College football is not a sport where teams can afford to take their time acclimating themselves to the game each season. There are 12 regular-season games and a potential conference championship to determine the pecking order for everything from the national championship to the Disney Spirit Award.
Some teams will have games against warm-up competition at the beginning of the season, but others will not have such a luxury. Here are nine players who desperately need to get the holeshot in 2013.
David Ash will have his defense back in the fall, as his heavy hitters will be returning from injury and ready for battle. Ash needs to get off to a quick start, because the Big 12 title is an open competition.
Anybody can win, but Texas has a great shot at it if Ash can come on strong out of the gate. In 2012, he wen 214-of-318 for 2,699 yards, 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
That performance will not be good enough to win it all in 2013, but if he can start off as well as he played in the second half against Oregon State, Texas is in good shape.
Tajh Boyd is a great quarterback with a stellar favorite target in Sammy Watkins. While that's all well and good, Clemson faces the Georgia Bulldogs in the season opener.
That is a make-or-break game for Clemson's national title hopes. Without the win, a conference title is still available to the Tigers, as is a berth in the Orange Bowl.
With a win, the Tigers will be in the driver's seat for the final BCS title game. Games against Georgia, Florida State and South Carolina establish a strength of schedule that's more than tough enough to go all the way.
Boyd will have to channel the inner clutch player that got the Tigers into field-goal range against LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, and he'll have to do it in Week 1.
Johnny Manziel has a rough slate of games to get through in 2013, potentially including the SEC and BCS title games. However, those last two games won't happen without a fast start.
Manziel will face the reigning national champion in Week 3. Granted, he has two games to get his act together before the early clash of the titans, but the Rice game is deceptively difficult.
Rice is not a pushover, and the Aggies could fall victim to the dreaded "looking past an opponent" curse. Either way, Alabama will not roll over for A&M.
The reigning Heisman winner will need to bring his best performance in his third game. That will not be easy, but he would certainly impress the entire country if he could take down the Tide in the middle of its possible three-peat.
AJ McCarron will have to get off to an even faster start than Johnny Manziel. McCarron faces Virginia Tech in the season opener. Admittedly, that match looked a lot more interesting when it was scheduled than it does right now, but Virginia Tech has a lot of potential that simply didn't show in 2012.
Even after the Virginia Tech game passes, win or lose, Texas A&M is looming large in Week 3. If McCarron is going to lead the Tide to a third national championship in a row, then he won't be able to wait to unleash himself against LSU.
Everyone will be gunning for the Tide, and Virginia Tech will start the bidding in Week 1.
Mettenberger and the LSU Tigers do have the ability to win the SEC West, but they will not likely be the preseason favorites. However, a dominant win over the TCU Horned Frogs could change that in Week 1.
LSU has a lot of obstacles to overcome this season, and TCU won't go easy on the Tigers. Without a fast start, LSU's title hopes could turn into Chick-fil-A hopes before the players have even warmed up for the season.
Aaron Murray and the Georgia Bulldogs have drawn one of the most anticipated Week 1 matches of the 2013 season. Murray and the 'Dawgs will line up against Tajh Boyd and the Clemson Tigers on opening day.
Georgia has national title hopes heading into 2013, especially considering it was less than 10 yards from winning the crown last season (assuming the Bulldogs would have beaten Notre Dame).
Georgia has been to the past two SEC Championship Games, and the Bulldogs have come closer to victory with each attempt. If statistics and trends mean anything, this is Georgia's year to win the conference title.
Of course, Clemson won't give a hoot about all that. It will concern itself only with defeating the SEC powerhouse from the East.
Casey Pachall is taking the field for a run through the Big 12 in 2013. As much as TCU's schedule is patterned with tough games surrounded by easier (but not easy) ones, Week 1 pits them against one of the SEC's best programs.
LSU is more talented than its final record proved last season, and that's going to light a fire under the Tigers that could propel them into the national championship.
TCU will be the first team to have a crack at Les Miles and the Bayou Bengals. The Horned Frogs will be missing defensive end Devonte Fields, so Pachall (and another player to be covered later) will have to make up for the gaping hole on the defensive line.
Logan Thomas has to wake up and perform much better in 2013 than he did in 2012. Not only does he have to stand against the Crimson Tide in Week 1, but his back-to-back games against Georgia Tech and North Carolina are also both at the end of the first half of the season.
Thomas has the ability to contend with anyone in the country, as evidenced by his 2011 results. However, his follow-up performance didn't do anything but destroy the reputation he had built.
Thomas and the Hokies are sleepers for the ACC title, but a gigantic upset victory over Alabama may be their only shot at a berth in the BCS title game.
Without that win, they have virtually no shot. This win will decide how high the ceiling for 2013 is for the Hokies, and Thomas had better come out of the gate with a career-best box of stats.
As mentioned in the Casey Pachall slide, TCU will fight the LSU Tigers in Week 1 without Devonte Fields. As much as Pachall needs to carry the offense, Jason Verrett will need to carry the defense.
Without Fields in front of the offense to stop the run, there will be a noticeable weak spot in the Horned Frogs' defense. Verrett's ability to sniff out plays and follow the ball will be of utmost importance, especially during the first two games.
Verrett is a great athlete, but he has not had to be the only All-American defender on the field up to this point. Verrett's performance will key the victory, or the loss, for TCU in the season opener.
He absolutely has to get off to a great start. TCU's reputation may depend on it.