The time is finally upon us, the start college football season is just a week away. California and Hawaii will travel to Australia, on August 26 for the first game of 2016. Sept 3 however, is the first important day to eventually decide what teams will be in the college football playoff.
Southern California vs the defending national champions Alabama, is the game getting the most attention for obvious reasons. USC and Alabama are two of the most popular college football teams of all time, but their game in Arlington is of little consequence. The outcome this game will have more impact on the perception of Alabama, than the outlook of the Trojans season.
Alabama’s offense has a lot of unanswered questions, the biggest question is who will be the quarterback. Freshman Jalen Hurts, has been impressing at practice according to reports, but they still haven’t named a starter. Tight end OJ Howard, receiver Calvin Ridley, lead a crew of some of the best offensive skill players in the country. Alabama will again have the best offensive line in the nation, and still no news on who the starting quarterback will be.
No news is not exactly good news for Alabama. Whoever is the starter will be playing on national television, at a neutral site, where defensive Adoree’ Jackson and the USC defense will be waiting on him. Not a good look for the champs.
Alabama is also looking to replace running back Heisman trophy winner Derrick Henry. Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin has spent the summer trash talking the SEC on twitter, but he doesn’t have Henry to turn to when the offense struggles. He has Bo Scarbrough and Damien Harris, and I think Harris is pretty good. Harris avoids contact, and versatile. He has really limited experience, and is not very fast or strong.
Scarbrough is big (6’2, 230 lbs), fast and over-hyped. Now I think he will have solid statistics behind a good offensive line, lead by Cam Robinson. However, his running style is what should worry Bama fans. He runs straight ahead, right at defenders, never looking for a running lane or to make someone miss. Hopefully, for his own health at least, he has made some improvement to become a more patience and elusive runner. Those flaws in his game could derail Alabama’s season.
Now you may be thinking, that this is great news for USC. It’s not. USC will gain nothing from this game.
For starters, if Alabama cant win this game, it won’t be there only loss if the season. The more Alabama loses, the more it hurt USC’s chances to get selected to the college football playoff.
Additionally, the PAC 12 is probably the best conference in the country this year. Last year, the conference had 10 teams play in a bowl game. A competitive conference would make it hard for any team in the PAC 12, not just USC, to finish the year undefeated or with a one loss record. Which means no PAC 12 team in the College Football Playoff.
So really Alabama vs USC isn’t exactly a game to get excited about in the grand scheme. However, there is a huge game, that could have a huge impact on the College Football Playoff. Oklahoma vs Houston, features two teams, two Heisman trophy candidates, and a potential Cinderella story.
Last year, Houston ended the year with a 13-1 record and a win over Florida State in the Peach bowl. If Houston could prevail over Oklahoma, the remaining games on their schedule are relatively easy. Meaning the Cougars be a virtual lock for the College Football Playoff, and star quarterback Greg Ward Jr would be in the driver seat for the Heisman trophy.
Oklahoma would be in contention for the playoffs even with a loss, and quarterback Baker Mayfield would still be a viable Heisman candidate. The Sooners have a few things working in their favor. First the Big 12 will not be very competitive in 2016. Baylor lost coach Art Briles, key players, its dignity, all in one off-season. TCU and Oklahoma State are not as good as they were last year, and the rest of the Big 12 inconsequential. Second, the Sooners have an opportunity to make up for that potential loss, when Ohio State travels to Norman on Sept 17.
Now I have to slow down and admit that if Houston were to lose, this game would have no ramifications on the landscape of college football. If Houston does lose, than all of their national hopes for this season is over after week one. Oklahoma is the favorite but I’m a fan of chaos so I need Houston to pull the upset.
There is one more game you should know about, and I’m really dying to see. It’s a Toilet Bowl game between Kansas and Rhode Island. These two teams were a combined 1- 22 last season, the lone win coming from Rhode Island. These are two of the worst teams in all of college football, and it should be fun to find out who’s the worst.
Alabama 20-USC 14
Oklahoma 26- Houston 28
Kansas 40– Rhode Island 35