Summer is winding down, pumpkin spice everything is hitting the store shelves, and the kiddos are getting ready to go back to school. This can all mean a few things, but one thing in particular… College Football season!!!
An influx of 4 and 5 star recruits, transfers, position battles and coaching changes, it sure is going to be yet another intriguing season. 130 schools will fight through at least 11 grueling games to hoist the championship trophy in New Orleans.
But, let’s be real and face facts, 64 of those 130 teams truly have a shot to play in the Superdome next January. With the current playoff format and selection committee, teams in those “Other 5 conferences” don’t stand a true chance. But, that discussion can come at another time.
Dabo Swinney’s 2019 edition is stacked on offense and ready to repeat. The Tigers are led by true sophomore QB Trevor Lawrence, who lit the world on fire last season with over 3,200 passing yards to go along with 30 touchdowns. Lawrence will be handing the ball off to junior running back Travis Etienne, who ran for 1,600 plus yards and 24 scores.
But, the big question marks for this team are at wide receiver and defensive line. The Tigers are led by sophomore Justyn Ross (team high 1,000 yards) and junior Tee Higgins (team high 12 touchdowns) at wideout.
On the defensive side, the team will have to replace 5 guys in their line rotation. All 5 of those guys are currently on NFL rosters hoping to wreck havoc on Sunday’s. 6-2 DE Xavier Thomas will be called upon early and often for the Tigers. He ended last season with 3.5 sacks and 35 tackles as a true freshman. Junior Justin Foster, Sophomore Logan Rudolph, and Redshirt freshman KJ Henry will look to fill the void left behind.
When you are in a Nick Saban coached team in Tuscaloosa, your teams are always in contention, as much as it pains me to say it. The Crimson Tide will be led by Heisman Trophy runner up Tua Tagovailoa at QB. He’s a junior and already drawing comparisons as a mixture of Drew Brees and Brett Favre.
‘Bama will look to improve upon their less than stellar showing on defense with 6-7, 309-lb. DE Raekwon Davis, LB’s Dylan Moses and Senior Joshua McMillon, along with junior S Xavier McKinney and Patrick Surtain, Jr. (yes, the same bloodline that ball hawked for the Miami Dolphins) manning down half the field.
The real challenge could be adjustments to Saban’s coaching staff. Out is former OC Mike Locksley (now HC at Maryland), in is former Atlanta Falcons OC Steve Sarkisian. Saban was also able to land former Rutgers head man Kyle Flood and highly touted Tennessee assistant Charles Kelly to help out on defense.
Staying in the SEC, former Saban confidant Kirby Smart looks to get over the hump and beat his former boss’ team. Smart’s destiny this season lies in the hands of his pivot Jake Fromm and his ability to stay healthy. The junior quarterback will have some beef upfront as the O-line will be held down by junior tackle Andrew Thomas and sophomore Isaiah Wilson both guys check in at over 6-5 and 320 lbs.
Soon to be NFL runner D’Andre Swift will tote that ball for the Bulldogs looking to best his 1,000 plus yards and 12 scores from a year ago. Swift takes over a lion share of the backfield duties for fellow RB Elijah Holyfield, who was drafted in April.
A big question mark for the Red and Black will be their ability to replace former Jim Thorpe award winner Deandre Baker. They’ll give it the old college try with tall corners Eric Stokes and sophomore Tyson Campbell.
Head Coach Lincoln Riley will try to make it a trifecta of QB’s to win the Heisman in Norman. Riley’s next project is former Alabama QB Jalen Hurts, who transferred in the off season. Riley has his work cut out for him, though. He has to replace 8 starters and the #1 NFL pick to last year’s leaders in team offense.
The Sooners averaged almost 600 yards and 48 points per game. Hurts will have a few options to pass the ball to as wide receivers CeeDee Lamb (11 TD’s last year), Lee Morris (averaged 22 yards a catch), and one of the nation’s top returning tight ends in 6-4 220 pound Grant Calcaterra. Boomer Sooner’s backfield is stacked too. They are led by Kennedy Brooks and junior Trey Sermon. Both of whom COULD combine for 2,000 yards Both eclipsed that mark and added 25 TD’s last year.
Where there’s a high octane offense usually lends itself to a porous defense. At Oklahoma that never rang more true as they had the nation’s worst pass defense. New Coordinator Alex Grinch comes over from Ohio State to put his stamp on the defense. Junior LB Kenneth Murray and DB Parnell Motley will look to lead the Sooner defense.
5. Ohio (State)
Ok, ok, ok… Now, I will try to be objective with this one, but my affinity for the maize and blue will truly make this one difficult. Personally, the only reason why the Buckeyes are at #5 is purely off the past successes of ball coach Urban Meyer.
Former Co-offensive coordinator Ryan Day takes over at the helm of the scarlet and gray. Former Georgia recruit Justin Fields takes over at QB for Dwayne Haskins, who was drafted in the first round by Washington. 3 of OSU’s top 4 wide receivers are gone, but in football; it’s next man up. That next man is KJ Hill, who caught 68 passes a year ago. Sprinkle in seniors Austin Mack and Binjamen Victor, and returning RB JK Dobbins to help pace the team.
Although, the D-line lost two players in Nick Bosa and Dre’Mont Jones, the Buckeyes will line up with junior Chase Young, top recruit Zach Harrison, along with other top finds Tyreke Smith and Tyler Friday. Top tackler Malik Harrison will man the middle of the D. The team will look to fill the void at the head of the defense as they tabbed coaches Jeff Hefley and poached Greg Mattison from Michigan to lead the D.
Now, I’ve never been good at predicting anything but here is my best guess for this year’s college playoff…
Oregon Ducks, Georgia Bulldogs, and LSU Tigers could be a few teams that play spoiler this year.
The season starts in earnest on Saturday with Miami FL taking on #8 Florida.