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College football season to start after scandal-marred summer

By Lateef Mungin, CNN
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Behind the Univ. of Miami scandal
  • Scandals or allegations of cheating have rocked major institutions this year
  • The worst scandal this year involves the Miami Hurricanes
  • "Coaches are happy to see the season start," a sports radio host says

(CNN) -- College football starts Thursday after a scandal-plagued off-season that one analyst called the worst ever for the sport.

Ohio State, Southern Cal, Auburn. All powerhouses in the sport have been rocked by allegations of cheating. North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, LSU and Georgia Tech have been sullied as well.

The worst scandal of the year involves the University of Miami where a booster has said he showered dozens of players with cash and jewelry, paid their restaurant and nightclub tabs, and supplied them with prostitutes. The National Collegiate Athletic Association is investigating.

"I honestly don't think the sport has ever had as tumultuous of an off-season as we had during this year. I do mean, ever, and I'm referring to the entire history of the sport," said ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit.

But all this may be forgotten moments after kickoff. There are 11 games scheduled for Thursday but most college teams will start the season Saturday.

"Without a doubt college coaches are happy to see the season start and the focus on college football scandals be shifted towards games played," said Matt Prehm, a sportswriter and radio host in Oregon. "The start of the season provides fans, players, coaches, and media alike a chance to sit back and, in a sense, hit reset."

In the past, the seasons have started slow because teams are hesitant to schedule tough games early in the season.

But this year, at least two games in the first week could have national championship implications.

One is a Saturday night game between No. 3 Oregon and No. 4 LSU at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

"The winner has a shot to bump themselves into the top spot of the polls with a victory," said Prehm. "Playing in a game of this magnitude can't win you a title but losing this game could prevent you from winning it all."

The other high stakes game Saturday night is between No. 5 Boise State and No. 19 Georgia.

"It's a little disheartening," said Jacobo Garcia, a Baylor fan who lives in Texas, about the scandals. "However, college football is part of our culture in Texas, and I am eagerly anticipating kickoff this weekend."