Photo Credit: Melina Vastola/USA TODAY Sports – FB Schedules
College football is back, and with it comes all of the pageantry that comes with it; and it’s always good to watch it again…even if the games aren’t the most competitive.
There are some teams that are so heavily favored over their opponents, that it’s hard to imagine the upset happening. But there always seems to be one, or more, team(s) that lose games they shouldn’t; the last couple of seasons that team has been the Washington State Cougars and their inability to finish against FCS opponents. Which has been l aggregating, but that’s a different story.
As we head into the first, full, week of college football it’s time to get excited; and to pay attention to these three story lines.
3) How will Washington respond to the suspensions, on the road
Traveling over 3,000 miles to Piscataway, N.J. is going to be a taxing experience for the Huskies — especially since it’s the program’s longest road trip its history. And they’ll have to play the game without one of the program’s best players because linebacker Azeem Victor has been suspended for a violation of team rules, defensive Austin Joyner has been suspended for the first two games.
While Rutgers shouldn’t pose a serious challenge for Washington, it’s going to be interesting to see how the defense reacts to losing its pre-season All American and a talented member of the secondary. If the Scarlet Knights are able to stretch UW’s defense horizontally, without Victor, that could leave the secondary vulnerable to a vertical attack. Especially in the first game, where the defense will have to work out communication issues in a hostile environment.
If the secondary and linebackers struggle with their communication, it could be a tense game in New Jersey for Washington.
2) Texas, Oklahoma, and Oregon are rolling out new head coaches
Of those three teams, only Oklahoma is replacing its head coach after a winning season, Bob Stoops retired. New head coach Lincoln Riley was able to maintain the majority of the coaching staff, so there shouldn’t be any glaring scheme issues that occur during the Sooner’s first game against UTEP. The biggest question mark for Riley’s squad is going to be breaking in his young defense. Despite the fact that linebackers Caleb Kelly and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo are returning, the defense saw the majority of their starters from 2016 graduate and it will take a couple of games for the defense to break in.
As for the new coaching staffs in Euguen, Ore. and Austin, Texas, there are real question marks surrounding the talent on the defensive side of the ball. Both team’s looked outmatched, athletically, on defense and that’s not something that is quick fix…no matter how good the scheme is or how amazing the coaching staff is. For Texas’ offense, new head man Tom Herman is bringing in a completely different scheme that will take time for the offensive players to take up. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Longhorns struggle to score during the first half of the season, which will just wear down their defense even more.
As for Willie Tagart, he at least has a budding star in Justin Herbert under center and Royce Freeman is back to terrorize defense’s; but that’s no guarantee that the Ducks offense will pick up his version of the spread offense quickly. Especially since the offensive line struggled to protect Herbert in the games he did start in 2016. It’s going to be up to Freeman to stretch the defense’s horizontally, which should give the sophomore quarterback some wiggle room in a weak pocket.
1) Alabama’s new offense vs. the Seminole’s defense
The Crimson Tide will be running out a brand new offense under new coordinatior Brian Daboll, and their first test of the season is going to be against an experienced Florida State defense. It will be interesting to see how Daboll handles sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts as he’s getting a pretty ealry test; fortunately for Alabama they have a talented stable of running backs that can stretch the Seminole’s defense from side line to side line, which could open up the deep passing game if the new OC is will to trust Hurts to work through the reads and find the right guy.
Daboll’s offense will be facing a defense that is returning nine starters from last season, where they only allowed 3.6 yards per carry. If the Crimson Tide do take some shots down field they’ll have to contend with cornerback Tarvarus McFadden (McFadden picked off eight passes in 16) and the rest of FSU’s ball hawking defense — the Seminoles avered 1.2 interceptions per game last season, and 0.6 fumbles. It’ll be a fascinating game to watch as Alabama tries out its new offense against one of the more talented defenses in the nation.