This is a weekly series of five lists of essential information for the coming college football weekend. This week, YEA WE’RE COMIIIIINNNNN. TO YA CITAAAAAYYYYY.
Five Players You Don’t Know But Need to be Watching this Weekend
Josh Allen If you need something to stare at in an otherwise uneventful slate of early Saturday games, Wyoming’s visit to Iowa could be of some use, especially if you just happen to be an NFL scout. The Cowboys’ junior quarterback threw for over 3,200 yards and 28 touchdowns last season in guiding Wyoming to the Mountain West championship game and catching the eye of pro talent evaluators. Improving on last year’s 56% completion percentage and 15 interceptions gives Allen a chance to be the top quarterback prospect in the 2018 draft.
Feleipe Franks The newest starting quarterback of the Florida Gators is a redshirt freshman who will be down 10 teammates after sweeping suspensions thinned the Gators’ roster heading into a showdown with Michigan. Franks has to be the real deal right away if Florida wants to escape Arlington, Texas with a win.
Cam Akers & Najee Harris These two names only sound familiar if you follow recruiting closely, but everyone’s going to know about these guys soon enough. The top -two running back recruits in the nation and top overall incoming freshman outside of UCLA defensive lineman Jaelan Phillips will share the same field Saturday night, as Akers takes over for Dalvin Cook at Florida State while Harris joins the mix at Alabama.
Jerry Jeudy The other impact freshman on the field in Atlanta will be yet another highly-touted receiver recruit for the Crimson Tide from South Florida. If Jeudy follows in the footsteps of Amari Cooper and new teammate Calvin Ridley, his 134 yards and 2 touchdowns in the spring game won’t be a fluke, but the norm.
Five Reasons Indiana Might Stun Ohio State
Indiana started fast The Hoosiers averaged 334 yards passing and 32 points per game in their first 3 contests of 2016. Playing that well again should generate enough points to at least stay within striking distance of the Buckeyes.
Richard Lagow plays fairly well against top teams The senior quarterback threw for 1,137 yards and 7 TDs against 4 picks against AP-ranked opponents last season. He’s obviously going to need to be better than that, but it’s a starting place.
Nick Westbrook is a stud The junior receiver grabbed 54 passes for 995 yards last year but only had 2 catches in last year’s loss to Ohio State. He needs to see the ball more for Indiana to have any chance.
The Ohio State offense will look familiar The Buckeyes’ new offensive coordinator is recently canned Hoosiers head man Kevin Wilson. Depending on how much Urban Meyer changes what Wilson runs, the Indiana defense will be rather well acquainted with what OSU is running, considering they saw it in practice every day last season.
The Big Ten really needs something dramatic to happen Things didn’t go very smoothly when the Big Ten announced primetime Friday-night games were being added to the conference schedule starting this year, with schools like Michigan and Penn State flat-out refusing to play. If Indiana scores a win with everyone watching (albeit on Labor Day weekend when many schools play mid-week games), the conference will feel like they got a shot in the arm in moving forward with primetime games during the week.
Five Suspended Florida Players that Give Michigan a Much Better Chance to Win
Antonio Callaway Pretty obvious that losing one of the best receivers and kick returners in the country would hurt. Callaway has got figure out his off-field problems. He’s missed time before due to suspensions. and a guy with nearly 1,400 career receiving yards and an average of about 16 yards a catch needs to be on the field.
Jordan Scarlett Nothing quite like breaking in a new starting quarterback against a team that has the top-ranked defense in the nation a year ago and not having last year’s near-1,00-yard back available as a security blanket.
Keivonnis Davis The junior defensive lineman started five games last season and made 27 tackles, including getting a half-sack versus Alabama in the SEC championship game and forcing a fumble against Iowa in the Outback Bowl win.
James Robinson The freshman was expected to add depth to the receiving corps, which means Franks loses one more weapon he might need to move the ball against the stingy Wolverines.
Richard Desir-Jones If injury happens along the offensive line, Desir-Jones would have been one of the next men up after appearing in 2 games last season.
Five Keys to Florida State-Alabama
Whose quarterback got better? When Deondre Francois wasn’t flat on his back due to poor pass protection, the Seminole signal-caller actually had a decent freshman season, passing for 3,350 yards and accounting for 25 total touchdowns. If he takes a step forward, he can’t be the best part of the Florida State offense. Meanwhile, Jalen Hurts was an absolute force running the ball last year with 954 yards and 13 TDs. But there is plenty of room to grow as a passer, so it’ll be interesting to see how he developed working under new offensive coordinator and former New England Patriots assistant Brian Daboll.
Of course it comes down to running the ball Florida State will ask Akers and Jacques Patrick to not only fill Cook’s enormous shoes, but also be able to consistently gain yards on the top run defense in the country each of the last 2 seasons. On the flip side, ‘Bama’s got way too many talented runners in Bo Scarborough, Damien and Najee Harris and Joshua Jacobs to not be pounding the rock all night long.
Speaking of Bo… Over his final 7 games played last year, Scarborough rushed for 648 yards and 7 touchdowns, but he also did so while averaging a little less than 7-and-a-half yards per carry. A man of his size (6’2″, 235 lbs) having speed and quick feet is what made Derrick Henry special. If that ended in a Heisman, why can’t it do so here too?
Who is Francois throwing the ball to? Outside of tight end Ryan Izzo and wideouts Auden Tate and Nyqwan Murray, there aren’t many returning weapons to catch the ball. Junior-college transfer Da’Vante Phillips was expected to add a boost to the receiving corps, but he’s suspended.
Third-down passing situations The ‘Noles lost 3 starters off an offensive line that did a wretched job protecting Francois in 2016, yielding 36 sacks. Meanwhile, if Hurts hasn’t progressed in a significant way as a passer, FSU boasts a defensive line as good as ‘Bama’s, led by Josh Sweat, Brian Burns, Derrick Nnadi and Demarcus Christmas.
Five (or more) Absolutely Incorrect Picks
Ohio State (-20.5) at Indiana All those reasons I listed why the Hoosiers might stand a chance? They still lost by 21 last year to the Buckeyes, largely because JT Barrett ran for a season-high 137 yards. He does that again, IU is toast. Ohio St 38, Indiana 7
Tulsa at Oklahoma State (-18) Mason Rudolph, James Washington, Justice Hill and friends will do enough scoring here to get the job done. The thing to watch is how well the defense performs against a normally high-scoring Hurricane offense. Oklahoma St 45, Tulsa 21
Washington (-27.5) at Rutgers Nope. Just a whole lotta nope. Washington 45, Rutgers 7
Kent State at Clemson (-39.5) Gonna try our hand and not just picking games, but also trying pick against the spread. Tigers might legit cover here, but that’s a ridiculous number for Week One. Clemson 42, Kent State 10
Akron at Penn State (-30.5) Saquon Barkley and Trace McSorley will pile up the points all season long. Not sure the Zips stop them from covering here. Penn St 42, Akron 7
Maryland at Texas (-18.5) I have made the foolish decision of believing in Texas again as a dark horse playoff contender. DJ Durkin got the Terps to a bowl game last year, so that prediction can be dashed in a heartbeat if Tom Herman doesn’t have the Longhorns ready to go. I’m saying it’s ugly at times, but the ‘Horns get it done. Texas 38, Maryland 17
Western Michigan at USC (-26.5) No more PJ Fleck in Kalamazoo. No more boat-rowing. Sad day. Still, they might put a scare in the Trojans in the first quarter before Sam Darold rights the ship. More boat metaphors! USC 42, Western Michigan 14
Appalachian State at Georgia (-14.5) While I do think highly of the Dawgs, ask Tennessee what happens when you underestimate the Mountaineers in Week One. Georgia 38, App St 17
Louisville (-24.5) vs Purdue Even if this neutral-site game is a de facto home game for the Boilermakers, they’ve been so bad. And Lamar Jackson is so good. Louisville 45, Purdue 7
BYU vs LSU (-14.5) Thoughts and prayers to everyone in Houston, where the game was originally scheduled to be played. On a less serious note, BYU will need all the thoughts and prayers they can get if they play like they did against Portland State in a game that’s now in New Orleans. LSU 24, BYU 3
West Virginia vs Virginia Tech (-4) This Sunday-night showdown in D.C. between old Big East rivals could be the most sneaky entertaining game of the weekend. Will Grier can step in and give the Mountaineers a boost right away, but Justin Fuente and the Hokies have the better team right now. Va Tech 28, WVU 24
Texas A&M at UCLA (-3.5) It feels like both UCLA can be a breakout surprise amongst unranked teams in the preseason and that this is the end of the line for Kevin Sumlin. So of course the Aggies will probably win by 30. UCLA 31, Texas A&M 20
Tennessee (-3) vs Georgia Tech Yeah, it’s basically a home game for the Yellowjackets on Labor Day night, but leading rusher Dedrick Mills is gone, and the Volunteers are another potentially sneaky-good team. Tennessee 31, Georgia Tech 21
Michigan (-5) vs Florida My original pick was the Gators in a blowout. I think they’re as talented at every position as any team in the country, and maybe Franks will be the stabilizing force they’ve been searching for at quarterback. But with so many players suspended, especially Callaway and Scarlett, it’s hard not to give the Wolverines the slight edge. Michigan 24, Florida 17
Florida State vs Alabama (-7) It says a lot when one of the biggest opening-weekend battles in the history of the sport still has the Tide as a touchdown favorite in Vegas. FSU keeps it close, but too much Bo and plenty of big plays by the defense help ‘Bama squeak out the dub. Alabama 24, Florida St 23