2018 Storylines- NCAA Football

1. Rivalry Renewed– You better believe I will have this game circled on my calendar as the new season of college football approaches. The Michigan Wolverines will travel to South Bend to face the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame! A classic rivalry is back! This is the year that will determine if Michigan decides to keep Jim Harbaugh as their head coach moving forward or will they finally decide to move on from him? His seat will be scorching hot this year. Each year that Jim has coached in Ann Arbor, he fails to pick up that signature win that would stand out on their resume. A win over this iconic program of the Irish would definitely silence the nay-sayers. Notre Dame had a great bounce-back season in 2017. The Irish will have to find a way to replace the production of Josh Adams at running back. What more could you ask for to open up a new season of football? The legendary Michigan Wolverines and the legendary Notre Dame Fighting Irish. This needs to get here soon. Before Notre Dame faced the Miami Hurricanes last year, I said it was an honor to preview that match up and I can say the same for this one as well.

2. SEC West Champs face Washington– This is an interesting game here. The Auburn Tigers shocked the world last season and won the SEC West for the first time in five seasons when they defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide. I like Auburn’s chances to make another run at winning the division title again because they have Jared Stidham back for another year under center and he was the ultimate difference-maker for the Tigers. The Washington Huskies are two years removed from winning a Pac-12 championship and making an appearance in the College Football Playoff. Just like Auburn, they will also be expected to compete and wins games with Jake Browning who returns for his senior season. We will know more about both of these teams after this showdown in Atlanta.

3. Jimbo/Dabo– Jimbo Fisher decided to leave Florida State to take the job in College Station as the head coach of the Texas A&M Aggies and he’ll see his first true test early on when a familiar team comes to his place for a big showdown, the Clemson Tigers. I can’t wait to see Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant and how he develops as a quarterback in year two. The weight of the world should be off his shoulders as he doesn’t have to worry about who he’s replacing any more. Now, he can just worry about putting his team in the best position to win. If the Aggies want to be taken seriously, this will be the game to prove just that. A win would give them a quality victory early on and it’ll look good on the resume.

4. The Ohio State, TCU, JerryWorld– This will be the third straight year that Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes will face a team from the Big-12 and they’ll be looking for some revenge after getting embarrassed to the Oklahoma Sooners last September at the shoe in Columbus. This one will be at AT&T Stadium in a neutral site. This will be a fun one to watch. The prolific offense of Gary Patterson against the defense of Urban Meyer. This calls for good football.

5. The Florida Showdown– The non-Power five conference deserves some love too, right? Here we have Florida Atlantic with head coach Lane Kiffin and the so-called “national champions” otherwise known as the UCF Knights who are looking to prove that their success isn’t based on their former coach, Scott Frost. It’s a battle of everyone’s least favorite coach (Kiffin) against the feel-good story in college football from a season ago with a new head coach in Josh Heupel who served as the offensive coordinator at Missouri for two seasons. If you like offense, this is the game for you.

6. Round III– In the last two seasons, the Penn State Nittany Lions and Ohio State Buckeyes have played two very memorable games. When they met in 2016, a then-unranked Penn State Nittany Lions team shocked the world and upset the Buckeyes and from there, everything fell into place for them as they went on to win the Big Ten East and conference championship. Last season, Penn State entered the shoe with an undefeated record and at one point in the game, they had an 18 point lead and lost it as Ohio State won by a point, 39-38. I remember before last year’s showdown, I stated that the winner of this had a really good shot at winning the Big Ten championship and look what happened. This year, they will meet again at State College with much on the line. This will be a true test for this Nittany Lions offense facing the defensive scheme of Urban Meyer without the services of Saquon Barkley.

7. Rivalry Day In Michigan– As we know by now, the knock on Jim Harbaugh has been his inability to win those big games since returning to Ann Arbor as the head coach. He’s only won one big game since being named the head coach and to me, that is why he will be on the hot seat this season. In this one, we have the Michigan Wolverines and Michigan State Spartans this time in East Lansing. Last fall, the Spartans stunned the Wolverines at the big house and took home the Paul Bunyan trophy. Michigan State is a legit contender to win the division and get to Indianapolis. They have ten starters returning on offense and nine on defense. Michigan will look to try and get just its second win over a rival in the Harbaugh era.

8. An Indy Preview?– In such a popular conference as the Big Ten, the Wisconsin Badgers don’t necessarily receive the same national coverage as some of the other teams in the Big Ten, but they will be the hands-on favorite to win the Big Ten West once again. Wisconsin will be returning its backfield in quarterback Alex Hornibrook and running back Jonathan Taylor who rushed for 1,877 yards as a freshman last season. This could be the most important game on their schedule, especially if they want to get back to Indianapolis for the third straight year to play in the Big Ten Title game? Penn State will have the home-field advantage in this one and Happy Valley will be up and rocking for this showdown with some heavy conference implications.

9. Another Historic Battle– The last time we saw the Florida State Seminoles and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish meet, it was in October back in 2014 and Jameis Winston was a sophomore under center for the defending national champions at that time. Both were ranked in the top five and it was a four-point game that saw the Seminoles victorious. Four years later, they will meet again, this time in South Bend. If the previous meeting was close, I’m hoping we will see the same thing again this time around. This game could feature some heavy playoff implications as well.

10. Iron– It felt like 2013 all over again when the Auburn Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide met with a trip to the SEC Championship game on the line. Auburn won and advanced, but Bama got the last laugh last season and snuck into the playoffs as the fourth seed and ended up winning their fifth championship in nine seasons. Their annual finale will take place in Tuscaloosa and this could determine the winner of the SEC West once again and play in the SEC Title Game the following week. The big question is who will be the starting quarterback for the Tide and we know that Auburn will still have Stidham under center. This will be a revenge game for the champs. Last season, they were absolutely embarrassed by the Tigers.

11. The Best For Last– It doesn’t matter where Michigan or Ohio State are ranked because when these two teams meet, it will always grab my attention. This rivalry along with Duke and North Carolina in college basketball are the two best rivalries in college sports right now. Michigan hasn’t defeated Ohio State during the Jim Harbaugh tenure and depending on where Ohio State is in the rankings entering this game, they could clinch the Big Ten East for the second straight year and punch their ticket back to Indianapolis for the Big Ten title game. I can already see the storylines in this one surrounding Michigan: Will this be the final game for Jim Harbaugh if he doesn’t win this rivalry game?

Honorable Mention: Oklahoma State/Oklahoma, Auburn/Georgia, Alabama/LSU, Notre Dame/Virginia Tech, Nebraska/Wisconsin, Florida/Mississippi State.