As the college football season gets ready for kickoff, here are some things to keep an eye on this fall.
1. Big Ten, big problems
One would think every Big Ten program had learned about proper oversight after the Jerry Sandusky and Larry Nassar scandals. Nope. Maryland, Rutgers and Ohio State, which opens the season without suspended coach Urban Meyer, have embarrassed the league.
2. Hurts so good
Jalen Hurts was the SEC’s 2016 Offensive Player of the Year. But coach Nick Saban turned to Tua Tagovailoa in the national title game against Georgia, and the left-handed Hawaiian quarterback delivered. So who gets the ball this fall?
3. Big names, new headsets
Chip Kelly has returned to college football at UCLA after flaming out in the NFL. Nebraska landed its dream hire in Scott Frost. Texas A&M opened the vault for Jimbo Fisher, who already is facing accusations of NCAA violations.
4. Ready to wing it
Free from Ole Miss and its web of deception, Shea Patterson will start for Michigan in Week 1 at Notre Dame. Kyler Murray put off a pro baseball career (but signed with the A’s for $4.66 million) to succeed Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield at Oklahoma.
5. New rules
In an effort to reduce collisions and concussions, players can signal for a fair catch at the 1 and the ball will be placed at the 25. Also, freshmen can appear in up to four games without losing their redshirt, and literally everyone involved in the game applauds this.
6. New Heisman faces
With Mayfield, Lamar Jackson and Saquon Barkley off to the NFL, the Heisman race could feature intriguing quarterbacks such as West Virginia’s Will Grier (famous siblings), Arizona’s Khalil Tate (spectacular runner) and Penn State’s Trace McSorley (a better-behaved Mayfield).
7. Tide on a roll
Nick Saban’s crew has won five of the last nine national championships and, for what it’s worth, received 42 of 61 first-place votes in the Associated Press preseason rankings. Clemson, Georgia and whoever wins the top-heavy Big Ten figure to have the best shot to dethrone Alabama.
8. Bigger is better?
Playoff team selections have been fair (sorry, Ohio State) and three straight national title games have been instant classics. And yet many are pushing for an expanded playoff, including Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez. Following the Big Ten’s omission last season, he wants six teams.
9. Examine his head
North Carolina coach Larry Fedora did the game no favors with his comments at ACC media days. Fedora said football’s detractors are “twisting data” to make the sport seem unsafe and that it has not been proved that football causes CTE, a degenerative brain disease.
10. Irish eyes
Will Notre Dame more closely resemble the group that surged to a No. 3 ranking in early November last season or the one that was blown out at Miami and outscored 21-0 in the fourth quarter at Stanford? The Irish need better play from quarterbacks Brandon Wimbush and/or Ian Book.
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