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2017 College Football Preview

by Big Al

The season has snuck up on me this year, as I forgot that there are preseason games again. They did away with them, now the bring them back. College football is so confusing.

Anyway, I need to have some sort of preview, and I am going to do my usual weirdness with it. I'm not predicting anything, I'm just pointing out the classes of teams and what is expected of them.

I would also like to point out that I'm have a devil of a time finding decent lists of just who the returning starters are for each team, so I'm flying kind of blind in what I should expect from each team.

The Usual Suspects: Alabama, Ohio State, Florida State, USC

There is always the set of teams that you would pencil into the top echelon. This year, they are the teams listed above, which I do not want to type in all over again. I should note that all four of these teams are traditional powerhouses that everybody fully expects to be fantastic every year, so nobody feels bad about putting any of these teams up here in pole position for the playoffs.

So let's run them down:

  1. Alabama - If they go 11-1, they are in. If they go 12-1 they are absolutely in. No trouble there. It's Alabama; it's not a playoff without them.
  2. Ohio State - I think Ohio State is probably the most tenuous team in this list. There is no covering for getting annihilated 31-0 by Clemson. If they go 11-1, there had better not be a 10-2 SEC team available. If they lose early, but finish at 12-1, then they should be just fine. If they lose late, but win the Big Ten... well... we'll worry about that when we get there.
  3. USC - Sam Darnold is the latest Anointed One for the summer Heisman. We'll see how that plays out in reality: that title is usually the easiest one to lose between August and December. And it's not like the Pac-12 is particularly poor, so I'm not so sure. But USC is expected to win the Pac-12 pretty much every year, so I have more confidence in USC than I do in Sam Darnold.
  4. Florida State - I think Florida State is the most likely team to be knocked off of the top four. The ACC is a tough go, and there are a lot of landmines. And let's be honest here: Deondre Francois got the shit kicked out of him last year. Quarterbacks can't take that kind of beating and have their team finish with one win. Unless that improves wildy (and opening against Alabama will test every bit of the offensive line's ability to keep Francois upright), they won't make it through their schedule.

The Contingents: Clemson, Penn State, Oklahoma, Washington, Wisconsin

Next up, we have some teams that people expect to be good, but aren't yet sure about.

  1. Clemson - They are the reigning national champions. They also lost the bulk of their offensive talent. They are still pretty good and I would not be surprised to see them back in the playoffs. But I would not be surprised to see them finish the season 9-3 either. They are a question mark no matter how you look at it.
  2. Penn State - Penn State was a team that looked really good last season thanks to wins over Ohio State and Wisconsin. But actually watching them play... erm... they weren't very reassuring. They have a great running back in Saquon Barkley. They have a quarterback who gets it done in some mysterious manner nobody can figure out in Trace McSorley. Maybe McSorley has figured out how a complete a pass other than a back-shoulder fade. Maybe that won't matter. They are a big question mark until we see what they are.
  3. Oklahoma - Offensive brilliance: Baker Mayfield is one of the most fun players to watch in college football when he isn't playing your team. Defense has excellent marks on attendance: they always have 11 players out there. If they knock off Ohio State on the road, then they will be in the top 4. If they lose to Ohio State, they aren't out in the cold; but there are a lot other teams for them to play.
  4. Washington - Washington's biggest problem is that they are Washington. If they were USC, they would be in the top 4. But they aren't. They are Washington. Unfair, I know. But they are going to be a target this season. Don't doubt that that will make their year that much tougher.
  5. Wisconsin - As good as Wisconsin is and has been year-over-year for the last 25 years, they always find a way to drop just enough games to fall out of the national title picture. It stinks, but it's a fact. Until they prove they can do otherwise, they will be put on the outside looking in.

The Wildcards: Michigan, Florida, Miami

These are teams that nobody really knows what to do with. They are enough of traditional powerhouses that they will always have talent. But there are plenty of questions too.

  1. Michigan - They gave Ohio State and Florida State everything they could handle for four quarters, and sometimes beyond. However, they are replacing almost their entire defense, and a whole heck of a lot of offense. But that didn't really slow down Ohio State last year, who made it to the playoffs with almost an entirely new team. But you never know how new players will turn out until you see them line up and hit people. I would not be surprised by any Michigan record this year between 8-4 and 13-0. We really don't know. Nobody knows. We'll learn a lot in week one when they play...
  2. Florida - They keep winning the SEC East, and then losing to Alabama. No shame in the latter, but you do wonder if they can get over the hump. That's a really big hump. Nobody has gotten over it since, oh, Florida.
  3. Miami - Are they back? We don't know. They started off gangbusters last year, then fell off as the year went on. They pretty well traded places with USC last year. I really like Mark Richt; it's a tremendous shame he didn't get Georgia a national title while Alabama was down. But he didn't, and now he's coaching at his alma mater. That's a nice way to land on your feet, but it can't feel good to be fired. I'm eyeing them with interest, but for various reasons, I'm not expecting an entire return to the Miami of yore.

A Team To Be Named Later

I'm not going to list every team that could be a threat for the title, but I have little doubt that some team starting in the 10 to Also Receiving Votes range will make the playoffs. There is always some team waiting in the wings with just enough talent that hits the right amount of luck that we can't quite see until October. And then November (and December) actually prove their worthiness. Who will that be? Who knows? We'll find out in December when they call the names for the playoffs. Which is exactly why we watch this game: it's exciting, it's exasperating, it's endlessly thrilling. So watch it and enjoy every breathtaking moment.

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