What – or who – will be the biggest surprises of the 2018 college football season be? The college football experts weigh in …
Penn State: Some seven years after the scandal of all scandals, the Nittany Lions reach college football’s biggest stage – the College Football Playoff – on the strength of Trace McSorley’s steady hand and Micah Parsons’ savagery on D.
Two of the SEC big boys are about to bounce back.
Michigan State was rolling right along, coming off a Big Ten championship and a trip to the College Football Playoff, and it followed it up in 2016 with a 3-9 season when nothing went quite right. And what happened in 2017? 10-3, and all was right with the world. Obviously, that’s a Big Ten team, but it goes to show that …
Sometimes, teams just have a bad year.
Florida won ten games and went to the SEC Championship in 2015, won nine more and went back to the SEC title game in 2016, and then came the clunker of a 4-7 season when the offense didn’t work. Out goes Jim McElwain, in comes Dan Mullen, and now, get ready for the Gators to be back to their nine-wins selves.
Butch Jones might have had his issues, but he came up with back-to-back 9-4 seasons in 2015 and 2016. Last year, the team just never found its groove after the heartbreaking loss at Florida in Week 3. The offense never showed up, Jones was a dead-coach-walking, and the season slipped into a 4-8 abyss. The Vols are about to bounce back under Jeremy Pruitt and at least go bowling, if not do a whole lot more.
The collective step back in the SEC surrounding (but, of course, not including) Alabama. Even after the Tide won it all, it was legit to question whether or not they’d proved they were better than Georgia or even Auburn. It’ll be another season of one — at the top — and done for everybody else in a league that may or may not actually be the best in the land.
The growth of Tennessee
Jeremy Pruitt’s Tennessee program is not getting the attention it deserves nationally yet. Pruitt has assembled the best coaching staff from top to bottom in the SEC and arguably nationally.
2018 will still be a transitional year for Tennessee, but it will also be one that receives national attention of what is set down the road for UT playing at a championship level.
The Vols will win games they are not expected to this season and will also lose some that they are not equipped to yet. Pruitt has done wonders with the roster since his arrival and has placed his player personnel in the right positions to make 2018 a bowl season.
Michigan will be really, really good and make a run for the playoff.
No. seriously, yeah coming from a guy that is the publisher for an Ohio State site right? Maybe I should just hand by Buckeye fan card in now. But hear me out.
There were wholesale changes on defense last year, and the Wolverines still ranked No. 3 in total defense, a year after it was the best in the country. All but two starters are back, so you do the math. That side of the ball is going to be lights out once again.
On offense, the wide-receivers and running backs are deep and talented and transfer Shea Patterson should be an upgrade under center — he has to be right? As long as the offensive line can hold blocks for him unlike last year, look out for the Jim Harbaugh fatigue to be turned around in Ann Arbor.
UCLA. Chip Kelly turns things around in Westwood in a hurry, which shouldn’t be a surprise given all the talent he has. Though, with former Michigan QB Wilton Speight leading the charge in an offense not particularly suited for him, the Bruins challenge USC for Pac-12 South supremacy.
A Pac-12 team not only makes the playoff this year, but will appear in the national title game.
Shannon McKinley, TicketCity.com
Texas Longhorns: I might live in Austin, but I’m not biased. Texas should be able to take the No. 3 recruiting class and turn the experience on the team into the best in the Big 12. But, it feel like I say that at the beginning of every single season for the last eight years.
However, if Orlando can get their defense figured out, despite the departure of two senior members of the defensive backs, and they can choose a QB, they could surprise a lot of people. After all, they’ve always had the talent to do so.
UCLA will be in the Pac 12 and CFP hunt right up until the game with USC.
Although it was a playoff contender for the majority of 2017, I’m going to say Miami is my surprise team for 2018. Nobody will expect Mark Richt’s team, who lost three straight to close out last season, to put together a playoff run this year. But the U is talent rich at skill positions and Malik Rosier returns to give the Canes another shot.