As of the date this story is published, there are just 79 days until the 2017 college football season kicks off in Sydney, Australia. I could tell you that Alabama is going to contend for another national title, but that’s not exactly a bold prediction. Here are a few of them, however.
Defending national champion Clemson has lost the best player in school history, two-time Heisman Trophy finalist and QB Deshaun Watson. I don’t believe the Tigers have a shot of winning the ACC with his replacement, Kelly Bryant. The 6-foot- 3, 213-pound junior has spent the past two seasons as a backup for Watson and Nick Schussler. In his career, Bryant is 13-for- 22 for 75 yards while adding 178 rushing yards on 35 carries over 12 career games. Bryant is among six new starters on offense as the national championship Tigers retool, particularly in the skill positions. Along with Watson, receivers Mike Williams and Artavis Scott, tailback Wayne Gallman, and tight end Jordan Leggett are all starters who are off to the NFL. In the spring game, the two Clemson offenses, which rotated four QBs and were relatively evenly split among first-team players and reserves, posted 31 combined points. There were a handful of ugly snaps. This will mark the first time since the 2014 season that Clemson does not have a returning quarterback with a start on his resume entering the season. That was also the case for Clemson under Dabo Swinney to begin the 2011 season. Clemson went 10-3 in 2014 and 10-4 in 2011.
Beavers Could Lead Pac-12 In Rushing
Oregon State probably won’t be very good again this season, but the Beavers could have the Pac-12’s leading rushing attack thanks to the addition of former five-star recruit Thomas Tyner. The top-rated running back in the Class of 2013 is transferring from Oregon and will be eligible immediately because he has graduated. Tyner has missed the last two seasons after redshirting in 2015 following shoulder surgery. He suffered the injury as a sophomore in 2014 against Washington. He took medical retirement in February 2016. Tyner wasn’t satisfied with the way his career ended in Eugene, where he had rushed for 1,248 yards and 14 touchdowns and caught 25 passes for 201 yards and another score. On Jan. 1, 2015, he rushed for 124 yards against Florida State in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Rose Bowl. Tyner would join a backfield that already has Ryan Nall, who rushed for 957 yards and 13 touchdowns on 147 carries last season.
Arden Key Will Be SEC Defensive Player Of Year
It’s likely that quarterbacks will be the first three picks of the 2018 NFL Draft, but I’m projecting that defensive end/linebacker Arden Key will have a huge season and will be the first defensive player selected next year. Last year as a sophomore, Key broke LSU’s single-season record for sacks with 12, in only 11 games. He was suspended for the Tigers’ game against Texas A&M. Although Key is listed at 6- foot-6, 238 pounds, Coach Ed Orgeron recently said he has bulked up to 255. The team’s best pass rusher took a leave of absence from the program this offseason and missed the entire spring in Baton Rouge but is back. Key was a first-team All-SEC player following his outstanding 2016 campaign. In his LSU career, Key has racked up 97 tackles, 21 tackles for loss and 17 sacks. CBS Sports has released a very early look at the top prospects in next year’s class and Key is the top prospect.
Kevin Sumlin Will Be Fired After 2017
One of the coaches on the hottest seats in the nation entering this season is Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin. I don’t believe he will be the Aggies’ coach in 2018. “Coach knows he has to win and he has to win this year,” AD Scott Woodward said recently. “We have to do better than we’ve done in the past.” During his first five seasons in College Station, Sumlin has guided the Aggies to a 44-21 record overall and a 21-19 mark in SEC play. But in the first season in the conference, A&M went 11-2 and finished second in the West behind Johnny Manziel’s Heisman-winning 2012 season. Since then, the Aggies have been below .500 in league play and haven’t finished higher than fourth in the division. A&M is a great job and Woodward would have a choice of several big-name coaches if Sumlin leaves.