The NCAA basketball tournament is over as is The Masters, and the Braves are most likely on their way to another sub .500 season. So, of course it’s time to cast a way to early glance at college football.
The college football season sits a solid four months away, or maybe a bit sooner depending on when you pick up this issue. I’m not sure my friends who support Georgia have yet to get over the shock of losing in overtime to Alabama in the national title game.
But as in all things, time marches on and the teams that competed for the national title the year before finds it has a long way to go to get back to the championship, unless it’s Alabama of course.
Speaking of the Crimson Tide, Nick Saban and company have an interesting dilemma that should prove fun to watch in the quarterback battle between Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa. For those that don’t remember, Hurts helped lead Bama to back-to-back national title games but discovered the going rough against UGA in this year’s final.
Enter Tagovailoa, with almost no big game experience under his belt the freshmen wunderkind managed to pull off big play after big play, stayed calm under pressure and hit the gaming wining touchdown pass in overtime of the national title game. Hurts is a solid quarterback and can beat teams with his legs or his arm. But Tagovailo appears to be a virtuoso with more potential and a much better arm.
As usual, Alabama returns a ton of talent and the Crimson Tide should be one of the top-ranked teams when the season starts. It will be interesting to see how Saban handles the quarterbacks.
Two new head coaches will get a lot of attention this season as Jimbo Fisher takes over the reigns at Texas A&M after a solid run at Florida State, and Dan Mullen steps in at Florida after working wonders at Mississippi State.
Fisher’s feud with Florida State over facilities (say that real fast three times), was one of several reasons he left Tallahassee. The Aggies boast amazing facilities and enough cash to keep the upgrades coming. However, those perks come with a win often and win early issue.
Fisher sits on the short list of active coaches with a national championship on his resume, and the powers that be at A&M didn’t lure him to College Station just to be competitive in the SEC West. They expect Jimbo to deliver a national championship, and they will want it sooner rather than later. No pressure, especially considering his schedule with the Aggies will be much more fearsome year in and year out than what he faced with the Seminoles.
Mullen had accomplished about all he could at Mississippi State and although he didn’t appear to be Florida’s first choice for head coach, he has a solid pedigree and a good offensive mind. He also knows how to recruit and compete in the SEC. The question is can he do enough to get the Gators back into solid shape. The offense has been abysmal over the past few years. The SEC East isn’t too strong at the moment though, so maybe Mullen can take what he has learned competing in the SEC West and get the Gators back into the national spotlight.
Two other head coach hires, which should draw national attention, see former Nebraska stand out Scott Frost taking over the job at his alma mater, and Chip Kelly returning to college football and the Pac 10 at UCLA.
Neither the Cornhuskers nor the Bruins have had much luck or many great seasons over the past decade. Frost worked wonders at Central Florida. If he and his staff can continue to recruit and develop talent, the Cornhuskers could return to national prominence.
UCLA has several quarterbacks ready to battle and a couple of solid running backs, so look for Kelley to get the Bruins’ offense off and running early. If he can recapture the magic he had while at Oregon, then the Bruins could see a return to their glory days.
Last year, Georgia’s early-season win against Notre Dame proved to be a boon for the Bulldogs and helped them along the way to the SEC Championship and the national title game. The Bulldogs landed the top-ranked recruiting class in the nation which should help, because they lose a lot of talent to graduation.
The good news for Georgia is this year’s schedule isn’t as daunting and there isn’t a trip to a Notre Dame caliber team. However, the schedule could prove to be a downfall as well. If Georgia drops a key SEC game or two, the woeful strength of schedule could keep them out of playoff contention.
Clemson returns perhaps more NFL-level talent than any team in college football. The Tigers are loaded and should be an early favorite to get back to the playoffs. Incoming quarterback Trevor Lawrence from Cartersville could make things interesting at the signal-caller position. An early-season contest against Texas A&M could put them in prime position to run the table.
Jim Harbaugh has made plenty of headlines at Michigan, including several times he’s needled the SEC and SEC coaches. However, Harbaugh needs to find a way to get his Wolverines to start winning more games. That won’t be easy with Michigan State, Wisconsin and Penn State all returning lots of talent not to mention Ohio State. And Harbaugh and his charges open at a loaded Notre Dame team, meaning they better be ready or the season could get long quick.
And if Michigan falters again this season a big question will be how long the Wolverines stick with Harbaugh.
And what about the Auburn Tigers, who shocked the SEC and the nation last November with wins over then top-ranked Georgia and Alabama. The Tigers finished the season in less than stellar fashion with losses to Georgia in the SEC Championship game and to upstart UCF in the Peach Bowl.
Tigers’ coach Gus Malzahn holds a distinction no other SEC coach has – wins over Nick Saban. Whether the Tigers, who lost a lot of offensive and defensive stalwarts to graduation or the NFL can make another late-season run will be interesting to watch.