2017 College Football Storylines

There’s going to be a lot of wondering coming into this college football season. How does Alabama bounce back after losing in a title game for the first time under Nick Saban? Where does Dabo Swinney and Clemson go from here? Can Michigan take that next step as a title contender? What does Penn State do as an encore? Below, I’ll be giving you some key games to look out for when September rolls around. Enjoy.

Florida State faces Saban and the Tide: This is a very intriguing battle between two quarterbacks looking to lead their teams to the promised land. With a full year of experience under their belts, Deondre Francois and Jalen Hurts will look to elevate their play and their teammates. Coming into this game, both teams could potentially be ranked first and second and we could be witnessing a preview of the title game possibly. Alabama will enter with a large chunk of last year’s defense gone but no team is better built to replace those guys better than a Nick Saban coached team. Florida State looks to return back to the spotlight and Francois showed some promise in his first season. The guy I’ll have my eye on is Derwin James, Florida State’s safety who returns from injury. Corner Tarvarus McFadden is also returning and will be assigned to defend receiver Calvin Ridley.

Florida travels to the big house: The Florida Gators have played in the last two SEC conference championship games and haven’t missed a beat since Jim McElwain became head coach. This is an interesting game to start out your season traveling to Ann Arbor to face Harbaugh and the Wolverines. Michigan’s defense will look to regroup after losing Taco Charleton, Jourdan Lewis and Jabrill Peppers. Rashan Gary will have to be the guy that leads this defense for Michigan. Florida will look to continue its dominance in the SEC East once again with a tough out of conference task.

Ohio State welcomes Oklahoma to town: In week two, there will be quite a few games that may catch the eye. Auburn and Clemson is one, Georgia traveling to South Bend to face Notre Dame is another and Pittsburgh and Penn State is the other. All eyes, however, will be in Columbus, Ohio when the Sooners of Oklahoma face Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes. When they face each other last season, Ohio State went down to Norman and handed an Oklahoma team with heavy playoff aspirations its second loss in their first three games. Ohio State will enter with a revamped defensive line and Baker Mayfield will lead the Sooners into this one with revenge on the mind. Mayfield is known to pick apart the blitz but I don’t see Ohio State having to blitz because they feel they can get pressure with just four on the defensive line.

An Epic Rematch: Anytime we think of Texas and USC, the epic Championship game in 2006 will always come up and too many, that’s one of the best title games ever. This year, they will face each other in Southern California. Texas is now turning to Tom Herman to resurrect the football program. A win in California would tell us all that Texas is back on the right track of things after struggling so much over the years. USC enters this season with high expectations under Clay Helton. Sam Darnold is a projected top-three pick in next year’s NFL draft if he declares and a Heisman candidate. To some, USC is considered to be a title contender once again. Hopefully, this could be a classic battle.

Texas A&M hosts Bama: It’s always an interesting battle when they meet up with each other. Some thought last season that the Aggies would give the Tide a hard time but that didn’t happen. Coming into this battle, I expect Alabama to have a zero in the loss column and I’m anxious to see how this A&M defense will be without Myles Garrett who was a big part of what they did defensively especially in stopping the run. This could be a big game for Damian Harris and Bo Scarbrough.

The Big Ten Champs host Michigan: It was a magical year for Penn State in 2016. When they faced Michigan at the big house, the Wolverines offense just piled it on Penn State. Now, they will square off again, this time in State College with some heavy conference implications on the line potentially. The big matchup to watch in this one will be Saquon Barkley against this vaunted Michigan front. When they played last year, Barkley only had 38 total yards on the ground. It’s key that Penn State establishes the running game early and often to open things up for the offense.

Penn State/Ohio State, Part II: This is one I have circled on my calendar. This is what gave Penn State the spark they needed to finish the season as one of the hottest teams in football when they upset the heavily favored and then second-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes. This time, the battle will shift to Columbus and I see another intense game between these two. How does Ohio State prepare to shut down Barkley? Can Penn State get pressure on J.T. Barrett? Ohio State knows this is who they must take down if they want to take over the top of the Big Ten once more.

Bedlam: This will always have everybody’s attention. The Oklahoma Sooners and the Oklahoma State Cowboys and Oklahoma State has one of the fastest offenses in the country. They can score at any time and they feature a lot of firepower with Mason Rudolph, James Washington, and Justice Hill. It’s their defense that is the cause for concern because you have to be able to get off the field when it matters. Oklahoma won’t be as productive on offense as they were last season, but Baker Mayfield has picked apart Oklahoma State twice. This game will feature the top two teams in the Big 12 and the winner will more than likely win the conference.

Florida State faces the champs: On the radio, before the season started, I stated that this is the top rivalry in college football because each battle means something and the winner have gone on to not only win their division, but they have played in the ACC Championship game and make an appearance in the playoffs. Clemson does indeed have the talent across the board to win the ACC, but the quarterback play will be the biggest question surrounding them this season. Florida State will have played Miami and Louisville already and I expect them to be in the driver’s seat in their division when they face Clemson.

The Iron Bowl: Now, it wouldn’t be a preview unless I discussed this, right? A lot could be on the line in this one depending on the position LSU is in. it might not be a winner-take-all scenario, but this result would likely affect any tiebreaker regardless.The evidence is simple. Either Alabama or Auburn has reached the national championship (and/or College Football Playoff) in each of the last eight years, and the Crimson Tide have accounted for six of those appearances, including three straight.

The Rivalry: Michigan and Ohio State was by far one of the best games I saw all year long in football and that’s even including all the NFL games I watched. That was a heartbreaker for Jim Harbaugh and big blue and Ohio State won in overtime and the rest is history. This time, they will battle at the big house with a lot to play for potentially. A division title (Penn State could still be in the mix), a trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten title game and a potential playoff spot. If this one is anything like last year’s battle, we’re in for another classic game.