The Biggest 2015 Storylines
The stage has rarely been brighter, as shown by the number of cities considering bids to host the college football championship game in 2018-20. The game has rarely been so captivating. In the race to the crown once again, here are the biggest stories of 2015.
Is this the best story of college football? There's the trifecta of Jim Harbaugh, Urban Meyer, and Mark Dantonio. There's the potential of a Penn State team trying to rise from a dark era. There are the newcomers on the East Coast, the doormat led by an offensive genius, and plenty, plenty of questions at quarterback.
If there's any team that has America's attention, it's Ohio State and their three-headed monster, playing alongside a star runner who's drawing comparisons to Eddie George and playing for a coach who is better than Jim Tressel. Heading into 2015, there are some echoes of 1968 when the best football in the country (according to journalists) was when the Ohio State offense faced the defense in practice on Tuesday. Meanwhile, a new coach is taking over a limp Michigan program with low expectations in Year 1.
Overrated or underrated, Michigan's roster will undoubtedly keep the country's attention through the season. Ohio State and Michigan State will duke it out for Big Ten supremacy, and MSU is one of the few who can stop the Buckeyes. And, potential abounds everywhere else, even in Bloomington.
If there is a division with more intrigue than the B1G East, it's the SEC West, spearheaded by Alabama and Auburn. The division race will serve as a long and intriguing lead-in to the season-ending match between two clubs that have been engaging in an arms race, between the additions of expensive assistant coaches (Lane Kiffin, Will Muschamp) and lots and lots of talent (37 blue chips in the 2015 cycle).
Alabama may not exactly be the King, but they're probably the most talented team in the country. Saban and Lane Kiffin have to find a quarterback who can lead the team (Jacob Coker is a leading candidate), and they also need to replace T.J. Yeldon and their top three receivers. The run game is safe, whether it's the five-star from 2015 (Damien Harris), the one from 2014 (Bo Scarbrough), or the two Rivals-6.0 running backs from 2013 (the Tide had actually signed a third just in case, but Alvin Karama is now a Vol). Still, the offense could use some tinkering.
Auburn had a big problem rushing the passer, but the return of defensive end Carl Lawson from an ACL tear, plus the addition of Will Muschamp and #1 overall prospect Byron Cowart, spells good news for Auburn's ability to disrupt other teams. They need to rebuild a secondary that loses most of its starting experience, and also find linebackers on a roster that was thin even for a 4-2-5.
It's a possibility that another club gets in the way of a season-ending showdown for the title, but it's fair to argue that the rest of the SEC West stands a firm level below UA and AU. The LSU Tigers have chronic quarterback problems and are replacing NFL talent all over, only this time they're also losing a great defensive coordinator as well. Texas A&M has found its top-five defensive coordinator, but lacks the depth or play-making in the secondary that Chavis had at LSU, or the beef up front, based on a 110th-ranked run defense. And Mississippi State suffered extreme attrition in the off-season, ranging from their elite offensive line coach to star running back.
This is part of the territory of college football, but fans will be looking at Oregon, Florida State, and Alabama all trying to find new quarterbacks. Brent Hundley is gone from UCLA, and so is Bryce Petty, Kenny Hill (from Texas A&M, anyway), and Todd Gurley.
It's possible that tailbacks make a resurgence in the hearts of college football fans, something which might open the door for Leonard Fournette, Ezekiel Elliott, Nick Chubb, or Samaje Perine to contend seriously for the Heisman. More likely, though, is that some new quarterback talent emerges , while guys like Cody Kessler or Trevone Boykin start to get noticed more nationally.
Hitting the Links Cleans With Tempo
While the defensive line replaces Michael Bennett and Steve Miller,
TTB talks about spring performers and what to make of Chase Winovich playing at fullback and tight end.
Tight end is a position that James Franklin needs production from, and it looks like he'll get it yet again. Just like Michigan, the Nittany Lions have undergone a slight transformation on the defensive line during winter workouts.
Limegrover and Minnesota's staff probably likes how tempo helps open up the running game against teams with strong defensive lines. This is new, but they'll be using it to accomplish the same things they've always done.
This is risky swimming for the Boilermakers. Tempo goes both ways; the number of three-and-outs could possibly increase, as could the strain on the Purdue defense. We'll see if this unlocks any doors for Hazell in what should be a make-or-break year for him.
Analytics can make recruiting smarter, help us understand player development, and break down coaching decisions. It can help us prevent injuries and add to the discussion on college football economics. The game is wonderfully complex, and slowly statistics are catching up.
Before he was the Bus, Bettis showed some moves in the open field. He for Notre Dame.