Final thoughts before kickoff

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After eight months of waiting, we’ve got a football Saturday. Breath it in. That’s what makes this time of year great.

And like college football always does, it surprises. It takes eight months of stories and hypotheses and shatters them when the bullets start flying and the team across from you doesn’t share the same jersey and locker room.

What do we know? Well, apparently not as much as we thought.

All that Virtual Reality talk that’s changing the game, with Stanford ahead of the curve thanks to their technology-driven ways? Well Kevin Hogan went 20 of 35 for just 155 yards and a game-ending interception to lose to Northwestern.

TCU’s unstoppable offense and sure-fire Heisman candidate Trevone Boykin? He may have spent the summer training in the Texas heat, but he was hobbled by cramps in Minnesota (yes, Minnesota!) and held on for dear life against a Gophers squad that’s coming off of an eight-win season.

The point of all of this? Maybe it’s just a reminder that all the preseason magazines, hype, conversation, blog posts, projections and debate don’t count for anything once the team kicks off. So while Irish fans will surely want to send a message and deliver Texas a mighty blow, and Notre Dame has all the hype in the world behind it as it begins the 2015 season, the most important thing is walking out of the Rock’s (mid-renovation) House tonight with a victory.

Winning in college football is hard. There’s no preseason schedule to dip your toe in the water. It’s straight into the pressure cooker.

And unless you scheduled a Tennessee-Martin or Alcorn State like Ole Miss and Georgia Tech chose to do, winning while figuring out who you are is pretty much the most important objective of opening day. (And even a cupcake to start is risky. Just ask Arizona, who almost lost All-American linebacker Scooby Wright to injury while playing something called Texas-San Antonio.)

So you have a right to be excited. Who isn’t?

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But also realize each week is another chapter in a season. And the team that runs out of the tunnel will not be the one that finishes the book.

We saw that work for good in 2012, when the Irish found their way early before learning their identity. We saw that for bad, when the 2014 squad started out like world-beaters and ended up broken and bruised (and that’s not even talking about the injuries).

So with Malik Zaire making his first start at home and Charlie Strong bringing a young group of Longhorns to South Bend, we might have a good idea about what should happen.

But that’s why you play the games.