2018 NCAA Football Preview
If you don't live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, or Clemson, South Carolina, you're probably tired of this movie by now. For the past three seasons, the Crimson Tide and Tigers have played in the College Football Playoff. And as much as we hate being the bearer of repetitive news, with the immense talent that both schools enter the new campaign with, that may be the main feature again this year. Alabama-Clemson IV will be on the marquee at Santa Clara's Levi's Stadium on January 7, 2019 if the following 18 teams don't say enough is enough with all the sequels.
It doesn't matter if you're talking QBs (Kelly Bryant or highly touted freshman Trevor Lawrence), DTs (Dexter Lawrence) or Xs and Os (head coach Dabo Swinney), these Tigers get an A across the board.
On July 27, Nick Saban signed a contract extension with the Tide for eight years that's worth at least $74 million. The school can cut a check like that with a clear conscience because it knows that, when it comes to recruiting (No. 7 class according to Rivals.com) and play-calling (Saban's QB switch in the '18 title game will be remembered for decades), the man is money.
What do you do when you fall just three points short in OT from a national championship? Well, if you're the Dawgs' Kirby Smart, you hop in the recruiting van and sign as many four- and five-star athletes (Justin Fields, Brenton Cox, James Cook) as humanly possible, that's what.
4 Ohio State
By the time October 1 gets here, the Buckeyes would have already played the likes of Oregon State, TCU and Penn State. If J.K. Dobbins and Co. maneuver around that rugged schedule, the school's travel department might as well go ahead and make plans for a trip to the Big Ten title game in Indianapolis.
We'll see if the Hurricanes are able to forget last year's late collapse â€” after starting 10-0, Miami lost its last three games by a combined 96 to 41 â€” really quickly as their first game is against the always-ferocious LSU Tigers on Labor Day weekend in Arlington, Texas.
The Badgers only allowed 13.9 points a contest last year. With so many departures on defense, the team may be more porous this season. But with sensational RB Jonathan Taylor (1,977 yards, 13 TDs) pounding the ball, they'll still be a force come bowl season.
With one of the country's top offensive lines in front of them, senior QB Jake Browning and superb RB Myles Gaskin will be tough to get a hold off by Huskies opposition â€” and yes, we're including Auburn (September 1) and Stanford (November 3) in that statement.
8 Notre Dame
We love that the Irish chose to keep some continuity on D (hiring linebackers coach Clark Lea as its new defensive coordinator), but we can't say that we've quite seen enough out of sophomore QB Brandon Wimbush to believe that all is well on the other side of the ball.
They say that if you have three QBs (Matt Fink, Jack Sears and Sports Illustrated cover boy JT Daniels), you don't have one. But what's the word for having an all-world trio (Cameron Smith, Marvell Tell, Christian Rector) on defense? Oh yeah â€”Â scary.
10 Michigan State
After a bumpy 2016 (3-10), the Spartans got back on the horse last year (10-3). They'll continue galloping towards a Big Ten title game appearance if QB Brian Lewerke (2,793 yards, 20 TDs) keeps his stride.
With Heisman Trophy candidate Bryce Love slicing up the middle, the Cardinal will be must-see TV all season. With QB K.J. Costello's steady improvements tossing the ball, Stanford could look like a sneaky playoff candidate by late October.
Head coach Lincoln Riley is one of the country's best young offensive minds, so we aren't terribly worried about how he'll replace Heisman winner Baker Mayfield. What is a bit troublesome is a defense that surrendered 30 or more points on six occasions a year ago.
Per usual, the Tigers' D is stout (Deshaun Davis, Derrick Brown). But if they're to truly compete with Bama in the SEC West, they'll need promising QB Jarrett Stidham to standout.
14 Penn State
If you think all-everything Saquan Barkley's shoes are gonna be hard to fill, just imagine trying to stuff all the cleats on defense, where the Nittany Lions return only two starters.
We know that QB Shea Patterson is a big-time talent, but we also realize that road games against Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State are no small obstacles.
16 Florida State
We love that new head coach Willie Taggart is bringing that old Noles fire back to Tallahassee. We just hope that smooth QB Deondre Francois is fully back from his knee injury asÂ well.
17 Central Florida
Coach Scott Frost ain't walking through that door. He can't. He moved to Nebraska. But with offensive juggernauts like QB McKenzie Milton (4,037 yards, 37 TDs), RB Adrian Killins (1,115 rushing yards) and WR Dredick Snelson (10 TDs) still here, he won't have to.
The Longhorns made their first postseason game (Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl) since 2014 in Tom Herman's first year as head coach. They'll make a bowl that you've actually heard of this season if QB Sam Ehlinger handles his business.
It's no surprise that the three times the Horned Frogs scored 20 points or less last season were their only loses. If coaching wiz Gary Patterson can figure out how to keep the offensive fire going (hint: let dual-threat QB Shawn Robinson do his thing), TCU will be a-OK.
20 Boise State
If the Broncos can eek out a victory against Oklahoma State on September 15, they'll not only position themselves nicely for a fourth 10-win season in five years, but they'll be sitting pretty for a New Year's Six bowl invite, too.
21-25: Florida, Florida Atlantic, Mississippi State, Oregon and