Twelve weeks until kickoff

There's an old saying that everybody wants to win on Saturday, but it's what you do Monday through Friday that makes the real difference. I'll take practice and preparation over "game-day wanting to win" any day.

However, I would suggest that success in the fall actually is being determined right now. There are 12 weeks remaining until football season begins, and what players and coaches are doing today will decide who the biggest winners are when football season begins.

Which quarterbacks are going to throw the most balls, which linemen will lift the most iron, and which coaches will park the golf clubs in the corner and watch the most video? If I knew the answer to these questions I'd be the smartest dadgum analyst in the business because these are the guys who are going to take home all the trophies in the fall.

Every team will make its own commitment, but there are five or so programs where especially interesting developments are occurring.

1. USC must mesh as a staff


The Trojans have put together back-to-back national championships, and everyone is pegging them as the preseason favorite to win it all again. With Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Matt Leinart returning, along with a load of other great players, it's hard to argue differently.

However, college football is much more of a coaches' game than the NFL, and the coaching staff at USC has seen dramatic changes this offseason. Gone are offensive coordinator Norm Chow, quarterback coach Carl Smith, offensive line coach Tim Davis and dynamo defensive line coach Ed Orgeron. Chow alone has produced six of the NCAA's top 12 career passing leaders, and that doesn't include Leinart and Carson Palmer.

It's going to take an awful lot of staff meetings this summer to get the new coaches up to snuff with the ones they just lost. If you don't see the Trojans back in the championship game, this will be the reason.

2. The Irish have themselves a ball coach

Notre Dame
Notre Dame

Much has been said about the importance of having a coach with the right image at Notre Dame. Both Bob Davie and Ty Willingham struck an impressive pose on the sidelines and conducted themselves masterfully at a press conference. But what the Irish have needed is a guy who can make offensive adjustments during a dadgum (that's two) football game.

Though he may never make the cover of GQ – sorry, Charlie – Charlie Weis is a bona fide ball coach. When it comes to X'in' and O'in', he's smarter than a tree full of owls.

Over the next few months he will be deciding how to put his players in the best positions on the field to be successful. That success will bring more success, and more success finally, as they say in South Bend, will wake up the echoes.

3. Texas will rule the Big 12 sooner rather than later


After five straight losses to Oklahoma, this finally will be the year Mack Brown wins the Red River Shootout and Big 12 title. In fact, if the Longhorns get past Ohio State on Sept. 10, look for them to be in the Rose Bowl playing for the national championship.

The obvious key for Texas this year will be the play of its versatile Heisman hopeful, QB Vince Young. Vince, if you're reading this, get your butt on the practice field and get to work. You've got only 12 weeks until showtime. And, while you're out there, be a leader and get all your teammates out there with you. You have a chance to bring all the hardware home to Austin, so get with it.

Also, Brown hired a new defensive coordinator from Auburn, Gene Chizik. He's the best in the business, and because defense wins championships, it's just another reason for Longhorn fans to make early travel arrangements for Pasadena.

4. Meyer has Gator fans forgetting and believing – all at the same time


I have a daily radio show in Central Florida, and I had a call-in question last week for our University of Florida listeners. I asked them if you could have a choice right now, whom would you rather have as your football coach, Steve Spurrier or Urban Meyer? Seventy-five percent of callers picked Meyer.

Holy cow! You talk about a short memory. Spurrier only won six SEC championships in 12 years at Florida, with a national title to go along with them. Many, including me, consider him the second-best coach in SEC history behind only Bear Bryant.

What's the reason for this Gator memory loss? None other than Meyer. I never have seen a coach make a bigger impact on a university and its fans than Meyer has in the last six months. About 58,000 showed up for the spring game, and he has spoken to record crowds at every booster meeting this spring.

Coach Meyer himself has said that this is the most important offseason in Gator history. Given that those same fans are thinking of nothing less than an SEC championship, I guess he's right.

5. Paterno and Bowden still have something to prove

Penn State
Penn State

You would think that the two winningest coaches in Division I-A history would have nothing else to prove. But by sticking around for a sixth decade in the business, they have created for themselves a Jerry Rice-sized dilemma.

Florida State
Florida State

This still is a game of what have you done for me lately, and lately neither coach has lived up to the lofty standards they have set for themselves.

After four losing seasons in the last five years, Joe Paterno realizes that this year will determine the decisions he must make at season's end. Just three weeks ago he said that if Penn State doesn't win some games, "I've got to get my rear end out of here."

Bobby Bowden, on the other hand, has to prove that Florida State still can remain relevant in the national championship picture. If FSU's offense cannot return to its old explosive self, the Seminoles again will be looking up the conference ladder at Miami and Virginia Tech.

Many of college football's great coaches have stayed around too long (see Bear Bryant and Eddie Robinson), and this year will go a long way toward telling whether these two coaches have done the same.

And yes Mother, I'm pulling for both of them.