Every preseason we college football fanatics like to predict what we think will happen but more often than not we are wrong. Expectations are like fairy dust they are figments of our imagination. Once teams play the games it becomes real.
Ask LSU who was ranked no. 5 preseason in 2016 what it means to rank before week one (lost to unranked Wisconsin). However, for now, we want to dream, converse and picture what the 2017 season will look like. I myself look more at the challenges teams must overcome or the questions that will have to be answered before any hope of reaching the College Football Playoff can be made a realistic opportunity.
Alabama: What will the defense look like?
Bama’s defense is always one of the most difficult to score against. Last season the Tide surrendered less than 12 points per contest. However, Alabama loses Jonathan Allen, Rueben Foster, Dalvin Tomlinson, Marlon Humphrey, Tim Williams, and Ryan Anderson to the NFL. That is a lot of talent to replace, but if any team can do it it’s the program down in Tuscaloosa.
Ohio State: Will the offense shake off the Fiesta Bowl meltdown
The Buckeyes have the talent and experience at quarterback to have another memorable season. J.T. Barrett has only lost three games in Columbus in his career. However last season’s shut out in the College Football Playoff was a game Buckeye nation would love to forget. The receiving core is thin and unproven. A matchup with Oklahoma early in the season will answer a lot of questions about whether the Buckeyes are a contender or a pretender.
Florida State: Can the offensive line do enough?
The Seminoles won’t have to wait in order to be tested. Facing Alabama week one will show where a team is at in the grand scheme of things. But Florida State’s quarterback was knocked to the ground 36 times last season. That will have to change or week one’s hype will evaporate fast.
USC: No bye until week 12?
Last year USC lost to Alabama by 46 points but went on to have a remarkable season winning nine games in a row including that thrilling Rosebowl against Penn State after a 1-3 start to 2016. Whoever created the Trojan’s schedule must think the team can withstand playing 12 straight games before a break. Can an offensive line with little experience keep Heisman Trophy candidate Sam Darnold healthy?
Clemson: Watson is gone, what now?
The mark that Deshaun Watson left on the Tigers program is something that can’t be duplicated. He carried the Clemson program to two straight national titles and led a drive that will be remembered forever in Tampa Bay last January. Kelly Bryant has been named the 2017 starter but can he even remotely continue what Watson left behind? Lucky for Clemson the defense will one of the country’s best once again.
Penn State: Was last season a fluke or is Happy Valley here to stay?
When the Nittany Lions limped out of Ann Arbor last season from a 39 point loss to the Wolverines, not too many people thought they would be the Big Ten champs. However, they were and James Franklin definitely has something in State College. The team has some depth issues and a tough Big Ten schedule with trips to Iowa, Northwestern, no. 2 Ohio State, Michigan State, and rival Maryland. 2017 will prove whether Penn State’s 2016 was just an anomaly.
Oklahoma: Will the program continue to thrive without Stoops?
This is the first season in 18 years the Sooners will be without Bob Stoops at the helm. The program gets Ohio State in week two that will show us the foreseeable future for the Sooners
Washington: Why the soft schedules? (43rd schedule strength)
Once again, the Huskies come into the season with a slate of opponents that lack high-level competition. In 2016 Washington rolled through a cupcake schedule and couldn’t do anything against Alabama. The Husky’s will want respect again in 2017 but a loss on the schedule will more than likely take them out of the Playoff conversation.
Wisconsin: Will Alex Hornibrook quiet all doubt at quarterback?
The Badgers have always been that program that surprises the doubters and makes it to a pretty decent bowl game year in and year out. However, the Badgers usually come up short against the elite name brand programs that are competing for national titles. Part of Wisconsin’s problem has been inconsistent play at the QB position. It is easy for good teams to stop a predictable run attack. If Wisconsin wants to be taken seriously Alex Hornibrook must restore the confidence to throw the football when games are on the line.
Oklahoma State: Can the defense get off the field?
Last season the Cowboys ranked 106th in the country in yards allowed. That will need to change if State has any hope of living up to the increased expectations of 2017.
Michigan: Can talent trump experience?
The cliché that teams rebuild not reload will be the question mark for Michigan this season. The Wolverines return just four starters on offense and only one on defense. Jim Harbaugh will get to show us all if his recruiting strategies are working.
Auburn: Is Jarrett Stidham the missing ingredient?
Auburn has lost 16 games the last three seasons not mention a less than stellar performance against Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl last season. Stidham is a dual-threat quarterback transfer from Baylor that showed some potential in the spring game. If he can get this offense to the level Auburn expects the Tigers could sneak up on some teams this season.
LSU: Quarterback? Quarterback? Quarterback?
The Tigers have the resources to get the best talent in the country year in and year out and yet Louisiana State can’t seem to figure out the whole quarterback position. Les Miles was fired because the offense struggles that ultimately eliminated the Tigers from any chance at getting back to the national title discussion. Danny Etling the incumbent starter has not impressed and Ed Orgeron will have to make a decision that could also affect his job security.
Stanford: Who will write the new post-McCaffrey story?
We all know who departed from Stanford last season to join the Carolina Panthers. Following what seemed like a down year for the Cardinal in 2016 who will entertain us this season?
Georgia: Are the Bulldogs the SEC East’s only hope?
The reason I propose this question is because the SEC East is garbage let’s not deny that obvious fact. Florida had to suspend several players before the season even started so they can’t even do things right off the field. The gap between Alabama and any SEC team is so large and it will be interesting to see if any team from the east will at least make the SEC championship game respectable.