1) Will Oregon regress or take the final step?
Oregon has all the flash. The uniforms, the high octane offense, and the brand new spaceship like facilities. They had 46 wins and 4 BCS game appearances in the last 4 years. Last year they were second in points per game in the country at 49.6. That was all done under the guidance of Chip Kelly who has moved on to the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles. In steps Mark Helfrich who has served as the team’s offense coordinator since 2009. The question of Oregon regressing or taking the final step to winning a National Championship centers largely on whether or no Helfrich can keep the ball rolling the same way Chip Kelly had it going before him. The team returns two Heisman contenders in QB Marcus Mariota and RB De’Anthony Thomas as well as a myriad of supporting cast players like WR Josh Huff and TE Colt Lyerla. The toughest game on the schedule is November 7th at Stanford and that will be the key to their season as they should be favored in every other game.
2) Is Ohio St. primed for a title run?
All signs point to yes. The Buckeyes are coming off a 12-0 season in which they were on probation keeping them from going to a bowl game. We know that Urban Meyer has a great track record in his second season at his previous stops and he returns a leading Heisman contender in QB Braxton Miller. It was a really interesting off season in Columbus with offseason troubles headlined by Carlos Hyde and Bradley Roby. They reeled in a great recruiting class headlined by WR Jalin Marshall who Meyer will hope has a Percy Harvin type impact on the offense. The team only returns 4 starters to a defense that was mediocre last year and had real troubles stopping the run. On the good side though, they don’t have a single game they should lose in the regular season. “The Game” at Michigan will be the toughest test but with the talent on offense and Meyer’s coaching, expect them to roll to a Big 10 title game.
3) Will Jadeveon Clowney live up to the hype?
The Legend of Clowney as I like to call it has already gotten out of control. He flips blocking sleds, Mark Richt thinks he is the best player on the planet, NFL executives say he is the best defensive prospect in years, it just goes on and on. What will actually be enough for him to live up to all this on the field this season? Will he have to win the Heisman? No pure defensive player has gotten that done. Is there a magical sack number that will get it done? He had 13 last year but the last three guys to lead the nation in sacks had 16, 16, and 14 respectively so he could have a slightly better year but not blow those stats away. Plus you now have so much attention paid to him that team’s will do whatever they can to slow him down but his teammates will get better numbers. I just fear that if Clowney doesn’t have 6.5 sacks in 3 weeks that his season will be labeled a bust.
4) How will the Johnny Football show end?
Yes A&M fans I meant end because there is no way this isn’t the last season that you will enjoy (or not) Johnny Football in College Station. Either Johnny leads the team to an even better season than last year and leaves for the NFL or Johnny gets suspended for the autograph scandal. We know that Johnny is a great talent on the field, and the SEC coaches were had some hate in their hearts not to vote him All-SEC first team this year. All the speculation around whether or not he signed 4,400 autographs and was paid for it could prematurely end his season or cut some early season games from it. IF he plays the whole year, it would be a great story for him to have another Heisman like season in which he led the SEC in rushing. For entertainment value alone, I’d like to see Johnny score that game winning touchdown against Alabama on Sept 14th and celebrate by fake signing the football. Legend status right there.
5) Can anyone stop Alabama from rolling to a 3-peat?
Is it possible that people have underrated what Nick Saban has been able to accomplish? His teams seem to get better and better as the years go by like he is recruiting in NCAA 14. Could it also be possible that this year’s Alabama team is his most talented group yet? Well three years in a row of #1 recruiting classes will do that for you. Yes the Crimson Tide must replace 3 starters on the offensive line that was the best in college football last year but the last time they had to do that in 2009, they increased the number of rushing yards per game. This is by far the best group of offensive skill players Saban has had during his time at Alabama and they should light up the scoreboard if Saban doesn’t decided to grind it out. Despite being on the road for Texas A&M in the game of the year, the schedule shapes up well with VA Tech at a neutral site and LSU at home. Expect the Tide to roll with the process to 3 titles in a row and 4 in 5 years.