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Kickoff Editor Offers Early 2018 College Football Analysis

college football preview

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.

College football preview

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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.

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The Kickoff College Football Bowl Preview

2016 college football

It’s time for teams to go bowling. We’re already in the thick of the bowl schedule as it all builds to the New Year’s Day matchups. The Kickoff will publish our wrap up issue on January 10th, but Editor Tommy Duff shared some thoughts ahead of that.

“The most interesting matchup that is not in the College Football Playoff is USC vs. Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 29th,” Duff said. “OSU feels like they deserved to be in the playoff, but USC has just as strong of an argument, also going 11-2 during the regular season, and they lost against a stronger team than Iowa.”

Boise State, Troy, Georgia State, Marshall, and Middle Tennessee have all won their bowls so far and are looking ahead to next season. The Kickoff listed the complete bowl schedule (with our Kickoff Power Rankings) in Issue 16, out Dec. 11th.

Duff said the post-season is generally more difficult to predict this year.

“The Orange Bowl Winner will be whoever has any motivation left between Miami and Wisconsin. (They are) two teams in playoff contention all year that fell apart in the final week,” Duff said. “I think Auburn should win against UCF, which is losing their head coach. I expect LSU to win against Notre Dame, which is overmatched.”

“Regarding the College Football Playoffs, can a Big XII offense take care of business against a defense as talented as Georgia’s? I think they can, but UGA has the potential to give Baker Mayfield problems,” Duff said. “Of course, the marquee matchup is the third playoff meeting between Bama and Clemson. Clemson was playing better towards the end of the year, but Bama should be much healthier and is still the team to beat.”

If Georgia prevails in the Rose Bowl and Alabama beats Clemson in the Sugar Bowl, producing an All-SEC national championship game, Duff said experience points to Alabama winning. “If Oklahoma beats Georgia, then I think they will beat Bama,” he said.

In addition to winning the Heisman, Baker Mayfield led several of the stats this season, including percentage of completed passes, efficiency rating, total yards per play, and being responsible for touchdowns at 46. He was also named to the 2017 Kickoff All American team, along with Sooners Mark Andrews, Orlando Brown, and Obgonnia Okoronkwo. These ingredients combine for a potent threat to Clemson defending its national title if the two teams should go head-to-head.

“As we close our 67th season in publication, we would like to thank all of our corporate and individual subscribers for continuing to support The Kickoff,” Duff said. “It’s an honor to be given the opportunity to share your excitement for the sport of college football every fall. College football is not only a game; it’s a cultural pastime shared throughout the United States, and we are truly blessed to spend Saturdays with you. We look forward to seeing you in 2018. We wish you a safe and happy holidays!”

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Midseason Reflections on College Football Season

We are midway through the 2015 College Football Season and the stakes of each game are getting higher as we inch closer to the Playoffs!

Tommy Duff, Editor of The Kickoff, reflected on the season thus far and the challenges ahead for teams still in the hunt…

In the Oct. 19th edition of Kickoff Top 25, we had TCU and Ohio State replaced in the top spots by Utah and LSU. There were 14 undefeated teams in our Top 25, with single-loss Alabama ranked at No. 9. Our Strength of Schedule analysis in that issue showed that Ohio State played a schedule with the largest difference between their ranking and their average opponent ranking in 2015. This indicates that the Buckeyes may not have the “easiest” straight schedule, but in regards to their official rating, they have more of a schedule advantage than any other team in the country.

“Ohio State hasn’t looked good against lower rated teams and does not have any quality wins, plus they have two quarterbacks, which means they don’t have a quarterback,” Duff said. “TCU has been inconsistent. They only beat Iowa State (which had a 2-4 record) by 24 points last week. That’s the second time they’ve nearly been knocked off by a lower rated team.”

The Kickoff was high on Utah and LSU based on several factors, including wins against quality opponents in top-rated conferences, including the Tigers’ win over a Florida team that was undefeated until last week. “At this point, Utah has the most quality wins” over teams like Michigan, California, Arizona State and putting up 62 points against Oregon. Utah ended up losing Saturday to USC 42-24. LSU beat Western Kentucky 48-20.

In the Oct. 26 issue, LSU lept to the top of our Top 25 while Clemson jumped from No. 7 to No. 4. FSU, which lost a heartbreaker to Georgia Tech, fell from No. 8 to No. 15. Alabama moved up two spots after beating Tennessee in a close one. 

Duff said he expects the winner of the Alabama-LSU game to be in the Playoffs. “Leonard Fournette is one of the best players we’ve seen since Bo Jackson in terms of pure natural talent, speed and size. He just demolishes people, which is very rare. He hasn’t had less than 150 yards in a game all season. It is possible LSU is going to fall a bit in the ratings as their schedule eases up. When you look at strength of teams played, they benefitted from their opener against McNeese State being cancelled due to weather on Sept. 5th.”

In other words, we still have a lot of football left to play.

The weeks ahead will determine which coaches get pink slips or trophies. We’ve already seen Steve Spurrier and Steve Sarkisian leave their teams after 2-4 and 3-2 starts respectively. “I knew Spurrier wouldn’t last long with the way South Carolina was performing, but I was surprised he quit in the middle of the season,” Duff said.

Ohio State was atop our Preseason Top 25. Our No. 3 pick, Auburn, is perhaps the biggest shocker of the year, now at 4-3 and out of playoff contention after Saturday’s 4-Overtime game at Arkansas. The Tigers still have Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Georgia, Idaho, and Alabama  remaining on their schedule.

“The media, including The Kickoff, bought into a lot of hype about Jeremy Johnson based on the limited amount of work he did last season as a starter, which looked fabulous and suggested he had better skills than Nick Marshall, but the kid lost his confidence after throwing interceptions, plus Auburn lost Carl Lawson, who was supposed to be their leader on defense and an All-American. Gus Malzahn forgot how important a mobile quarterback was in his system,” Duff said.

Comparing the preseason and last week’s Kickoff Top 25s, Oregon, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Arizona State, Boise State, and Tennessee, all have failed to meet their potential in 2015. Teams that haven’t disappointed so far include TCU, Ohio State, Baylor, Michigan State, Clemson, FSU, Oklahoma State, and Arizona.

Our games of the week last week were Clemson at Miami, FL and Tennessee at Alabama.

We went with undefeated Clemson, which enjoyed a 13.6 difference in Power Ratings with the 4-2 Hurricanes. “Clemson could be in the playoffs, as they have done their thing under the radar this season. They’ll need better quarterback play to get past Florida State on Nov. 7th,” Duff said. The Tigers shut them out 58-0, leading to Al Golden being fired this week.

We assigned the Crimson Tide (6-1) a 9 point difference in Power Ratings over the Volunteers. Duff expected the game to be a close one. “Butch Jones has taken the leash off Josh Dobbs and let him play his own game. Statistically, Tennessee ran the ball all over Georgia. Alabama’s defense is set up to stop a classic pro offense and has problems whenever they face a spread offense with a mobile quarterback,” he said. Bama ended up winning 19-14.

It’s not too late to get our Halftime Subscription so you can arm yourself with knowledge when you face off at your family’s Thanksgiving Dinner against your know-it-all uncle who went to that rival school! We have nine issues left to publish this season. Pay just $10.62 to get a Mid-Season Email/PDF Subscription ($19.58 for printed issues sent 1st Class mail to your home or office).  As the season progresses, we’ll lower the price weekly so you only pay for what’s left of the season. Hey, better late than never to get in the game! Email kickofforders@gmail.com to sign up today.

Also, test your knowledge of college football by participating in our Thursday Throwdown trivia on Facebook. We stumped quite a few people this week with our question about the 1985 Fresno State team that was the only unbeaten Division 1-A team in the country, ranked 16th in the Coaches Poll that year.

Talk to us this weekend while we watch the games. Which upsets are you expecting? How is your team doing so far this year? Sound off! Use the hashtag #thekickoff on Facebook and Twitter so we can follow your conversations.

Enjoy this weekend’s games. We’ll be watching alongside you.

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