2018 College Football Preview
We made it through that cold, dark place between the national title game and the start of spring football. Tommy Duff, Editor of The Kickoff newsletter offers another round of springtime college football analysis.
Asked who he expects to have a better year in 2018, Duff said he has an eye on the Penn State Nittany Lions, who return both Quarterback McSorley and Wide Receiver Thompkins. “Miles Sanders leads to fill Barkley’s place at Running Back,” Duff said. The team went to 7–0 to begin the 2017 season, before losing on consecutive weekends to Ohio State and Michigan State. They finished the regular season with wins over Rutgers, Nebraska and Maryland before beating Washington, 35–28, at the Fiesta Bowl.
Of course, Alabama continues to demand its perineal spot in the pre-season national title conversation based on recent performance. The Crimson Tide finished the 2017 season with a record of 13–1, losing to Auburn before defeating eventual SEC Champion Georgia in the College Football Playoff. “Obviously the big question for Bama in 2018 is whether Sophomore Tua Tagovailoa or Junior Jalen Hurts will win the starting job for the Tide,” Duff said. Hurts led Bama to the title game two consecutive years, but Tagovailoa was named the Offensive MVP of the national title game after replacing an ineffective Hurts in the second half. Offseason departures included Minkah Fitzpatrick, Calvin Ridley, Bo Scarbrough, and Rashaan Evans, but Nick Saban is expected to simply reload.
The 2017 Georgia Bulldogs football team finished the regular season 11-1 with the only loss coming on the road to Auburn 17-40. Key wins included defeating Notre Dame on the road in week 2, 20-19. After winning the SEC East, Georgia won their first SEC Championship since 2005 and beat Oklahoma 54-48 in two overtimes. Expectations are high again for Head Coach Kirby Smart in his third year in Athens. “Jake Fromm looks to be in complete control of quarterback position, despite UGA signing #1 QB Justin Fields. D’Andre Swift looks to be the guy to have first crack at Running Back.”
Duff expects Kelly Bryant to line up under center again at Clemson: “He’s on track to win the starting QB position again, despite early suggestions that he may be overtaken by Hunter Johnson.”
Urban Meyer has to replace JT Barrett at Ohio State after the Buckeyes finished 12-2, Big Ten champion and winner of the Cotton Bowl 24-7 vs USC. Barrett accumulated more than 25 Ohio State records including most total yards in a season (3,851) and most touchdowns in a season (47) as well as most career passing yards (9,434) and completions (769). “Sophomore Joe Burrow has been pushing presumptive favorite Dwayne Haskins all spring,” Duff said.
Ohio State is adapting to a host of changes as well, including OC/OL Ed Warriner left to become offensive line coach at Minnesota; Co-OC/QB Tim Beck left to become the offensive coordinator at Texas under coach Tom Herman, a previous offensive coordinator at Ohio State; Co-DC/LB Luke Fickell left to become the head coach at Cincinnati; and more.
Asked about Head Coaches who head into 2018 with a warm seat, Duff said Kliff Kingsbury of Texas Tech comes to mind. “The Red Raiders improved last year, finishing 6-7 and 3-6 in Big 12 play. Kingsbury needs 8 wins this year in his 6th season as the coach,” Duff said.
Fans are eager to see how first-year coaches like Florida’s Dan Mullen, Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher, Nebraska’s Scott Frost, Tennessee’s Jeremy Pruitt, and others fare once the speculation ends and the kickoff begins. Duff said new Florida State Coach Willie Taggart enters the season with the “most weapons to win right away.”
What are YOUR preseason predictions for the top FBS and FCS teams?
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