With another college football season about to begin, naturally, there are plenty of interesting storylines to keep an eye on.
Such storylines start with a familiar national champion looking to repeat. Then over to those big-name coaches at new, big-time schools. As always, it’s fun to delve into the conferences, breaking them down to see what’s good and what is not.
Is this the year somebody other than Alabama, Clemson or Ohio State wins it all? That would be nice, but we’ll see.
For now, let’s take a look at five of the more intriguing storylines entering the 2018 season.
Is Jimbo ready for the Lone Star State?
Jimbo Fisher had $75 million reasons to leave Florida State for Texas A&M. His salary also comes with a boatload of pressure to succeed – fast and without any of the drama that plagued him late during his tenure in Tallahassee.
No coach will be under the microscope more than Fisher, who won three ACC championships and a national title at Florida State. But Texas A&M has dropped its last three bowl appearances and posted double-digit victories just once (2012) in the last 19 seasons.
A non-conference date with Clemson on Sept. 8 and the SEC opener at Alabama will show just how quickly the Aggies respond under Fisher.
The Pac-12 must bounce back
Sure, quarterbacks Sam Darnold of USC and Josh Rosen from crosstown rival UCLA were drafted in the top 10 of this year’s draft, but 2017 produced an overall down year for the Pac-12. That was reinforced by the conference’s 1-8 bowl record.
Utah was the only league team to win a bowl game, but four of its teams, including UCLA and USC, lost by at least 17 points. And the Pac-12’s issues weren’t confined to the postseason.
Stanford and Arizona State both lost at San Diego State. Arizona fell at home to Houston and Oregon State’s only victory came against FCS opponent Portland State.
But there is hope for a serious turnaround this college football season, with some marquee names now coaching in the conference. Adding to the storylines, Chip Kelly is back in the Pac-12, but at UCLA. Herm Edwards’ coaching return comes at Arizona State and ex-Texas A&M boss Kevin Sumlin has taken over at Arizona.
Parity would be nice
Can somebody other than Alabama win the national championship this season? If so, will that school come outside of a group that includes Clemson, Ohio State, Florida State or Auburn?
Perhaps. However, those five schools have represented the last nine national champions. Maybe Georgia will learn from its title-game collapse to take care of some unfinished business, thus adding even more bite to these storylines.
Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Washington all have high expectations while former national powers like Miami, Penn State and Michigan have the look of a dark horse. Parity is fine within the confines of conferences, but there needs to be more on the national scene come December and January.
One can only hope this is the college football season in which that happens.
Obligatory playoff concerns
No matter what the outcome, the College Football Playoff will never please everyone. Some like the way things are, while others want something different (eight-team playoff folks).
Obviously, nothing will change this season, but should another deserving team – or two – not be part of the final four, then alarm bells will sound once again. The College Football Playoff committee was let off the hook last year when Alabama, a team that didn’t win its own division, let alone conference, was crowned champion.
But what about a team like Central Florida? It went undefeated but was never considered a playoff contender. Whether it be an eight- or 16-team playoff format, that wouldn’t happen again. College football, however, is not there yet.
In the meantime, prepare for more arguments for or against the playoff system to remain one of the regular storylines. It’s as much a part of college football as full-blown SEC tailgate parties and Lee Corso’s mascot-head predictions.
Is there a Heisman frontrunner?
The answer: No.
Things might stay that way deep into the season. It won’t be like 2017 when Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson and Saquon Barkley were clear-cut contenders out of the gate.
Online betting site Bovada came out with its updated Heisman Trophy odds and the contenders are all over the board. One is Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who has yet to win the Crimson Tide’s starting job. Then there is highly touted Clemson freshman Trevor Lawrence, who won’t start the season.
Stanford running back Bryce Love was last year’s runner-up – 657 first-place votes behind Mayfield. He’s an early safe choice, but far from a sure thing.
That’s what makes this perhaps the most intriguing of all these storylines. Contenders can change on a week-by-week basis and there will be little room for error. Seems like that’s the way it should be.