2018 College Football Power Rankings Week 8

2018 College Football Power Rankings Week 8

One of the craziest college football weeks in recent memory included four top-ten losses, as Penn State, Washington, and West Virginia might be knocked out of the College Football Playoff race unless they get a lot of help down the stretch.

 

1. Alabama (7-0) | Last week: 1

Thankfully Tua Tagovailoa appears to be OK after leaving Saturday’s game with a knee injury, and Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide must be at ease knowing they have the excellent Jalen Hurts ready to take over the starting role if necessary. Alabama will look to avoid giving Tennessee its second straight SEC victory this Saturday, and then they have their bye week.

 

2. Ohio State (7-0) | Last week: 3 (+1)

Minnesota made it close for a bit, but the Buckeyes separated to remain undefeated. Dwayne Haskins threw for 412 yards and three touchdowns in the victory, and the Urban Meyer suspension from earlier this season feels like a distant memory. Remember, the Buckeyes are still without star pass rusher Nick Bosa.

 

3. Clemson (6-0) | Last week: 4 (+1)

Clemson had a bye week, but they move up one spot in the rankings after the loss by Georgia. As it stands now, this Saturday against NC State is the lone remaining ranked matchup for the Tigers this regular season.

 

4. LSU (6-1) | Last week: 10 (+6)

It wasn’t a night game, but LSU defended Death Valley in a convincing blowout victory against then-No. 2 Georgia over the weekend. The pass defense was phenomenal in the win, and LSU is squarely in the Playoff race despite the loss in Gainesville a couple weeks ago. The Tigers face Mississippi State this weekend before a bye and then the huge matchup against Alabama.

 

5. Georgia (6-1) | Last week: 2 (-3)

Remember, Georgia also suffered a blowout loss last year—even later in the season, in November to Auburn—and they bounced back with an SEC title and national title game appearance. The Bulldogs probably aren’t panicking after this loss, and they remain right in the Playoff discussion. It certainly won’t get easy this weekend against Florida, though.

 

6. Notre Dame (7-0) | Last week: 5 (-1)

Despite surviving against Pitt to remain undefeated, Notre Dame drops one spot in the power rankings. The Fighting Irish are in danger of being leapfrogged by other teams down the stretch, too. However, they look to have a very good chance at an undefeated regular season, as Pitt was probably their toughest remaining matchup.

 

7. Michigan (6-1) | Last week: NR

Michigan lost to the wrong team to open the season, as they simply cannot be ahead of Notre Dame at this point after their home loss to them. Still, the offense and defense have been great, as the Wolverines have been playing like an elite team. They must get over the hump against Michigan State this weekend.

 

8. Texas (6-1) | Last week: 9 (+1)

Baylor nearly knocked off Texas, but the Longhorns got a stop when they needed it at the end of the game. It was a good sign for Texas that they avoided a letdown after the Red River Showdown victory a couple of Saturdays ago. Sam Ehlinger is dealing with a shoulder sprain, but Shane Buechele certainly has the ability to lead the program for as long as necessary.

 

9. Florida (6-1) | Last week: NR

Florida fell behind early against Vanderbilt, but they stayed composed and dominated with a 24-6 second half. The end of the first half was an interesting moment with a shouting match between the coaches, but it was cool to see Dan Mullen and Derek Mason hug and talk it out after the game. A win in the Florida-Georgia game this Saturday would get the Gators into the top five.

 

10. Oregon (5-1) | Last week: NR

UCF and Oklahoma are among the other teams in the mix for the final spot in the rankings, but the Ducks get the nod after their home win against Washington. Oregon is probably the Pac-12’s only hope for a Playoff spot at the moment, and they have one of the best players in the country (quarterback Justin Herbert) leading them.

2018 Heisman Watch (Week 8)

2018 Heisman Watch (Week 8)

The leader in the Heisman race remains in the top spot despite his team falling in a ranked matchup, but the race is extremely tight in the middle of October.

 

1. Jonathan Taylor | Wisconsin RB | Sophomore | Last week:1

Even Michigan’s stingy defense couldn’t contain Jonathan Taylor, who rushed for 101 yards on 17 attempts in Wisconsin’s Saturday night loss. Another loss would probably knock the star sophomore running back down a notch in the Heisman race, but he holds the top spot as someone on the hunt for a 2,000-yard season.

 

Season stats:

143 ATT | 950 YDS | 8 TD | 6.6 AVG

5 REC | 20 YDS | 4.0 AVG

 

2. Tua Tagovailoa | Alabama QB | Sophomore | Last week: 2

Tua Tagovailoa has yet to throw an interception this season, and he’s up to 21 touchdowns while rarely getting a full slate of snaps like most players in the nation. Last week, it was a knee injury that knocked Tua out of action early, but thankfully he’s thought to be OK. Tagovailoa should put up numbers this week against Tennessee.

 

Season stats:

71.5% | 1,760 YDS | 21 TD

25 ATT | 117 YDS | 2 TD | 4.7 AVG

 

3. Dwayne Haskins | Ohio State QB | RS Sophomore | Last week: 4

He hasn’t been quite as flawless as Tagovailoa, but Dwayne Haskins has been putting up huge numbers each week. A late score against Minnesota put him at 412 passing yards and three passing touchdowns as the Buckeyes remained unbeaten. Haskins is clearly near the top of the Heisman discussion as we approach the third weekend in October.

 

Season stats:

72.3% | 2,331 YDS | 28 TD | 4 INT

30 ATT | 49 YDS | 1 TD | 1.6 AVG

 

4. Trace McSorley | Penn State QB | RS Senior | Last week: 3

It’s unfortunate that Penn State is almost certainly out of the College Football Playoff race already in Trace McSorley’s senior season. The overall team success puts a dent into McSorley’s Heisman candidacy, but he remains in the mix as perhaps the best player in the nation. The Nittany Lions still have a few ranked matchups coming up this regular season, so McSorley can climb back near the top of the Heisman watch.

 

Season stats:

54.4% | 1,242 YDS | 11 TD | 2 INT

79 ATT | 447 YDS | 6 TD | 5.7 AVG

 

5. Kyler Murray | Oklahoma QB | Senior | Last week: NR

With Will Grier and West Virginia losing against Iowa State, Kyler Murray takes the final spot of the top-five for the Heisman watch. Laviska Shenault Jr. is also right here in the discussion and should get strong Heisman consideration if he keeps playing this well. Murray returns to the field Saturday when the Sooners face TCU after they had off this past weekend.

 

Season stats:

71.1% | 1,764 YDS | 21 TD | 3 INT

57 ATT | 377 YDS | 5 TD | 6.6 AVG

2018 College Football Power Rankings Week 7

2018 College Football Power Rankings Week 7

Three top-ten losses made it a crazy first weekend of October for college football, and there’s a lot of uncertainty in the power rankings behind the top four teams.

 

1. Alabama (6-0) | Last week: 1

Alabama has simply been on another level from everyone they’ve played to this point, and their 31 points allowed to Arkansas was the most they’ve allowed through six games. The Crimson Tide have 45+ points in each of those games, as the offense is first in scoring and fifth in yardage. Missouri shouldn’t be an issue this weekend.

 

2. Georgia (6-0) | Last week: 2

Georgia hasn’t been quite as dominant as Alabama, but they’re right in that mold. Kirby Smart’s squad takes care of business every week, and Jake Fromm continues to play great at quarterback for the Bulldogs. Georgia is fifth in scoring defense (tied with Alabama) and sixth in total defense (ahead of Alabama).

 

3. Ohio State (6-0) | Last week: 3

Indiana made it a bit of a game into the second half, but as they’ve done over the years, Ohio State turned it on and separated at the end of the game. As it stands now, the Buckeyes have five straight unranked games before ending the regular season against Michigan.

 

4. Clemson (6-0) | Last week: 4

It was good to see Trevor Lawrence back in action after he left the previous weekend’s game against Syracuse, and the freshman quarterback went a cool 20-for-25 with a couple of touchdowns in Saturday’s 63-3 win against Wake Forest. After an off week, they’ll have a huge ACC matchup against fellow undefeated NC State.

 

5. Notre Dame (6-0) | Last week: 8 (+3)

A night matchup in Blacksburg was probably Notre Dame’s toughest remaining test of the season, and they pulled away in the second half to remain undefeated. It’ll be interesting to see where Notre Dame is ranked in the first College Football Playoff ranking released in a few weeks, as they should be heavy favorites in their games from here on out.

 

6. Penn State (4-1) | Last week: 9 (+3)

Penn State had an off week, and now they’ll head to East Lansing to face a Michigan State team coming off a loss. With losses by Oklahoma, Auburn, and LSU, the Nittany Lions are in a better position despite not playing a game on Saturday.

 

7. Washington (5-1) | Last week: 10 (+3)

UCLA put up a fight, but Washington survived to improve to 5-1. Senior quarterback Jake Browning displayed his experience by making enough plays to help the Huskies get the win, and he’ll need to have another good game this Saturday afternoon against the Ducks in Eugene.

 

8. West Virginia (5-0) | Last week: NR

After the Sooners’ loss, West Virginia is now the highest-ranked team in the Big 12. Not that their games were easy, but the Mountaineers have their toughest games toward the end of the season, and this Saturday’s game at Iowa State is one to keep an eye on.

 

9. Texas (5-1) | Last week: NR

Texas won the Red River Showdown, which vaults them up into the top ten. They’ve been a different team since their opening game loss to Maryland, and they only have on remaining ranked game (at home against West Virginia) left on the regular season schedule.

 

10. LSU (5-1) | Last week: 5 (-5)

The final spot in the top ten could’ve gone to several teams including Florida, UCF, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Oklahoma; but LSU gets the nod despite their loss on the day of Tim Tebow’s Ring of Honor induction. It was a tough environment for the Tigers, and they’ll have opportunities to bounce back—including this weekend at home against No. 2 Georgia.

2018 Heisman Watch (Week 7)

2018 Heisman Watch (Week 7)

Another huge performance by Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor has him leading our Heisman Watch heading into the second weekend of October.

 

1. Jonathan Taylor | Wisconsin RB | Sophomore | Last week: 1

Jonathan Taylor put up 221 yards and three touchdowns on 24 attempts in the Badgers’ 41-24 victory against Nebraska, and he’s now up to 849 yards and eight touchdowns in just five games. The talented sophomore is well on his way to a 2,000-yard season, with some big Big Ten games coming up for Wisconsin.

 

Season stats:

126 ATT | 849 YDS | 6.7 AVG | 8 TD

5 REC | 20 YDS | 4.0 AVG

 

2. Tua Tagovailoa | Alabama QB | Sophomore | Last week: 4

Their defense is still amazing, but Tua Tagovailoa has helped turn Alabama into a true passing juggernaut. Tagovailoa has nearly as many touchdowns (20 total, 18 passing) as incompletions (25), which tells you all you need to know about the type of season he’s had to this point.

 

Season stats:

75.2% | 1,495 YDs | 18 TD

23 ATT | 122 YDS | 5.3 AVG | 2 TD

 

3. Trace McSorley | Penn State QB | RS Senior | Last week: 2

The Nittany Lions had off, so Trace McSorley obviously didn’t have a chance to make a Heisman case this weekend. He can help lead his team to a big win at Michigan State this Saturday.

 

Season stats:

53.2% | 1,050 YDS | 10 TD | 2 INT

66 ATT | 410 YDS | 6.2 AVG | 6 TD

 

4. Dwayne Haskins | Ohio State QB | RS Sophomore | Last week: 3

While Dwayne Haskins doubled his season interception total against Indiana, he threw for 455 yards and six touchdowns to bring his passing touchdown total to 25 through six games. Haskins could be as high as number one in the Heisman race to this point.

 

Season stats:

71.7% | 1,919 YDS | 25 TD | 4 INT

21 ATT | 43 YDS | 2.0 AVG | TD

 

5. Will Grier | West Virginia QB | RS Senior | Last week: NR

Will Grier surprisingly threw three interceptions, but West Virginia remained unbeaten with a 38-22 win over Kansas. Also, he threw another four interceptions in the victory, crossing the 20-touchdown through five games. Grier slightly edges out Kyler Murray for the No. 5 spot for now.

 

Season stats:

71.2% | 1,819 YDS | 21 TD | 6 INT

2018 College Football Power Rankings Week 6

2018 College Football Power Rankings Week 6

Ohio State gets into the top-four of the college football power rankings after a huge win over Penn State in Happy Valley, and Notre Dame lands in the top-ten for the first time this year.

 

1. Alabama (5-0) | Last week: 1

Saturday’s win could have been a lot worse for Louisiana-Lafayette than 56-14, as Tua Tagovailoa went a quick 8-for-8 for 128 yards and two touchdowns. Jalen Hurts ended his redshirt eligibility, insuring the Crimson Tide have the best backup quarterback situation in the nation. Hurts deserves a ton of credit for the way he’s handled everything since last season’s National Championship Game, and he’s been an ultimate team player that’s foregoing an extra season of eligibility by sticking with his team this year.

 

2. Georgia (5-0) | Last week: 3 (+1)

Georgia again dominated at home against Tennessee, improving to 5-0. They’re simply a dominant team that shouldn’t have much trouble against Vanderbilt this weekend before heading to Baton Rouge in a couple of weekends. The Bulldogs are looking at five straight ranked SEC matchups after this Saturday.

 

3. Ohio State (5-0) | Last week: 5 (+2)

The Buckeyes were getting dominated by the Nittany Lions in a whiteout on Saturday night, but Urban Meyer’s squad stayed composed and staged an impressive comeback in one of the toughest environments in college football. The win puts them in the driver’s seat for a spot in the College Football Playoff.

 

4. Clemson (5-0) | Last week: 2 (-2)

Chase Brice did an excellent job stepping in for an injured Trevor Lawrence in a tight win against Syracuse, and Travis Etienne certainly helped with 203 yards and three touchdowns in the win. The team is without Kelly Bryant moving forward, so it was good that Brice was able to gain some experience and confidence in some critical game action. Hopefully Lawrence is feeling better soon and can remain on the field for the Tigers.

 

5. LSU (5-0) | Last week: 4 (-1)

LSU took care of business at home against Ole Miss, and now they’ll go on the road for a ranked matchup in “The Swamp” against Florida. They’ll have three home SEC matchups after this one—including a huge potential top-five matchup versus Georgia—but they obviously cannot look past this Saturday.

 

6. Oklahoma (5-0) | Last week: 7 (+1)

Through two seasons as Oklahoma’s head coach, Lincoln Riley has shown he’s not afraid to discipline his star players if he feels they should be disciplined, and Kyler Murray responded with seven touchdowns after missing one drive for the Sooners. This week, it’s the Red River Showdown with Texas, which shouldn’t be easy.

 

7. Auburn (4-1) | Last week: 9 (+2)

Auburn’s win over Southern Miss was probably closer than they would have liked, but the Tigers improved to 4-1. Auburn must get the running game on track to get to where they want to be at the end of the season. This weekend on the road against Mississippi State is a major challenge.

 

8. Notre Dame (5-0) | Last week: NR

The Fighting Irish probably benefited from a Stanford team coming off an emotional high from the week before in a comeback win in Euguene over the Ducks, but it was a convincing win in South Bend to remain undefeated. This Saturday’s primetime matchup at Virginia Tech might be their toughest remaining agme on the schedule.

 

9. Penn State (4-1) | Last week: 6 (-3)

Penn State controlled much of the game against Ohio State, but they couldn’t quite defend homefield in their first loss of the season. The loss was the first at home in Trace McSorley’s career, but McSorley did his part. The Nittany Lions still have a lot of big games in front of them and can work their way back into the Playoff conversation.

 

10. Washington (4-1) | Last week: 10

In a ranked matchup with an upset-minded BYU team, Washington was clearly the better team that night on their homefield. Jake Browning went 23-for-25 in the victory, and the running game did damage against the Cougars. Washington is a heavy favorite against a winless UCLA team this weekend.

2018 Heisman Watch (Week 6)

2018 Heisman Watch (Week 6)

Jonathan Taylor had a week off but still tops the 2018 Heisman Trophy Watch heading into October.

 

1. Jonathan Taylor | Wisconsin RB | Sophomore | Last week: 1

Off last weekend, Wisconsin’s star running back could be in store for a heavy workload this weekend against Nebraska. A 200-yard performance is a legit possibility, and Taylor is already up to 628 rushing yards through just four games this season.

 

Season stats:

102 ATT | 628 YDS | 6.2 AVG | 5 TD

5 REC | 20 YDS | 4.0 AVG

 

2. Trace McSorley | Penn State QB | RS Senior | Last week: 3

Penn State lost a heartbreaker to Ohio State in Trace McSorley’s first ever home loss as the starter, but McSorley was clearly the best player on the field that night. While a win certainly would have been a big boost in the Heisman race, a loss shouldn’t do much to harm his chances. It’s a shame the ball wasn’t put in his hands on Penn State’s final offensive play.

 

Season stats:

53.2% | 1,050 YDS | 10 TD | 2 INT

66 ATT | 410 YDS | 6.2 AVG | 6 TD

 

3. Dwayne Haskins | Ohio State QB | RS Sophomore | Last week: 4

It wasn’t the prettiest performance of Dwayne Haskins’ career, but he toughed it out in a whiteout and helped lead Ohio State to a comeback victory. Haskins is clearly among the top Heisman Trophy candidates in the nation heading into the second month of the season.

 

Season stats:

70.8% | 1,464 YDS | 19 TD | 2 INT

14 ATT | 36 YDS | 2.6 AVG | TD

 

4. Tua Tagovailoa | Alabama QB | Sophomore | Last week: 2

Alabama is rolling over people, which is giving Tua Tagovailoa less opportunities to put up numbers than he otherwise would. Tagovailoa was a perfect 8-for-8 with a couple of scores in the Crimson Tide’s blowout win over the weekend.

 

Season stats:

75.0% | 1,161 YDS | 14 TD

20 ATT | 115 YDS | 5.8 AVG | 2 TD

 

5. Kyler Murray | Oklahoma QB | Senior | Last week: NR

Kyler Murray leapfrogs Will Grier for a top-five spot in the Heisman Trophy Watch. Grier continues to play great, but Murray’s six-touchdown performance after sitting out the first series is tough to ignore. Murray is averaging an absurd 13.4 yards per attempt and already has 21 total touchdowns this season.

 

Season stats:

70.6% | 1,460 YDS | 17 TD | 3 INT

46 ATT | 285 YDS | 6.2 AVG | 4 TD

2018 College Football Power Rankings Week 5

2018 College Football Power Rankings Week 5

Not much change in this week’s college football power rankings, but this weekend’s schedule includes two matchups between top-ten teams in the AP poll.

 

1. Alabama (4-0) | Last week: 1

There are a lot of great teams in college football, but Alabama clearly stands at the top after a few weeks. Tua Tagovailoa continues to make spectacular plays and pinpoint throws all over the field. If teams don’t get pressure on the Crimson Tide offense, they’ll be nearly impossible to beat.

 

2. Clemson (4-0) | Last week: 2

A bigger glimpse of the future was given on Saturday against Georgia Tech, as talented true freshman Trevor Lawrence tossed four touchdowns in a 49-point effort for the Tigers. Clemson did a good job of defending the triple-option. You know the Tigers are going to be ready to play this weekend against Syracuse after the Orange upset them in 2017.

 

3. Georgia (4-0) | Last week: 3

Georgia has often been compared to Alabama since Kirby Smart took over as the head coach for his alma mater, and the non-offensive touchdowns is an indicator that the Bulldogs are playing a lot like the Crimson Tide. Georgia has a couple of home games against Tennessee and Vanderbilt before heading to Baton Rouge.

 

4. LSU (4-0) | Last week: 4

It might have been a little closer than LSU would have liked, but they took care of business at home against Louisiana Tech. LSU has a tough task defending Mississippi’s elite group of receivers this Saturday. The matchup starts a stretch of six straight SEC games for the Tigers.

 

5. Ohio State (4-0) | Last week: 5

Urban Meyer’s return went as expected, as the Buckeyes rolled to a 49-6 home victory over Tulane. Now Ohio State has perhaps their toughest game of the early season as they head to Happy Valley to face Penn State on Saturday night. A win would arguably be the best of the season to this point, but Ohio State will be without Nick Bosa.

 

6. Penn State (4-0) | Last week: 6

After playing on Friday night, the Nittany Lions have a little extra time to get ready for the Buckeyes coming to town this weekend. Dwayne Haskins has been great this season, but Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley is probably the best player in the nation and should have the edge at home.

 

7. Oklahoma (4-0) | Last week: 7

That was too close for comfort, as Oklahoma needed overtime to get past Army in Norman. An overtime score by Army might have meant a do-or-die two-point conversion attempt in the first overtime, which would have been fun to watch—but the Sooners deserve credit for stepping up and surviving the weekend with a zero in the loss column.

 

8. Stanford (4-0) | Last week: 9 (+1)

In a tough and rowdy environment in Eugene, Stanford stormed back from a 17-point halftime deficit to win an overtime thriller against Justin Herbert and Oregon. The Cardinal will now head on the road again for a matchup against No. 8 Notre Dame. Because Stanford plays in the Pac-12 and Notre Dame is an independent, there are huge Playoff implications in the game.

 

9. Auburn (3-1) | Last week: 8 (-1)

Auburn bounced back from their close home loss to LSU with a convincing 34-3 showing against Arkansas. They’ll remain home for the fourth straight weekend when they face Southern Miss this Saturday. Jarrett Stidham hasn’t gotten a ton going through the air, so he’ll try to get on track this week.

 

10. Washington (3-1) | Last week: 10

Jake Browning threw three touchdowns as Washington was able to hold off Arizona State for a seven-point victory. Chris Peterson’s squad did a good job of locking up star receiver N’Keal Harry. This weekend, Washington remains at home as they face an upset-minded BYU team that already beat Wisconsin this year.

2018 Heisman Watch (Week 5)

2018 Heisman Watch (Week 5)

Another exceptional performance puts Tua Tagovailoa near the top of the Heisman Trophy watch heading into the last weekend of September.

 

1. Jonathan Taylor | Wisconsin RB | Sophomore | Last week: 1

He didn’t score in the win, but Jonathan Taylor had another 100-yard effort in Wisconsin’s hard-fought primetime win against Iowa. Taylor is already up to 628 yards through four games this season, and he should continue to get a heavy workload for the Badgers. The sophomore running back should get plenty of opportunities in a couple weekends against Nebraska.

 

Season stats:

102 ATT | 628 YDS | 6.2 AVG | 5 TD

5 REC | 20 YDS | 4.0 AVG

 

2. Tua Tagovailoa | Alabama QB | Sophomore | Last week: NR

Tua Tagovailoa owns a stellar 12:0 TD/INT ratio, along with two rushing scores, and his play on the field has been every bit as good as the numbers indicate. Tagovailoa puts nearly every pass right on the money, spreading the ball to his athletic playmakers. He’s averaging 12.9 yards per attempt.

 

Season stats:

72.5% | 1,033 YDS | 12 TD

18 ATT | 103 YDS | 5.7 AVG | 2 TD

 

3. Trace McSorley | Penn State QB | RS Senior | Last week: 2

Most Heisman Trophy seasons have a “Heisman moment”, and Trace McSorley has a big opportunity for that type of moment when Penn State faces Ohio State in Happy Valley this Saturday night. McSorley’s 14 total touchdowns matches Tua Tagovailoa’s total through four games.

 

Season stats:

54.2% | 764 YDS | 8 TD | 2 INT

41 ATT | 235 YDS | 5.7 AVG | 6 TD

 

4. Dwayne Haskins | Ohio State QB | RS Sophomore | Last week: 3

One the other side, Dwayne Haskins has an opportunity of his own for a Heisman moment. If Haskins can play as well as he has to this point, while leading the Buckeyes to a win in Happy Valley, he would likely vault up to the No. 1 spot in everyone’s Heisman rankings. Haskins already had 16 passing touchdowns this season, but he’ll face his toughest test so far on Satuday night.

 

Season stats:

75.7% | 1,1194 YDS | 16 TD | INT

10 ATT | 28 YDS | 2.8 AVG | TD

 

5. Will Grier | West Virginia QB | Senior | Last week: 4

After an off week because of Hurricane Florence, West Virginia got back to action and slung the ball around in a blowout victory against Kansas State. Will Grier threw five touchdowns and two interceptions in the win, and he’s already up to 14 passing touchdowns through just three games. Grier’s numbers will obviously be near the top of the leaderboards this season.

 

Season stats:

74.7% | 1,117 YDS | 14 TD | 3 INT

2018 College Football Power Rankings Week 4

2018 College Football Power Rankings Week 4

Ohio State and LSU both had huge ranked wins over the weekend. Which one gets into the top four behind Alabama, Clemson, and Georgia?

 

1. Alabama (3-0) | Last week: 1

It looked like Ole Miss might have been ready to give Alabama some trouble again after D.K. Metcalf’s 75-yard deep ball touchdown to open the game on Saturday night, but it was all Crimson Tide after that, with the No. 1 team in the nation rolling to 62 straight points. Alabama hosts Texas A&M in the big CBS game this weekend.

 

2. Clemson (3-0) | Last week: 2

Kelly Bryant left Saturday’s game against Georgia Southern with an injury, but he’s expected to be ready to go this weekend against Georgia Tech. The bright side was true freshman Trevor Lawrence got some more valuable experience in the blowout victory. Dabo Swinney’s squad is now gearing up to stop the triple-option attack of the Yellow Jackets.

 

3. Georgia (3-0) | Last week: 3

Jake Fromm threw more touchdowns (three) than incompletions (two) in a 49-7 rout of Middle Tennessee. Elijah Holywfield (son of former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield) had 100 yards on eight carries in the win. Georgia will look to limit Drew Lock and Missouri’s potent offense.

 

4. LSU (3-0) | Last week: 9 (+5)

LSU makes a jump from No. 9 all the way to No. 4 after their huge win in Jordan-Hare against Auburn. The Tigers now have a win against Miami and a win against Auburn, so they’re difficult to leave out of the top-five at this point. Joe Burrow played a lot better than the stats indicated on Saturday, and he’s brought stability at quarterback for the program.

 

5. Ohio State (3-0) | Last week: 5

The game was probably slightly closer than the 40-28 score indicates, as TCU did give them a fight, but the Buckeyes improved to 3-0 and now get head coach Urban Meyer back from his three-game suspension. Hopefully Nick Bosa is OK after getting injured in the win.

 

6. Penn State (3-0) | Last week: 7 (+1)

After the overtime win against Appalachian State in the first week, Penn State has blown out Pitt and Kent State in back-to-back weeks. The Nittany Lions are probably flying way below the radar because of how close that first game was; but remember, they did win that game.

 

7. Oklahoma (3-0) | Last week: 8 (+1)

Kyler Murray is lighting it up for Oklahoma to start the season, and it looks like their offense will be able to score with anyone. Good for last year’s Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield telling off a Bleacher Report analyst. The Sooner should be able to handle Army this weekend.

 

8. Auburn (2-1) | Last week: 6 (-2)

Auburn took a home loss to LSU, but they still belong in the top ten after playing it close. LSU might own the best win of the season, but Auburn probably owns the second-best win of the season after their opening game victory against Washington.

 

9. Stanford (3-0) | Last week: 10 (+1)

Bryce Love did not play, but Stanford still took care of business against UC Davis. Now they have back-to-back very tough games on the road again Oregon and Notre Dame. They’ll climb the rankings if they can get to 5-0 in these next two weeks.

 

10. Washington (2-1) | Last week: NR

Notre Dame is among the teams that could be in this final spot in the top ten, but Washington gets the slight nod. They have a difficult task facing Herm Edward’s Arizona State team this Saturday night at home.

2018 Heisman Watch (Week 4)

2018 Heisman Watch (Week 4)

The top Heisman candidate from last week had his team lose, and the leading candidate heading into the season (Bryce Love) did not play and drops out of the rankings.

 

1. Jonathan Taylor | Wisconsin RB | Sophomore | Last week: 1

Wisconsin fell to BYU over the weekend, but Jonathan Taylor did his part with another 117 yards in the loss. Taylor is now up to over 500 yards on the year, and the Badgers have only played three games. He’ll have plenty of more opportunities to make Heisman statements in big games.

 

Season stats:

77 ATT | 515 YDS | 6.7 AVG | 5 TD

3 REC | 14 YDS | 4.7 AVG

 

2. Trace McSorley | Penn State QB | Senior | Last week: 4

If Kent State was able to keep it close, Trace McSorley really would’ve put up some eye-popping numbers. Penn State’s record-breaking quarterback had three first-quarter touchdowns in the win, totaling five in the game. He also threw his first interception of the year, but it wasn’t really on him; and he made a touchdown-saving tackle after it.

 

Season stats:

52.3% | 604 YDS | 5 TD | INT

26 ATT | 143 YDS | 5.5 AVG | 6 TD

 

3. Dwayne Haskins | Ohio State QB | RS Sophomore | Last week: 3

Dwayne Haskins’ accuracy was on full display in a primetime matchup against TCU, and he also punched one in deep in the red zone. Haskins gets the ball out to his weapons and allows them to make big plays for him.

 

Season stats:

72.5% | 890 YDS | 11 TD | INT

7 ATT | 23 YDS | 3.3 AVG | TD

 

4. Will Grier | West Virginia QB | Senior | Last week: 2

Will Grier and West Virginia were off because of Hurricane Florence, and the missed opportunity for stats causes him to drop a couple of spots in a crowded Heisman field. Grier will look to put up big numbers this weekend against Kansas State.

 

Season stats:

76.7% | 761 YDS | 9 TD | INT

 

5. Kyler Murray | Oklahoma QB | RS Junior | Last week: NR

Tua Tagovailoa just misses the top five, but he’ll certainly work his way onto the list if he keeps it up for the Crimson Tide. Kyler Murray has been lighting it up for the Sooners just like last year’s Heisman winner Baker Mayfield did, and he’s squarely in the mix for the award after a few games.

 

Season stats:

67.1% | 863 YDS | 8 TD | INT

29 ATT | 169 YDS | 5.8 AVG | 2 TD

2018 College Football Power Rankings Week 3

2018 College Football Power Rankings Week 3

Despite an entertaining weekend of college football, the power rankings remain mostly chalk after two weeks. The only change is in the final spot, with one Pac-12 team (Washington) being swapped out for another.

 

1. Alabama (2-0) | Last week: 1

Alabama rolled over Arkansas State, with both Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts getting time at quarterback. There are rumors of Hurts potentially only appearing in four games this season and using it as a redshirt year, but for now the two-quarterback system is working fine for the Crimson Tide. This weekend against Ole Miss will be a tough test.

 

2. Clemson (2-0) | Last week: 2

The matchup with Jimbo Fisher and Texas A&M was one of the best of the young season, with Clemson holding on at Kyle Field, 28-26. The two-quarterback system is also working well for the Tigers, with Kelly Bryant and Trevor Lawrence both playing great football. Lawrence’s touchdown pass on his first throw on Saturday night was thrilling.

 

3. Georgia (2-0) | Last week: 3

South Carolina kept it relatively close in the prime afternoon CBS matchup for the first half, but Georgia pulled away with 21 points in the third quarter. The Bulldogs just have athletes all over the field, and much like Alabama and Clemson, they can simply overmatch teams.

 

4. Wisconsin (2-0) | Last week: 4

Sophomore running back Jonathan Taylor put up a career-high 253 rushing yards, while A.J. Taylor added 134 receiving yards, in Wisconsin’s 45-14 victory against New Mexico. Wisconsin will look to get to 3-0 as they face BYU this Saturday.

 

5. Ohio State (2-0) | Last week: 5

Ohio State’s offense is rolling, with point totals of 77 and 52 through two games against Oregon State and Big Ten opponent Rutgers. Things should get tougher at TCU this weekend, but the Buckeyes are double-digit favorites.

 

6. Auburn (2-0) | Last week: 6

After a blowout victory in a tune-up game against Alabama State, Auburn will look to defend home field as they host LSU in a huge September SEC matchup. No team would have a better two wins on their resume than Auburn if they can beat LSU.

 

7. Penn State (2-0) | Last week: 7

The first half was close, but Penn State exploded in the second half of their 51-6 blowout win against Pitt. After the Nittany Lions struggled defensively against Appalachian State to open the year, it was a good sign that they bounced back a week later. But the run defense and tackling must continue to progress.

 

8. Oklahoma (2-0) | Last week: 8

Kyler Murray is playing outstanding through two games as Oklahoma’s starter, and he totaled five touchdowns (three passing, two rushing) in a 49-21 win over UCLA. Unfortunately, star running back Rodney Anderson suffered a season-ending injury in the win, but the Sooners have a talented group of runners ready to step up.

 

9. LSU (2-0) | Last week: 9

Nick Brossette has quickly emerged as a potential Heisman candidate for LSU, as he’s eclipsed 125 rushing yards through each of the first two games this season. And Joe Burrow is playing well at quarterback. This Saturday’s game against Auburn is must-watch for college football fans.

 

10. Stanford (2-0) | Last week: NR

Stanford’s defense shut down USC’s offense, allowing just three points while intercepting freshman quarterback J.T. Daniels twice. He was limited by San Diego State in the opener, but senior Bryce Love got back on track with 136 yards and a touchdown against the Trojans. The Cardinal are a tough team to beat.

2018 Heisman Watch (Week 3)

2018 Heisman Watch (Week 3)

After two full weeks of the college football season, there are obviously still plenty of players in the Heisman Trophy race. These are the top five players to watch as we hit the middle of September.

 

1. Jonathan Taylor | Wisconsin RB | Sophomore | Last week: 1

Jonathan Taylor followed up his 145-yard, two-touchdown performance in Wisconsin’s first game with a career-high 253 yards in a win against New Mexico. Taylor is the Heisman favorite through two weeks, and he’ll look to keep it going at home against BYU this weekend.

 

Season stats:

51 ATT | 398 YDS | 7.8 AVG | 5 TD

 

2. Will Grier | West Virginia QB | Senior | Last week: 3

After five touchdowns to open the season, Will Grier tossed another four scores to move up one spot in the Heisman Watch. Grier is completing 76.7 percent of his passes and averaging 12.7 yards per attempt through two games.

 

Season stats:

76.7% | 761 YDS | 9 TD | INT

 

3. Dwayne Haskins | Ohio State QB | RS Sophomore | Last week: NR

Dwayne Haskins also rises a spot in the Heisman Watch, as he also had another multi-touchdown effort in another rout by his team. Haskins has a big opportunity this weekend against ranked TCU in Urban Meyer’s final game away from the team.

 

Season stats:

79.2% | 546 YDS | 9 TD | INT

4 ATT | 15 YDS | 3.8 AVG

 

4. Trace McSorley | Penn State QB | Senior | Last week: 2

Trace McSorley drops a couple spots in the rankings, but it’s just because of the statistical outputs of the two quarterbacks ahead of him. However, Penn State’s leader is playing very well, and the team has put up point totals of 45 and 51 against two tough opponents through two games. McSorley will be in the mix all season.

 

Season stats:

53.0% | 375 YDS | 3 TD

17 ATT | 89 YDS | 5.2 AVG | 3 TD

 

5. Bryce Love | Stanford QB | Senior | Last week: 5

That was more like it for Bryce Love, who started off hot against USC after getting shut down by San Diego State the week before. Look for Love to put up some big numbers this weekend against UC Davis before facing Oregon in a couple of weeks.

 

Season stats:

40 ATT | 165 YDS | 4.1 AVG | TD

3 REC | 18 YDS | 6.0 AVG

2018 College Football Power Rankings Week 2

2018 College Football Power Rankings Week 2

The first big weekend of the 2018 college football season is in the books, ending with a couple of routs on back-to-back nights after the jam-packed Saturday. A lot will change until the first College Football Playoff rankings release on October 30, but we’ll be ranking the top ten teams each week up to and through then.

 

1. Alabama (1-0)

As expected, the Crimson Tide rolled to a 51-14 victory against Louisville. Both Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts had playing time and both played well, but Tagovailoa in particular really played an outstanding game (though he did receive more opportunities). The media is making a big deal about it, but Alabama’s so-called “quarterback problem” might be the best quarterback situation in the country.

 

2. Clemson (1-0)

Clemson’s quarterback situation isn’t too bad, either. Kelly Bryant played very well, showing good touch on his throws while doing damage on the ground; and talented true freshman Trevor Lawrence came in and threw the ball as well as advertised. The defense was dominant against Furman, but they should be tested more against Texas A&M this Saturday, as they run into Jimbo Fisher despite the former Florida State coach leaving the ACC.

 

3. Georgia (1-0)

Georgia dominated their tune-up game against Austin Peay, and they’ll jump right into their SEC schedule as they head to South Carolina to face the Gamecocks in the prime afternoon matchup on CBS.

 

4. Wisconsin (1-0)

The quarterback-running back combo of Alex Hornibrook and Jonathan Taylor picked up right where they left off last season, combining for four touchdowns in Wisconsin’s win against Western Kentucky. The Badgers should be able to handle New Mexico at home this Saturday.

 

5. Ohio State (1-0)

Ohio State tied a school record for points in a season opener (77) against Oregon State, and they’re now one win away from being the second school in major college football to hit the 900-win mark. At home against Rutgers, they should get it.

 

6. Auburn (1-0)

The best win of the season through one week belongs to Auburn, who held on to win a close one against Pac-12 favorite Washington. The win could have big ramifications if things are close in the final College Football Playoff rankings, showing that it can pay off to schedule tough out-of-conference games.

 

7. Penn State (1-0)

People are probably getting too low on Penn State after one game, which they won, against Appalachian State. Miles Sanders (career-high 91 yards against Appalachian State) did a great job leading the running back group sans Saquon Barkley. Armani Oruwariye stepped up for the defense to clinch the game in overtime, and they must carry momentum heading into a tough matchup with Pittsburgh.

 

8. Oklahoma (1-0)

The trio of Kyler Murray, Rodney Anderson, and Marquise “Hollywood” Brown led Oklahoma to 63 points and ensured Lane Kiffin’s FAU squad didn’t have a chance for an upset. Now they’ll face a UCLA squad that’s coming off a loss to Cincinnati.

 

9. LSU (1-0)

There were some doubters of LSU entering the year, but they certainly came to play on Sunday night in a convincing 33-17 victory over Miami. Ohio State transfer Joe Burrows played better than the numbers (11/24, 140 yards) indicate, and he could be the program’s best quarterback in a while.

 

10. Washington (0-1)

It was just one game, so people shouldn’t call Washington’s close loss to Auburn an indictment on the Pac-12. However, it was a big loss for the Huskies, who probably cannot afford to drop anymore games if they’re going to be in the Playoff discussion at the end of the season.

2018 Heisman Watch (Week 2)

2018 Heisman Watch (Week 2)

After one week, there’s obviously still plenty of time for the best players in the nation to separate themselves in the race for the 2018 Heisman Trophy. This is where the race stands heading into the second full weekend of the season.

 

1. Jonathan Taylor | Wisconsin RB | Sophomore | Last week: 2

Jonathan Taylor picked up right where he left off last season, going over 100 yards with two touchdowns in the first half against Western Kentucky. For the game, the true sophomore had 18 carries for 145 yards (8.1 yards per carry) and the two scores. Taylor should be put similarly impressive numbers this week against New Mexico.

 

Season stats:

18 ATT | 145 YDS | 8.1 AVG | 2 TD

 

2. Trace McSorley | Penn State QB | Senior | Last week: 3

Appalachian State has shown over the years they are certainly no cakewalk, and they nearly delivered a September stunner in Happy Valley against Penn State. It would have been a sizable blow to Trace McSorley’s Heisman chances, but McSorley came up clutch at the end of regulation and in overtime, which is what you expect from perhaps the best quarterback in the nation.

 

Season stats:

58.3% | 230 YDS | 1 TD

12 ATT | 53 YDS | 4.4 AVG | 2 TD

 

3. Will Grier | West Virginia QB | Senior | Last week: NR

West Virginia rolled over SEC opponent Tennessee in the opener, and Will Grier was at the center of it with five passing touchdowns—including two to fellow Heisman candidate David Sills. Grier might toss another five scores this week against Youngstown State, which would be quite the start to the year for the senior quarterback.

 

Season stats:

73.5% | 429 YDS | 5 TD

 

4. Dwayne Haskins | Ohio State QB | RS Sophomore | Last week: NR

Ohio State’s quarterback also threw five touchdowns in the opener, as Dwayne Haskins helped lead the Buckeyes to 77 points against Oregon State. Running back Mike Weber (186 yards, three touchdowns) helped make it a balanced attack that’ll be tough to stop. This week against Rutgers could be another blowout—and more huge numbers for Haskins.

 

Season stats:

73.3% | 313 YDS | 5 TD | 1 INT

2 ATT | 24 YDS | 12.0 AVG

 

5. Bryce Love | Stanford RB | Senior | Last week: 1

San Diego State absolutely shut down Bryce Love, who was seemingly hit in the backfield on every carry and simply had nowhere to run. But Love is such a good player that he remains in the top five of the Heisman Watch. And the good news is quarterback K.J. Costello and wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (six receptions, 226 yards, three touchdowns) took advantage of the Aztecs attempting to take Love out of the game, so defenses might have to pick-their-poison when facing the Cardinal. Love will put up numbers.

 

Season stats:

18 ATT | 29 YDS | 1.6 AVG

3 REC | 18 YDS | 6.0 AVG

 

 

Falling: J.K. Dobbins (4 LW), D’Andre Swift (5 LW)

2018 College Football Predictions: Conference Winners, Heisman Pick, CFB Playoff Picks

2018 College Football Predictions: Conference Winners, Heisman Pick, CFB Playoff Picks

The first big Saturday of the 2018 college football season kicks off tomorrow, so it’s time to share predictions for the year. These are my picks for the Power Five Conference winners, the Heisman Trophy, the College Football Playoff, and the CFB Playoff National Championship.

 

Power Five Conference Predictions

 

ACC: Clemson

Miami might take another step forward under Mark Richt, and Florida State might have a quick turnaround in Willie Taggart’s first season as head coach, but Clemson is just too talented not to be the choice in the ACC.

 

Big 12: Oklahoma

With Baker Mayfield gone, the Big 12 is probably more wide-open than it was last season. TCU is always in the mix, West Virginia is led by senior quarterback Will Grier, and Texas could make a jump in Tom Herman’s second year. However, I believe Lincoln Riley’s offense led by Kyler Murray will remain electric, which will be enough in a conference that typically doesn’t play great defense.

 

Big Ten: Penn State

The toughest conference in college football for 2018 is the most difficult to predict, with Wisconsin, Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, and Michigan State all as legit Playoff contenders entering the year—and Nebraska under Scott Frost could make some noise, among other teams. But I think the experience of Trace McSorley is the difference for Penn State, who gets to play Ohio State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin at home.

 

Pac-12: UCLA

Washington should be the favorite heading into the season, but I’m going with UCLA to win the Pac-12. First and foremost, Chip Kelly is 46-7 as a college head coach, and I expect quick success for the Bruins within the next couple of seasons. Also, UCLA hosts Washington early in the season, and a win against the Huskies could be a huge momentum-builder the rest of the way. They are a darkhorse Playoff team for me, especially if they can take down Oklahoma in a couple Saturdays.

 

SEC: Alabama

There’s been a lot of coaching turnover in the SEC since last season, but I expect it’ll again come down to Alabama, Georgia, and Auburn. The Crimson Tide host the Iron Bowl, so I think that gives them a leg-up in the SEC West, and they would probably be the favorite over Georgia (or whoever else) in the SEC title game.

 

 

Heisman Trophy Prediction

 

Trace McSorley, Penn State

Penn State is my pick for the Big Ten, and I believe Trace McSorley is clearly the best quarterback in the nation, so he’s my choice to win the 2018 Heisman Trophy. Bryce Love of Stanford and Jonathan Taylor of Wisconsin are extremely strong candidates that should put up eye-popping numbers at running back, but it might be tough to top a prolific season from a senior quarterback.

 

I really wish college football programs made All-22 film available so that I could go deeper and share why McSorley might be the best player in college football entering 2018, but it would not be a surprise if he garners first-round recognition for the NFL draft after the year. McSorley makes smart decisions and is accurate to all areas on the field with an underrated arm, and he is also a playmaker that makes plays with his legs and makes accurate throws on the move.

 

McSorley is 22-5 as Penn State’s starter, including a Big Ten title in 2016 and a Fiesta Bowl victory against Washington last season. The redshirt senior holds school records for total offense, total touchdowns, career passing touchdowns, passing touchdowns in a season, and passing yards in a season. He’s going to break and build on records, and he might also have a Heisman Trophy to show for it in December.

 

 

College Football Playoff Predictions

 

Clemson

The monsters up front on Clemson’s defense are going to make it difficult for opposing offenses every week, and quarterback Kelly Bryant getting pushed by talented true freshman Trevor Lawrence could ensure the offense is always locked-in and on its game. And Dabo Swinney is one of the best coaches in the country. The Tigers might be undefeated heading into the Playoff.

 

Alabama

Until Nick Saban and Alabama miss a College Football Playoff, there’s no reason to believe they’ll miss one. The Crimson Tide have two excellent quarterbacks, a ton of talent at every position, and a coaching staff and culture that obviously leads to winning a lot of games.

 

Penn State

The Nittany Lions are my Big Ten pick, and Trace McSorley is my Heisman pick, so that would equate to a College Football Playoff berth. James Franklin’s squad was arguably robbed from the Playoff a couple seasons ago with a conference title, but the chances of that happening again aren’t great.

 

Georgia

I have both Big 12 winner Oklahoma and Pac-12 winner UCLA missing the Playoff to SEC runner-up Georgia. Perhaps the Committee would treat a potential Alabama-Georgia SEC Championship Game as a de-facto play-in game for the Playoff, but if Georgia has one loss and is seen as a top-four team in the nation, they have to make the field unless another conference winner has a similarly-stellar season. Washington, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, and Auburn were all also near choices for the final Playoff spot.

 

 

National Championship

 

Penn State over Georgia

Jake Fromm showed rare poise for a young player in last year’s College Football Playoff, and I expect he’ll do the same in big games for the rest of his college career and into the NFL. He might be the difference in what would be an entertaining College Football Playoff semifinal between Clemson and Georgia.

 

Alabama is as good as it gets on defense, but Penn State has played well offensively against top defenses like Wisconsin and Washington the last two years. The Nittany Lions have obviously lost some weapons like Saquon Barkley, Chris Godwin, and DaeSean Hamilton since then, but the quarterback remains in place. Penn State’s defense might actually make it tougher on Alabama’s offense than the other way around, and it could lead to an upset.

 

Penn State versus Georgia would be a rematch of the 1983 Sugar Bowl, which the Nittany Lions won, 27-23. Georgia defeating Clemson to get to the title game would be an outstanding victory, but if this is the championship matchup, Penn State will have been more tested throughout the season. It’d probably be a close game that comes down to the wire, and I like Penn State to hoist the trophy.

Top Ten Tuesday: Best College Football Games For 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Best College Football Games For 2018

In just a few days, college football is really going to kick into gear with a full slate of games including ranked matchups. Every Saturday should be exciting this fall, and there should be plenty of shocks and upsets, but these are our picks for the best college football games in 2018. [Note: Rankings are from the Preseason AP Top 25 Poll.]

 

10. UCLA vs. 7 Oklahoma (Sat. 9/8, 1:00 PM ET, FOX)

Our only top-ten matchup featuring an unranked team in the Preseason AP Top 25 poll features Chip Kelly’s return to the sideline. UCLA arguably should’ve been ranked given Kelly’s track record (46-7 during his tenure at Oregon), but they’ll have their hands full in a couple Saturdays when they take on Oklahoma. Between Kelly and Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley, there is going to be a ton of offensive fireworks. Oklahoma is the heavy favorite in Norman, but the game should be a thriller in the second full week of the season.

 

9. 14 Michigan vs. 12 Notre Dame (Sat. 9/1, 7:30 PM ET, NBC)

Michigan and Notre Dame are two storied programs with high expectations heading into 2018, but they are both ranked outside the top ten to start the year. It’s a long season, but we’ll immediately get a good look at what these two teams are made of this Saturday night in South Bend. Also, this will be the first look at new Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson under-center for Jim Harbaugh’s squad.

 

8. 10 Penn State vs. 14 Michigan (Sat. 11/3, TBD)

These two Big Ten schools have exchanged blowouts the last two seasons, with the home team coming out on top each time. This year, Penn State and Michigan will play in The Big House in Ann Arbor, but the Nittany Lions will have an experienced quarterback in Trace McSorley leading them into that tough environment. Don’t expect three straight years of home blowouts.

 

7. 14 Michigan vs. 11 Michigan State (Sat. 10/20, TBD)

The in-state rivalry between Michigan and Michigan State has heated up since Jim Harbaugh’s arrival in Ann Arbor, but Mark Dantonio’s squad has dominated the series in recent years, winning eight of the last ten games. The quarterback matchup between Shea Patterson and Brian Lewerke could be one of the best of the year, but it might be the play of the defense that determined the outcome of this Big Ten matchup.

 

6. 4 Wisconsin vs. 10 Penn State (Sat. 11/10, TBD)

Expected to be the best conference in college football this season, the Big Ten has most of the best games in 2018. Wisconsin versus Penn State could potentially be the first of a two-round affair between these two teams, as they are in different divisions and could meet in the conference title game. The Nittany Lions have won the last three matchups with the Badgers, and they get to host this game in Happy Valley. Wisconsin is going to make it a grinder, though.

 

5. 6 Washington vs. 9 Auburn (Sat. 9/1, 3:30 PM ET, ABC)

The best matchup of Week 1 of the college football season comes this Saturday afternoon when Washington and Auburn face off in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Auburn is likely to have more of a home-field advantage with the game being a lot closer to their campus than Washington’s, but Chris Peterson has plenty of experience in huge games. The Huskies and Tigers are led by upperclassmen quarterbacks Jake Browning and Jarrett Stidham, and both teams will play tough defense. This is a must-watch for the opening week.

 

4. 14 Michigan vs. 5 Ohio State (Sat. 11/24, 12:00 PM ET, FOX)

No matter how good the two teams are in a given season, Michigan-Ohio State is a game to circle on the calendar. The Buckeyes have won a stunning six straight versus the Wolverines, so Jim Harbaugh has yet to defeat his arch rival. However, this might be the first time Michigan has the advantage at the quarterback position with Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson leading the way (though it’s close with Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins looking like a future star). FOX already has this November rivalry game locked up on November 24 at noon, and all college football fans should try to tune in.

 

3. 9 Auburn vs. 3 Georgia (Sat. 11/10, TBD)

Auburn and Georgia split last season’s two matchups, but the Bulldogs won the SEC title to advance to the College Football Playoff. Neither game last season was particularly close, but hopefully things will balance out and we get a nail-biter this time around. Quarterbacks Jake Fromm and Jarrett Stidham are both future potential first-round draft selections, and they should both be playing well with more experience heading into this November matchup.

 

2. 9 Auburn vs. 1 Alabama (Sat. 11/24, TBD)

The Iron Bowl has delivered plenty of classics over the years, and there’s a decent chance the 2018 matchup again determines who will make a trip to the SEC Championship Game. A classic rivalry with high stakes would give it game-of-the-year potential. The only downside is that it’s a home game for Alabama, who would likely be the relatively-heavy favorite either way; but we’ve seen the Crimson Tide get toppled in Tuscaloosa before.

 

1. 5 Ohio State vs. 10 Penn State (Sat. 9/29, TBD)

We think Penn State is clearly underrated with a No. 10 ranking heading into the season, and this has the makings of a potential top-five matchup late in September. Given Ohio State’s ranking, if they take care of business and remain undefeated heading into late September, they might be the favorite in the game. But Penn State is a legit powerhouse program, so this should be a matchup of titans early in the season.

Chip Kelly’s Past Has Prepared Him For The Future

Chip Kelly’s Past Has Prepared Him For The Future

Chip Kelly was hired as head football coach of the UCLA Bruins on November, 25, 2017, and he will return to the sidelines this Saturday. But to see how he got there, we should start at the beginning.

 

The son of Paul Kelly, a 40-year trial lawyer in the state of New Hampshire, and Jean Kelly, Chip has been in coaching since 1988 when he was conditioning coach for the Nevada Wolf Pack. After two years, he joined Columbia’s staff as a special teams coach and a defensive positional coach (defensive backs in 1990, outside linebackers and safeties in 1991) before going back home to the University of New Hampshire, where he played his college ball.

 

Kelly was the team’s running backs coach in 1992 and then 1994 through 1996, with a brief stint as defensive coordinator—yes, defensive coordinator for those who think Kelly only cares about offense—at Johns Hopkins in 1993. By the turn of the century, Kelly was promoted to offensive coordinator for the Wildcats, where he served from 1999 to 2006. But he was destined for greatness, and the big-time college football programs took notice.

 

In 2007, Kelly joined the Oregon Ducks as offensive coordinator. It took just two years in Eugene for Chip to get the lead job, and suddenly he was at the helm of a premier Pac-12 operation. Kelly went 46-7 with the Ducks, winning three conference championships, the 2011 Rose Bowl, and the 2012 Fiesta Bowl. Then, greatness came knocking again.

 

After deliberating for nearly two weeks following the Fiesta Bowl victory (he wouldn’t and still doesn’t consider any other job offers while still in the midst of a season) Kelly accepted the position—after originally declining—as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles on January 16, 2013.

 

It didn’t take long for the fireworks to fly. In his first season, Kelly’s offense ranked second in total yards, fourth in points per game, first in rushing yards, second in rushing touchdowns, first in yards per carry, second in touchdown-interception ratio, and third in turnover percentage. The Eagles went 10-6 and won the NFC East.

 

On the other side of the ball, Philadelphia was 17th in scoring and had one of the best run defenses in the league (sixth in yards per carry allowed), which proves that a fast-paced offense doesn’t negatively impact the stinginess of the defense or overall toughness of a team. Instead, other factors led to the downfall of Kelly in the City of Brotherly Love.

 

First and foremost, a battle for control of personnel after the 2014 season—another 10-6 year for Kelly—led to a shakeup in the front office. It started when executive Tom Gamble was unceremoniously fired after two years with the team simply because he had a better relationship with the team’s head coach than Howie Roseman did. That forced Kelly to go to team owner Jeffrey Lurie and understandably attempt to seize control of the team’s 53-man roster. He was successful… or so it seemed.

 

Roseman stayed in the building and was “promoted” to executive vice president of football operations—an odd title for someone that no longer had any input in the football side of the franchise other than managing the salary cap. So, it wasn’t the signing of Byron Maxwell, or trade for Sam Bradford, or the inability to block on the interior that led to Kelly’s downfall; it was Roseman staying employed by the franchise with the expectation that he would regain control if Kelly failed in a couple years.

 

The team didn’t even give him one, as Chip was fired much less than a calendar year after taking dual responsibilities as head coach and general manager. He finished the 2015 season with a 6-9 record and wasn’t even afforded the opportunity to coach in Week 17 following two-straight ten-win seasons.

 

By the end of his tenure, the tight-knit team culture that Kelly wanted to establish was accomplished by bringing in the right personalities somewhat combined with a belief of togetherness against the head coach’s ways, as owner Jeffrey Lurie was asking players what they seek in a head coach before Kelly was even fired—and while the team was in the midst of competing for a playoff spot. Before the blood was even dry, Roseman was back in control of the Philadelphia Eagles.

 

That’s a stark contract compared to the honor of the head coach, who took forever to accept the job in Philadelphia because of his immense loyalty to Oregon in 2013.

 

I know almost everyone has brought into the narrative that Kelly is bad and Roseman is a genius, but think about that. When, in the history of sports, has a general manager effectively been fired while staying in the building, keeping the ear of the team owner, and being re-installed as the franchise’s head decision-maker?

 

Of course, the franchise now has a Super Bowl to show for it, and maybe that makes it worth it. But if Kelly was that bad, it should have taken far longer than two seasons removed from him coaching the team to win it all.

 

Also, how is Doug Pederson—who did a phenomenal job with creative play-calling and in-game adjustments last season—winning with the Eagles any different than Jon Gruden winning with “Tony Dungy’s team” in 2002? That’s what people say, right?

 

Honestly, both assessments are unfair, but Kelly undoubtedly has some significant fingerprints on the Eagles as they are currently constructed.

 

Most importantly, getting rid of LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson was addition by subtraction. Off the field, it freed up cap space and got rid of two players with character concerns in regards to work ethic, attention to detail, and commitment to the team. From an on-field perspective, McCoy didn’t always hit the hole, take care of the football, or give the ball to the ref so they could play fast, while Jackson wasn’t very eager to take hits or fight for contested passes.

 

Even if he wasn’t a good judge of talent—which is blatantly false as will be explained shortly—Kelly was an excellent judge of character, and that was key in establishing a winning culture in Philadelphia. But let’s go back to the 2014 NFL Draft for a moment, which was perhaps the beginning of the end due to Howie Roseman’s ineptitude causing friction and leading to battle lines being drawn.

 

Then the team’s general manager, Roseman drafted Marcus Smith (No. 24 overall pick) in the first round and later traded up to draft Jordan Matthews (No. 42 overall pick) in the second round. Kelly, on the other hand, was notably interested in trading up for Odell Beckham Jr.—who went to the Giants at the No. 12 pick.

 

Smith recorded 6.5 sacks in four seasons (including last season with the Seahawks) and is on the edge of retirement.

 

Matthews has caught four touchdowns over the past two years and is currently a free agent.

 

Beckham Jr. just became the highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL with a five-year, $95-milion extension and is well on his way to Canton.

 

Unfortunately, the dishonest media declines to hold the right people accountable, often flat-out lying to place the blame on Kelly. And that angers me—and surely would anger Kelly if he had a Twitter account—more than anything else, as swarms of fans were quick to point the finger at the former head coach for the Smith pick when it was reported that he was likely going to retire. (Just look at the replies to the linked tweet from above about Smith’s imminent retirement.)

 

If people didn’t pay attention to fake news, they would know that the 2015 NFL Draft is the only one where Kelly had control of personnel, and with his first two picks, he drafted two starters from Super Bowl LII—Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor and Patriots cornerback Eric Rowe. In the third round, Kelly was universally panned for taking Texas linebacker Jordan Hicks, but he quickly become a playmaker in the middle for Philly, proving all the detractors wrong.

 

As for the most important position in sports, Kelly took a chance by betting on Sam Bradford’s health ahead of the 2015 season. Various fair-minded analysts—not to mention new Arizona teammates Larry Fitzgerald and Patrick Peterson—have called Bradford one of the best quarterbacks in the league when he’s healthy, so you can’t really blame Chip for trading away future Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles, who just didn’t bring the consistency that Bradford would on the field.

 

It’s no coincidence that the two-and-a-half games that Bradford missed in his lone season with the Eagles were the worst losses of the year—a blown lead against the Dolphins before being outscored 90-31 over the next two weeks by Tampa Bay and Detroit. It was around that time that Lurie also started being more hands-on with the players and asking what they looked for in a head coach. Anyone that doesn’t think that impacted the willingness to fight for Kelly—or that Kelly didn’t notice what was going on, especially with Roseman still in the building—is a fool.

 

So, on at least his fourth chance following the drafting of firefighter Danny Watkins, reach for Marcus Smith, and loss in a power struggle, Roseman finally had a championship roster, which was in large part due to the foundation laid—or a slate cleaned—by Kelly.

 

And it didn’t take long for Chip to get another shot either, as he was hired by the 49ers before the 2016 season. The New Hampshire native wasn’t expected to compete immediately with arguably the worst roster in the league to work with, but despite being fired after a 2-14 season, Kelly also had a lasting impact in San Francisco by keeping the team together through turmoil.

 

Things could have gone south in a hurry when Colin Kaepernick decided to protest the flag during the national anthem, but Kelly handled the situation as well as anyone possibly could by keeping the team together. It was clear that he earned the respect of the players, and it showed when they embraced him on the practice field the day after his father’s funeral in December of 2016. The team was 1-11 at the time, and Paul Kelly was buried in 49ers gear.

 

Less than a month later, though, Chip no longer had a job when impatient team CEO Jed York decided to clean house.

 

Had Jimmy Garoppolo been traded to San Francisco a year earlier than he was, I have no doubt that the 49ers would have been a playoff contender in 2017 and a legitimate Super Bowl contender in 2018. But it obviously wasn’t meant to be, and Kelly will now try his hand back where he became a household name: coaching in the Pac-12.

 

Instead of the creative, ever-changing uniforms for Oregon, Kelly will be sporting UCLA’s historic blue and gold combination. What are the Bruins getting besides an intelligent, loyal, and proven head coach that lives and breaths football?

 

In Kelly’s first season opener with Oregon in 2009, the Ducks lost 19-8 to Boise State, and after the game, LeGarrette Blount punched a Broncos player in the face. That week, a Ducks fan emailed the team’s new head coach saying that he felt he should be refunded $439 for travel because of a disappointing performance.

 

Kelly sent the man a check for $439.

 

It was never cashed, and instead the fan made a copy and sent it back to the former Oregon coach, while, in turn, becoming a devoted supporter.

 

There won’t be any wasted time turning UCLA into the powerhouse that the Ducks were, and bringing the Bruins back to prominence could lead to a second chance at the next level—similar to Pete Carroll’s journey. To be a long-term success in the NFL, though, Kelly might have to “play the game.”

 

I believe he’s already doing that by forming a friendship with former Bruins quarterback and Hall of Famer Troy Aikman, who said earlier this year that he will likely be interested in a front office opportunity in the future. If so, we could see Kelly attempting to win a national title over the next handful of seasons before he potentially returns to the league with a trusted personnel man to work with in Aikman.

 

Even if that doesn’t happen, I don’t think Kelly will be sending many checks to disgruntled UCLA fans in the foreseeable future.

2018 Heisman Watch (Week 1)

2018 Heisman Watch (Week 1)

After “Week 0” of college football season, the action will really kick into gear this weekend. Each Monday from now to the 2018 Heisman Trophy presentation on December 8, we’ll have our weekly 2018 Heisman watch. In case you missed our full top 25 Heisman candidate countdown, you can check out #1 and the entire list here.

 

1. Bryce Love | Stanford RB | Senior

Bryce Love could have left school last spring and he probably would have been an early-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft. However, he remained at Stanford to continue his education and give it one last go for the Cardinal. Last season, Love had 263 carries for 2,118 yards and 19 touchdowns while dealing with a high-ankle sprain for much of the season; this year, it’s not out of the question for Love to push Barry Sanders’ NCAA record of 2,628 rushing yards in a season. Stanford should be competing for a conference title, and Love—who has great vision, patience, elusiveness, ability to break tackles, and gamebreaking speed—will be a big part of it.

 

2. Jonathan Taylor | Wisconsin RB | Sophomore

As a true freshman at a school with a rich history of running backs and running the football, Jonathan Taylor immediately received a heavy workload (299 carries for 1,977 yards and 13 touchdowns). Entering 2018, the sophomore should be near the forefront of the Heisman discussion all season. Taylor is going to be handed the ball a ton every week, and he could be more involved as a receiver after eight receptions in 2017. Also, Wisconsin is a consensus top-five team in the nation entering September, and there’s no reason to believe they won’t be in the mix for a Big Ten title at the end of the year.

 

3. Trace McSorley | Penn State QB | Senior

Regarded by some as “this year’s Baker Mayfield,” Trace McSorley enters the 2018 season as arguably the best player in the nation. Penn State’s senior quarterback already holds the record for most passing touchdowns (59) in school history after totals of 29 and 28 the last two seasons, but he might be asked to do more now that Saquon Barkley is in the NFL. McSorley is 22-5 with a Big Ten championship as a starting quarterback, showing that he shines in big games along the way. The Nittany Lions must take care of business against a very tough Big Ten slate, but they get Ohio State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin all at home.

 

4. J.K. Dobbins | Ohio State RB | Sophomore

There was a lot of hype surrounding J.K. Dobbins last season, and the then-true-freshman delivered on the hype, rushing for 1,403 yards and seven touchdowns on 194 rushing attempts for the Buckeyes. Mike Weber is still in the mix, but Dobbins is likely to lead the rushing offense for Ohio State, who is expected to compete for another College Football Playoff appearance this season. Dobbins packs a ton of all-around ability into his relatively-small frame. He’ll likely be a big Heisman factor if he gets enough work.

 

5. D’Andre Swift | Georgia RB | Sophomore

This makes it three sophomore running backs in the top five of the initial 2018 Heisman Watch, which indicates the talent at the position. Sony Michel (a first-round pick of the Patriots) and Nick Chubb (a second-round pick of the Browns) are both gone, which means D’Andre Swift is going to get plenty of opportunities to do damage for Georgia—and he only needs a few chances given his immense big-play potential. Hopefully Swift is ready to go for the season opener despite his groin injury, but the most important thing is that he’s 100% for the rest of the season.

2019 NFL Draft Prospects To Watch This Fall

2019 NFL Draft Prospects To Watch This Fall

The 2019 college football season officially kicks off with four matchups tomorrow, and while no big-time programs will hit the field this weekend, it will be great to have some games that count. Throughout the fall, there will be hundreds of NFL Draft hopefuls to keep an eye on, and these are the ten that I’m most looking forward to watching.

 

Josh Allen, LB Kentucky

As you may already know, there is another Josh Allen in the 2019 draft class, but he plays linebacker instead of quarterback. The SEC playmaker has recorded 7.0 sacks in each of the past two seasons, and I think he would have been a first-round pick if he decided to leave Kentucky after his junior year because of his all-around upside as a tackler, pass-rusher, and cover linebacker. Last year, Allen was able to intercept the potential No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm, on the first drive of the game, but the Wildcats ended up getting blown out; we’ll see if things are different this year.

 

Game to watch: NOV 3 v. Georgia

 

Nick Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State

The younger brother of Joey Bosa is widely-regarded as the top prospect in the nation, and he could be the first name off the board next year if no quarterback emerges as a consensus No. 1 guy. Bosa had 16.0 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks last season, and the Buckeyes are counting on him to lead their team with J.T. Barrett gone. A Heisman campaign is a real possibility if Ohio State makes the College Football Playoff despite Urban Meyer being suspended for the first three games of the season.

 

Game to watch: NOV 24 v. Michigan

 

A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss

Perhaps my favorite prospect in the nation right now, A.J. Brown is coming off a 75/1,252/11 line for Ole Miss, and I think he’s the total package at wide receiver. Brown can play inside or outside and has the ideal blend of size, speed, toughness, and natural receiving skills to establish himself as one of the best players in college football and a potential top-five pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. I’m pumped to see him face off against the stingy corners in the conference.

 

Game to watch: SEP 29 @ LSU

 

Damien Harris, RB, Alabama

In my very early look at the top 25 prospects for the 2019 NFL Draft earlier this year, I mentioned that Damien Harris reminds me of former Heisman winner Mark Ingram. The current Bama runner has yet to receive 150 carries in a season, but he’s reached 1,000 yards in each of the past two years while rushing for 7.1 yards per carry in 2016 and 7.4 yards per carry in 2017. This season, Harris could earn a monster workload after being loyal and returning to school, so I’m excited to see what he does as a senior.

 

Game to watch: SEP 1 v. Louisville

 

Noah Fant, TE Iowa

He wasn’t a high-volume pass-catcher last year for Iowa, but Noah Fant averaged 17.4 yards per reception and caught 11 touchdowns on just 30 grabs—good for a 36.8% scoring rate. Fant has the prototypical game of a new-age tight end, as he is too big and strong for cornerbacks, too fast for linebackers, and too skilled for safeties. Hopefully the coaching staff gets him more involved this year, but he doesn’t need to put up huge numbers to be a Day 1 pick.

 

Game to watch: SEP 22 v. Wisconsin

 

Jaquan Johnson, S, Miami (FL)

Jaquan Johnson is a heat-seeking missile on the back end of Miami’s defense, and he did it all for the Hurricanes last year. As a junior, Johnson led the team with 96 tackles and also had four interceptions, three forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries while using his intelligence and athleticism to make plays all over the field. Another solid season should make Miami’s star safety a lock for the first round next year.

 

Game to watch: OCT 6 v. Florida State

 

Dexter Lawrence, DL, Clemson

The ACC is absolutely loaded with defensive talent, particularly for Clemson and Miami. I currently have Dexter Lawrence as my No. 1 overall prospect for the 2019 NFL Draft, as he brings an extraordinary combination of power and quickness at close to 350 pounds. The entire front will be worth watching for the NFL evaluators this fall, but Lawrence is the leader of the bunch and looks like a future All-Pro.

 

Game to watch: SEP 8 @ Texas A&M

 

Brian Lewerke, QB, Michigan State

In his first year as the starter for Michigan State, Brian Lewerke showed flashes of a future starter at the next level, and he could climb all the way to the top of the quarterback class if he is more consistent in 2018. The Spartans might be getting overlooked in the Big Ten, but Lewerke taking the next step will have them right in contention for a conference title and playoff spot in December.

 

Game to watch: OCT 13 @ Penn State

 

Trace McSorley, QB, Penn State

I have Trace McSorley ranked exactly where I had Baker Mayfield last year (No. 24 overall player) when others were calling him a Day 3 prospect, and we saw how that turned out in April. For what it’s worth, Trent Dilfer said that he believes McSorley “probably has more arm talent than Baker does,” and I love that Penn State’s quarterback isn’t afraid to sling it around while giving his receivers a chance to make plays.

 

Game to watch: SEP 29 v. Ohio State

 

Shea Patterson, QB, Michigan

There’s only been a limited sample size to evaluate, but I think Shea Patterson is going to be an absolute superstar for Michigan and might be the most exciting (and polarizing) prospect in the 2019 class. As Dilfer points out in the same piece where he talks about McSorley and the rest of the notable quarterbacks, Patterson will be doing a bunch of next-level stuff under Jim Harbaugh, which will only help him. All the high-profile matchups in the Big Ten will be must-see TV, but the opener against Notre Dame will give us our first look at Patterson in 2018.

 

Game to watch: SEP 1 v. Notre Dame

2018 College Football Power Five Conference Power Rankings

2018 College Football Power Five Conference Power Rankings

College football is officially back this weekend, with a few games before most of the Power Five schools get in action next week. Everything will be determined in the fall—and perhaps more telling, in the winter during bowl season—but this is where I see each Power Five conference ranking heading into the 2018 season.

 

Big Ten

Nothing against the other conferences, but the easy choice for the top conference in college football in 2018 is the Big Ten. Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan, and Wisconsin all figure to be squarely in the College Football Playoff conversation throughout the year, and there could be surprise teams (like Scott Frost’s Nebraska squad) that work their way into the discussion. The Big Ten, which went 7-1 in bowl games last season, has both top-tier teams and strong depth. Also, the conference might have the best group of coaches in the nation.

 

SEC

While the Big Ten is the clear number one conference in the nation heading into the season, that doesn’t mean the SEC isn’t close behind. Alabama, Georgia, and Auburn were all in New Year’s Six Bowls last season, with Bama and Georgia in the title game, undoubtedly attesting to the power in the conference. New head coaches Jimbo Fisher (Texas A&M), Matt Luke (Ole Miss), Joe Moorhead (Mississippi State), Chad Morris (Arkansas), Dan Mullen (Florida), and Jeremy Pruitt (Tennessee) make things interesting.

 

ACC

I believe these next three conferences are more interchangeable in terms of their ranking, but the ACC gets the nod for the number-three spot because they have a couple of clear national title contenders in Clemson and Miami. Dabo Swinney and the Tigers return an absolutely stacked roster, and they have to be in everyone’s top five heading into the year. Meanwhile, Mark Richt has done an outstanding job with his alma mater, and they might take another step forward in 2018. It’s hard to see the other teams competing for a Playoff berth, but it’s a solid bunch. Willie Taggart’s Florida State team is a wild card.

 

Pac-12

The 1-8 record in bowl games in 2018 probably has a lot of people believing the Pac-12 is clearly the worst Power Five conference in college football. However, they have a couple of underrated teams in Washington and Stanford that can go toe-to-toe with nearly any other team in the nation because of their physical styles. Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate is one of the Heisman favorites heading into the year, and USC and UCLA might be better this season despite losing top-ten NFL selections Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen. New UCLA head coach Chip Kelly had a 46-7 record during his five seasons at Oregon, and the Ducks themselves should also compete with star quarterback Justin Herbert.

 

Big 12

If Oklahoma remains great without Baker Mayfield—which they might with future Oakland Athletic Kyler Murray—, Texas takes the next step under Tom Herman, Will Grier plays like a superstar and carries West Virginia, TCU plays up to Gary Patterson’s standards, Oklahoma State’s Taylor Cornelius takes advantage of his opportunity with Mason Rudolph in the NFL… you might have noticed there are some questions with the Big 12. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Pac-12 is awesome as a conference in 2018, but they’ve been a fifth-wheel of sorts when things are close between the Power Five schools.

2018 College Football Rankings: Alabama Tops Preseason AP Top 25 Poll

2018 College Football Rankings: Alabama Tops Preseason AP Top 25 Poll

The 2018 preseason college football AP Top 25 Poll is here, with Alabama taking the preseason No. 1 spot for the third straight season. The Crimson Tide received 42 first-place votes, while Clemson received 18 and Wisconsin received one. You can view the entire voting here.

 

1. Alabama

2. Clemson

3. Georgia

4. Wisconsin

5. Ohio State

6. Washington

7. Oklahoma

8. Miami (FL)

9. Auburn

10. Penn State

11. Michigan State

12. Notre Dame

13. Stanford

14. Michigan

15. USC

16. TCU

17. West Virginia

18. Mississippi State

19. Florida State

20. Virginia Tech

21. UCF

22. Boise State

23. Texas

24. Oregon

25. LSU

The Elite 15: College Football’s Best Coaches In 2018

The Elite 15: College Football’s Best Coaches In 2018

It’s August, which means college football is set to kick off later this month as summer winds down and starts to transition into fall. Coaches have a huge impact on the college game, and having an elite one could help make a school an instant contender. This order isn’t quite exact in terms of ranking the coaches, but these are my elite 15 college football coaches for 2018.

 

Of course, some coaches might be more elite than others, if you will, but I believe these 15 are among the best. A lot of notable coaches are left off the list, but that certainly doesn’t mean I don’t think highly of them. And money isn’t everything, but they’re all making a lot of it, so I can’t feel too bad for leaving anyone off the list—they probably won’t lose any sleep over it.

 

Nick Saban, Alabama

Six national championships. Seven SEC championships. Eleven SEC West Division championships. A 218-62-1 all-time record, and an 127-20 record with the Crimson Tide. Nick Saban’s record speaks for itself. He’s been in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game in each of the Playoff’s four years of existence, and there’s no reason to think Alabama won’t keep getting there as long as he’s the head coach. There’s a case for Saban being the greatest college football coach of all-time.

 

Chip Kelly, UCLA

The SEC is tougher than the Pac-12, but even if you just take just Nick Saban’s record at Alabama, where he’s had amazing success, Chip Kelly’s 44-5 record at Oregon (.898 winning percentage compared to Saban’s .864 winning percentage at Alabama) is better. Kelly didn’t capture a national title in his four seasons with the Ducks, but he made the title game in his second season. Kelly is a clear top-five coach in college football, and I expect he’ll lead a quick turnaround for UCLA.

 

Urban Meyer, Ohio State

Urban Meyer’s all-time coaching record of 177-31 doesn’t match Saban’s or Kelly’s, but his 73-8 record at Ohio State (.901) is better than Saban’s run at Alabama. Like Saban, Meyer won a title at two different schools, winning twice with Florida and once with the Buckeyes. And the Ohio native is an extremely impressive 11-3 in bowl games.

 

Dabo Swinney, Clemson

The Clemson Tigers have become a college-football powerhouse, and Dabo Swinney has been the driving force behind it. Swinney is 101-30 in his career with the Tigers—the only team he’s been the head coach of—since taking over midseason in 2008; but he’s gotten it to the point where double-digit wins are expected (seven straight seasons), and national titles are the standard.

 

Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

I think Mark Dantonio is the most underrated coach in college football. At his first head coaching job with Cincinnati in 2004, Dantonio led the school to its first winning season in 23 years. And now he’s gotten Michigan State to heights the school hasn’t been to in some time—despite the Big Ten arguably being the best conference in the country over the last several seasons. Dantonio has a tough-but-caring demeanor that his players love, and he’s helped Michigan State surpass the titanic Michigan program in recent years.

 

Mark Richt, Miami

During Mark Richt’s 15-year run with Georgia, he was squarely among the top coaches in college football, leading the Bulldogs to a 145-51 record including a 10-5 record in bowl games. With Miami, his alma mater, Richt has quickly gotten the Hurricanes past Florida State and right behind Clemson among the best current programs in the conference. Richt and Miami might run the ACC Costal division for the next several seasons.

 

Scott Frost, Nebraska

Next up is another coach that’s back at his alma mater leading the program; I am very excited to watch Scott Frost’s Nebraska team in 2018 and beyond. In just his second year with UCF, he led the Knights to an undefeated season including a win in a New Year’s Six Bowl, defeating Auburn. Frost spent seven seasons at Oregon, and Chip Kelly had a major influence on his style of running a program. UCF half-jokingly claimed they were the national champions last year, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Frost really win one with the Cornhuskers.

 

Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma

Lincoln Riley had an ideal situation with Baker Mayfield quarterbacking his offense, but it’s an offense that Riley crafted during his two seasons as Oklahoma’s offensive coordinator before he took over for Bob Stoops ahead of last season. Even without Mayfield moving forward, Riley’s offense should give defenses major problems for years to come. With a 12-2 record and a College Football Playoff appearance, he’s off to about as good of a start as possible as head coach.

 

Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M

Jimbo Fisher had an outstanding run at Florida State, which made last season’s final year with the Seminoles peculiar. Fisher has a 14-0 national championship season which came in the midst of a five-year stretch with double-digit wins (and a three-year stretch with a 39-3 record), and it seemed like he would be with the program for a while. However, it’ll be interesting to see how things work out in the SEC with Texas A&M.

 

Kirby Smart, Georgia

After eight seasons as Nick Saban’s defensive coordinator for the Crimson Tide, Kirby Smart made the move to his alma mater to run the Georgia Bulldogs program. Smart has quickly made Georgia look like an SEC East version of Alabama, as they have a bunch of explosive athletes that fly around and play at a very high level. Smart’s team made great adjustments in last year’s classic Rose Bowl against Oklahoma, and they had Alabama on the ropes before coming up just short in the title game.

 

Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

Yet another former college football player that coaches at his alma mater makes the Elite 15. Jim Harbaugh’s time at Michigan has not gone as well as mostly everyone expected so far, but he’s entering his fourth season leading the program—which is the year he led Stanford to a 12-1 seasons after a 17-20 start to his tenure there. Harbaugh gets the benefit of the doubt now that more of the guys he recruited are becoming upperclassmen.

 

David Shaw, Stanford

After Jim Harbaugh left Stanford for the 49ers, his offensive coordinator David Shaw picked up right where he left off and has led the school to a 73-22 record in seven seasons. The Cardinal have won three Pac-12 titles in that span—the most in the conference. Shaw’s calling-card is offense, but Stanford plays tough defense and is competitive every week.

 

Gus Malzahn, Auburn

Gus Malzahn had Auburn as close as possible to a national title in his first season at the school, losing on a touchdown in the final 15 seconds versus Florida State. The Tigers went through an average stretch the next three seasons, but they bounced back with a 10-4 record and a New Year’s Six Bowl appearance last year. Malzahn’s balanced, quick offensive attack is one of the best in the nation.

 

James Franklin, Penn State

Former Vanderbilt coach James Franklin had a tough task taking over Penn State after Bill O’Brien steadied the program, but he built on O’Brien’s success and took the program to another level the last two seasons. The Nittany Lions are now back among the blue-chip college football schools, going toe-to-toe with other top-tier teams like Ohio State in the difficult Big Ten. Franklin has recruited some big-time athletes to Penn State, probably because he’s an energized motivator kids like to play for.

 

Paul Chryst, Wisconsin

The Elite 15 ends with another head coach that played for the school he’s coaching. Paul Chryst has led Wisconsin to three double-digit-win seasons in his first three years leading the team, and they’ve gotten better each season—including three bowl wins, two of which were New Year’s Six Bowls. The Badgers run the ball and play stingy defense, a recipe that’s worked exceptionally well for Chryst.