This is the fifth in a series of seven 2009 college football story lines. Next week, columnist Chris Dufresne begins a daily countdown of his preseason top 25.
Five questions as college football camps open:
1. Is Notre Dame really a national title contender?
Get a grip, Gipper.
That said . . . with a favorable schedule, and the lunacy hype that accompanies all Notre Dame rises and falls, and home station NBC never wavering in its flag waving, the Irish appear locked and loaded for nine wins and a Bowl Championship Series bowl berth. At least fifth-year Coach Charlie Weis had better hope so -- if he wants to keep coaching on Saturdays.
The incandescent glow of Irish football following that indelible Bush Push loss to USC six games into Weis' first season in 2005 has given way to the kind of five-year mediocrity stretch that cost Bob Davie his job after going 35-25.
Weis is 29-21 through four seasons and can't afford another 6-6 year that ends with a post-bowl luau in Waikiki. Charlie's got the pieces in place, led by third-year quarterback Jimmy Clausen, and don't forget: The Irish get an automatic BCS bid if they finish with a top-eight national ranking and are an all-but-certain cinch for an at-large selection at 9-3 . . . just because it's Notre Dame and you're not.
2. What will it take for Florida senior Tim Tebow to be regarded as the greatest college quarterback of all time?
A second Heisman Trophy and third national title probably would satisfy this pundit. If not for Vince Young and Texas, Matt Leinart would have left USC with a Heisman and three national titles. Instead, most of us left the Rose Bowl thinking Young was the best we'd seen since Nebraska's Tommie Frazier.
Tebow's statistics through three years: a 65.8% pass-completion ratio for 6,390 yards, with 67 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He's also rushed for 2,037 yards and 43 touchdowns.
3. Which team is most motivated to win the national title this year?
That's easy. Texas. Imagine what it was like for the Longhorns to watch Oklahoma, a team they beat in Dallas, play Florida for the BCS title. And all because of a Big 12 tiebreaker rule that broke a three-way tie among Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech in Oklahoma's favor. That's why the 2008 Big 12 title team from Norman will always be remembered in Austin as the Oklahoma Asterisks.
4. Which is the most intriguing team out there?
Georgia Tech. First-year coach Paul Johnson did something last year that first-year Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez failed to do: He took over a team, junked the scheme, and won anyway.
Georgia Tech finished 9-4 operating Johnson's unique triple-option offense. The Yellow Jackets flourished despite finishing 116th nationally in passing -- talk about old-school. Johnson basically now has Navy, where he previously prevailed, only with more quality players. There's no reason to think Georgia Tech can't wreck the winnable Atlantic Coast Conference.
5. Can the controversial BCS survive the most recent legal and political challenges?
Yes. Despite two congressional hearings in the off-season, the BCS is locked in through the 2013 season. Any talk of reviving a modest playoff format would come in 2011, when discussions for the next contract will begin. Interestingly, Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe recently commented that college football is more likely to go back to the old bowl system than agree to a playoff.