1. Michigan Wolverines. All seemed great this year now that their quarterback problems have been solved with the transfer of Shea Paterson. So why won’t they be there? Let’s start with the coach Jim Harbaugh who is just 1-6 in the last three years against Top Ten teams. They finished 8-5 last year, losing to their arch rival Ohio State for the third year in a row. The second reason is Shea Patterson. It is rare when a player transfers and instantaneously becomes the missing piece. For every Baker Mayfield, there’s about ten Malik Zaires. If it works at all, there usually is a transitioning period for it all to come together in a new offense and a new team. Michigan plays the tough east division of the Big Ten. That means playing Penn State, Michigan State and Ohio State every year and this year they play Wisconsin in a crossover game. They play the Spartans and Buckeyes on the road, and oh, throw in Notre Dame on the road in their first game. I know they return nine starters from a top-notch defense but until they prove something to me with an impressive win, Michigan continues to be ranked on its reputation and not its substance.
2. Notre Dame. A ten-win season last year kept Brian Kelly as the coach. Every year he comes up with new gimmicks in practice to give the faithful new hope, claiming only a national championship will define a successful season. Well, let’s start with their coach. He’s had many problems with players who have transferred. He’s had problems with much maligned assistant coaches who have been fired or resigned. He’s always looking at reasons why the team isn’t ready, like last year when they had a huge game at Miami and got crushed, blames himself for not preparing his team, and then starts making wholesale changes everywhere. So, reason number one is “look in the mirror”. Next is quarterback Brandon Wimbush. While the Irish do return 15 starters, they will miss running back Tony Adams. Wimbush is just too inconsistent, and he loses his confidence easily in challenging environments. The schedule isn’t too difficult with only USC on the road where the Irish probably won’t be favored so we don’t have to hear from Kelly how “tough” the schedule is every year. But he’s another guy who just has not proven himself to me. The first game against Michigan is a must win situation for Notre Dame. I guess either Harbaugh or Kelly get a big win by default.
3. Alabama Crimson Tide. Don’t let anybody fool you. It’s not good to have a quarterback competition, especially one like this which is going down to the wire. Neither wants to sit while the other plays. Just ask Nebraska, where true freshman Adrian Martinez was named the starter yesterday and redshirt freshman Tristan Gebbia just left classes and is expected to transfer immediately. So, when Jalen Hurts or Tua Tagovailoa gets some separation, expect the other to transfer where he knows he will play. The other problem the Tide has is on defense where they have lost two linebackers to injury. For once, I don’t think their depth is what it always is under Nick Saban at that position. The last reason is simply luck. They were most fortunate in the title game last year. Two horrendous calls which I think would have made it impossible to come back from and how about the interception off a helmet which just happened to end up in and an Alabama lineman’s hands? It doesn’t get any better than that. So yeah, I’m telling you their luck runs out because it all evens out in the long run.
4. Ohio State. Meyergate will be a cloud over this program the entire year and this is just the beginning. Then there’s Dwayne Haskins, a redshirt sophomore who is now the quarterback. He did get some garbage time last year but has a lot to prove. They are talented everywhere, but maybe there could be problems with play calling due to Meyer’s admitted memory lapses in the past. Discipline could also be a contributing factor because if players do not fall in line, their embattled coach cannot punish them for similar transgressions to his own. The schedule may not be so difficult except for the early season road game at TCU and coach Urban Meyer will miss that game as part of his three-game suspension.
5. Auburn. Last year was a magical year when they defeated Georgia and Alabama back to back and emerged as the number 2 team in the country, only to lose their last two games. This year is a different story. They lose a ton of starters, including running back Kerryon Johnson. Auburn plays Georgia and Alabama on the road this year and Washington in the opener so the schedule is more challenging. They are overrated.
News of the day is all about quarterbacks. JT Daniels, a true freshman won the job at USC. Let’s see what these five stars can do. Transfer Joe Burrows from Ohio State won the job at LSU. Why can’t the Tigers get their own quarterbacks? Deondre Francois won the job back at Florida State. Nick Fitzgerald, the the returning starter for Mississippi State will miss the team’s first game due to a suspension. The school did not say specifically what the suspension was for but no worries, the Bulldogs open at home against Stephen F. Austin in one of those “Mercy Games”. Finally, coach Chip Kelly suspended six players for the Bruins’ opener against Cincinnati for unspecified violations.