100 Days Out: Counting down 100 things to get you ready for the 2019 college football season
Florida and Miami will kick off college football's 150th season; that plus 99 more reasons to get excited
College football media days will start in two months, and a mere 100 days from now is the official start of the 2019 college football season. That's right, I know it's going to catch some of you off guard, but two of the sport's biggest brands are kicking off the year in Week Zero when Florida and Miami meet in Orlando on Saturday, Aug. 24.The primetime neutral site kickoff event is the first of its kind in this continued expansion of the college football year into the month of August, and it's not only caused everyone adjust their calendars but moved up the release of our annual college football celebration that is the 100 Day Countdown.
To honor the milestone of being more than halfway through the offseason, we are once again back with 100 things -- names, games, teams, predictions and stories -- to get you ready for the 2019 college football season.
Five key storylines
1. Urban Meyer's lingering shadow at Ohio State ... and USC: Few coaches occupy the unique space that Meyer does in college football. Since winning two national championships at Florida, he's stepped away from coaching for a few months, returned to the Gators, resigned again, returned as Ohio State's coach, won a national championship with the Buckeyes, been suspended, returned to the field and passed the keys to the program on to Ryan Day.
Meyer, 54, says he "doesn't believe" he will return to coaching, but those statements have been delivered with a "never say never" quality. Meyer is going to hold a position at Ohio State where he will, undoubtedly, have some contact with the football program. He will also be a part of the FOX college football coverage with former USC greats Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart, with the former already indicating his plans to "recruit" Meyer should things go south for Clay Helton and the Trojans. Operating in the shadow of a legend can be challenging with fan's high expectations and shrinking patience, and Meyer will have an intangible impact on two of the sport's blue bloods this fall.
2. Jalen Hurts and Lincoln Riley: If Riley is able to guide a third transfer quarterback at Oklahoma to a Heisman Trophy, then we are going to have to start reevaluating where we place him among the best coaches in the game. Our , and some members of the panel pushed back with concerns about his limited resume. Riley has long been viewed as a skilled offensive mind and teacher of the game, but this revolving door of elite quarterbacks -- none of whom he recruited -- only works if he's also got everyone on board from a team and program perspective as well. Leading Oklahoma to a third straight Big 12 title as its coach -- and fifth straight since he arrived as offensive coordinator back in 2015 -- will be no easy feat with Tom Herman, Sam Ehlinger and Texas on the rise and ready to challenge the Sooners again for league supremacy.
3. Alabama's response after a big loss: 44-16 is just … yikes. Those scores don't fade from memory quickly, and I guarantee that it hasn't been lost on the returning stars from last year's Alabama team. Thirteen starters are back for 2019, including most of the pieces to an offense that might challenge Hurts and Oklahoma as one of the best in the country. Tua Tagovailoa was the best player in the country until he wasn't, and while some of that turn is a result of injuries and mistakes in key games down the stretch, it shouldn't be lost on anyone that he has all the tools to lead Alabama to a national championship. There's long been Alabama fatigue in college football, and last year we hit a point of Tua fatigue as well. Getting outplayed by Trevor Lawrence in the title game gave fans a new quarterback to obsess over, and Tua became somewhat old news. Speaking of …
4. Clemson fatigue: It's coming. I just want us all to be ready for it, because it's going to be a new look for the Tigers, and I am fascinated to see how coach, program, players and fans all settle in to this new reality. Clemson was a lovable underdog on the way up the mountain with everyone bringing their own guts, pizza parties in Death Valley and thrilling postseason wins against the blue bloods of college football. But what happened in San Jose, California, was not last-second heroics; it was a landscape shifting #BEATEMDOWN that proclaimed the arrival of Clemson as a modern blue blood, a true bully on the block that sits at the table with Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia and Oklahoma without feeling one bit out of place.
5. Year 2 coaches: The crop of last year's "new faces, new places" already showed some instant impact that sets up for plenty of intrigue as they enter year two with their programs. Dan Mullen already has Florida in a position to challenge Georgia for the SEC East crown, and Scott Frost led Nebraska to a strong 4-2 finish to the season after starting the year 0-6. Elsewhere, Willie Taggart is in damage control mode at Florida State after missing the postseason for the first time in decades, and Chip Kelly has some room for improvement in making UCLA a contender in the Pac-12.
Five bold predictions
6. No Power Five team will go undefeated in the regular season: We're playing the averages here with the knowledge that it's really, really, really hard to go an entire college football season at the highest level without suffering a single defeat through 12 or 13 games. Last year was an anomaly with three such teams: Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame. Prior to that there were no undefeated teams at the end of the 2017 regular season and no more than one per year all the way back to 2011 -- Auburn and Oregon, plus TCU, though the Horned Frogs back then were a member of the Mountain West. Looking at some of the early win totals from Las Vegas suggests that there's an expectation that Alabama and Clemson will, could or should run off a second-straight unbeaten regular season, and while I'm picking both teams to make the College Football Playoff, I think each takes a loss at some point in the year.
7. Auburn will win 10 games: Gus Malzahn with his back against the wall? Take the over on the win total. The secret to Auburn's success in 2019 won't be Gus' offense but rather a defense that loaded with talent and experience in the front seven. It's an odd numbered year, so the Tigers will get both Alabama and Georgia at home in November, and I've got them with a leg up on Oregon in the home opener.
8. Jim Harbaugh will get his first win vs. Ohio State: Harbaugh's winless record as a coach vs. Meyer in the rivalry is going to sting Michigan fans for a long time, but the hurt will be much deeper if this year's Wolverines group can't get one over on Ryan Day's Buckeyes when the two teams meet in Ann Arbor, Michigan, at the end of the regular season. Coaching changes have added new wrinkles to this rivalry and while there are plenty of new pieces to put in place -- particularly on the defensive end -- Michigan should be the best version of itself by the end of the year.
9. The Pac-12 will make the College Football Playoff: There are two parts to this bold prediction, the first being confidence in the program that Chris Petersen has rolling at Washington. With three straight 10-win seasons and two conference titles in that stretch, Petersen has established Washington as the class of the Pac-12, and I think an upgrade is coming on offense with Jacob Eason taking over for Jake Browning at quarterback. Washington has a favorable conference schedule with Oregon, Utah, USC and rival Washington State all coming to Seattle and I think the Huskies can win the league at 12-1 or 13-0.
The second part of the prediction is a hunch that the Big Ten is going to beat itself up during the regular season. There is too much parity and not enough separation in that league right now to think that any one team emerges with one less or less, so I'll say that fourth spot -- the one that went to Notre Dame in 2018 -- goes to the Pac-12 champ.
10. Rondale Moore (probably) won't win the Heisman Trophy, but he should have a case: Since 2000, all but three of the Heisman winners have been quarterbacks. And all three of those non-quarterbacks have been running backs playing for national championship-contending blue blood programs -- Mark Ingram and Derrick Henry at Alabama, Reggie Bush* at USC. The blueprint for winning the trophy in the modern era doesn't include an easy path for a wide receiver from Purdue, but I expect Moore to be the most electric player in the sport in 2019.
New faces, new places
Just a reminder of some of the changes we had in the past spin of the coaching carousel. Eleven of the 65 Power Five programs will have new faces, ranging from coaches on the rise like Geoff Collins (Georgia Tech), Scott Satterfield (Louisville), Matt Wells (Texas Tech) and Neal Brown (West Virginia) to former national championship-winning coaches Les Miles (Kansas) and Mack Brown (North Carolina).
Longtime defensive assistant Mel Tucker will have a shot at building his own program in the Pac-12 after a couple successful years with Kirby Smart at Georgia/ Chris Klieman brings his own national title experience to Kansas State. Manny Diaz is working to make #TNM -- "The New Miami" -- a thing that can turn around the fortunes of the Hurricanes.
Oh yeah, and Hugh Freeze is back. So there's that.
11. Akron: Tom Arth
12. Appalachian State: Eli Drinkwitz
13. Bowling Green: Scott Loeffler
14. Central Michigan: Jim McElwain
15. Charlotte: Will Healy
16. Colorado: Mel Tucker
17. ECU: Mike Houston
18. Georgia Tech: Geoff Collins
19. Houston: Dana Holgrosen
20. Kansas: Les Miles
21. Kansas State: Chris Klieman
22. Liberty: Hugh Freeze
23. Louisville: Scott Satterfield
24. Maryland: Mike Locksley
25. Miami: Manny Diaz
26. Northern Illinois: Thomas Hammock
27. North Carolina: Mack Brown
28. Ohio State: Ryan Day
29. Temple: Rod Carey
30. Texas State: Jake Spavital
31. Texas Tech: Matt Wells
32. Troy: Chip Lindsey
33. UMass: Walt Bell
34. Utah State: Gary Andersen
35. West Virginia: Neal Brown
36. Western Kentucky: Tyson Helton
Every year the list is going to be limited when it comes to teams with the right combination of coaching, personnel and schedule to not just make the College Football Playoff but win a national championship. Playoff teams might sneak up from off the radar, but rarely do we see the eventual champ as any kind of underdog.
While the Ohio State team in 2014 did rally back from an early season loss to Virginia Tech, it was still a team that started the year No. 5 in the country, had Urban Meyer as its coach and a roster that would go on to produce handfuls of NFL players, including Ezekiel Elliott and Joey Bosa. So with all that in mind, here's what the top tier looks like in college football (title odds via Westgate).
37. Clemson (2/1)
38. Alabama (5/2)
39. Georgia (7/1)
40. Ohio State (12/1)
41. Oklahoma (14/1)
42. Michigan (14/1)
43. Texas (25/1)
The second tier
This is what I've come to define as the "Auburn Group," a hat tip to Tigers teams that start just outside the conversation and finish the year with a shot at a national title. The 2010 Auburn team started the season outside the top-20 and the 2013 Auburn team was unranked at the beginning of the year. Naturally, Auburn is included in the Auburn group this year, but so are two other SEC title hopefuls and the most likely playoff picks from the Pac-12.
44. Florida (40/1)
45. LSU (20/1)
46. Notre Dame (40/1)
47. Oregon (40/1)
48. Washington (40/1)
49. Auburn (20/1)
Heisman Trophy candidates and sleepers
Clemson fatigue will be put the test first with Lawrence's Heisman candidacy. It will be a tangible piece of data to use at the end of a season where I'm certain Lawrence and his flowing locks will be all over every possible piece of college football promotion. He starts the year as the Heisman favorite and takes over the position that was held last year by Tagovailoa as the hero from the prior year's title game. That puts Tagovailoa and Hurts in an interesting position with just as many on-field reasons to think they can win the award and maybe an intangible advantage in not being over-exposed the way I expect Lawrence might be in the fall.
Elsewhere, you have players that could win the award thanks to overwhelming production -- Adrian Martinez, Jonathan Taylor, Justin Fields and Justin Herbert come to mind -- or as the leader of a blue blood program in the mix for the CFP, which would be Jake Fromm/D'Andre Swift, Sam Ehlinger or Shea Patterson. The path to winning the Heisman usually requires a balance of both winning and production, and it's going to be tough to imagine anyone playing keep up with combination of both from the top three quarterbacks on the board.
50. Trevor Lawrence, Clemson quarterback
51. Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama quarterback
52. Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma quarterback
53. Adrian Martinez, Nebraska quarterback
54. D'Andre Swift, Georgia running back
55. Jake Fromm, Georgia quarterback
56. Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin running back
57. Justin Fields, Ohio State quarterback
58. Ian Book, Notre Dame quarterback
59. Justin Herbert, Oregon quarterback
60. Sam Ehlinger, Texas quarterback
61. JT Daniels, USC quarterback
62. Shea Patterson, Michigan quarterback
63. Rondale Moore, Purdue wide receiver / specialist
These guys aren't going to win the Heisman, but they are going to be among the best players in college football this year and therefore deserve some shine while we're giving it out here 100 days from the start of the season.
64. Essang Bassey, Wake Forest defensive back: While listed at just 5-10 and 190 pounds, Bassey has been one of the best pass defenders in the ACC for the last two seasons. His senior year will give him a chance to take down some school records and add his name to the growing list of Dave Clawson products in the NFL.
65. Kelly Bryant, Missouri quarterback: He's baaaack! Bryant's split with Clemson looked much more amicable when a handful of former Tigers teammates showed up to see him in the spring with his new set of Tigers teammates. Bryant won an ACC title as a starter and can be a dangerous offensive weapon for Derek Dooley this fall.
66. Grant Delpit, LSU defensive back: Every September, we start to learn a few new names for college football's ring of stars based exclusively on playmaking ability. It's these defensive players who pop, flash and always seem to be near the action that get me scrambling for the depth chart and win my affection. Delpit was that dude in 2018, and there's no signs of him slowing down as the new leader of DBU.
67. AJ Dillon, Boston College running back: After breaking out on the scene and earning ACC Rookie of the Year honors, Dillon quickly became one of the most feared backs in the conference. With a few more years of experience under his belt, the physical back with dangerous breakaway speed has refocused his efforts on elevating his game and helping Boston College take a leap in 2019.
68. JK Dobbins, Ohio State running back: As the Buckeyes leaned more on Dwayne Haskins in 2018, it was Dobbins who saw less work following a breakout freshman season. What Ohio State will look like in 2019 with Day as the new coach and no Meyer around is yet to be determined, but Dobbins' explosiveness and balance as a runner has not changed.
69. Travis Etienne, Clemson running back: A strong downhill runner with impressive breakaway speed, Etienne was the motor behind Clemson's national championship push in the regular season. He claimed ACC Player of the Year honors and while he might see less work as Lawrence continues to grow and improve, that does nothing to his stock in the minds of NFL execs.
70. Kristian Fulton: LSU running back: After waiting two years in NCAA eligibility limbo, Fulton's patience paid off with a tremendous performance in 2018. With Greedy Williams gone, he's the new top corner for the Tigers and with five-star Derek Stingley already enrolled, it looks like LSU will have yet another argument for the top secondary in the country.
71. CJ Henderson, Florida defensive back: One of the best defensive backs in the SEC has all the athleticism and playmaking ability in the world, and the scary thing is he's still improving. Henderson is a future pro and will be a big part of helping Todd Grantham's defense deliver the game-changing plays it needs to win the division. Look out for him and Marco Wilson as a tremendous one-two punch at cornerback for the Gators.
72. Bryce Hall, Virginia defensive back: Speedy corner who led the nation in pass breakups and passes defended, Hall has pro potential and has been a key part of Bronco Mendenhall's turnaround in Charlottesville. The Wahoos are going to have one of the ACC's most stout defenses in 2019, and Hall's play on the outside is a big reason why.
73. Tee Higgins, Clemson wide receiver: There's going to be fireworks every time that Clemson's offense takes the field, thanks to the dynamic duo of Higgins and Justyn Ross. Both players present size and speed issues for opponents, and it seems certain that few secondaries will have good answers for how to keep them both contained.
74. Jerry Jeudy, Alabama wide receiver: The 2018 Biletnikoff Award winner might not see as many catches or yards in 2019, but there is no chance he's going to lose his status as the best receiver in the game.
75. Collin Johnson, Texas wide receiver: Hopes for Texas' Big 12 title contention in 2019 were boosted when Johnson announced his intentions to return to Austin for another year. The 6-foot-6, 220-pound wideout caught 68 passes for 985 yards and 7 touchdowns this season and has been a matchup nightmare for his entire career.
76. Dylan Moses, Alabama linebacker: The future plans for Moses have always included the NFL. He's been a pro talent since high school and has only improved his game during these last two years. As the NFL game continues to embrace spread offense, Moses will become archetype for what teams want in a linebacker.
77. Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri tight end: The next game-changing tight end that will have NFL scouts drooling, Okwuegbunam is going to be a key part of the Tigers offense as Bryant's most capable pass catcher.
78. Justyn Ross, Clemson wide receiver: The display we saw from Ross in the College Football Playoff last year was a freshman that made "the leap" after the conclusion of the regular season. His ball skills are exquisite and Ross is still learning how to fine-tune the rest of his game under the guidance of Jeff Scott. Lawrence is an elite quarterback talent, but Ross and Higgins are going to help make him look good.
79. Laviska Shenault, Colorado wide receiver: This was the season that Shenault went from being one of the most underrated players in college football to the most valuable player on his team. Colorado's offense lost its way when Shenault was not on the field, and Mel Tucker won't need any offensive wizards to advise him to get the ball to the 6-foot-2 playmaker from DeSoto, Texas.
80. Caden Sterns, Texas defensive back: An instant impact player, Sterns became the first true freshman defensive back at Texas to start the first 13 games of his career in more than a decade. He went on to earn first team All-Big 12 honors and be named Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year.
81. Andrew Thomas, Georgia offensive lineman: This will be the third full season of work for Thomas, who almost certainly will have professional options at the conclusion of his junior year. The 6-foot-5, 320-pound lineman started 13 games at left tackle for the Bulldogs and will once again be the anchor of that group protecting Fromm.
82. Jay Tufele, USC defensive lineman: If Helton is going to remain the USC coach and the Trojans are going to win the Pac-12 South, they need defensive playmakers. Tufele has shown flashes of his high ceiling already, and he's the most likely candidate on that defensive line to emerge as a star.
83. Ke'Shawn Vaughn, Vanderbilt running back: The Nashville native broke out in 2018 as one of the most explosive running backs in the SEC. He averaged 7.9 yards per rush and more than 100 yards per game in his first year of action since transferring from Illinois and sitting out in 2017.
84. Chase Young, Ohio State defensive end: We started to see flashes of Young's otherworldly playmaking ability in 2018 after Nick Bosa went down with a season-ending injury. With some turnover on the defensive line, it's to be expected that he's going to become the new star of that group.
The games we can't wait to see
Mark your calendar now. These are the 15 games you absolutely will not want to miss.
85. Aug. 24 -- Florida vs. Miami (Orlando, Florida)
86. Aug. 31 -- Auburn vs. Oregon (Arlington, Texas)
87. Aug. 31 -- Houston at Oklahoma
88. Sept. 7 -- Texas A&M at Clemson
89. Sept. 7 -- LSU at Texas
90. Sept. 16 -- Clemson at Syracuse
91. Sept. 21 -- Notre Dame at Georgia
92. Oct. 5 -- Auburn at Florida
93. Oct. 12 -- Oklahoma vs. Texas
94. Oct. 19 -- Michigan at Penn State
95. Oct. 26 -- Notre Dame at Michigan
96. Nov. 2 -- Georgia vs. Florida (Jacksonville, Florida)
97. Nov. 9 -- LSU at Alabama
98. Nov. 23 -- Penn State at Ohio State
99. Nov. 30 -- Alabama at Auburn
100. Nov. 30 -- Ohio State at Michigan
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