The college football season is officially under way. Five games are in the book from the opening weekend, but now comes the official first weekend of college football. As we look to a great Labor Day weekend of football, here are five things to watch:
1. Derwin James’ return
The biggest matchup of the weekend is Florida State and Alabama in Atlanta. College Football Playoff implications are already on the line in this game.
James missed most of last season with injury, but might be the best player in all of college football, if healthy.Not only will he have to play big for Florida State, but he will have to be at 100%. He could be the X-factor in this monumental event.
Nick Saban has said he regrets not letting Jalen Hurts air it out more last season and feels like that may have cost them the National Championship. That means Saban will try to get the ball rolling early with Hurts. Hurts isn’t the greatest thrower, so James needs to step in and make plays when passes go awry. He will also have to show up in run support, as Alabama will likely control the line of scrimmage.
If Florida State has any chance to beat Alabama, James has to prove he is the best player in the country. Even if he does it may not be enough. No matter the result, both teams could be destined to meet again in the College Football Playoff.
2. Danny Etling against BYU
LSU has a big game against BYU this weekend. It may not be as big as many thought after the Cougars struggled to show their supremacy against Portland State. Even so, they are a decent test for an LSU team that needs to find out if their offense is improved from the past few years.
Coach Orgeron named Danny Etling the starting quarterback after finding a little success with him last year. Etling is not a game changing player, but did help LSU finish the season out strong.
With playmakers Malachi Dupre, Travin Dural and Leonard Fournette gone, Etling will need to step up this season to make the LSU offense good. He will have help from running back Derrius Guice and wide receiver D.J. Chark.
While he hasn’t been the best quarterback in the past, Etling is getting his first chance at a full season as a starter. Ultimately this game can give everyone a clue on how well Etling and the Tigers will play this season and if they can compete for a playoff spot. If Etling does not show proficiency at the quarterback position, LSU will top out at eight wins for the season.
3. How will Florida deal with suspensions?
Michigan and Florida open the season against one another in Arlington. Both teams have a lot of players to break into their line ups the game should show us how talented (or not) these teams are.
Ten players have been suspended for Florida for this game. This includes top-notch offensive players in wide receiver Antonio Callaway and running back Jordan Scarlett. The Gators are really going to be relying on one of their quarterbacks to step up in this game. Florida will also be without a lot of their depth in this game, meaning that the players need to stay fresh and uninjured.
This game has shifted from one that was supposed to be a toss up, to now being in Michigan’s favor, even though they return just five starters from last year. Jim Harbaugh’s recruiting will be tested, but not as much as if Florida players had stayed out of trouble.
4. Can Virginia Tech find a quarterback?
The Hokies play against West Virginia on Sunday this weekend and have a lot of returning talent. They expected to have more coming back, but Jerod Evans decided to go pro early. He went undrafted and probably should still be leading the Hokies.
If Virginia Tech wants to be successful this season they need to find a quarterback. They have a quality team that is capable of making the ACC Championship Game, but need that one void in their roster filled in order to do so. There has been a three man quarterback race between Josh Jackson, Hendon Hooker and A.J. Bush.
Freshman Josh Jackson looks to be the front-runner to take over the job, but A.J. Bush, the Nebraska transfer, also could be the guy. Both players have the potential to be dynamic playmakers and both will get their shots to take the reins.
Justin Fuente did a good job of getting Evans ready to play last season, so if he can do the same with these quarterbacks, the sky is the limit for the Hokies.
5. Butch Jones on the hot seat
It’s no secret that Jones will be fired if Tennessee has a sub-par season. Last year they were hyped up to have a great team, but ended up disappointing with a 9-4 record. If quarterback Josh Dobbs was’t there to bail the Volunteers out of a few games, they could have been eerily close to .500.
Now the Volunteers must move on without Dobbs. The offense also lost Alvin Kamara, Jalen Hurd and Josh Malone. Defensively Derek Barnett is gone along with a few other key players from last year’s team.
While Jones won’t be fired after the first week of the college football season, this could be the start of the season that results in his termination. Tennessee plays Georgia Tech on Monday and better be ready for a fight in Atlanta. The Vols will be without Darrin Kirkland Jr. most likely who suffered a knee injury in practice last week.
Georgia Tech have kicked Dedrick Mills off the team. He was the leading returning rusher this season. This will have some impact on the game, but overall the triple option attack of the Yellow Jackets will still be strong.
If Jones can’t find a way to win this game, it could be a long season in the SEC for the Volunteer fans.
To continue enjoying great content from your favorite writers, please contribute to our Patreon account! Every little bit counts. We greatly appreciate all of your amazing support! #TGHPatreon