The sun was still high enough in the sky above Stanford Stadium to filter through the light towers and surrounding trees and cast wide swaths of sunlight across the field as Christian McCaffrey stood near his own goal line to receive the first kick of the Cardinal's 2016 season. The last time we had seen McCaffrey on a football field had been on the first day of the year when he announced to the world -- or at least to those who didn't already know -- that even if he hadn't won the Heisman Trophy, he was undoubtably the best college football player on the planet, one of the best ever to play the game.
So when Kansas State's Ian Patterson put his foot into the ball and sent it hurtling towards McCaffrey, a fan could be excused for filling those last few seconds of anticipation with thoughts of all that happened in the previous autumn and what might unfold over the coming months. The summer had been filled with questions about the quarterback, concerns about a rebuilt offensive line, whispers about a stronger, faster McCaffrey, and dreams of a playoff berth -- the kinds of issues that are common to college football fans across America. But when he football finally fell into McCaffrey's arms at the 8, he returned it 28 yards to the 36, the season was underway, and those issues faded into the background.