On the day's most pivotal players.
? HRONISS GRASU, Center, Oregon.
For all the suspension-related absences in Arlington, the most critical void is one of the old-fashioned variety: Oregon takes on LSU down three senior starters on the offensive line who started more than 100 games over the last three years for the most consistently prolific attack in the country. The most important of that trio may have been All-Pac-10 center Jordan Holmes, whose role as a one-man mission control for the rest of the line is being assumed by Grasu, a redshirt freshman stepping onto the field for the first time tonight against the same kind of nasty defensive line that wreaked havoc on the Ducks' running game the last time out.
"I've had the luxury, ever since I've been here, of having an upperclassmen be the center ? and have them be the first voice and final voice of what we're doing on the line," senior tackle Mark Asper told the Eugene Register-Guard last week. "They identify the (defensive) front and have the final say on what we're going to do. ? That's the main thing, to get a center that is confident to get us on the same page."
? JARVIS JONES, Linebacker, Georgia.
There's nothing like a good eligibility scare to bring a player's true value into focus, and Jones has never seemed more essential to Georgia's defense than he did during the few harrowing weeks this summer when it looked like the NCAA could put him on the shelf for tonight's tone-setting opener against Boise State, if not for much longer. With Jones in the clear, the Bulldogs have their blue-chip heir to NFL-bound edge-rushing monster Justin Houston, and their best chance of restoring some lapsed defensive pride by disrupting steady Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore.
? B.J. DANIELS, Quarterback, South Florida.
Daniels has started 22 consecutive games for the Bulls, and looked like a liability as a passer in almost all of them: USF bottomed out last year at 101st in passing offense, 98th in pass efficiency and 105th in total offense, with Daniels serving up more interceptions than touchdowns. Now a junior, he faces the biggest stage of his career this afternoon at Notre Dame, against an Irish defense that hit its stride at the end of 2010 and gets nine starters back. Daniels' elusiveness and improvisational are occasionally terrifying for everyone involved, but an upset in South Bend isn't going to come by creativity alone.
? JEREMY IOANE, Safety, Boise State.
Being thrust into a first-time starting role as a redshirt freshman is one thing; being thrust into a first-time starting role as a redshirt freshman on the eve of a season-defining primetime showcase is another level entirely. Friday's eleventh-hour suspension of starting free safety Cedric Febis puts Ioane in the hot seat as the Broncos' last line of defense, a role occupied the last four years by All-WAC mainstay Jeron Johnson.
? DAN BEEBE, Commissioner, Big 12.
Beebe convened an emergency meeting with university presidents Friday night on the heels of Oklahoma president David Boren's candid admission Friday afternoon that the Sooners may very pull the plug on the Big 12 by bolting to another conference ?�likely the Pac-12 ?�in a matter of days. "We have interest from other conferences and other universities," Boren said. "I don't really think this is something that's going to linger on beyond two or three weeks."
Still reeling from Texas A&M's unabashed overtures to the SEC, Beebe reportedly asked the rest of the conference heads to "lean on Texas" to keep the Longhorns in the fold, betting that Oklahoma won't pull the trigger unless Texas has its gun pointed at Beebe, too. We won't have very long to wait to find out if he's right.