Preview 2016

100 Reasons To Get Excited For College Football


The college football season kicks off in 100 days, and it’s got all the makings of something special. Here are 100 things to look forward to.


100. California vs. Hawaii, August 27, in Australia

The season kicks off a little early so the Bears and Rainbow Warriors can get rolling on the other side of the world. You’re not going to Sydney, so the game might as well be played on the moon, but it’s the start of college football. You’ll watch.

99. The start of the Nick Rolovich era at Hawaii

Norm Chow is a fantastic guy and a legendary coach. His Rainbow Warrior teams stunk. Rolovich should get things high-flying again.

98. The Sun Belt race is going to be awesome

Make this your guilty college football pleasure. Appalachian State, Arkansas State, Georgia Southern and Louisiana-Lafayette are going to screw up some of the paycheck games on some Power 5 schedules. Throw in the Troy offense, Georgia State wanting to get back to a bowl, and new coaches at ULM and Texas State, and the league should be a fun weekly follow.

97. Tyson Summers

The new Georgia Southern head coach is keeping the high-octane rushing attack in place. Everyone who matters is back for the nation’s No. 1 ground game with quarterbacks Kevin Ellison, Fabian Upshaw, and running back Matt Brieda ready to explode again. Meanwhile …

96. Willie Fritz

The new Tulane head man is bringing over the Georgia Southern running style to New Orleans. The more triple-option fun in college football, the better.

95. The MAC offenses

Get ready for the fun. Okay, so Akron and Kent State might be a wee bit challenged, but Toledo, Northern Illinois, Western Michigan, Bowling Green and Central Michigan are going to crank it up on a weekly basis in high-octane shootouts.

94. Directional Michigan quarterbacks

Two of the nation’s best quarterbacks are in the MAC. Central Michigan’s Cooper Rush has NFL size, a little mobility, and a nice arm completing 66% of his throws last season for 3,848 yards and 25 touchdowns. Zach Terrell might not have the pro look, but he’s a veteran who’ll push for 4,000 yards after hitting 67% of his passes for 3,526 yards and 29 scores. Like Rush, Terrell can run, too.

93. Boston College vs. Georgia Tech, Sept. 3, in Ireland

It’s a real, live ACC game being played in Ireland. You’re not going, but it’s a Boston team playing in Dublin. That’s supposed to matter.

92. The Southern Miss offense

Ready for the Conference USA big star? QB Nick Mullens and the Golden Eagle attack will be devastating. Watch out in the opener, Kentucky, and be careful in the middle of the season, LSU.

91. New blood in the Conference USA race

Last year it was WKU and Louisiana Tech who lit it up, and both teams should be okay again, but this year’s C-USA title chase should see a resurgence of USM along with Middle Tennessee and Marshall looking ready to make the league wild and crazy each week.

90. Wyoming RB Brian Hill

It’s a tremendous year for running backs, but Wyoming might have the nation’s leader if all goes according to plan. A home-run hitter on an experienced attack, a 2,000-yard season isn’t a crazy goal after running for 1,631 yards and six touchdowns last season.

89. BYU

It’s not like Bronco Mendenhall wasn’t great, but now the Cougars get a shot of energy with Kalani Sitake taking over. With Tanner Mangum and Taysom Hill back, they have one of the nation’s most interesting quarterback battles. But ….

88. BYU’s schedule

Arizona in Glendale, at Utah, UCLA, West Virginia in Landover, Toledo, at Michigan State, Mississippi State, at Boise State, at Cincinnati. Thanks for playing.

87. The South Florida era

Remember when USF was the Next Big Thing with a Sports Illustrated cover and all the potential to rise up and rock? It never happened, but head coach Willie Taggart is putting together a burgeoning American Athletic Conference powerhouse.

86. Scott Frost

UCF is just renting the 2018 Nebraska head football coach.

85. Matt Rhule, Bob Diaco and Ken Niumatalolo

Temple, Connecticut and Navy were all somehow able to hold on to their respective head coaches. Throw in Fritz at Tulane, Taggart at USF, Houston’s Tom Herman, SMU’s Chad Morris, Cincinnati’s Tommy Tuberville, and the league is still loaded with terrific head men.

84. Idaho and Massachusetts

Had some laughs, killed some time. Idaho is off to the FCS next year, while UMass is thinking about it.

83. Arkansas State

The program is used to losing head coaches after a year – Hugh Freeze, Gus Malzahn, Bryan Harsin – but Blake Anderson is still around, and he has a great team returning. Watch out, Gus and Auburn, on September 10th.

82. Bill Snyder

A true legend has an absolute killer of a defense coming back. Snyder keeps on going, and going, and going, but he’s going to be 76 in early October. This might be his last run, and it should be a great one.

81. Bret Bielema

In terms of poking the proverbial status quo bear, think Jim Harbaugh, but with Big Ten championships on the resume. He’s still the SEC’s most interesting head coach.

80. Kentucky

Remember when Kentucky was about to make a ton of noise with some great recruiting classes under Mark Stoops? Good times. But it hasn’t happened yet, and now, like all SEC programs, the pressure is on to finally produce.

79. Royce Freeman

Pac-12 players tend to get lost in the shuffle with a network that’s not on DirecTV – so it doesn’t really exist – and with a wrong time zone for some. Go out of your way to watch the Oregon star – he might be the most talented Duck running back ever.

78. Corey Clement

If he can stay healthy, Clement could be something truly special – a Wisconsin running back who could be a real, live NFL starter.

77. Does Arizona State have anyone?

Head coach Todd Graham might be outstanding, but this is a rough year to start from scratch in what could be the best Pac-12 South yet. The expectations won’t be there for a Sun Devil team that needs to replace several key parts – so watch out.

76. Air Force

Don’t just hand the Mountain to Boise State quite yet. The Falcons got to the Mountain West championship last season. They’re even better this year.

75. Dan Mullen

There’s no Dak Prescott around anymore, and with no star power, it’ll be easy to pick Mississippi State to finish at the bottom of the SEC West. Mullen has already proved he can do more with less.

74. Northern Illinois

The Huskies got to the MAC championship game with a depleted quarterback situation and an offense a shadow of its former self. The only NIU should be back.

73. Tony Sanchez and UNLV

Ready for your Mountain West wild card? With Nebraska transfer quarterback Johnny Stanton ready to add more fun, and with Sanchez starting to get things the way he needs them, the Rebels won’t be an easy out. Who needs the Raiders?

72. Christian McCaffrey and a bunch of other guys

Stanford gets back its Heisman-caliber superstar, and a whole lot of nothing else. The defending Pac-12 champion won’t have it easy, but No. 5 will make it a must-watch.

71. Satellite camps

The college football season will eventually start, and you’ll go five months without hearing SEC coaches whining about having to work a little harder.

70. Mason Rudolph and the Oklahoma State offense

You don’t really know the Cowboy quarterback yet, but with his size, tools, and loaded receiving corps to work with, he could rise up into the next superstar pro prospect you have to care about.

69. 5-7 is the new 6-6

With so many bowl games and so many slots to fill, once again, there almost certainly won’t be enough 6-6 teams eligible for the post-season. Get to five wins and hope the players a few years ago went to class for a good APR.

68. Kareem Hunt

Matt Campbell might have left to take over the Iowa State head coaching job, but Jason Candle stays in-house to keep it the Toledo running game rolling. That means handing the ball off to the guy who ran for 973 yards and 12 touchdowns in just nine games. No. 2 man, Terry Swanson, isn’t bad, either, running for 923 yards and seven scores, averaging 6.45 yards per carry.

67. Northwestern hype

It might not have been pretty last season, but Northwestern was a tough, sound team that found ways to win. The Big Ten West isn’t all that great – if the Wildcats can find an offense, they might actually be able to try to win the thing.

66. Brent Musburger

The legendary almost-77-year-old is still one of the few announcers worth watching a game because he’s calling it – even with Jesse Palmer along for the ride.

65. Missouri might score

Remember when Mizzou had a fun, thrilling offense that went along with the pass rushing terror of a defense to get to two straight SEC title games? Former Oklahoma star quarterback-turned-Tiger offensive coordinator Josh Heupel will try getting it all going again.

64. LSU vs. Wisconsin, Sept. 3

This won’t be the last time Leonard Fournette plays in Lambeau Field.

63. Vanderbilt defense

Totally lost in the shuffle because of a horrific offense, the Commodore D was fantastic last season considering the offense averaged just 15.2 points per game. It’ll be every bit as good this year – it could shock an SEC big boy if it gets any help whatsoever from the O.

62. Wake Forest

It’s taken a long, long, long time for the Demon Deacons to try putting the pieces in place under Dave Clawson. With 16 starters returning, this is when the payoff should come.

61. Texas A&M soap opera

What’s going to happen next? What’ll the reaction be the first time the Aggies lose? How many games does Kevin Sumlin have to win to stick around? Say this for A&M, it’s never boring.

60. Pitt defense

Pat Narduzzi is too good a defensive coach to let his Panthers not be a massive thorn in the ACC’s side. After a year at the helm to start getting his parts in place, watch out.

59. Arizona

RichRod offense + RichRod defense = Wildly weekly shootouts and fun, Fun, FUN! The offense might be just good enough to carry the team to the Pac-12 title game.

58. Tennessee vs. Virginia Tech, Sept. 10

The Battle at Bristol is at a racetrack. Yippee.

57. Duke

That’s right. Keep assuming Duke football is just going to be Duke football, and then be surprised when David Cutcliffe comes up with another offense that gets to a bowl game.

56. Baylor offense

And to think, the Bears averaged 48 points and 616 yards per game with a Spinal Tap drummer situation at quarterback. The offense is going to do it all again – this might really and truly be the year the program gets over the hump and gets to the College Football Playoff, but it’ll have to get ready for a firefight with the …

55. West Virginia offense

The Mountaineer attack might not be back to the Geno Smith days, but Skyler Howard is about to take his Cactus Bowl performance and keep it all rolling. Dana Holgorsen might have his best team yet, but it might just be par for the course with the other …

54. Big 12 offenses

Not only is the fun not going to slow down, it might crank up to a whole other level with Texas Tech’s attack looking better, Oklahoma in Year Two of the Air Raid, Oklahoma State with all the tools to throw for a bazillion yards, and TCU likely to be just fine even without Trevone Boykin. Kansas State and Texas will ground and pound with the best of them.

53. Josh Rosen

Last year he was the Rosen One. Now he has to lead UCLA to the Promised Land. Sorry.

52. UCLA

Will this finally be the year the Bruins play up to their talent level on a consistent basis under Jim Mora Jr.? Of course not. It’s UCLA.

51. Nebraska

Mike Riley gets that every-weird-loss-possible year once. If the Huskers don’t come out roaring and aren’t in the Big Ten title chase, the hot seat will be flaming.

50. Mitch Leidner

The Minnesota quarterback has been around long enough to come up with one of those type of out-of-the-blue seasons that four-year starters sometimes do. He’s not going to be the best quarterback in a league with J.T. Barrett, but don’t be shocked if he’s special.

49. Larry Rose III

The best back you haven’t seen, the New Mexico State junior ran for 1,651 yards and 14 touchdowns, averaging 6.9 yards per carry, and caught 30 passes for 283 yards and two touchdowns. It doesn’t matter that he’s going to be keyed on again.

48. New Mexico running game

Leading rusher Jhurell Pressley might be gone, but Teriyon Gipson and QB Lamar Jordan will keep the ground attack going after tearing off 5.16 yards per carry with 42 scores. It worked, getting the Lobos to a bowl game, and it’ll be enough to make a push in the Mountain West.

47. Trevor Knight

Get ready for Trevor Football. Finally, Texas A&M has a quarterback who won’t leave.

46. Kenny Hill

He still has to beat out Foster Sawyer, but the motivated Texas A&M transfer could blow up after taking over the TCU gig. The Horned Frog defense will be there, but the quarterback play has to be stellar.

45. The Texas desperation

Charlie Strong hasn’t gotten a fair break in his first two years – he had to rebuild the program. Now this is his team, and the wins have to come, or he’ll be the Texas version of Brady Hoke.

44. The Jim McElwain experience

Florida won the SEC East last year with no offense whatsoever over the second half of the season. The defense will be just as good, and the offense should be just good enough to contend again – and absolutely no one will pick the Gators to repeat.

43. The Kliff Kingsbury thing is working

No. 2 in the nation in offense and No. 2 in scoring – only behind Baylor in both categories – the Texas Tech attack could actually be even better this year if the line comes together to protect …

42. Patrick Mahomes

After throwing for 4,653 yards and 36 touchdowns, and running for ten scores, the Red Raiders might have its best quarterback ever if he keeps progressing. Which is saying a lot, considering …

41. The Mike Leach thing is working, too

The offense is always going to work, but now the Cougars have some real, live expectations after going bowling last year. No. 1 in the nation in passing – throwing for 389.5 yards per game – get ready for even more because of …

40. Luke Falk

Is he going to be the next Jared Goff? No, but the 6-4, 205-pound Wazzu quarterback could hit the 5,000-yard mark if all goes well.

39. The Chris Petersen era kicks in

After a great first season, and a rebuilding Year Two, now Washington is about to see what all the fuss is about. The Huskies are loaded and could be more than just a good Pac-12 North sleeper.

38. Football Time in Tennessee

There’s absolutely no excuse not to win the East. The experience and talent are there to get to the SEC championship game and make a potential push for the CFP.

37. Colorado

22 starters return. Mike MacIntyre, it’s okay to finally make Pac-12 teams afraid of the Buffs.

36. Matt Campbell at Iowa State

A great get for the program, the Cyclones might have finally got the right head coach to make them more than a speed bump. Combining with RB Mike Warren, Campbell will make the running game go.

35. Ohio State at Oklahoma, Sept. 17

If you care a lick about important historical college football stuff at the highest of superpower levels, Google Uwe Von Schamann vs. Ohio State.

34. Maryland and Rutgers

Hey! Over here! Look at me! The adopted children of the Big Ten East are looking for love and attention. With D.J. Durkin taking over the Terps, and Chris Ash the new head man for the Scarlet Knights, at least the coaching will be better.

33. Dave Aranda

The LSU defense wasn’t bad last year – finishing 25th overall and 17th against the run – but the pressure is on Aranda to make it national title-good. The former Wisconsin defensive coordinator is a rising superstar, and if he’s really as good as expected, that means …

32. LSU will probably have the best team in the nation

With several 2017 NFL first round draft picks, as much experience as any big-time team, and a transcendent superstar in Leonard Fournette, Les Miles needs to make the most of his reprieve.

31. Iowa disrespect

It was the team America loved to hate, with no one outside of the greater Iowa City metropolitan area thinking the 12-0 run was for real. But here’s the problem – this year’s team is better, and it gets almost all the big games at home.

30. Michigan State disrespect

The Spartans will start getting a little more respect because of all the recent success, but good luck finding anyone putting them any higher than third in the preseason Big Ten North looks. Like “Mike” Dantonio cares.

29. The Auburn desperation

When you get to the national title game in your first year, anything less just won’t do. Gus Malzahn doesn’t deserve to be on a hot seat, but with home games against Clemson, Texas A&M and LSU in September – along with Arkansas State – Auburn had better be 3-1 going into October.

28. Lovie Smith at Illinois

The Fighting Illini have the guy who should be the Tampa Bay head coach.

27. Dino Babers at Syracuse

There was a time when Syracuse had a fun and exciting football program. Last year it finished 116th in the nation in passing and 118th in total offense. Bowling Green averaged 547 yards per game. Babers should make things more entertaining as just one of the key …

26. ACC new coaches

Babers was a fantastic get for the Orange, adding some talented new energy to the conference. Virginia threw a curveball with Bronco Mendenhall, and Virginia Tech came up with a find in Justin Fuente. But the one that really matters

25. Mark Richt at Miami

One-Time Superpower Seeking Superstar Head Football Coach For Long-Term Relationship To Restore Glory. Must Have Own Car.

24. Florida State quarterbacks

Sean Maguire would be the safe and sane choice to lead a veteran Seminole team with enough talent to get to the College Football Playoff. Deandre Francois has the potential to be the reason FSU wins a second national title in four years. That’s why Jimbo doesn’t get paid in Fritos.

23. Clemson vs. Florida State, Oct. 29

The last five winners won the ACC championship with two of the last three going on to play for the national title. This will be massive again, but don’t just hand the conference title to the winner because of …

22. Louisville

Bobby Petrino has put together a potential monster. The Cardinals might not be better than FSU or Clemson, but if they can split in the two big showdowns, they might be off to the ACC title game.

21. Donnell Pumphrey

Who has a relative down year and runs for 1,653 yards and 17 touchdowns? The 5-9, 180-pound San Diego State workhorse back is a killer when combined with the phenomenal veteran defense. He might end up leading the nation in rushing.

20. The new USC

Clay Helton got his feet wet as the Trojan head coach last year, but now he’s got a heater of a team to bring into the opener against Alabama. Give Steve Sarkisian credit for recruiting his tail off – Helton has to win with ten returning starters on offense and six on D.

19. Big 12 expansion?

Cincinnati? Houston? Memphis? UCF? Northern Illinois? BYU? Throw a dart at map and you’ll be close to a possibility to help expand the Big 12.

18. Brandon McIwain and Will Muschamp

Part baseball player, part dual-threat quarterback, all South Carolina future, McIlwain is a true freshman who might be thrown into the fire right away. Will he really be the starting quarterback right away, or will it be Connor Mitch or Perry Orth? It’s the first big decision in the Muschamp era.

17. Jacob Eason and Kirby Smart

Is the kid the next Matt Stafford? Eason was a huge get for Mark Richt, and was a big keep for Smart. The quarterback situation is hardly settled, but something might be wrong if it’s not Eason starting against North Carolina.

16. J.T. Barrett

There’s no quarterback controversy this time around. This is Barrett’s Ohio State offense, and his team, but can he really carry the team on his shoulders? Yup.

15. Notre Dame quarterback

Malik, DeShone … DeShone, Malik. Brian Kelly has a fantastic pair of quarterbacks, but he needs to decide on the one true starter sooner than later. There’s no wrong answer.

14. The SEC head coach hot seat

Lose one game as an SEC head coach and the vice-grip pressure gets ramped up. Considering what happened to Les Miles last season, other than Nick Saban, there’s no room for a disaster – even for the new guys.

13. The Deshaun Watson No. 1 overall pick watch

Cleveland is going to be very, very interested in every little thing the Clemson star does. He’s not going to disappoint. But if the Browns aren’t on the clock, get ready for …

12. The Myles Garrett No. 1 overall pick watch

There will be others in the mix, but if it’s not Watson, the Texas A&M star pass rusher will be front and center on everyone’s must-have NFL Draft shopping list. He’ll be worth it.

11. Jim Harbaugh is still coaching college football

The gift of entertainment that keeps on giving. At some point, he might actually beat Michigan State or Ohio State.

10. Nick Saban is still coaching college football

If he was ever going to take one last shot at the NFL, this would’ve been it. Instead, he has to rebuild his offensive backfield, deal with a possible disaster at left tackle, and hope to replenish the defense just enough to win another national title. You think Alabama fans are worried?

9. Alabama at LSU, Nov. 5

If this isn’t the national championship, it’ll have something to do with it.

8. Houston has an honest shot at the CFP

Eight starters returning on offense, a great-looking defensive front seven, and Tom Herman still around to conduct it all – the hype is through the roof. Go 13-0, go to the playoff. The Cougars really will be that good, but first …

7. Oklahoma vs. Houston, Sept. 3

Dealing with Louisville on a mid-November Thursday night will be nasty, and going on the road to Cincinnati, Navy and Memphis won’t be easy, but unless the Cougars beat the Sooners to start the season, forget about the CFP dreams. The same might go to Oklahoma, too, no matter what happens in the Big 12.

6. The Mountain West champion has an honest shot at the CFP

Boise State really is that good, and it has two Power 5 games against Washington State and Oregon State to put on the resume. San Diego State really is that good, and it has a Power 5 game against California to put on the resume. If they’re each 12-0 when they meet in the Mountain West title game – and they will meet in the Mountain West title game – a playoff spot will be on the line.

5. Alabama is gettable

The Crimson Tide are going to be fantastic again, but they’re going to be 10-2 fantastic and not their normal 11-1 regular season special. This is your window, SEC. Don’t blow it.

4. Sophomores two years out of high school aren’t allowed to turn pro early

Deshaun Watson, Dalvin Cook, Leonard Fournette, Jabrill Peppers, Myles Garrett and Derek Barnett should be NFL multi-millionaires right now. They’re not, and they might be the season’s five best players. Enjoy. That means there should be …

3. An epic Heisman chase

It never works out like everyone expects. There’s always some out-of-the-blue Manziel/Newton superstar who rises up and takes the Heisman, but Watson, Cook, Fournette and Christian McCaffrey form a nice base to start. It’s the best-looking Heisman fight since 2009 when Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford led the way – and then Mark Ingram won. Toby Gerhart came in second. That’s nothing, though, compared to this year with all …

2. The phenomenal running backs

Quarterback, schmarterback. Fournette, McCaffrey, Freeman, Cook, Rose, Hill, Brieda, Pumphrey, Clement, Hunt, Marcus Cox, Wayne Gallman, Nick Chubb, Marlon Mack, Mike Warren, Jeremy McNichols, Shock Linwood, Samaje Perine and Jalen Hurd. Even without Ezekiel Elliott and Heisman winner Derrick Henry, the running back star power is off the charts.

1. Greatest … Week … One … Ever

What’s the best thing about the upcoming season? The games to kick things off are going to be all-timer great.

Boston College vs. Georgia Tech, Alabama vs. USC, Appalachian State at Tennessee (don’t laugh), BYU vs. Arizona, Missouri at West Virginia, Clemson at Auburn, LSU vs. Wisconsin, Georgia vs. North Carolina, Houston vs. Oklahoma, Kansas State at Stanford, Notre Dame at Texas, and closing out the weekend with Florida State vs. Ole Miss.

It all can’t come soon enough.