The first full weekend of college football season is less than two weeks away. The staff at TideSports is looking ahead to the start of the action, and making our preseason predictions for the 2017 season.
We’ll be rolling out predictions every day on TideSports. Check back all week as we look into our crystal ball for this fall!
PODCAST: The 3 toughest players Alabama will face
Heisman Trophy winner
Sam Darnold, QB, USC
Darnold is VERY good. Also, no position has been a better Heisman springboard in the last 25 years than Southern California quarterback. The Trojans’ schedule sets up well, there is no dominant SEC candidate at this point and he will get plenty of publicity.
Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
It’s a quarterback-centric award now with an occasional running back winning it in rare instances. From that standpoint, give me the dark horse Rudolph, who threw for more than 4,000 yards in 2016 with a 28-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Defense is optional in the Big 12 so I expect Rudolph to put up big numbers.
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
If the Sooners make it to the College Football Playoff after an unexpected offseason coaching change, Mayfield will be the reason. Oklahoma’s quarterback has had the kind of career that garners attention, so he’s on everyone’s radar going into the season. In the Big 12, he’ll be able to put up impressive numbers. And if his team is successful, he’ll garner awards.-Tommy Deas
Jacob Eason, Georgia
The recipe for Heisman quarterbacks in recent years has been for it to go to a quarterback in his first year as a starter (Johnny Manziel, Jameis Winston), or to one who significantly tops his previous production (Marcus Mariota, Lamar Jackson). Eason got better as last year went on and plays for a team that should improve on last year’s record. Sounds like as good a bet as any this year.
Saquon Barkley, Penn State
Look at the 2016 Rose Bowl. Barkley finished with 194 rushing yards on 25 carries. He had a standout 79-yard touchdown run and another 24-yarder. That game put his name out there, where it already should have been after two 200-plus rushing yard games. Barkley, now a junior, has the capability of being the best running back in the nation this season.
Alabama’s toughest game
The Seminoles are loaded with good athletes. Their quarterback is good if not great. Alabama will have several inexperienced players — talented but inexperienced — called for duty. And it’s just the kind of game that could come down to a field goal.
This is a toss up for me between either Florida State or Auburn. The Tigers being at home was enough to sway me in that direction. An overmatched Auburn has fought tooth and nail the last couple of years and most around the Tigers’ program expect a step forward from an offensive production standpoint this year. If Florida State’s offensive line situation was better, I likely would have went with the Seminoles.
Florida State is going to be tough, but don’t underestimate the Tigers. If UA gets past its opener unscathed, and that’s not a given, it may have smooth sailing all the way through the rest of the regular season until the Iron Bowl. Auburn is one of the few SEC teams with enough talent to have a chance to play with Alabama, and the Tigers will surely be motivated.
The loser of this game could still come back to win the national championship. The SEC schedule breaks down somewhat favorably for Alabama, though the Iron Bowl could be tricky. The Seminoles have the personnel to match up with UA across the board, and the crowd in Atlanta should be split down the middle.
It has been a decade since these two powerhouses have played each other, and the last time they did, Florida State won. Also, the Georgia Dome was like Alabama’s second home, but now that’s gone and the Mercedes-Benz Stadium lives. Another also, Jimbo Fisher versus Nick Saban – enough said. The hype cannot be ignored.