My 2017 College Football Preview: Part 5

ACC – Predicted Order of Finish

COASTAL

Miami, Fla. (5-3, 9-4)

Virginia Tech (5-3, 8-4)

North Carolina (4-4, 7-5)

Georgia Tech (4-4, 6-6)

Pittsburgh (4-4, 6-6)

Duke (2-6, 4-8)

Virginia (2-6, 4-8)

ATLANTIC

Florida State (8-0, 11-2)

Clemson (6-2, 9-3)

Louisville (6-2, 9-3)

N.C. State (5-3, 8-4)

Syracuse (2-6, 5-7)

Wake Forest (2-6, 4-8)

Boston College (1-7, 4-8)

ACC Championship—Florida State over Miami, Fla.

All-ACC Offense

QB—Lamar Jackson, Louisville

RB—Mark Walton, Miami

RB—Qadree Ollison, Pittsburgh

WR—Ahmmon Richards, Miami

WR—Ervin Phillips, Syracuse

TE—Jaylen Phillips, N.C. State

OL—Mitch Hyatt, Clemson

OL—Tyrone Crowder, Clemson

OL—Tony Adams, N.C. State

OL—Brian O’Neill, Pittsburgh

OL—Alec Eberle, Florida State

K—Mike Weaver, Wake Forest

All-ACC Defense

DL—Bradley Chubb, N.C. State

DL—Christian Wilkins, Clemson

DL—Dexter Lawrence, Clemson

DL—Harold Landry, Boston College

LB—Micah Kiser, Virginia

LB—Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech

LB—Ben Humphreys, Duke

DB—Derwin James, Florida State

DB—Tarvarus McFadden, Florida State

DB—Quin Blanding, Virginia

DB—Jaire Alexander, Louisville

P—Sterling Hofrichter, Syracuse

ACC Honor Roll 

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR—Lamar Jackson, Louisville

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR—Derwin James, Florida State

LINEMAN OF THE YEAR—Christian Wilkins, Clemson

OFFENSIVE NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR—Hunter Johnson, Clemson

DEFENSIVE NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR—Adonis Thomas, Florida State

COACH OF THE YEAR—Jimbo Fisher, Florida State

COACH MOST LIKELY TO BE FIRED—Steve Addazio, Boston College

GAME OF THE YEAR—Florida State at Clemson

CONFERENCE UPSET OF THE YEAR—Pittsburgh over Miami

NON-CONFERENCE UPSET OF THE YEAR—Auburn over Clemson

BEST NON-CONFERENCE WIN—Miami over Notre Dame

BUY LOW—N.C. State

SELL HIGH—Georgia Tech

BIG 12 – Predicted Order of Finish

Oklahoma State (7-2, 11-2)

Texas (7-2, 10-3)

Oklahoma (7-2, 9-3)

Kansas State (6-3, 9-3)

TCU (5-4, 7-5)

West Virginia (4-5, 7-5)

Texas Tech (4-5, 5-7)

Baylor (3-6, 5-7)

Iowa State (2-7, 5-7)

Kansas (0-9, 2-10)

All-Big 12 Offense

QB—Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State

RB—Justice Hill, Oklahoma State

RB—Justin Crawford, West Virginia

WR—James Washington, Oklahoma State

WR—Mark Andrews, Oklahoma

WR—Allen Lazard, Iowa State

OL—Orlando Brown, Oklahoma

OL—Connor Williams, Texas

OL—Dalton Risner, Kansas State

OL—Zack Crabtree, Oklahoma State

OL—Jake Campos, Iowa State

K—Mike Molina, West Virginia

All-Big 12 Defense

DL—Dorance Armstrong, Kansas

DL—K.J. Smith, Baylor

DL—Malcolm Roach, Texas

LB—Travin Howard, TCU

LB—Elijah Lee, Kansas State

LB—Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Oklahoma

LB—Malik Jefferson, Texas

DB—Tre Flowers, Oklahoma State

DB—Jordan Thomas, Oklahoma

DB—D.J. Reed, Kansas State

DB—Kamari Cotton-Moya, Iowa State

P—Michael Dickson, Texas

Big 12 Honor Roll

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR—Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR—Malik Jefferson, Texas

LINEMAN OF THE YEAR—Orlando Brown, Oklahoma

OFFENSIVE NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR—Will Grier, West Virginia

DEFENSIVE NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR—Gary Johnson, Texas

COACH OF THE YEAR—Tom Herman, Texas

COACH MOST LIKELY TO BE FIRED—Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech

GAME OF THE YEAR—Oklahoma at Oklahoma State

CONFERENCE UPSET OF THE YEAR—Texas Tech over Kansas State

NON-CONFERENCE UPSET OF THE YEAR—West Virginia over Virginia Tech

BEST NON-CONFERENCE WIN—Texas over USC

BUY LOW—Texas

SELL HIGH—Oklahoma

Big Ten – Predicted Order of Finish

EAST DIVISION

Ohio State (8-1, 12-1)

Penn State (7-2, 10-2)

Michigan (7-2, 10-2)

Indiana (5-4, 8-4)

Maryland (4-5, 6-6)

Michigan State (3-6, 5-7)

Rutgers (0-9, 2-10)

WEST DIVISION

Wisconsin (7-2, 10-3)

Northwestern (6-3, 9-3)

Minnesota (5-4, 7-5)

Nebraska (5-4, 7-5)

Iowa (4-5, 6-6)

Illinois (1-8, 3-9)

Purdue (1-8, 2-10)

Big Ten Championship—Ohio State over Wisconsin

All-Big Ten Offense

QB—J.T. Barrett, Ohio State

RB—Justin Jackson, Northwestern

RB—Saquon Barkley, Penn State

WR—DaeSean Hamilton, Penn State

WR—Simmie Cobbs, Indiana

TE—Troy Fumagali, Wisconsin

OL—Billy Price, Ohio State

OL—Sean Welsh, Iowa

OL—Mason Cole, Michigan

OL—Jamarco Jones, Ohio State

OL—Brian Allen, Michigan State

K—Emmit Carpenter, Minnesota

All-Big Ten Defense

DL—Rashan Gary, Michigan

DL—Maurice Hurst, Michigan

DL—Nick Bosa, Ohio State

DL—Tyquan Lewis, Ohio State

LB—Tegray Scales, Indiana

LB—Josey Jewell, Iowa

LB—Jack Cichy, Wisconsin

DB—Rashard Fant, Indiana

DB—Marcus Allen, Penn State

DB—Godwin Igwebuike, Northwestern

DB—Denzel Ward, Ohio State

P—Hunter Niswander, Northwestern

Big Ten Honor Roll

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR—Saquon Barkley, Penn State

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR—Tegray Scales, Indiana

LINEMAN OF THE YEAR—Maurice Hurst, Michigan

OFFENSIVE NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR—Chris James, Wisconsin

DEFENSIVE NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR—Kendall Sheffield, Ohio State

COACH OF THE YEAR—Tom Allen, Indiana

COACH MOST LIKELY TO BE FIRED—Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

GAME OF THE YEAR—Penn State at Ohio State

CONFERENCE UPSET OF THE YEAR—Maryland over Michigan

NON-CONFERENCE UPSET OF THE YEAR—Oregon State over Minnesota

BEST NON-CONFERENCE WIN—Ohio State over Oklahoma

BUY LOW—Northwestern

SELL HIGH—Iowa

Pac-12 – Predicted Order of Finish

NORTH DIVISION

Washington (7-2, 11-2)

Stanford (6-3, 9-3)

Washington State (5-4, 8-4)

Oregon (5-4, 8-4)

Oregon State (3-6, 6-6)

California (2-7, 3-9)

SOUTH DIVISION

USC (7-2, 9-4)

Utah (5-4, 7-5)

Arizona State (5-4, 7-5)

UCLA (4-5, 7-5)

Arizona (3-6, 5-7)

Colorado (2-7, 5-7)

Pac-12 Championship—Washington over USC

All-Pac-12 Offense

QB—Jake Browning, Washington

RB—Myles Gaskin, Washington

RB—Royce Freeman, Oregon

WR—Dante Pettis, Washington

WR—N’Keal Harry, Arizona State

WR—Shay Fields, Colorado

OL—Trey Adams, Washington

OL—Cody O’Connell, Washington State

OL—Scott Quessenberry, UCLA

OL—Coleman Shelton, Washington

OL—Damien Mama, USC

K—Aiden Schneider, Oregon

All-Pac-12 Defense

DL—Vita Vea, Washington

DL—Hercules Mata’afa, Washington State

DL—JoJo Wicker, Arizona State

DL—Greg Gaines, Washington

LB—Azeem Victor, Washington

LB—Keishawn Bierria, Washington

LB—Cameron Smith, USC

DB—Iman Marshall, USC

DB—Quenton Meeks, Stanford

DB—Chase Hansen, Utah

DB—Xavier Crawford, Oregon State

P—Mitch Wishnowsky, Utah

Pac-12 Honor Roll

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR—Jake Browning, Washington

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR—Vita Vea, Washington

LINEMAN OF THE YEAR—Vita Vea, Washington

OFFENSIVE NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR—Tyler Vaughns, USC

DEFENSIVE NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR—Jaelan Phillips, UCLA

COACH OF THE YEAR—Willie Taggart, Oregon

COACH MOST LIKELY TO BE FIRED—Jim Mora, UCLA

GAME OF THE YEAR—Washington at Stanford

CONFERENCE UPSET OF THE YEAR—Arizona State over Washington

NON-CONFERENCE UPSET OF THE YEAR—Texas over USC

BEST NON-CONFERENCE WIN—USC over Notre Dame

BUY LOW—Arizona State

SELL HIGH—Colorado

SEC – Predicted Order of Finish

EAST DIVISION

Georgia (6-2, 10-3)

Florida (6-2, 9-3)

Tennessee (4-4, 8-4)

Kentucky (3-5, 6-6)

South Carolina (3-5, 5-7)

Vanderbilt (2-6, 4-8)

Missouri (1-7, 4-8)

WEST DIVISION

Alabama (7-1, 12-1)

Auburn (6-2, 10-2)

LSU (5-3, 9-3)

Texas A&M (4-4, 7-5)

Arkansas (3-5, 7-5)

Mississippi State (3-5, 6-6)

Ole Miss (3-5, 6-6)

SEC Championship—Alabama over Georgia

All-SEC Offense

QB—Jalen Hurts, Alabama

RB—Derrius Gice, LSU

RB—Nick Chubb, Georgia

WR—Calvin Ridley, Alabama

WR—Christian Kirk, Texas A&M

TE—Hayden Hurst, South Carolina

OL—Braden Smith, Auburn

OL—Martinas Rankin, Mississippi State

OL—Frank Ragnow, Arkansas

OL—Will Clapp, LSU

OL—Martez Ivey, Florida

K—Daniel Carlson, Auburn

All-SEC Defense

DL—Arden Key, LSU

DL—Da’Ron Payne, Alabama

DL—Trent Thompson, Georgia

DL—Marques Haynes, Ole Miss

LB—Jordan Jones, Kentucky

LB—Roquan Smith, Georgia

LB—Ben Davis, Alabama

DB—Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama

DB—Mike Edwards, Kentucky

DB—Duke Dawson, Florida

DB—Ronnie Harrison, Alabama

P—JK Scott, Alabama

SEC Honor Roll

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR—Derrius Gice, LSU

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR—Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama

LINEMAN OF THE YEAR—Braden Smith, Auburn

OFFENSIVE NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR—Jarrett Stidham, Auburn

DEFENSIVE NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR—Ben Davis, Alabama

COACH OF THE YEAR—Kirby Smart, Georgia

COACH MOST LIKELY TO BE FIRED—Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M

GAME OF THE YEAR—Georgia vs. Florida

CONFERENCE UPSET OF THE YEAR—Auburn over Alabama

NON-CONFERENCE UPSET OF THE YEAR—Auburn over Clemson

BEST NON-CONFERENCE WIN—Alabama over Florida State

BUY LOW—Auburn

SELL HIGH—LSU

2017 BOWL PROJECTIONS

Sugar Bowl national semifinal—Florida State vs. Alabama

Rose Bowl national semifinal—Oklahoma State vs. Ohio State

Cotton Bowl—Texas vs. Auburn

Fiesta Bowl—Penn State vs. Washington

Orange Bowl—Clemson vs. Georgia

Peach Bowl—South Florida vs. Michigan

Citrus Bowl—Florida vs. Wisconsin

Outback Bowl—Indiana vs. LSU

Sun Bowl—Notre Dame vs. Oregon

Holiday Bowl—Stanford vs. Northwestern

Alamo Bowl—Oklahoma vs. USC

Camping World Bowl—Kansas State vs. Miami

Taxslayer Bowl—Nebraska vs. Arkansas

Arizona Bowl—Wyoming vs. Georgia Southern

Music City Bowl—Virginia Tech vs. Kentucky

Liberty Bowl—Mississippi State vs. West Virginia

Belk Bowl—Tennessee vs. Louisville

*Birmingham Bowl—Ohio vs. Memphis

Texas Bowl—Texas A&M vs. TCU

Foster Farms Bowl—Iowa vs. UCLA

Independence Bowl—North Carolina vs. Middle Tennessee

Pinstripe Bowl—Maryland vs. N.C. State

*Quick Lane Bowl—Utah vs. Pittsburgh

*Cactus Bowl—Western Kentucky vs. Arizona State

Military Bowl—Georgia Tech vs. Houston

*Heart of Dallas—Air Force vs. UTSA

St. Petersburg Bowl—SMU vs. Florida Atlantic

Hawaii Bowl—Hawaii vs. Navy

Dollar General Bowl—Northern Illinois vs. Arkansas State

Armed Forces Bowl—Army vs. BYU

Bahamas Bowl—Southern Miss vs. Miami (Ohio)

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl—Toledo vs. Boise State

*Boca Raton Bowl—Oregon State vs. Central Florida

New Orleans Bowl—Louisiana Tech vs. Troy

Cure Bowl—Idaho vs. Tulsa

Camellia Bowl—Western Michigan vs. Appalachian State

Las Vegas Bowl—Washington State vs. San Diego State

New Mexico Bowl—Old Dominion vs. New Mexico

*at-large team was selected since no affiliated team was available

 

 

 

 

 

My 2017 College Football Preview: Part 4

2017 Top 50 College Football

Based on how I project the regular season to finish.

1. ALABAMA

The Good—This is the most talented roster in the country, by far, and it also may be the most talented offense of the Nick Saban era. I don’t ever remember seeing a team deeper at running back.

The Bad—The only concern in Tuscaloosa is the brain drain/turnover on the coaching staff in the offseason, which could test even the likes of the game’s greatest coach.

The Bottom Line—The 2016 Crimson Tide were literally seconds away from being one of the greatest teams of the current era, which should provide more than ample motivation for 2017.

2. OHIO STATE

The Good—A record-setting senior quarterback, a Hall-of-Fame coach, and a devastating defensive line are usually the ingredients for a national title run.

The Bad—For all the highly-ranked recruiting classes, there really isn’t a proven difference maker at either wide receiver or running back.

The Bottom Line—To topple Alabama you need an Ezekiel Elliott/DeShaun Watson type playmaker. Buckeyes don’t have that – yet – but they are strong up front, and also have a chip on their shoulder because of how last season ended.

3. OKLAHOMA STATE

The Good—A schedule that doesn’t feature an opponent with what’s considered an elite defense, which is good news for what could be the most explosive offense of the Mike Gundy era (and that’s saying something).

The Bad—At some point you have to stop somebody, don’t you? Can you win a shootout every single week?

The Bottom Line—The stars have aligned for a breakthrough season for the Cowboys, who return an experienced team/coaching staff while Texas and Oklahoma both go through coaching changes.

4. FLORIDA STATE

The Good—Last off-season, Jimbo Fisher was telling anyone who would listen that his 2017 team had a better chance to make a national title run than the 2016 edition. And the 2016 edition were Orange Bowl champs and won 10 games.

The Bad—The Seminoles’ porous offensive line tried to get Deondre Francois killed last season, and nearly did. They can’t be that bad again, can they?

The Bottom Line—The roster says national title run. The schedule says games versus Alabama, Clemson, and Florida away from Tallahassee. But this could be the year a two-loss team makes the playoff.

5. AUBURN

The Good—For almost a month last season, Auburn was playing as well as anyone in the country before injuries did them in. Now those guys are healthy, and the Tigers finally have the quarterback to run Gus Malzahn’s offense.

The Bad—There’s good roster numbers on defense, and a solid defensive coordinator, but what’s lacking is a proven defensive playmaker.

The Bottom Line—The addition of Jarrett Stidham, who shined as a freshman at Baylor, is going to be among the biggest difference-makers in the sport this fall.

6. WASHINGTON

The Good—Dynamic standouts abound for the Huskies, who return an All-American/All-Pac 12 caliber player at nearly every position group.

The Bad—The one position group lacking a standout is the secondary, which was a dominant unit last year.

The Bottom Line—The Huskies are in an enviable position. Instead of dealing with preseason expectations the program hasn’t faced in about 15 years, the bandwagon has moved to Southern California as the new hotness. That should give Washington an edge most teams coming off last year’s breakthrough wouldn’t have.

7. PENN STATE

The Good—This could be the most explosive offense in Happy Valley since that legendary 1994 team, and the schedule is manageable, too.

The Bad—Sure, Marcus Allen is a nice player in the secondary, but the program still doesn’t have that one defensive stopper in the front seven.

The Bottom Line—The Nittany Lions benefited from flying under the radar last year. Can they bear the burden of expectations the program hasn’t faced since before the Sandusky scandal? What about James Franklin, who’s never coached a pre-season top-10 team before in his career?

8. TEXAS

The Good—16 starters return for the Longhorns, and the average improvement in the first year for a team with Tom Herman on its coaching staff is 4.3 wins.

The Bad—We know Herman likes the quarterback run game, and from a physique standpoint Shane Buechele makes Greg Ward look like Vince Young. Can Buechele hold up for an entire season?

The Bottom Line—This is eerily similar to the Harbaugh situation at Michigan. Elite, public university with a proud tradition falls on hard times. Also struggles with a prickly and disliked athletic director, until administration cleans house. Then opens up the checkbook to bring home a favorite son head coach, who inherits a talented but underachieving roster ready to win. Longhorns are gonna make a big leap.

9. MICHIGAN

The Good—The list of schools who have recruited better than Michigan the last two years is pretty exclusive company, and few develop talent better than Jim Harbaugh.

The Bad—Is Wilton Speight ready to step up from game manager to game changer at quarterback? Because that could be the difference in what kind of season the Wolverines end up having.

The Bottom Line—This will be the youngest power five team of consequence in the country, which means you better get ‘em this year while you can.

10. GEORGIA

The Good—According to my four-year talent foundation study, this is one of the top-five rosters in the country. And did you notice how dominant Nick Chubb looked in the season opener and bowl game last season, with plenty of time to rest coming off knee surgery? With another year of rehab expect him to return to All-American form.

The Bad—Can Kirby Smart walk the fine line between letting Jake Fromm push Jacob Eason, and pushing an all-out quarterback controversy?

The Bottom Line—It’s time for a lot of highly-recruited players, with light college achievement resumes, to reach their collective potential.

11. CLEMSON

The Good—No team, sans Alabama, will be stronger up front on both sides of the ball. So if games are still won in the trenches, look out.

The Bad—Don’t sleep on how great DeShaun Watson truly was. Even with a ton of offensive firepower sent off to the NFL after 2015, the Tigers won six games – including the national championship – by a touchdown or less last year. He will likely be missed more than any player in the sport this season.

The Bottom Line—You can’t hide your quarterback in college football, and none of the potential replacements lit it up this spring. That’s how some of those close wins become close losses just one season later.

12. FLORIDA

The Good—The Gators are the only SEC team this decade not to average 400 yards of total offense for a season. That’s about to change, because Jim McIlwain finally has some offensive firepower, plus a decent offensive line.

The Bad—Now it’s a defense, which has lost every player of significance in the past two NFL drafts, that has to reload.

The Bottom Line—It comes down to quarterback. Is Malik Zaire the player who burst onto the scene in the 2014 Music City Bowl, or the player Notre Dame passed over in 2016? Can offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier manage Zaire better than he didn’t Devin Gardner when he was at Michigan?

13. USC

The Good—Sam Darnold is going to be the #1 overall pick in the NFL draft whenever he comes out. This looks like the best defensive line the Trojans have had since the Pete Carroll era.

The Bad—The offensive line is spotty, and there’s all new weapons to rely on at receiver. Plus, the schedule is a gauntlet – again – but this time with no bye weeks between contests.

The Bottom Line—Clay Helton caught lightning in a bottle switching to Darnold last season, which took him from fired to Rose Bowl champion. However, USC’s recent history with lofty preseason expectations isn’t rosy. Since 2007, the Trojans have been a pre-season top-5 team three times, and in only one of those seasons did they finish in the top 20 at the end of the year.

14. OKLAHOMA

The Good—This is still the most overall talented team in the Big 12, and one of the top 10 most talented rosters in all of college football.

The Bad—Only three years ago, new Coach Lincoln Riley was the offensive coordinator at East Carolina. Now the 33-year old, who’s never been a head coach before, has been handed the keys to one of the sport’s Cadillac programs. There are going to be some growing pains. For example, Bob Stoops is a definite Hall of Famer, and even he didn’t have a season with fewer than two losses since 2004. How is Riley gonna top that?

The Bottom Line—When you don’t have an upper echelon defense – and the Sooners don’t – the margin for error becomes slimmer for championship contention. Especially with such an untested young head coach launching his virgin voyage.

15. LSU

The Good—We know the Tigers have a roster littered with natural resources that would be the envy of at least 90% of college programs.

The Bad—Though it’s a broken record, the song remains the same in Baton Rouge. How is it possible a program of this magnitude’s best option at quarterback is a guy who wasn’t good enough to play at Purdue—again?

The Bottom Line—New coach who already failed once in the SEC, no threat at quarterback, and a schedule with nine bowl teams from a year ago. Frankly, I’m being kind putting them this high.

16. STANFORD

The Good—There’s a lot of guys back. In fact, this is the most experienced team returning in the Pac-12 depending on how you measure it. And a dynamite recruiting class is being added to the fold, too.

The Bad—Who’s the quarterback? Keller Chryst’s return is uncertain after off-season knee surgery. Ryan Burns didn’t set the world on fire last year, which is why he lost the job to Chryst. Is touted redshirt freshman K.J. Costello ready?

The Bottom Line—There’s a lot of numbers back for the Cardinal, but not a lot of production. So playmakers need to step up, starting at quarterback.

17. WISCONSIN

The Good—Arguably the best developmental program in the country returns a lot of talent, and has a schedule tailor-made for a run.

The Bad—Though the volume of losses is minimal, the impact of those departed players is significant. Furthermore, most of them were the best players the Badgers had on their units last year.

The Bottom Line—Playing a hunch that after Wisconsin defied the odds with last year’s brutal schedule, this year’s seemingly softer slate will even things out and be tougher than we thought.

18. KANSAS STATE

The Good—This has the makings of every contending team Bill Snyder has ever had at K-State. Favorable schedule, underrated dual-threat quarterback, and a respectable defense. In fact, his is about the only program in the Big 12 that actually plays any consistent defense whatsoever.

The Bad—An outstanding linebacker corps anchored last year’s defense, and those guys are gone now. So replacements must be found.

The Bottom Line—You get the sense this is the perfect swan-song set-up for Snyder, who could be coaching his final season. Especially with a schedule that includes just one road game against a bowl team from a year ago. If I’m already wondering if I have LSU too high, I’m now wondering if I have K-State too low.

19. SOUTH FLORIDA

The Good—It’s New Year’s Six bowl game or bust for the Bulls, who return the most explosive team in the Group of Five by far.

The Bad—The biggest loss for the Bulls is the overlooked Marlon Mack, who was their bell cow in the backfield last year.

The Bottom Line—They’re favored in every game on their schedule for a reason. Charlie Strong couldn’t have devised a better landing spot to begin rehabilitating his coaching reputation.

20. LOUISVILLE

The Good—Having the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, the scintillating Lamar Jackson, returning at the most important position on the field is a good place to start. As is having someone on the sidelines like Bobby Petrino, who’s won fewer than eight games in a season only once in his head coaching career.

The Bad—The offensive line was so offensive for the Cardinals down the stretch last season, it should’ve come with its own parental advisory sticker. The losses in the defensive front seven are significant, too.

The Bottom Line—It all comes down to whether Jackson can buck the trend working against returning Heisman Trophy winners by carrying the Cardinals again.

21. NORTHWESTERN

The Good—Clayton Thorson took the next step as a quarterback last year, and he teams with three-time 1,000-yard rusher Justin Jackson to form one of the best offensive backfields in the country.

The Bad—The Wildcats don’t lose a lot, but two of those losses are huge. Austin Carr was the best wide receiver in the Big Ten last season, while Anthony Walker was probably the school’s best inside linebacker since coach Pat Fitzgerald.

The Bottom Line—If there was ever a year for the Wildcats to make it to the Big Ten championship, this is it. Tough to see an unwinnable game on the schedule.

22. MIAMI (FLA.)

The Good—This will be the best defensive front seven the ‘Canes have had in quite a while, and it ranks among the best in the nation. Running back Mark Walton and wide receiver Ahmmon Richards are poised to become stars.

The Bad—The offensive line is still a work in progress, as is the all-important quarterback position with the early departure of Brad Kaaya.

The Bottom Line—Mark Richt looks ready to lead Miami back to national prominence—either this season or next.

23. N.C. STATE

The Good—The Wolfpack are solid where it counts the most. This will be their best defensive line in recent memory, and Ryan Finley came on at quarterback a year ago. In all, nine starters return on what was a top 25 defense nationally in 2016.

The Bad—The entire offense ran through Matthew Dayes last season, so his departure leaves a large void. Plus, the schedule includes a mid-season gauntlet: at Florida State, Louisville, at Pittsburgh, at Notre Dame, and Clemson over a 7-week stretch.

The Bottom Line—The buzz surrounding Raleigh-Durham is legit, but the Wolfpack are in the wrong ACC division.

24. NOTRE DAME

The Good—The Irish were better than their 4-8 record last season. Losing six games by a touchdown or less, and four of those were by a field goal or less. Normally that kind of tough luck has a way of evening out the next year, and this will be an explosive offense for Brian Kelly.

The Bad—You lose a lot of close games when you can’t get key stops, and that was Notre Dame on defense in 2016. In fact, the Irish lost a whopping five games in which they scored at least 28 points.

The Bottom Line—Kelly knows he’s on the hot seat and has attempted to reinvent himself to some degree. I think it will result in a bounce-back autumn.

25. TOLEDO

The Good—The MAC is an offensive league and the Rockets return quarterback Logan Whiteside, who led the NCAA in touchdown passes in 2016. Two of his top-three receivers also return. Though departed running back Kareem Hunt was a stud, his replacements are a former 1,000-yard rusher and a guy that averaged eight yards a carry last season. This will be an explosive offense again.

The Bad—The defensive losses will be tougher to replace. And the only real standout returning on that side of the ball was just a third team all-conference player last year.

The Bottom Line—The Rockets have won at least nine games in five of the last six seasons, but haven’t won the MAC since 2004. That streak is gonna end, especially with a schedule that should see them favored in 11 of their 12 games.

THE NEXT 25:

26. Washington State…Luke Falk is back in that Air Raid offense, and the defensive front seven is actually pretty good.

27. Tennessee…If the Vols were overrated last season, maybe they’re underrated this season? Butch Jones has plenty of talent on hand.

28. Virginia Tech…Bud Foster’s defense will be good, as always, but Justin Fuente must find a quarterback.

29. UCLA…They’ll be better with Josh Rosen healthy, but probably not good enough to save Jim Mora’s job.

30. West Virginia…Remember these two names – Will Grier and Justin Crawford. They’re gonna light up the defenseless Big 12 this fall.

31. BYU…A lot of solid pieces are back, and quarterback Tanner Mangum probably fits better with who they want to be on offense.

32. Oregon…The talent and schedule is there for Willie Taggart to completely reverse last year’s 4-8 slide.

33. TCU…It seems like the Horned Frogs have lost their identity. Not quite as explosive on offense, and not quite as stout on defense.

34. Texas A&M…Is this a roster of prospects or suspects? A lot of highly-recruited players need to develop on the fly to save Kevin Sumlin’s job.

35. Indiana…Granted, it’s a low bar, but this is probably the Hoosiers’ best defensive personnel since the Bill Mallory days a quarter century ago.

36. Utah…Kyle Whittingham is the sport’s most underrated coach, so he’ll make a bunch of guys we’ve never heard of winners this fall.

37. Kentucky…16 starters are back as the Wildcats’ have their best chance to lose fewer than five games in a season for the first time since 1985.

38. Arizona State…There’s enough offensive firepower here for the Sun Devils to bounce back and have a surprisingly decent season.

39. Arkansas…This just seems like a program stuck in a perennial 6-to-8 win rut while trying to compete in the rugged SEC West against teams with better players.

40. Mississippi State…Nick Fitzgerald will put up monster numbers this fall, but he can’t do it all by himself.

41. San Diego State…Still the most talented team in the Mountain West if they can rebuild their offensive line.

42. Boise State…Waiting in the wings in the Mountain West with Brett Rypien, just in case San Diego State can’t rebuild that offensive line.

43. Houston…Tom Herman left behind plenty of talent, and former five-star recruit Kyle Allen should flourish in Major Applewhite’s offense.

44. Ole Miss…Shea Patterson appears to be the truth at quarterback, which is good because the defense looks like it’s anything but.

45. Minnesota…P.J. Fleck inherits 14 starters from a team that won nine games in 2016. Now he just needs to find a quarterback.

46. Navy…They may not have their vintage triple-option threat at quarterback, but they still have Coach Ken Niumatalolo.

47. Middle Tennessee—Brent Stockstill-to-Richie James is the most lethal passing combination you’ve never heard of.

48. North Carolina—Larry Fedora tries to win in Chapel Hill with a different quarterback for the third straight year—this time LSU transfer Brandon Harris.

49. Nebraska—The key for Mike Riley is to win enough games to hold on until next year, when he’ll have a more talented squad.

50. Miami (Ohio)—Ended last season with six straight wins before a narrow, one-point loss to an SEC opponent in the bowl game.

 

 

 

 

My 2017 College Football Preview: Part 3

The 2017 Coaching Hot Board

Ranking the top 65 coaches in the sport (power five + Notre Dame) based on a combination of overall achievement and current trajectory of the program.

1. Nick Saban, Alabama

The closest thing to Bear Bryant since Bear Bryant.

2. Urban Meyer, Ohio State

Maybe the only man to at one point have been the greatest coach in both the Big Ten and SEC during his career.

3. Dabo Swinney, Clemson

Only four active coaches have won national championships, and he’s the only one of the bunch to have beaten the other three.

4. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State

Poised to lead the Seminoles to their seventh straight major bowl game this season.

5. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

Has already restored the Michigan brand. Now he needs to win championships.

6. David Shaw, Stanford

Has taken the foundation left him by Jim Harbaugh to the next level.

7. Bill Snyder, Kansas State

One of the great coaching witches of all time finally approaches the twilight of an outstanding career.

8. Chris Petersen, Washington

Second time he’s turned a good program into a national power.

9. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State

Has three 10-win seasons the past four years.

10. Kyle Whittingham, Utah

Maybe the most underrated coach in the country and is practically unbeatable in bowls.

11. Mark Richt, Miami

Off to an excellent start on and off the field at his alma mater.

12. Gary Patterson, TCU

Facing a pivotal year to prove his program has staying power in the Big 12.

13. Bobby Petrino, Louisville

His record, on the field and off, speaks for itself.

 14. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa

Now the longest-tenured coach at one school in college football.

15. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern

Northwestern has posted only three 10-win seasons since 1901, and he either played or coached on all of them.

16. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State

Probably the best coach the school has ever had.

17. Mike Leach, Washington State

Who has 9-win seasons at both Washington State and Texas Tech on their resume?

18. James Franklin, Penn State

Shocked the college football world last year by winning the Big Ten.

19. Gus Malzahn, Auburn

This could be his best team yet.

20. Jim McElwain, Florida

Off to a solid start in Gainesville, but the folks down there prefer spectacular.

21. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame

Trending in the wrong direction.

22. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

Would’ve been considered a top 10 or even top 5 coach only a year ago.

23. Tom Herman, Texas

Walks into the perfect situation in Austin and will have an instant impact.

24. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech

When he’s good, like last year, he’s really good. And when he’s not, well, he’s really not.

25. Larry Fedora, North Carolina

Has quietly produced the best era of Tar Heel football in about 20 years.

 26. Paul Chryst, Wisconsin

The coaching equivalent of a steady, game manager quarterback.

27. Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech

Year one in Blacksburg produced the rare seamless transition taking over for a legend.

28. David Cutcliffe, Duke

Starting to look like his run of making the Blue Devils relevant is winding down.

29. Pat Narduzzi, Pittsburgh

Year two was even better than year one – but faces some rebuilding in year three.

30. Butch Jones, Tennessee

Despite the cheesy/grating clichés, he’s one of only 12 Power Five coaches to win at least nine games or more past two seasons.

31. Brett Bielema, Arkansas

Is he ever gonna make the Razorbacks more than a middling SEC program?

32. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M

Never a good sign when the AD puts you publicly on the hot seat.

33. Dana Holgersen, West Virginia

Went from on the hot seat to a 10-win season in 2016.

 34. Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss

First time in four years he didn’t improve the Rebels’ win total, and is now facing a potentially devastating NCAA investigation.

35. Dave Doeren, N.C. State

Could be poised for a breakout 2017.

36. Clay Helton, USC

If not for Sam Darnold bursting on the scene down the stretch last year, he could very well be unemployed right now.

37. Jim Mora, UCLA

Facing a make-or-break season in Westwood.

38. P.J. Fleck, Minnesota

With his persona he will either flame out or blow up in his new job.

39. Matt Rhule, Baylor

Digging out from the crater that is Waco may be even tougher than turning Temple into a nationally-ranked program.

40. Kirby Smart, Georgia

Year one was okay, but okay doesn’t cut it in Athens. His predecessor got fired for averaging “only” nine wins a year.

41. Lovie Smith, Illinois

His resume is much better than this, but not sure he has the fire in the belly for college football based on what we saw last season.

42. Mike Riley, Nebraska

Quieted the natives somewhat with a 9-win 2016, but expectations are low this fall.

43. Ed Orgeron, LSU

A place-holder hire to keep the recruiting pipeline going until Saban’s run ends, when the administration will open up the checkbook to get an elite coach.

44. Mike MacIntyre, Colorado

Went from fired to national coach of the year, but can he sustain it?

45, D.J. Durkin, Maryland

The way he’s recruiting, doesn’t look like last year’s bowl appearance will turn out to be a flash in the pan.

46. Willie Taggart, Oregon

I’m expecting the Ducks to rebound strong in his first year.

 

 47. Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia

When a coach with his resume has such a disastrous debut, you have to wonder if the fit just isn’t there.

48. Will Muschamp, South Carolina

Gamecocks were surprisingly respectable in his first season.

49. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona

Looks like he’s about to flame out as a Power Five coach, again.

50. Todd Graham, Arizona State

Another Pac-12 coach who is coaching for his job this fall.

51. Mark Stoops, Kentucky

Finally led the Wildcats to the postseason, but can he do it again?

52. Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma

He’s just 33-years old, never been a head coach before, and is taking over for a mythical figure in Norman. Good luck.

53. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt

Got an extension after qualifying for a bowl game last year.

54. Dave Clawson, Wake Forest

We’re about to find out if last year’s success, by Wake Forest standards, was him or his celebrated – and departed – defensive coordinator.

55. Gary Andersen, Oregon State

Look for him to lead the Beavers back to respectability as soon as this fall.

56. Matt Campbell, Iowa State

Cyclones return most of their key offensive personnel, so Campbell could take a big step in year two.

57. Jeff Brohm, Purdue

Last time Boilermakers brought in a pass-happy, mid-major coach his name was Joe Tiller and that seemed to work out pretty well.

58. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech

Probably bowl game or bust for this Red Raider favorite son.

59. Tom Allen, Indiana

Showed last year he knows how to coordinate a defense, but now we need to see if he can coordinate a program.

60. Steve Addazio, Boston College

Definitely on the hot seat in Chestnut Hill.

61. Dino Babers, Syracuse

Other than a nice upset of Virginia Tech, a forgettable first season.

62. Justin Wilcox, California

Has an excellent defensive pedigree, but now he’s in a conference known for offense.

63. Barry Odom, Missouri

The Gary Pinkel era seems like it was so long ago now.

 64. David Beaty, Kansas

Avoids the basement because Jayhawks finally won a conference game.

65. Chris Ash, Rutgers

Here’s hoping Jerry Kill is just what the program needed.

2017 POSITION RANKINGS

The top players in the country at each position. 

 Quarterbacks

  1. Lamar Jackson, Louisville (Jr.)
  2. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State (Sr.)
  3. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma (Sr.)
  4. Jake Browning, Washington (Jr.)
  5. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State (Sr.)
  6. Sam Darnold, USC (So.)
  7. Luke Falk, Washington State (Sr.)
  8. Quinton Flowers, South Florida (Sr.)
  9. Jalen Hurts, Alabama (So.)
  10. Logan Whiteside, Toledo (Sr.)

Breakout star: Jarrett Stidham, Auburn (So.)

Running backs

  1. Saquon Barkley, Penn State (Jr.)
  2. Derrius Gice, LSU (Jr.)
  3. Nick Chubb, Georgia (Sr.)
  4. Royce Freeman, Oregon (Sr.)
  5. Bo Scarborough, Alabama (Jr.)
  6. Myles Gaskin, Washington (Jr.)
  7. Akrum Wadley, Iowa (Sr.)
  8. Kamryn Pettway, Auburn (Jr.)
  9. Justin Jackson, Northwestern (Sr.)
  10. Ronald Jones, USC (Jr.)

Breakout star: Chris Warren, Texas (Jr.)

Wide receivers

  1. James Washington, Oklahoma State (Sr.)
  2. Dante Pettis, Washington (Sr.)
  3. Richie James, Middle Tennessee State (Jr.)
  4. Courtland Sutton, SMU (Jr.)
  5. Allen Lazard, Iowa State (Sr.)
  6. Calvin Ridley, Alabama (Jr.)
  7. Anthony Miller, Memphis (Sr.)
  8. Christian Kirk, Texas A&M (Jr.)
  9. Antonio Callaway, Florida (Jr.)
  10. Michael Gallup, Colorado State (Sr.)

Breakout star: Ahmmon Richards, Miami (So.)

Tight Ends

  1. Troy Fumagali, Wisconsin (Sr.)
  2. Jaylen Samuels, N.C. State (Sr.)
  3. Mike Gesicki, Penn State (Sr.)
  4. Adam Brenneman, Massachusetts (Sr.)
  5. Cam Serigne, Wake Forest (Sr.)

Breakout star: Alize Mack, Notre Dame (Jr.)

Offensive tackles

  1. Orlando Brown, Oklahoma (Jr.)
  2. Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame (Sr.)
  3. Connor Williams, Texas (Jr.)
  4. Mitch Hyatt, Clemson (Jr.)
  5. Braden Smith, Auburn (Sr.)
  6. Trey Adams, Washington (Jr.)
  7. Mason Cole, Michigan (Sr.)
  8. Dalton Risner, Kansas State (Jr.)
  9. Martinas Rankin, Mississippi State (Sr.)
  10. Brian O’Neill, Pittsburgh (Jr.)

Breakout star: Jonah Williams, Alabama (So.)

Guards/Centers

  1. Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame (Jr.)
  2. Cody O’Connell, Washington State (Sr.)
  3. Frank Ragnow, Arkansas (Sr.)
  4. Billy Price, Ohio State (Sr.)
  5. Tyrone Crowder, Clemson (Sr.)
  6. Sean Welsh, Iowa (Sr.)
  7. Will Clapp, LSU (Jr.)
  8. Will Hernandez, UTEP (Sr.)
  9. Scott Quessenberry, UCLA (Sr.)
  10. Tony Adams, N.C. State (Sr.)

Breakout star: Ryan Bates, Penn State (So.)

Defensive tackles

  1. Christian Wilkins, Clemson (Jr.)
  2. Maurice Hurst, Michigan (Sr.)
  3. Ed Oliver, Houston (So.)
  4. Vita Vea, Washington (Jr.)
  5. Dexter Lawrence, Clemson (So.)
  6. Steven Richardson, Minnesota (Sr.)
  7. Derrick Nnadi, Florida State (Jr.)
  8. Da’Ron Payne, Alabama (Jr.)
  9. Trent Thompson, Georgia (Jr.)
  10. Greg Gaines, Washington (Jr.)

Breakout star: Rasheem Green, USC (Jr.)

Defensive Ends

  1. Bradley Chubb, N.C. State (Sr.)
  2. Harold Landry, Boston College (Sr.)
  3. Arden Key, LSU (Jr.)
  4. Tyquan Lewis, Ohio State (Sr.)
  5. Rashan Gary, Michigan (So)
  6. Dorance Armstrong, Kansas (Jr.)
  7. Hercules Mata’afa, Washington State (Sr.)
  8. Marques Haynes, Ole Miss (Sr.)
  9. Nick Bosa, Ohio State (So.)
  10. Duke Ejiofor, Wake Forest (Sr.)

Breakout star: Josh Sweat, Florida State (Jr.)

Linebackers

  1. Tegray Scales, Indiana (Sr.)
  2. Josey Jewell, Iowa (Sr.)
  3. Malik Jefferson, Texas (Jr.)
  4. Micah Kiser, Virginia (Sr.)
  5. Jordan Jones, Kentucky (So.)
  6. Azeem Victor, Washington (Sr.)
  7. Cameron Smith, USC (Jr.)
  8. Jack Cichy, Wisconsin (Sr.)
  9. Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech (Jr.)
  10. Travin Howard, TCU (Sr.)

Breakout star: Khaleke Hudson, Michigan (So.)

Cornerbacks

  1. Jaire Alexander, Louisville (Jr.)
  2. Tarvarus McFadden, Florida State (Jr.)
  3. Jordan Thomas, Oklahoma (Sr.)
  4. Rashard Fant, Indiana (Sr.)
  5. D.J. Reed, Kansas State (Jr.)
  6. Duke Dawson, Florida (Sr.)
  7. Greg Stroman, Virginia Tech (Sr.)
  8. Iman Marshall, USC (Jr.)
  9. Quenton Meeks, Stanford (Jr.)
  10. Blace Brown, Troy

Breakout star: Donte Jackson, LSU (Jr.)

Safeties

  1. Derwin James, Florida State (Jr.)
  2. Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama (Jr.)
  3. Quin Blanding, Virginia (Sr.)
  4. Jordan Whitehead, Pittsburgh (Jr.)
  5. Marcus Allen, Penn State (Sr.)
  6. Godwin Igwebuike, Northwestern (Sr.)
  7. Chase Hansen, Utah (Jr.)
  8. Armani Watts, Texas A&M (Sr.)
  9. Tre Flowers, Oklahoma State (Sr.)
  10. Ronnie Harrison, Alabama (Jr.)

Breakout star: Taylor Rapp, Washington (So.)

2017 College Football Preseason News & Notes

Unit Ratings

The top schools at each position group.

Offensive backfield—1. Alabama, 2. Auburn, 3. Washington, 4. USC, 5. Oklahoma State, 6. Penn State, 7. Georgia, 8. West Virginia, 9. Ohio State, 10. Northwestern.

Receivers/tight ends—1. Oklahoma State, 2. Alabama, 3. Clemson, 4. Memphis, 5. Oklahoma, 6. Colorado, 7. Middle Tennessee, 8. Indiana, 9. Notre Dame, 10. Penn State.

Offensive line—1. Oklahoma, 2. Iowa, 3. Notre Dame, 4. Clemson, 5. Washington, 6. Alabama, 7. Texas, 8. Ohio State, 9. Florida, 10. Washington State.

Defensive line—1. Clemson, 2. Ohio State, 3. Michigan, 4. Alabama, 5. Washington, 6. N.C. State, 7. USC, 8. Florida State, 9. Miami, 10. Auburn.

Linebackers—1. Georgia, 2. Alabama, 3. Miami, 4. USC, 5. Virginia Tech, 6. Washington, 7. Wisconsin, 8. TCU, 9. BYU, 10. Kentucky.

Secondary—1. Florida State, 2. Alabama, 3. Georgia, 4. Virginia Tech, 5. Louisville, 6. Stanford, 7. Ohio State, 8. Indiana, 9. Troy, 10. Appalachian State.

Freshman Flashes

Look for these prep newcomers to be instant impact players this fall.

Cam Akers (RB-Florida State)

Jack Anderson (OL-Texas Tech)

Markquese Ball (S-Maryland)

Tarik Black (WR-Michigan)

Lynn Bowden (ATH-Kentucky)

Larry Boyd (OL-Illinois)

Justin Broiles (CB-Oklahoma)

Stephen Carr (RB-USC)

Amari Carter (S-Miami)

Micah Clark (OL-Rutgers)

Wyatt Davis (OL-Ohio State)

Grant Delpit (S-LSU)

Navaughn Donaldson (OL-Miami)

A.J. Epenesa (DE-Iowa)

Willie Gay (LB-Mississippi State)

Tee Higgins (WR-Clemson)

Anthony Hines (LB-Texas A&M)
Darnay Holmes (CB-UCLA)

Donovan Hunter (DB-Virginia Tech)

Jerry Jeudy (WR-Alabama)

Hunter Johnson (QB-Clemson)

Jaylon Johnson (CB-Utah)

Ty Jones (WR-Washington)

Jake Lawler (DE-North Carolina)

Alex Leatherwood (OL-Alabama)

Reese Leitao (TE-Texas)

Deommodore Lenoir (CB-Oregon)

Walker Little (OL-Stanford)

Michael Miranda (OL-Penn State)

Kellen Mond (QB-Texas A&M)

Jeffrey Okudah (DB-Ohio State)

Donovan Peoples-Jones (WR-Michigan)

N’Kosi Perry (QB-Miami)

Jacob Phillips (LB-LSU)

Jaelan Phillips (DE-UCLA)

Brandon Ruiz (K-Arizona State)

Trey Sermon (RB-Oklahoma)

Trey Smith (OL-Tennessee)

Aubrey Solomon (DT-Michigan)

JaCoby Stevens (S-LSU)

Tua Tagovailoa (QB-Alabama)

C.J. Thorp (OL-Penn State)

Marlon Tuipulotu (DT-USC)

Lamont Wade (CB-Penn State)

Colin Wilson (RB-Louisville)

Isaiah Wilson (OL-Georgia)

Marvin Wilson (DL-Florida State)

Brock Wright (TE-Notre Dame)

JUCO Jolts

These junior college transfers will see immediate playing time.

Corrion Ballard (DB-Utah)

Blake Barnett (QB-Arizona State)

Peyton Bender (QB-Kansas)

Marquise Brown (WR-Oklahoma)

Isaiah Buggs (DL-Alabama)

Michael Clemons (DE-Texas A&M)

Jhavonte Dean (DB-Miami)

Matt Eaton (WR-Iowa State)

D’Marcus Hayes (OL-Georgia)

Kai Higgins (DL-Purdue)

De’Andre Johnson (QB-Florida Atlantic)

Gary Johnson (LB-Texas)

Javon Kinlaw (DL-South Carolina)

Jake Luton (QB-Oregon State)

Brandon Martin (WR-Arkansas)

Neil McLaurin (QB-Minnesota)

Chauncey Rivers (DE-Mississippi State)

Kendall Sheffield (CB-Ohio State)

Jarrett Stidham (QB-Auburn)

Marcelias Sutton (RB-Oklahoma)

Adonis Thomas (LB-Florida State)

Andrew Van Ginkel (LB-Wisconsin)

Dante Wigley (CB-Colorado)

Now Ready for Primetime

These redshirt freshmen will emerge after sitting out last season.

Ronnie Blackmon (DB-Colorado)

Luke Campbell (OL-Michigan State)

T.J. Chase (WR-Clemson)

Jameel Cook (DT-USC)

Zerrick Cooper (QB-Clemson)

K.J. Costello (QB-Stanford)

Cameron Dantzler (DB-Mississippi State)

Ben Davis (LB-Alabama)

Feleipe Frakes (QB-Florida)

Isaiah Gilchrist (DB-Washington)

Jarrett Guarantano (QB-Tennessee)

Josh Jackson (QB-Virginia Tech)

Mique Juarez (LB-UCLA)

Tommy Kraemer (OL-Notre Dame)

Justin Madubuike (DE-Texas A&M)

Michael Menet (OL-Penn State)

Byron Murphy (DB-Washington)

Quinn Nordin (PK-Michigan)

Kaden Smith (TE-Stanford)

Shaq Smith (LB-Clemson)

Trevor Speights (RB-Stanford)

Maxs Tupai (DL-Utah)

Trey Udoffia (DB-Colorado)

Tyler Vaughns (WR-USC)

Christian Wallace (DB-Oregon State)

Jamar Watson (LB-Kentucky)

The New Kids in Town

These transfers are being counted on by their new schools.

Kyle Allen (QB-Houston from Texas A&M)

Jeff Badet (WR-Oklahoma from Kentucky)

Jalen Brown (WR-Northwestern from Oregon)

Max Browne (QB-Pittsburgh from USC)

Dee Delaney (DB-Miami from The Citadel)

Brandon Harris (QB-North Carolina from LSU)

Caleb Henderson (QB-Maryland from North Carolina)

Will Grier (QB-West Virginia from Florida)

Chris James (RB-Wisconsin from Pittsburgh)

Tanner Lee (QB-Nebraska from Tulane)

T.J. McCollum (LB-Purdue from Western Kentucky)

Derek Mitchell (RB-Texas Tech from Iowa)

Thomas Sirk (QB-East Carolina from Duke)

Anu Solomon (QB-Baylor from Arizona)

Thomas Tyner (RB-Oregon State from Oregon)

Shaq Wiggins (LB-Tennessee from Louisville)

David Williams (RB-Arkansas from South Carolina)

Ty’Son Williams (RB-South Carolina from North Carolina)

Malik Zaire (QB-Florida from Notre Dame)

Big Shoes to Fill

These players are replacing some of the biggest names from last season.

Rodney Anderson (RB-Oklahoma, Samaje Perine/Joe Mixon)

Mark Andrews (WR-Oklahoma, DeDe Westbrook)

John Battle (S-LSU, Jamal Adams)

Ian Bunting (TE-Michigan, Jake Butt)

Michael Clemons (DE-Texas A&M, Myles Garrett)

Da’Shawn Hand (DT-Alabama, Jonathan Allen)

Khaleke Hudson (S-Michigan, Jabril Peppers)

Dylan Jackson (DE-Stanford, Solomon Thomas)

John Kelly (RB-Tennessee, Alvin Kamara)

Jonathan Kongbo (DE-Tennessee, Derek Barnett)

Isaiah Langley (CB-USC, Adoree Jackson)

Bryce Love (RB-Stanford, Christian McCaffrey)

Jordan Miller (CB-Washington, Sidney Jones)

Michael Ojemudia (CB-Iowa, Desmond King)

Jacques Patrick (RB-Florida State, Dalvin Cook)

Michael Pittman (WR-USC, JuJu Smith-Schuster)

Nic Shimonek (QB-Texas Tech, Pat Mahomes)

Erick Smith (S-Ohio State, Malik Hooker)

Rick Wade (DE-UCLA, Takkarist McKinley)

Denzel Ward (CB-Ohio State, Marshon Lattimore)

Chris Warren (RB-Texas, D’Onta Foreman)

Mack Wilson (LB-Alabama, Reuben Foster)

Brandon Wimbush (QB-Notre Dame, DeShone Kizer)

Whoever plays quarterback for Clemson (DeShaun Watson)

All Underrated Team

Players you don’t know now but by the end of the season you will.

Dante Booker (LB-Ohio State)

Deon Cain (WR-Clemson)

Justin Crawford (RB-West Virginia)

Kamari Cotton-Moya (DB-Iowa State)

Nick Fitzgerald (QB-Mississippi State)

Janarioan Grant (WR-Rutgers)

N’Keal Harry (WR-Arizona State)

Khaleke Hudson (LB-Michigan)

Christian LaCouture (DL-LSU)

Alize Mack (TE-Notre Dame)

Skai Moore (LB-South Carolina)

Jacques Patrick (RB-Florida State)

Taylor Rapp (S-Washington)

Ahmmon Richards (WR-Miami)

Ervin Phillips (WR-Syracuse)

Josh Sweat (DE-Florida State)

Mark Walton (RB-Miami)

Chris Warren (RB-Texas)

The Honor Roll

Predicting the winners of college football’s most prestigious awards.

Heisman Trophy—Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State)

Bear Bryant Award—Mike Gundy (Oklahoma State)

Doak Walker Award—Saquon Barkley (Penn State)

Davey O’Brien Award—Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State)

Fred Biletnikoff Award—James Washington (Oklahoma State)

John Mackey Award—Troy Fumagali (Wisconsin)

Outland Trophy—Christian Wilkins (Clemson)

Bronco Nagurski Award—Derwin James (Florida State)

Dick Butkus Award—Malik Jefferson (Texas)

Jim Thorpe Award—Derwin James (Florida State)

The Ultimate College Football Road Trip

If you can only be at only one stadium each week this fall, these are the places to be.

September 2nd—Florida State vs. Alabama (Arlington)…Maybe the first of two meetings this season, and it might be #1 vs. #2.

September 9th—Oklahoma at Ohio State…Welcome to the show, Lincoln Riley, now go take on Urban Meyer in your second game over.

September 16th—Texas at USC…A chance for Tom Herman to post a statement win early on in year one.

September 23rd—N.C. State at Florida State…Here’s the Wolfpack’s chance to prove they’re worthy of the preseason buzz.

September 30th—Georgia at Tennessee…A rematch of last year’s classic that ended on a buzzer-beating Hail Mary.

October 7th—Penn State at Northwestern…The first true test to see if the Nittany Lions can live up to the hype.

October 14th—Oklahoma vs. Texas (Cotton Bowl)…One of the sport’s great rivalries ushers in the Herman vs. Riley era.

October 21st—Michigan at Penn State…James Franklin attempts to get his first win over the Wolverines in a “white out” under the lights.

October 28th—Georgia vs. Florida (Jacksonville)…This will be the de facto championship game of the SEC East.

November 4th—Oklahoma at Oklahoma State…This Bedlam could be for a spot in both the Big 12 title game as well as the college football playoff.

November 11th—Florida State at Clemson…The defending national champs try to kill the Seminoles’ national title hopes in Death Valley.

November 18th—Michigan at Wisconsin…Wolverines visit perhaps the Big Ten’s loudest stadium for the first time since 2009.

November 25th—Alabama at Auburn…This Iron Bowl could be for a divisional and conference title, as well as a spot in the college football playoff.

December 2nd—My couch…The SEC, ACC, Big Ten, and Big 12 championship games are scheduled to go off consecutively like we used to roll on New Year’s Day.

Fast Forward

Previewing the 2018 NFL Draft. Draft order is determined by preseason win totals posted by Las Vegas oddsmakers.

  1. Browns—Sam Darnold (QB-USC)*
  2. Jets—Josh Rosen (QB-UCLA)*
  3. 49ers—Saquon Barkley (RB-Penn State)*
  4. Bears—Arden Key (DE-LSU)*
  5. Rams—Derwin James (S-Florida State)*
  6. Jaguars—Josh Allen (QB-Wyoming)
  7. Bills—Minkah Fitzpatrick (CB-Alabama)*
  8. Chargers—Mike McGlinchey (OT-Notre Dame)
  9. Dolphins—Connor Williams (OT-Texas)*
  10. Redskins—Jake Browning (QB-Washington)*
  11. Lions—James Washington (WR-Oklahoma State)
  12. Vikings—Malik Jefferson (LB-Texas)*
  13. Eagles—Bradley Chubb (DE-N.C. State)
  14. Bengals—Christian Wilkins (DT-Clemson)
  15. Buccaneers—Tyquan Lewis (DE-Ohio State)*
  16. Colts—Harold Landry (DE-Boston College)
  17. Saints—Tarvarus McFadden (CB-Florida State)*
  18. Cardinals—Mason Rudolph (QB-Oklahoma State)
  19. Broncos—Cameron Smith (LB-USC)*
  20. Texans—Courtland Sutton (WR-SMU)
  21. Ravens—Vita Vea (DT-Washington)
  22. Bills (from Chiefs)—Ronnie Harrison (S-Alabama)*
  23. Panthers—Maurice Hurst (DT-Michigan)
  24. Titans—Orlando Brown (OT-Oklahoma)
  25. Giants—Akrum Wadley (RB-Iowa)
  26. Falcons—Da’Ron Payne (DT-Alabama)*
  27. Cowboys—Calvin Ridley (WR-Alabama)*
  28. Raiders—Bo Scarborough (RB-Alabama)*
  29. Steelers—Jarrett Stidham (QB-Auburn)*
  30. Packers—Quenton Nelson (OL-Notre Dame)
  31. Seahawks—Martinas Rankin (OT-Mississippi State)
  32. Patriots—Josh Sweat (OLB-Florida State)*

*=underclassman