As the College Football season officially kicks off Thursday with four games, there are storylines dominating the sport, and some that may or may not be recognized.
But there are certain teams with certain backstories that may help you when handicapping games.
Here are five observations to consider:
UKNIGHTED -- The Big 12 expands to 14, with the 2023 campaign being the swan song for Red River rivals Texas and Oklahoma. But the real story in this conference could end up being newcomer Central Florida. The Knights enjoyed varying levels of success before their arrival, and bring a wealth of talent with them to the Big 12. With the race for the conference title wide open, TCU coming off its national championship game appearance, and surprising Kansas State looking to feed off its Big 12 championship, the Knights have a very good opportunity to make some noise in their debut season.
WHO'S NEXT -- Last year it was TCU making it to the national championship. The year prior, Cincinnati got to the semis. Before that, Notre Dame returned to prominence. Every year the question arises, who will be this year's team to jump in with the SEC, Big 10 and Big 12 stalwarts? Look no further than South Central Los Angeles, where the USC Trojans return the nation's top quarterback in reigning Heisman winner Caleb Williams. Remember, a hamstring injury hampered him in the Pac 12 title game last season, and the loss to Utah ruined USC's chances at a trip to the playoff series. This being the Trojans' final season in the Pac 12, it would make all the sense in the world to see them shock the world.
MAC ATTACK -- Miami-Ohio's first three games could prove to be a catalyst in how the Redhawks play down the stretch. The Redhawks open with three straight road game - at Miami (FL), Massachusetts and Cincinnati - immediately putting their defense to the test. Coach Chuck Martin has done a good job in cultivating the culture in Oxford, and this year has an experienced defense that will be battle-tested by the time the Redhawks open conference play at Kent State on Sept. 30.
SEC FREEZE -- Hugh Freeze did a remarkable job at Liberty, and after turning that program around, he returns to the SEC. Freeze is back in the West Division, as he takes over the Auburn program after leading Liberty to a 34-15 record and three straight bowl wins. Bryan Harsin didn't show us much in his two years at the helm, as he quickly learned Auburn is much different than Boise. With the experience he's had in the SEC, and knowing how to prepare for that type of schedule, Freeze will be an interesting coach to keep an eye on, especially before the conference schedule gets underway.
REBELS WITH A CAUSE -- Yes, we have to include UNLV in this column, considering the culture has changed dramatically under first-year coach Barry Odom. The Rebels are looking to play like an SEC team considering that's where Odom has sewed his oats. Word out of camp is that practices, meetings and workouts feel much more like a big-time college program, than in past years under Marcus Arroyo and Tony Sanchez. UNLV opens with Bryant, but then faces a Michigan team that won't have Jim Harbaugh on the sidelines for that game. That'll be a fun line to see, and possibly jump on if the price is too high. The Rebels as an underdog will be something to watch.