Another season is upon us. Campus passions are high. Rivalries are set to be renewed. As Ricky Bobby said in Talladega Nights, “If you ain’t first, you’re last. You know what I’m talking about?” It’s college football time.
Sports Illustrated and myriad other publications have their pre-season rankings out. Here is a view from myespnforkids.com. We don’t just write about who is number one in some a vainglorious ranking scheme designed to sell a bunch of magazines. We talk about who has the best chance, like gladiators in the Roman Empire, to be remembered for the ages.
Ohio State Buckeyes. Let’s start with the defending champion Ohio State Buckeyes. The Buckeyes are led on defense by DE Joey Bosa. He is arguably the best defensive end in the NCAA. As a sophomore, he recorded 13.5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles. Buckeyes Defensive Line Coach Larry Johnson remarked, “He has a chance to be a really special player.” Bosa will miss the first game of the season due to a suspension. Bosa needs to get his act together if he wants to be an NFL superstar —and help the Buckeyes make it to the NCAA playoffs.
On the other side of the ball, the Buckeyes return a core of juniors led by Ezekiel Elliott. In addition (and notably), a QB battle is also afoot. J.T Barrett and Cardale Jones could start at most Division I schools. Barrett probably is the better choice. Either one could lead this team to the National Championship.
Finally, on the sidelines, you have superstar Urban Meyer. With apologies to Bob Stoops, Meyer is arguably the best game day coach in college football. Meyer will be managing an Ohio State schedule absent many tough match ups. It is the opportunity to the run the tables and it also is the risk for Meyer who will need to be flawless to play his way into the playoff.
Alabama Crimson Tide. Next, we head south to the land of Bear Bryant and the Alabama Crimson Tide. This team lost a lot in the offseason. The good thing for Bama fans is that Nick Saban has plenty of 5-star recruits to fill the slots vacated by a bunch of top NFL draft picks.
The strength of this team will be defense. The line is stacked with starters like A’Shawn Robinson, Jarran Reed and Jonathan Allen. The secondary is a weakness and, with both starting safeties graduating, it is the piece of the defense to watch as Bama tries to navigate an always tough SEC schedule.
On offense, the QB Battle is getting a lot of media action and airtime. The smart observer knows that it is a distraction. In the Saban era, Alabama has never required 300 yards of passing to win ball games. It always has been, and will continue to be, about game management and an offense leader with football sophistication that can command a complicated playbook in the grand tradition of A.J. McCarron.
The early schedule will be important to watch. Alabama opens their 2015 campaign in Jerry World, against a Wisconsin team looking to make a statement. If they can survive, Bama will have a major shot to navigate the conference schedule and go all the way. It will be fun to watch and have the undergrads shouting roll tide down in Tuscaloosa.
TCU Horned Frogs. Our third team to watch has to be the Horned Frogs. TCU barely missed out on the playoffs last year. As several storied programs like U of TX continue to rebuild, TCU and Baylor have been big beneficiaries. There are some tough teams in the Big XII including Baylor and Oklahoma. Nonetheless, TCU, the pre-season favorite to win the conference for the first time ever, has a real shot to win it all.
On offense, the Horned Frogs are looking to build on momentum from last year. The squad was second in the country in 2014 in scoring. The unit will take their calls from Senior QB Trevone Boykin, a rising star that came out of nowhere in 2014 to finish 4th in the Heisman Trophy voting.
Beyond the play on the field, you have to give a ton of credit to the man that recruited and coaches these players: Gary Patterson. He has done terrific job with this program.
Every game matters, and you always are one upset away in major conferences like the Big XII and the SEC. Having said that, the game to watch has to be the end-of-year showdown with Baylor. TCU has an ace in the hole, given that they will play in Fort Worth. You have to like Patterson and TCU.
Closing Comments. As we all head back to school, we can take solace in a couple of things. The fall sports that many of us play are kicking up. The weather is starting to turn. And as the leaves fall, we find the perfect setting for the close to the MLB season, the onset of the NFL and even a couple of great weeks at the US Open in Flushing Meadows.
Amid it all, the atmosphere and energy of college campuses on Saturday can compete with just about any of it. We better get Ricky Bobby to do a drive by of the ESPN College Gameday set. Corso, wake up. It is time for college football.