College football has 130 teams and an enormous batch of potential storylines, but the offseason has already begun to revolve around a limited group of headlines.
Who’s on the hot seat? Who’s the quarterback? Will the playoff expand? Like clockwork, the spring and summer months focus on those questions, plus a few other forward-looking topics.
We’re happy to discuss these subjects, but the college football world must be prepared to hear about them for the next six months.
Alabama’s quarterback competition
The position battle between Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa is probably the most important story of the offseason, but the topic can still become annoying to fans. “We get it, man, Alabama has two really good quarterbacks. One has a bunch of starts and touchdowns. The other won the national championship as a freshman.” Every time the Crimson Tide are mentioned, it’s safe to expect Hurts and Tagovailoa will be, too. While that competition is important, let’s not forget to discuss Alabama’s young receiving corps or a revamped defense, too.
Is Jim Harbaugh on the hot seat?
No, stop. He’s not. That doesn’t mean Michigan fans should be content with the team’s success over the last two seasons or that Harbaugh is immune to criticism. But there’s a massive difference between “coaching for your job” and “coaching for a positive perception.” Unlike the San Francisco 49ers did to him, Michigan won’t push Harbaugh out the door. Although the Wolverines need to start winning 11-plus games and truly compete for a national championship, discussions about Harbaugh’s job security dropping are simply wrong.
Under-the-radar teams of 2018
Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State are among the programs that annually succeed, but there’s always a group of unexpected contenders. Last season, it was Miami and Wisconsin starting 10-0 or better. Being able to predict that breakout team offers a boost to the sports-related ego, so there will be plenty of guesses about that 2018 squad. Be ready to hear all about how West Virginia or South Carolina, Virginia Tech or Michigan State can become a top-10 threat. Maybe they will! Maybe they won’t. But if everybody calls the programs an under-the-radar team, are they really?
Ranking the conferences
The same thing happens every year: Nobody cares about conference affiliation until bowl season. And once certain teams lose, their fans quickly become the biggest supporters of the league. The ACC had it’s year, the SEC is the best! No way, the Big Ten had a better record against those schools! The Big 12 doesn’t get enough respect! Sure, the discussions can be entertaining at times, and thoughtful pieces provide an overall look at the conferences instead of focusing on the best program or two. When executed poorly, though, the topic is just exhausting.
Which first-year coach has most success?
The most popular coaches at new locations include Chip Kelly (UCLA), Dan Mullen (Florida), Jimbo Fisher (Texas A&M), Scott Frost (Nebraska) and Willie Taggart (Florida State). And boy, do people want to know who’s going to win the most right away. Honestly, how much does it even matter? Early success can provide a boost on the recruiting trail, but only Florida State is considered even a small possibility to compete for a conference championship in 2018. Let’s take a step back, breathe and watch what happens for a year.
Replacements for star quarterbacks
Alabama might have a new signal-caller, but the context of the situation in Tuscaloosa is rare. Most other programs are dealing with a normal transition, and college football fans aren’t going to hear the end of it. If you don’t already know the names of the potential replacements for Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma), Josh Rosen (UCLA), Lamar Jackson (Louisville), Sam Darnold (USC) and J.T. Barrett (Ohio State), consider this your introduction to Kyler Murray, Devon Modster, Jawon Pass, Matt Fink and Dwayne Haskins. We’re confident this won’t be the final time you can read about them.
Is there a paying players “scandal” coming?
As college basketball approaches March Madness, the big story is whether the FBI investigation into bribery will affect the tournament. The simple truth is similar things are happening in college football, whether you choose to believe that or not. So, many fans are wondering if widespread rule-breaking will be brought to the surface. But it’s not worth worrying about right now. The odds are favorable it’ll happen eventually, but predicting when exactly that news will emerge is useless. Spend your energy elsewhere, even if it’s on other hyped stories.
Anything involving Lane Kiffin
After three successful years as Alabama’s offensive coordinator, Lane Kiffin earned a second chance to lead a program. Not only did he turn around Florida Atlantic within the first season, the school is now a leading choice to secure the Group of Five conference’s bid to a New Year’s Six bowl game in 2018. From a media perspective, Kiffin’s outspoken nature is a major plus. Instead of avoiding any controversial topic, he actually gives opinions. But that also leads to outlets running with any interesting comment, and we understand not everybody thinks Kiffin is as entertaining as the media does.
Which conference will be left out of 2018 playoff?
Unless the playoff expands — more on that in an over-hyped minute! — this conversation will occur every single year. In the four-year history of the tournament, the conferences on the outside have been the Big 12 (2014), Pac-12 (2015), Big Ten (2016) and both the Big Ten and Pac-12 (2017). Who’s it gonna be this year? Huh, huh? Let’s get through spring practice first. Injuries and suspensions will happen, and transfers can still affect rosters. Eventually, at least one league won’t have representation in the playoff. The commissioner will voice his displeasure, but that’s the way college football works.
Expanding the playoff to eight teams
Slow news day? Let’s talk about expanding the playoff! The content is easy, everyone has an opinion, it all works out. The answers basically fit three categories: A four-team championship event is fine, eight is ideal or even more programs should be included. And really, there are respectable cases to make for and against each option. However, it’s essential to remember the current contract doesn’t expire for another eight seasons. No matter how often talking heads float the idea of expansion, there’s little traction for the idea. The playoff is not changing.