It's hard to say which is more exciting, the start of the college football season or the end of this offseason.
This terrible, horrible offseason.
As good as it is to welcome back the games — the wonderful, glorious games — putting this offseason behind us feels even better. Sure, it will be grand fun sitting back and watching the season's first games Thursday night, a slate that starts with Bob Stoops' old boss (Steve Spurrier and South Carolina at Vanderbilt) and ends with the Sooner coach's old play caller (Mike Leach and Washington State at BYU). Yes, it will be a high time seeing some of the year's best matchups before the weekend is out.
I mean, does it get much better than Alabama-Michigan or Boise State-Michigan State?
Of course, all of you Sooner and Cowboy fans would probably insist that your teams being back on the field is the best thing about this weekend.
We can all agree, though, that the season can't start soon enough. That's because college football has been through an offseason like no other.
Granted, much of the trouble happened outside our fair state, but we care about college football in a way few other places do. Oklahoma City (No. 2) and Tulsa (No. 7) were among the highest ranked television markets for ESPN's college football telecasts last season. No other state had more than one market in the top 10. Oklahomans are invested in college football.
So, when something bad happens in the sport, regardless of where it is, it resonates here.
Needless to say, there was lots of resonating this offseason.
It started with the child abuse scandal at Penn State. And if it ended there, this would still have be the worst offseason in college football history. Sadly, the litany problems do not end there — more on that in a moment — but what happened in Happy Valley is the most heinous cover-up in the history of sports.
Black Sox tanking? East Germans doping? Pete Rose betting?
None of it comes close to Penn State.
At least 10 boys were abused over a 15-year period by former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, may he rot in prison. What happened to those victims will always be the worst thing about the Penn State scandal.
But, of course, this tragedy has hurt so much more. It crushed a coaching legend's reputation, ended the careers of several administrators, and brought severe punishment upon the school and the program. And rightfully so. The penalties had to be significant.
That hasn't made it easier, though, to stomach.
What happened at Penn State cast a huge, ugly shadow over all of college football this offseason.
But it wasn't the only incident that did.
There was the Bobby Petrino mess at Arkansas. There was the attack on Wisconsin running back Montee Ball. There were the ongoing NCAA investigations at Miami and North Carolina. And there have been several high-profile players dismissed from their teams — Tyrann Mathieu at LSU, Greg Reid at Florida State, Isaiah Crowell at Georgia, Ray Armstrong at Miami, Da'Rick Rogers at Tennessee and Michael Dyer at Auburn.
Heck, Dyer not only got booted at Auburn but also at Arkansas State, where he had transferred.
Remember, too, that the offseason had its not-so-good moments in our state. It wasn't just everyone else who was having problems.
Back in May, Oklahoma indefinitely suspended four players, including three wide receivers. Jaz Reynolds, Trey Franks and Quentin Hayes have since been reinstated while Kameel Jackson has transferred, but don't expect the three remaining players to be let out of the doghouse any time soon.
Ditto for Stacy McGee. The starting defensive tackle was suspended indefinitely earlier this month for violating university policy.
Oh, and no Sooner fan could forget the one-two punch of losing Ben Habern and Tyler Evans. Both were starting offensive linemen, and within days of each other, we learned that neither will be able to play this season because of injury.
Yes, it's been a rough offseason for OU.
OSU hasn't been immune to this offseason tumult either.
In June, the weird story of Herschel Sims and Jeremiah Tshimaga surfaced. According to a police report, Tshimaga alleges that Sims accessed his bank account and took $700 without permission. According to those close to Sims, he says it was a misunderstanding.
What really happened is anyone's guess.
This much we do know — the Cowboys booted Sims, a highly touted running back.
Two months later, it was Michael Bowie on the way out. The offensive lineman was expected to protect Wes Lunt's blind side as the starting left tackle, but instead, he left the team after violating team rules.
Wow, listing all of those offseason problems and scandals smacks you in the face. It reminds you what a tough time these past few months have been for college football.
A bunch of games won't change what went wrong. Goodness knows the fallout from the Penn State scandal alone will be felt for decades. Here's hoping that the proper lessons have been learned and the needed changes have been made.
And yet, after this offseason, we need the frivolity of the games more than ever. We need to hear the bands and smell the tailgates and cheer the gridiron gladiators. We need to be reminded of why we love the sport.
Let the games begin.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.