College Football Preview: Who’s In? Breaking Down Possible Title Contender and Strongest Conferences

Eric Fishbin, Sports Editor

Week one of the College Football season showcased two matchups of ranked teams. The No. 1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide rolled over the previously No. 3 ranked Florida State Seminoles in convincing fashion, winning 24-7. 

Their powerful defense was on full display, appearing to be in midseason form. The Tide will undoubtedly terrify other SEC teams throughout this season and reach the College Football Playoff for the fourth consecutive year of the Playoff’s existence.

On the side of the defeated, Florida State suffered more than just a regular season loss in Week 1. Starting quarterback sophomore Deondre Francois was aided off the field with a season ending knee injury late in the game against Alabama.

The Florida State Seminoles, thought to be a title-contending caliber team, practically needs to win out the rest of their games to have a chance to reach the Playoffs. And they need to do it without their best player.

The Michigan Wolverines put on a strong performance against the Florida Gators, winning 33-17, landing them in the top-10 for the AP’s Week 2 Rankings. With the new rankings, Michigan joins Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin as the fourth team from the Big Ten Conference in the top-10. 

Although the SEC is generally viewed as the College Football power conference, this year’s Big Ten schools are looking to send at least one team to the Playoffs and have a good chance to send two. 

Ohio State has reached the Playoffs twice before, and captured the 2015 College Football National Championship. With Urban Meyer at the helm and senior quarterback J.T. Barrett under center, Ohio State’s experience alone should be enough to make them a tough match for any opponent. But the Buckeyes have much more than just experience; they have immense talent on both sides of the ball. Barrett is joined in the backfield by J.K. Dobbins, who rushed for 181 yards in his college debut. The Buckeye defense is highlighted by defensive end Sam Hubbard, but is well supplemented in the secondary.

A potential team that could emerge as Champion of the Big Ten are the Wisconsin Badgers. With a strong defense and, for the first time in a while, a returning starting quarterback, the Badgers hope to put the pressure on their opponents throughout each game. Senior Tight end Troy Fumagali is showing why he is their best offensive player early on, tallying 105 yards on five receptions with a touchdown. 

With one of the best tight end’s in the nation, the Badgers are hoping their running game can live up to past performances by Melvin Gordon, Monte Ball and James White. If the Badgers are going to be in the Playoffs, they will have to beat Michigan at home on November 18.

Clemson, likely to represent the ACC in the postseason, moved up to No. 3 in the rankings following a routine win against Kent St. and the FSU loss to Alabama. With Deshaun Watson gone, the defending National Champions turn to Kelly Bryant to run the show. The junior quarterback threw for 236 yards, with a touchdown and one interception. He also rushed for 77 yards, with a long of 47, and one touchdown. The mobile threat fits the Clemson system, and coach Dabo Swinney can only hope for a repeat of last season. Clemson lost both its starting running back and quarterback from last year, but the offense still has some spark.

The SEC will end up as the most balanced conference, but it would not be surprising to see two Big Ten teams reach the Playoffs when January rolls around. Ohio State looks like a lock, but there seems to be a spot up for grabs. Fight it out Wolverines, Nittany Lions and Badgers!

Unlike the NFL, college football captures fan interest for unique reasons. The draw to any game is not because of fantasy football, but rather the unpredictability factor. For the same reasons March Madness is so great, college football reveals true character by means of intense competition. These players, and their drunken fans, represent their schools with pride each Saturday. 

It doesn’t matter who you are on game day as long as you are wearing the right colors.

Contact Eric Fishbin at [email protected].