Stop us if you’ve heard this one:
Hotshot young SEC quarterback gets in trouble at his school and gets booted. Goes off to a junior college. Re-emerges at another SEC school, creating a teary story of rebirth, reclamation and redemption.
Remember the Cam Newton saga (the part of it that didn’t include his father trying to sell him to the highest SEC bidder)? He started at Florida, was implicated in a stolen-laptop incident, and transferred to a Texas JC before returning to Auburn to lead the Tigers to the 2010 national title.
On Aug. 31, Nick Marshall debuted as Auburn quarterback against Washington State, fresh out of junior college. He had begun school at Georgia (as a cornerback), but was booted for what was widely reported as stealing money from other students.
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Now the spotlight is on Zach Mettenberger, who began at Georgia. But after sexual-battery charges for groping a woman at a bar, he was also tossed, found his way to a Kansas JC and is now starring for LSU. He returns to Georgia this week for the feature game on Saturday’s college-football card.
Making the occasion the more strange is that his mother, Tammy, has worked in the Georgia football office for years. Bulldogs coach Mark Richt gave her the week off, saying on the Wednesday SEC coaches teleconference: “You could imagine how awkward it could be all week for her. I just told her to enjoy it and do some things you don’t normally do this time of year.”
What else can you say but: Welcome back to the SEC, fellas.
The best of Saturday, chronologically:
South Carolina (AP No. 12) at Central Florida, 9 a.m., Ch. 4: It’s UCF’s first time on network TV, the occasion being its best start (3-0) since 1988. On the other side, it’s about time Jadeveon Clowney (10 tackles, two sacks) ignited his Heisman campaign.
LSU (6) at Georgia (9), 12:30 p.m., Ch. 7: Georgia has won 14 straight at home and is trying to beat a second top-10 team in a season for the first time in its history. LSU has won 29 straight in September dating to 2006.
Oklahoma (14) at Notre Dame (22), 12:30 p.m., Ch. 5: You wouldn’t think two programs with their histories would see a 9-1 disparity in the series, but that’s Notre Dame’s edge. A year after the Irish stopped almost everything, they’re ranked only No. 56 nationally in total defense.
Mississippi (21) at Alabama (1), 3:30 p.m., ESPN: Ole Miss is 3-0 for the first time since 1989. ’Bama appears to have a schedule made to return to the national-title game. Its next real challenge after this is LSU on Nov. 9.
Arizona at Washington (16), 4 p.m., Ch. 13: Arizona is 3-0, with a schedule that looks like it was crafted by Jim Boeheim.
Wisconsin (23) at Ohio State (4), 5 p.m., Ch. 4: Braxton Miller appears ready to return at QB for the Buckeyes after a wildly successful run (12 touchdown passes) by backup Kenny Guiton. The game matches two displaced former staff mates at Utah; OSU coach Urban Meyer was head man for the Utes when Wisconsin’s first-year coach, Gary Andersen, was an assistant there in 2004.
And consider Kirk Herbstreit’s day. He’ll do the regular three-hour ESPN College GameDay stint at Georgia, then jump on a plane (we assume he doesn’t have to fly commercial through Chicago) for Columbus to analyze the Buckeyes-Badgers game.
Stanford (5) vs. Washington State, CenturyLink Field, 7 p.m., ESPN: Forecast is for 80 percent chance of rain Saturday and 17-mile winds, which will make for a lovely time not only at Husky Stadium but at the Clink.
California at Oregon (2), 7:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks: “I feel this team is focused and we’re about to go in there and shock the world,” Cal running back Daniel Lasco told The Oakland Tribune. That will no doubt surprise oddsmakers as well, who have the Bears 36½-point underdogs, their largest number since at least 1976.
USC at Arizona State, 7:30 p.m., ESPN2: Two uplifting stats: ASU is 1-12 against USC this century, and Lane Kiffin’s lumbering offense is 106th in the nation, averaging 340 yards a game.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org