caller looks like his usual self.

Louisiana Tech vs. MSU

When: Saturday, 4 p.m. ET


What I’m excited to see — The debut of the Year 2 Mike Leach Air Raid (and full cowbell)

Is that a bit too basic? Eh, oh well. MSU’s offense struggled for most of the first season with Leach, but history suggests a Year 2 bump is coming. In a favorable home matchup against Louisiana Tech, we should see just how ready MSU is to take that next step. Will Jaden Walley and Austin Williams help fuel a much-improved MSU offense? Or will those pass protection issues resurface and put the Bulldogs back in familiar territory? MSU’s first full capacity crowd in almost 2 years would love nothing more than points galore to get those cowbells going.

Central Michigan vs. Mizzou

When: Saturday, 4 p.m. ET

TV: SEC Network

What I’m excited to see — Jim McElwain’s return to the SEC

Return of the Mac! Indeed it is. The former Florida coach will face a familiar foe in Mizzou, though this time with Central Michigan. We’ll get no shortage of flashback shots of that, though given the fact that it’s on SEC Network, I’m not bracing for any shark photos/references. I am, however, bracing for Connor Bazelak and the Mizzou offense to get rolling against McElwain’s bunch. My guess is that spoils McElwain’s SEC reunion.

Akron vs. Auburn

When: Saturday, 7 p.m. ET

TV: SEC Network-Plus

What I’m excited to see — A healthy Tank Bigsby

To be clear, “a healthy Tank Bigsby” is something I’m excited to see every week. But against an Akron defense that ranked No. 124 out of 128 FBS teams in scoring defense, I’m especially excited to see Bigsby get rolling in Mike Bobo’s run-first offense. I’d be surprised if he saw north of 15 carries in a lopsided matchup, but the home run plays should be there. The preseason first-team All-SEC back was a revelation when healthy last year. With a relatively normal offseason under his belt, the sky is the limit for Bigsby. Well, the competitiveness of this game will be Bigsby’s limit in Week 1.

Eastern Illinois vs. South Carolina

When: Saturday, 7 p.m. ET

TV: SEC Network-Plus

What I’m excited to see — MarShawn Lloyd’s debut

Man, it’s long overdue. As a true freshman, he was all the rage in camp before suffering a season-ending injury. This year, Lloyd is expected to form an elite duo with Kevin Harris, who had more rushing yards than all but 1 returning back in FBS. If Harris is still dealing with his back injury, that means we should see a ton of Lloyd in his debut, especially if South Carolina’s quarterback situation is unsettled in the opener. Against an FCS squad, Lloyd should get opportunities galore to make plays.

Georgia vs. Clemson in Charlotte

When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET


What I’m excited to see — JT Daniels against the Clemson defense

Pretty obvious choice here, but it’s true. Daniels’ finish to 2020 fueled a whole lot of offseason buzz, and understandably so. He won 4 consecutive games and looked darn good running Todd Monken’s offense. With a full offseason after enrolling last summer, how will he fare against a Clemson defense who finished its season on a much different note? That’s a fascinating question. Clemson is loaded on the defensive line with Myles Murphy and Bryan Bresee, which suggests the Tigers are going to try to pressure Daniels without sending extra help. Will Daniels have enough healthy pass-catchers who can get separation? It’s a monumental showdown in Charlotte, and the winning quarterback will immediately become the Heisman favorite. It’s a dream matchup to kick off the season.

Florida Atlantic vs. Florida

When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET

TV: SEC Network

What I’m excited to see — Emory Jones’ first career start

It took 3 seasons of waiting to get here, but we’re finally going to see Dan Mullen’s first fully developed quarterback at Florida make a start. We know that Jones has a cannon, and he’s exceptional as a runner on designed runs or when a play breaks down. What we don’t know is how precise he’ll be, or how much Mullen will rely on the pass after having the No. 1 air attack in FBS last year. FAU might not be the best barometer for that, but it should at least provide some insight on how Jones can be effective in 2021.

Kent State vs. Texas A&M

When: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET


What I’m excited to see — Haynes King’s first career start

Yes, it’s a bit quarterback-heavy here. But come on. King is a freakishly talented athlete who is replacing Kellen Mond after he spent about 24 years in College Station. King’s accuracy has been praised by Jimbo Fisher, but can he truly take command of a complicated offense? We don’t know. We do, however, know that A&M is blessed with a loaded group of offensive skill players, highlighted by All-SEC tight end Jalen Wydermyer, the versatile Ainias Smith and the elite backfield duo of Isaiah Spiller and Devon Achane. King will have some help in the opener. And if he goes for 300 yards and 4 touchdowns with some impressive plays on the move, we’ll be seeing a whole lot of way-too-early Johnny Manziel comparisons.

East Tennessee State vs. Vanderbilt

When: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET

TV: SEC Network-Plus

What I’m excited to see — Clark Lea’s new defense

How effective will Lea’s 4-2-5 be in the opener? I’d hope pretty effective, considering it’s facing an FCS program that didn’t hit 30 points once in a 6-game season. Anfernee Orji and Elijah McAllister should be able to dial up some pressure and prevent this one from being particularly close down the stretch. Last year, Vandy surrendered at least 38 points in 7 of 9 matchups. It only had 13 sacks in 9 games, too. Seeing some defensive pressure in a 1-sided affair would be an ideal way to kick off the Lea era.


When: Saturday, 8:30 p.m. ET


What I’m excited to see — LSU’s pass defense vs. Dorian Thompson-Robinson

It’ll always be baffling that Bo Pelini had Derek Stingley Jr. and Eli Ricks at corner, yet LSU had the worst pass defense in America in 2020. With Daronte Jones, all signs point to LSU improving in a massive way against the pass. That includes Stingley, who is expected to return to his historically dominant 2019 self. The secondary is loaded, the defensive line has edge rushers like Ali Gaye and BJ Ojulari who should be able to hurry throws, and Clemson transfer Mike Jones should be excellent in coverage. Will that travel out to the West Coast? If LSU is going to contend in the West and have a bounce-back year, well, it better.

Louisville vs. Ole Miss

When: Monday, 8 p.m. ET


What I’m excited to see — The return of the Ole Miss offense

I missed you, old friend. The Ole Miss offense should be back in a major way, even with the loss of Elijah Moore. Think about this. Lane Kiffin and Jeff Lebby have had 8 months to dial up looks for this one. We saw a handful of trick plays in last year’s opener against Florida. Is anybody gonna be surprised if that happens again? Ole Miss might need it. Only 2 Power 5 teams had better pass defenses than Louisville in 2020. Malik Cunningham is plenty capable of going blow-for-blow with Corral and Co., which means we should see Ole Miss keep its foot on the gas if it jumps out to an early lead. A fun encore year is ahead for the Ole Miss offense, and that begins in Atlanta on Monday night.