The Weekend: College Football Preview
It’s that time of the year again. When the pride runs deep and the passion is stronger than bodybuilder/fitness coach, CT Fletcher (Youtube him).
It’s officially College Football season, and your weekends will be packed with big time games for the next 3 months. This is also the time for Fan-I Sports weekly college Football breakdown, The Weekend. This will my third season conducting The Weekend, and for those that are new, The Weekend is where you get your rankings, top player performances, top games, and opinions on the previous and upcoming week of college football. We release AP rankings every week, but most importantly, we release our Fan-I Rankings. Fan-i rankings will be available after the first week of the season.
AP Preseason Rankings
- Florida State
- Ohio State
- Notre Dame
- Ole Miss
- Michigan State
- Oklahoma State
- North Carolina
For the third time in the Nick Saban Era, Alabama is ranked #1 in the preseason polls. Obviously the preseason polls don’t hold much weight come December, but it’s a good indicator of who and what to look for throughout the season. For Bama, this is familiar territory, but for the third straight season they will have to work with a first time starting quarterback. Offensive coordinator, Lane Kiffin didn’t allow that to stop them from winning the National title, using Jake Coker as the play-caller and Heisman winner, Derrick Henry as the workhorse.
They will only return 11 players but they are still deep at every position. Coach Saban has epitomized the term next man up, reason why his program has been a factory for top of the line NFL prospects. On offense, they will have new ball carriers, Bo Scarbrough - a 6’2 230lb monster - and Damien Harris will split carries and should provide good support for whoever the starting quarterback will be. Freshman, Blake Barnett, is expected to be the starter but things are still open after a lousy scrimmage from all candidates.
- v. USC @ AT&T Stadium in Dallas, 09/03
- @ Ole Miss, 9/17
- @ Tennessee, 10/15
- @ LSU, 11/05
Bama toughest battles will be away from Tuscaloosa. If a team wants to knock off the Tide, they will need a loud crowd to rattle the inexperienced QB. The Tide will try to end a 2-game losing streak against Ole Miss and extend their 5-game win streak over LSU.
Clemson will return 8 players on the offensive side of the ball, Deshaun Watson being the most important one. With Watson, the Tigers are bringing back their leading rusher (Wayne Gallman) and leading receiver (Artavis Scott Jr.). Watson will also get Mike Williams back, who led the Tigers in receiving in 2014, but broke a bone in his neck, missing the entire 2015 season. There will be weapons all over the field for Watson, who is a favorite to win the Heisman this season. Offensively, the Tigers will be one of the best in the country.
The offense isn’t the issue though. On the defensive side of the ball, they may struggle a little bit. Dabo Swiney should be use to rebuilding his defense. It seems like every year the NFL is stealing some of their players, this past season losing 6 to the NFL. Essentially, that is a good thing but it also means that your unit will be a little inexperience. Defensive coordinator, Brent Venables, should be able to put together a solid 11 built around the front seven led by DT Carlos Watkins and LB Brent Boulware, both named to the preseason All-ACC team. Cordrea Tankersley is expected to emerge as a shutdown cornerback.
- @ Auburn, 09/03
- @ Georgia Tech, 09/22
- v. Louisville, 10/01
- @ Florida State, 10/29
Clemson will start the season with two potential trap games on the road. When they visit Georgia Tech it will be on a Thursday night, which is always tough for high-ranked teams. If the offense can jump on both teams early, then it could turn it to the Deshaun Watson Show. Florida State is obviously the biggest game of the season, a game that will have major playoff implications.
Since Bob Stoops took over as head coach of the Oklahoma Sooners in 1999, the Sooners have been ranked inside the top ten 14 times - something Nick Saban can’t even say. The Sooners will return their entire backfield, led by quarterback Baker Mayfield. Mayfield was named to the AP All-American second team for his performance last season, Sterling Shepard being his go-to man, but this year he will have to duplicate that accomplishment with a new receiving core. Semaje Perine and Joe Mixon will provide the run support, both expected to have stellar seasons. Perine is the current holder of the NCAA single game rushing record, rushing for 427 yards in his freshman season against Kansas.
Oklahoma defense is labeled to be young and inexperience - only 3 seniors expected to start - but they are deep. This is not defensive coordinator, Mike Stoops, first rodeo in the Big 12, so I’m sure he knows how to manage this young group. In the Big 12, playing defense isn’t a must, and the Sooners will be able to handle themselves if they do end up in a shootout. The defense will have to make that one play, which they are very capable of doing.
- v. Houston @ NRG Stadium, 09/03
- v. Ohio State, 09/17
- @ TCU, 10/01
- v. Texas @ Cotton Bowl, 10/08
- v. Baylor, 11/12
- @ West Virginia, 11/19
- v. Oklahoma State, 12/03
Oklahoma schedule is split into two section. They have a tough 6 weeks to begin the season with Houston and Ohio State in the first three weeks of the season, followed by potential trap games against three Texas schools. This will be the third time that the Sooners and Buckeyes face one another, series tied at 1-1, last game in 1983 (Sooners lost 24-14).
My beloved Florida State. Florida State went through a rebuilding stage last season after losing the bulk of their playoff team to the NFL. The Noles finished 9-3, with bad losses to Georgia Tech and Houston in the Peach Bowl. This season, the world expects FSU to be back in the National Championship conversation. The Noles will only go as far as Dalvin Cook can take them. Last year, the star back finished with 1,691 yards and 19 touchdowns on 221 carries. For Florida State fans, Cook putting up big numbers is the last thing they should be concerned with, it’s the quarterback position.
Prior to the 2015 season, Everett Golson transferred to Florida State and was expected to hit the ground running as Winston’s replacement. Golson ended up losing his job to Sean Maguire by Halloween. Both QBs passed for 1500 yards but only 22 TDs combined between them. Sean Maguire will start the season 2nd on the depth chart again, losing the QB battle to Deondre Francois - a redshirt freshman out of Orlando that is receiving Winston comparisons already. Francois will get his first start against a tough SEC opponent in Ole Miss and if he can have a good outing, the comparisons will continue. It’s not fair to compare the young redshirt to a Heisman/#1 draft pick but the media will not allow Francois to play freely, the pressure will be on.
- v. Ole Miss @ Citrus Bowl, 09/05
- @ Louisville, 09/17
- v. North Carolina, 10/01
- @ Miami, 10/08
- v. Clemson, 10/29
- @ NC-State, 11/05
- v. Florida, 11/26
As a fan, every game is a big game for me but as a journalist, I see traps in the Noles schedule. Trips to Louisville, Miami, and NC State will not be easy. In the Noles last 8 trips to Carter-Finley Stadium, they are 4-4. These traps will test Francois but luckily for him, he has a stout defense and Heisman caliber running back to lean on. If the Noles can run the table all the way through to the National Championship, they will be the first team to finish 15-0.
LSU had a tough season last year, while also developing the best running back in recent memory. The uncertainty of whether or not the “Mad Hatter”, Les Miles, would continue to coach the Tigers, hurt the Tigers. But the LSU fans didn’t allow the school to get rid of the man who embodied the purple & gold. The man who stepped in when Nick Saban jetted for the NFL. Despite the uncertainty, the one thing that was certain was Leonard Fournette running over defenders.
Fournette started the season with the moment of the year when he ran over seemingly every Auburn defender in the LSU 45-21 victory. Fournette went three-straight games rushing over 200 yards, but during the Tigers three-game losing streak, he only cracked 100-yards one time. By that time the rest of the SEC had caught on to the LSU gameplan; run Fournette down your throat. Teams knew that the Tigers were inconsistent at quarterback with Brandon Harris. Harris will have to be more consistent and more reliable this season if the Tigers want to make it out of the gauntlet of the SEC West.
- v. Wisconsin @ Lambeau Field 09/03
- @ Auburn, 09/24
- @ Florida, 10/08
- v. Ole Miss, 10/22
- v. Alabama, 11/05
- v. Texas A&M, 11/24
10 teams on the LSU schedule had winning records in 2015, giving the Tigers the toughest schedule in the country, but it’s mainly filled with SEC opponents. The out-of-conference schedule is weak and LSU should run through it. The Tigers biggest challenge will be trying to end their longest losing streak against Alabama since 1981.
Tennessee (9-4 in 2015) - The Volunteers found some success and things to look forward to with quarterback Joshua Dobbs and running back Jalen Hurd. They had two tough losses, Oklahoma in double overtime and a 5-point loss to Alabama on the road and all four of their losses were by one possession. Tennessee returns 9 players on offense and the Volunteers haven’t finished in the top ten since 2001. This could be that year.
Biggest game: v. Alabama 10/15
Washington Huskies (7-6 in 2015) - The Huskies enter the 2016 season with high expectations. This is the highest they have been ranked in the preseason polls since 2001. Out of the 9 starters they return on offense, Myles Gaskins is most important. The sophomore running back rushed for over 1,000 yards as a true freshman, capping off his first season with 181 yards and 4 touchdowns against Southern Miss in the Dallas Bowl. This is the best defense in the Pac-12 and they have a great chance to make it out.
Biggest game: v. Stanford 9/30
Houston (13-1 in 2015) - Houston were the dark horse of the year last season, defeating Florida State in the Peach Bowl. They are ranked in the preseason top 25 for the first time since 1991. They lost their big playmaker, Demarcus Ayers, but Greg Ward Jr. is still under center. Ward Jr. is expected to be a Heisman candidate after posting 3936 total yards and 38 total touchdowns in 2015.
Biggest Game: v. Oklahoma 9/3
SR. Christian McCaffrey, Athlete, Stanford - McCaffrey broke Reggie Bush’s All-Purpose yards record but still fell short of the Heisman. If he can have that same season, regardless of the Cardinals record, it will be hard for the voters to go against him again.
JR. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU - LSU will rely heavily on the legs of Fournette and if Harris can have a solid season under center, barring injury, Fournette will have a historic season.
SR. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson - Everything is laid out for Watson to win the Heisman title. He has a arsenal of weapons to rely on, Clemson is ranked high, and he is the player most of the country is familiar with. If he does the same thing he did last season, he will be the 2016 Heisman winner.
SR. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State - Cook is the main focal point of the of the Seminoles offense, which mean he will be getting a lot of touches. Health will be a concern but if the Noles run the table and Cook rushes for 1800+ yards, the Heisman is his.
Games to watch this season
- #3 Oklahoma v. #15 Houston @ NRG Stadium
- #1 Alabam v. #20 USC @ At&T Stadium
- #2 Clemson @ Auburn
- #4 Florida State v. Ole Miss @ Citrus Bowl
- Virginia Tech @ #9 Tennessee
- #Florida State @ #19 Louisville
- #1 Alabama @ #11 Ole Miss
- #6 Ohio State @ #3 Oklahoma
- #12 Michigan State @ #10 Notre Dame
- #20 USC @ #8 Stanford
- #2 Clemson @ Georgia Tech
- #8 Stanford @ #16 UCLA
- #5 LSU @ Auburn
- #18 Georgia @ #11 Ole Miss
- #8 Stanford @ #14 Washington
- #19 Louisville @ #2 Clemson
- #9 Tennessee @ #18 Georgia
- #3 Oklahoma @ #13 TCU
- #2 Clemson @ Boston College
- Texas v. #3 Oklahoma @ Cotton Bowl
- #4 Florida State @ Miami
- #10 Notre Dame @ NC State
- #5 LSU @ #25 Florida
- #9 Tennessee @ Texas A&M
- #14 Washington @ #24 Oregon
- #15 Houston @ Navy
- #1 Alabama @ #9 Tennessee
- #8 Stanford @ #10 Notre Dame
- #6 Ohio State @ Wisconsin
- #11 Ole Miss @ #5 LSU
- #6 Ohio State @ Penn State
- #14 Washington @ Utah
- #2 Clemson @ #4 Florida State
- #7 Michigan @ #12 Michigan State
- #3 Oklahoma @ Iowa State
- #4 Florida State @ NC State
- #1 Alabama @ #5 LSU
- #8 Stanford @ #24 Oregon
- #7 Michigan @ #17 Iowa
- #19 Louisville @ #15 Houston
- #3 Oklahoma @ West Virginia
- #6 Ohio State @ #12 Michigan State
- #20 USC @ #16 UCLA
- #5 LSU @ Texas A&M
- #15 Houston @ Memphis
- #13 TCU @ Texas
- #14 Washington @ Washington State
- #10 Notre Dame @ #20 USC
- #12 Michigan State @ Penn State
- #7 Michigan @ #6 Ohio State
- #21 Oklahoma State @ #3 Oklahoma
Be sure to check-in every week as we provide you with a recap of everything that happened over The Weekend. Put a smile on folks, it’s college football season!