By Parker Rehm
The college football season is upon us and with week one fast approaching here are some of the storylines that have garnered national attention as we come nearer to the regular season:
Nittany Lions Are Ready to Roar
Last year’s success for the Nittany Lions proved to many doubters that Penn State is back and ready to contend for Big Ten as well as National Championship honors. 2016 was a phenomenal year for the James Franklin coached football team, finishing with a surprising 11-3 record, winning the East and beating Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game to advance to the Rose Bowl. The Nittany Lions season’s end came by the hands of the USC Trojans in what was a phenomenal contest from both teams with a score of 52-49 Trojans. Despite this, Penn State is looking towards the future of their program. With the sanctions from the Paterno-Sandusky era lifted, Penn State has recently bolstered their program, signing James Franklin to a 3 year, $19.75 million extension, that will keep him at Penn State through the 2022 season. In addition to the coaching, possibly one of the best running-backs in the country, Saquon Barkley, is generating Heisman buzz and is expected to play at an All-American level throughout the season. This, along with 17 returning starters, make the Nittany-Lions a very dangerous team coming out of the Big Ten with College Football Playoff aspirations.
Do the Gators Violations Chomp their CFB Playoff Hopes?
Coming out of the SEC is a very difficult task for almost anyone. For Florida, their path to the championship game has been their annual goal throughout the past couple of years, and has been accomplished through relative ease. Jim McElwain has uplifted the program from the Will Muschamp era and improved season by season. Despite the lack of success that Florida has generated out-of-conference, most notably against in-state rival Florida State, Florida’s in-conference success has been evident, however this year the program is slowly taking a turn for the worse. Recently, coach McElwain announced that seven of his players, most notably star Junior Receiver/Returner Antonio Callaway, will be suspended for Florida’s opener vs. Michigan in Arlington at AT&T Stadium on Sept. 2nd. This is Callaway’s 2nd time being disciplined in 3 months, pleading guilty to Marijuana possession and receiving a $300 fine in June earlier this year. In addition to this, a quarterback battle continues to rage on throughout the fall and will most likely continue throughout the season as a starter has not yet been named for the SEC East favorites. Three quarterbacks battle for the spot: Malik Zaire, the graduate transfer from Notre Dame; Felipe Franks, the former 4-star recruit that Gator fans are eager to see; & Luke Del Rio, the Redshirt sophomore transfer that won the starting job last year. McElwain has even stated that all three quarterbacks could play in the Michigan game as the coaching staff has yet to come to a decision. All of these factors are generating disarray within the organization and could spell trouble for not only College Football Playoff aspirations but SEC Championship ones as well. Week 1 the Gators look to take advantage of an incredibly young Michigan team coming out of the Big 10. This Michigan team, coached by John Harbaugh, has had relative success but hasn’t gotten over the hump yet. Both teams will have to look towards their young talent with a “next man up” mentality and execute their assignments in order to start the season off in the right direction in what should be a great contest.
Football Powerhouses Clash in Season Opener
How do you spell dominance? In the world of college football, it’s spelled A-L-A-B-A-M-A. The Crimson Tide have dominated the landscape of college football in every facet of the game for the last decade. Boasting the #1 recruiting class seven straight years now, it seems regardless of players leaving/graduating, the Tide keeps rolling. With a brutal loss in the CFB Playoff championship game against Clemson last year, the Crimson Tide hope to rebound and continue the winning success that has translated over the years. Their opponent? The next best football powerhouse over the last seven years, the Florida State Seminoles. Led by a coach in Jimbo Fisher who has led the Seminoles to a 78-17 record (82.1%) in his tenure as head coach. Year after year, the Seminoles continue to reload, not rebuild from losses such as Jameis Winston, Demarcus Walker and most notably, Dalvin Cook. These two football dynasties will meet in week 1 in possibly the greatest season opener in college football history. Alabama returns 14 starters, only 6 on defense, however they are led by last year’s freshman standout, Dual-threat Quarterback Jalen Hurts as well as a phenomenal downhill runner in Running Back Bo Scarbrough. Given Alabama’s dominance over the years, it’s easy to look at the Noles and count them out, however that’s where it’s important to look closer. The Seminoles return 18 starters, 9 of which come from the defensive side. With the #1 ranked NFL prospect in the country in DB Derwin James, the Seminole defense looks to put their team in a winning position week 1 against the zone-read, no huddle offense that leads the SEC. In addition to this, Seminole fans are excited about incoming freshman Cam Akers, the former #1 RB 5 star prospect in the 2017 recruiting class, and hope that he will generate some offense on a stout Crimson Tide defense. This is the classic ACC-SEC narrative that’s played out over the years, and if there’s one thing that the ACC’s 10-4 record against SEC teams will tell us. Do not sleep on the Seminoles in what will be a phenomenal game for college football fans nationwide.