The Blue and Gold

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College Football 2018 Preview

The Dr. Pepper College Football Championship trophy

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The Dr. Pepper College Football Championship trophy

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Well, it’s about that time of year again. In several weeks, the smell of grills and the yells of cornhole players will fill college campuses across the nation as three glorious months of college football kick off on Thursday, August 30th. Before UCF and Connecticut face off in the inaugural game of the season, let’s take a look at some of the most important things to know going into the season.

Christopher Hanewinckel
The high-powered Crimson Tide offense

SEC Dominance Continues

There is no serious debate as to what Power 5 conference has taken over college football in the past few years, as the Southeastern Conference has been the best top-to-bottom. Alongside obvious juggernauts like Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide and the Georgia Bulldogs led by Kirby Smart, programs like Auburn, Mississippi State, and South Carolina have the potential to return to former glory. While the SEC will once again be the standout conference, the Big 10 looks strong as well with Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State all vying for New Year’s Six Bowls. As for the ACC, Big 12, and Pac 12, Clemson, Oklahoma, and Washington respectively are the only top-tier talent.

Gwinn Davis
Trevor Lawrence fires a pass during the 2018 spring game

QB Battles at Blue Chip Schools

This year there are more quarterback questions at big schools than in recent memory, with the starting spots at Alabama and Clemson headlining. The Crimson Tide have to decide whether to promote the missile throwing Tua Tagovailoa or continue to start Jalen Hurts, who is 26-2 at Alabama. Several hundred miles away, seasoned quarterback Kelly Bryant is being challenged in Clemson by Trevor Lawrence, a potentially transcendent talent who broke many high school records in Georgia set by former Clemson quarterback, Deshaun Watson. While the nod has gone to Bryant, who is well-deserving and has a resume to back the choice, the 6’5″ true freshman Lawrence will still show off his pocket passing talent against many opponents Clemson faces this season.

Kirby Lee
Heisman runner-up breaks away for a big gain against TCU last season

Heisman Watch

With most of last year’s Heisman finalists having moved on to the NFL, the race could be very different this year. Last year saw Christian McCaffrey’s Stanford successor, RB Bryce Love finish second behind Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield. Many pundits predict he will remain at the same production level and will be the favorite for the majority of the season. However, either Alabama quarterback could end up in the race, as could West Virginia QB Will Grier or Travis Etienne (the speedy running back out of Clemson). The race will look more clear several weeks into the season, but keep your eyes out for all of these names.

Gwinn Davis
Clelin Ferrell and Christian Wilkins celebrate after a big play

Playoff Predictions

Now in the fifth year of the College Football Playoff, the four-team design does not appear to be going away soon. This year’s group of four will participate in the Cotton and Orange Bowls on December 29th, with the National Championship on January 7th in the Bay Area. At this point, when one looks at weaker schedules and top-tier talent, Alabama and Clemson are guarantees unless either loses to an unranked opponent late in the season. This year we will likely again see two SEC teams in the playoff, as Georgia will again play at or near the level of Alabama, and may even challenge them for the conference title. The fourth spot could be any number of teams, but my nod goes to the Sooners even after the loss of QB Mayfield to the draft.

With the first games taking place on Thursday, August 30th, the nation is no doubt trembling with anticipation for the start of this years continuation of the time honored tradition.

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