College Football Preview

Xavier Clark and Jacob Thomas, Staff Writers

Now that we are one week into the college football season, this year looks like it could shape up to be filled with excitement. Powerhouse teams look to continue their dominance, while other programs look for a window of success. This year features many position battles through many depth charts, as many unproven quarterbacks strive to put a stamp on their respective teams and conferences. One can only wonder who ends up in the four team college football playoffs and who will walk away with the Heisman Trophy. Here are our rankings going into the rest of the season:

1) Ohio State: Coming in at number one is last year’s reigning national champions, the Ohio State Buckeyes. On paper the Buckeyes have the talent to repeat. Their lethal offense includes Heisman candidate running back Ezekiel Elliott. In the last three games of the year, Elliott rushed for a combined 676 yards. However, the talk of the Buckeye’s offseason is their quarterback battle between Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett. After starting quarterback Braxton Miller went down with a knee injury last season, J.T. Barrett stepped in and went 9-1. After Barrett went down with an ankle injury Cardale Jones took over the helm to win the three biggest games of the year including the National Championship. No matter who the QB is in Columbus the Buckeyes will have a high powered offense. On the defensive side the Buckeyes are lead by last year’s Big Ten defensive player of the year Joey Bosa. Bosa presents size and speed off the edge, standing at 6-6 275 pounds, and last year finishing with 17.5 sacks and 21 tackles for loss. The Buckeyes are also lead by a strong secondary which only allowed 201 passing yards a game.

2) Alabama: The Crimson Tide take the number two spot. Alabama will continue their dominant running game along with their powerful defense. However, the Crimson Tide needs to overcome numerous losses to their offense. They lost WR Amari Cooper, standout QB Blake Sims, and stud RB T.J. Yeldon. Florida State transfer senior Jake Coker will lead the team at QB. Coker has a lot to prove this season since his playing time last year was limited. One of the strengths of the ‘Bama defense is their secondary. CB Cyrus Jones will look to make a big jump this season, as last year he led the team with three interceptions. He will look to continue on the legacy of great DBs like HaHa Clinton DIx, Dee Milliner, and Dre Kirkpatrick. Both experienced corners Jones and Nick Perry will have a lot to live up to after the graduation of Landon Collins. We will see how the younger Alabama team will handle things this year; there should be an interesting headline going into the season.

3) Texas Christian: At number three we’ve got TCU. The Horned Frogs usually do not find themselves so high on the rankings. However, they have one of the best offenses in college football, averaging 46.5 points per game last year. Their offense will center around Heisman front-runner Trevone Boykin. Boykin is a dual threat, tearing up defenses with both his arm and legs. Boykin accumulated 4,661 yards from scrimmage last year making him a nightmare for defenses. His favorite receiver Josh Doctson had over 1,000 yards receiving last year and 11 TDs. Doctson is able to stretch the field, giving Boykin a deep threat target. Their defense is stout and their secondary is one of the best in the country.  The Horned Frogs’ secondary came down with 26 interceptions last year, tied for first in the NCAA. However, one concern for the defense is that they only returned six defensive starters last season. The young players will have to fill the shoes of last year’s starters.

4) Baylor: The Baylor Bears are coming off a burning hot offensive season. They ranked fourth in overall offense with an average of 580 yards per game. Of course, last year they had their composed QB Bryce Petty, who threw for a total of 3,855 yards. This year Junior QB Seth Russell will take the starting job. Russell was backing up Petty last season and had a productive season as a backup while accumulating 800 yards in eight games. I will go as far as saying that Russell could end up as a serious Heisman Trophy threat. As far as their defense goes it should be an up and down season for the Bears. The secondary had a few problems last year and they gave up a whopping 700 more yards than the previous season. While the secondary could use some work, the defensive line had great success and is looking to continue to make strides. The D-Line is anchored by monster DE Shawn Oakman who stands at 6’9”, 275 lbs. We’ll see how much the Bears can do this year with so much upside.

5) Oregon: At Oregon, offense is never the problem for the Ducks. That’s why Oregon is number five on our rankings. Oregon’s upbeat, fast, no huddle, spread offense likes to tire defenses out. Oregon’s Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota graduated this spring and Eastern Washington transfer Vernon Adams Jr. will lead the Ducks. Adams Jr. threw for 110 TD’s in three seasons at Eastern Washington. Adams Jr is experienced, having played three seasons already in another uniform. One concern about Adams Jr is that he has not played against elite competition since he played in the subpar Big Sky conference. By spreading teams out with lots of four wide receiver sets, the running game opens up since defenses must commit fewer defenders to the line of scrimmage. Last season as a freshman, Royce Freeman rushed for 1,365 yards and 18 TD’s. Freeman can only get better and will help take pressure off QB Vernon Adams Jr. On the other side of the ball the Ducks will need to replace 6’8” DE Arik Armstead. Oregon lost Armstead to the NFL draft. 6-6 DE Canton Kaumatule will replace Armstead . Kaumatule is ranked as the fourth best player in his position among the 2015 recruiting class. Lining up on the other side of Kaumatule will be DE DeForest Buckner. The 6’7” beast will be returning for his senior season this year. Last year Buckner led the Oregon defense with 13 tackles for loss.

6) Auburn: Coming in at number six is Auburn. This year will mark a new chapter for the Tigers, coming off an amazing year of recruiting. They came away with the big winner this season in the number one prospect Byron Cowart. Cowart is a DE out of Armwood High School who stands at 6’4” and 260 lbs. Cowart was a beast in high school, totaling 28 sacks and 185 tackles. As for the quarterback situation, junior Jeremy Johnson is next in line. Johnson shows an incredible amount of potential. He can throw on the run, excel in the spread offense and Auburn’s powerful running game, and can certainly extend plays with his speed and athleticism. He is a definite possibility for the Heisman this year. He didn’t receive a total amount of playing time last year because he backed up senior QB Nick Marshall, but this year he will take a prominent role in the offense and thrive.


7) Michigan State: Our number seven team Michigan State was full of playmakers last year; in the turnover margin they were +19, good for second in the country. The Spartans did lose star cornerback Trae Waynes to the draft. Losing stars is not new for the Spartans. This is the second year in a row that they lost a first round corner to the draft. After having lost Waynes, they lost CB Darqueze Dennard to the draft also. Up front the defensive line is solid. Last year their defense recorded 42 sacks in just 13 games. Senior QB Connor will lead the Spartans this year on the offensive side of the ball. This year Cook will have to take a bigger role in the offense because RB Jeremy Langford graduated. Langford rushed for 1,522 yards and 22 touchdowns which took lots of pressure off of Cook. This year the Spartans will not have the dominant running game they did last season. Cook will need to step up his game or the offense will struggle. Cook also lost his favorite target Tony Lippett, who was a down-field threat, averaging 18.4 yards per catch and hauled in 11 touchdowns last year. Replacing Lippitt is WR Aaron Burbridge, a senior who presents experience to the wide core.


8) Florida State: This year features the young talent of the Seminoles. Florida State sophomore standout RB Dalvin Cook broke out his freshman year, rushing for over 1,000 yards. In the ACC championship game last year Cook rushed for 177 yards, showing great potential. Transfer QB Everett Golson started in the first week of the season. Last year he threw 3,445 yards for Notre Dame. With the Seminoles’ offensive talent, they could be hard to stop as the season gets close to January. On the other side of the ball the Seminoles stack up great. The solid core of their defense includes LB Reggie Northrup. Last year Northrup came away with 122 total tackles, leading the team. This year should mark another standout year for Florida State, one that could include a run to the ’ship. To go along with Northrup in the front seven, Jalen Ramsey will have the secondary locked down. He’s the best corner in the league; we could look forward to a statement year for him.

9) USC: Coming in at number nine are the USC Trojans with a balanced offense. Under center the Trojans will have Cody Kessler, who had a solid season last year, throwing 39 touchdowns and only five interceptions. Kessler’s ability to not turn the ball over makes him valuable to the Trojans. The Trojans also got the top running back in the 2015 recruiting class, Ronald Jones II, who ran for over 2,000 yards in high school in Texas. The Trojans did lose wide receiver Nelson Agholor. The lack of depth at the wide receiver position for the Trojans is a concern. The next receiver closest to Agholor in stats only had 724 yards receiving. On the other side of the ball the Trojans will have to fill some holes. Up front the Trojans will need to replace standout DT Leonard Williams, who was a beast up front, commanding many double teams, making life easier for his teammates. Williams was drafted sixth overall this spring by the New York Jets. On the positive side the Trojans did grab the best corner in the 2015 recruiting class, Iman Marshall. He will be key this year, helping the Trojan stop the pass in the Pac-12 conference.

10) Georgia: This year the Georgia Bulldogs will again have to rely on their running game to win ball games. Last year Todd Gurley was on a quest to grab the Heisman Trophy; however, he tore his ACL in the middle of the season. Freshman RB Nick Chubb came in to replace him and did a terrific job. Look for Chubb to have another stellar season. Under center, the Bulldogs are shaky; last year the passing game didn’t succeed. This year’s starter Brice Ramsey is unproven backing up Hutson Mason. On the other side of the ball the Bulldogs are experienced. Hard-hitting safety Quincy Mauger will have wide receivers thinking twice about going over the middle. OLB Jordan Jenkins will be returning for his senior season. Jenkins has the ability to get after the QB. Last year he had 69 total tackles. Senior OLB Leonard Floyd adds to the Bulldogs’ stacked pass rush. Floyd averaged a sack per game against ranked opponents. Do not count Georgia out to be a sleeper in the College Football Playoff.