1) Lamar Jackson’s encore performance
The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner finished with 5,114 total yards and 51 combined touchdowns in a breakout sophomore campaign. So what’s on tap in 2017? Well, that may depend on the play by the Louisville offensive line in front of Jackson. Jackson’s surrounding crew is not as good as they were last year and while I think he will have another very good season, it won’t be as good as last season’s.
2) Conferences battling for bragging rights
Just two years ago this would have been unthinkable, but the ACC and Big ten out-performed the SEC last year and they both look poised to do it again.
Just how good of a coach is Dabo Swinney? We are about to find out after four years of Deshaun Watson. The Tigers now have to play without him. A program like Alabama and Ohio State continue to be a national title contender no matter who they lose, but can Clemson become another team that is so good that they just reload? I think Swinney is a great coach and I think this will be a reloading year for Clemson. The Tigers years of rebuilding are over. The Tigers are now an elite program.
These two historically great programs bounced back from some down years in a big way. Can this continue? I think it will. Both should challenge for there respective conference titles. USC will be led by Heisman candidate QB Sam Darnold and Penn State will be led by running back Saquon Barkley. Look for both teams to contend for the college playoffs.
The Big 12 finally learned there lesson after last year and now will have a conference title game. It is a good thing for the league and with a few strong contenders like Oklahoma and Oklahoma State there just might be a Big 12 team in the playoffs this year.
6) Development of sophomore signal callers
Jalen Hurts, Sam Darnold, Deondre Francois, Jacob Eason. All big names, all rising true sophomores. It’ll be fun to see just how much better each of these young quarterbacks can get.
North Dakota State toppled Iowa last season to create some buzz for the FCS. This year’s early upset watch includes Eastern Washington vs. Texas Tech, James Madison vs. East Carolina and Cal Poly vs. San Jose State. It seems like these upsets are becoming more and more common and I expect to see possibly a few this year.
Kelly after last year’s losing season must come up with something big this year. Will he? I think this will be Kelly’s last year at Notre dame.
Herman is an excellent football coach and if the Horns alumni leave him alone the Longhorns will quickly become a regular in the top 10 again.
10) PJ Fleck takes over at Minnesota
If anybody can turn the Minnesota Golden Gophers into a big-time program it is Fleck. It will take a couple of years, but look out in the near future for the Gophers.
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