It’s time to mark those calendars


Aug. 5: UCLA’s first practice begins at Spaulding Field. New coach reprises “over-the-wall” tradition after being told “that’s your offensive line.”

* Aug. 10: USC’s first practice in pads. Linebacker Rey Maualuga volunteers to conduct freshmen-orientation drills.

* Aug. 30: USC opens season at Virginia. Last time the Trojans opened against a Virginia team on the road (2004 vs. Virginia Tech) they finished 13-0 and won the only Bowl Championship Series title of the Pete Carroll “dynasty.”


* Sept. 1: Tennessee at UCLA. Norm Chow era begins in Westwood with first-year field manager Rick (“I don’t want to be a nuisance”) Neuheisel promising to call plays only if Chow needs a restroom break.

* Sept. 13: Ohio State at USC. As big as it gets, but the loser is not out of the title chase. Ohio State lost at home last year to Illinois in November and still got back to the title game. USC could have overcome the Stanford stinker and played for the title had the Trojans not lost to Oregon.

* Sept. 20: Georgia at Arizona State. Best chance for Arizona State to make a national statement since it shocked Nebraska, 19-0, in Tempe, in 1996.

* Oct. 12: First release of weekly BCS standings. Hold your outrage. Only two times in 10 years has the team that premiered at No. 1 gone on to win the national title -- Florida State in the 1999 season and USC in 2004.

(FYI: The school that debuted at No. 1 in the inaugural BCS standings in October 1998 was . . . UCLA.)

* Nov. 1: Florida vs. Georgia in Jacksonville. Urban Meyer is still miffed over last year’s game in which Georgia players stormed the field after scoring a touchdown.

Expect retaliation, penalty flags and a lot of flying fur. It is, after all, the Southeastern Conference.

* Nov. 22: Michigan at Ohio State. Buckeyes card section already working on giant Michigan check routine that reads “Pay $2.5 million to the order of West Virginia.”

* Dec. 6: USC at UCLA. Thinking the first Carroll vs. Neuheisel matchup is shaping up like “Rocky.” Hoping the games that follow are better than the “Rocky” sequels.

* Dec. 7: Final BCS standings release. Aftermath: National sports columnist from hometown team left out of title game discovers the sport is controversial.

Aftermath II: President of school that finished No. 3 in standings calls news conference to unveil his eight-team playoff plan.

* Dec. 13: (It’s only a dream). And the winner of this year’s Heisman Trophy is . . . Appalachian State quarterback Armanti Edwards.

* Jan. 1: Rose Bowl. In 2002, the Rose Bowl lost USC and Iowa to the Orange Bowl. This time it could lose USC and Ohio State to the Orange, which is playing host to the BCS title game. The Rose might have to settle for Arizona State vs. Rutgers, who once met in the Garden State Bowl.

* Jan. 8: BCS championship game in Miami. It could be USC vs. Oklahoma again.

It won’t be Ashlee Simpson again.

Next week: Countdown of Rankman’s preseason top 25.