Friday Five: College football teams I'm most intrigued in watching during Week 1
It's time to watch and learn what the future might hold for some prominent programs
Everybody is excited for the start of a new college football season, but if I've heard one common complaint in recent days, it's about the lack of marquee games on opening weekend. It's a justifiable complaint, too. We've all been somewhat spoiled the last few years with a lot of huge matchups on opening weekend, some of which were pitting top 10 teams against one another right out the gate. The only game between ranked teams this weekend is No. 11 Oregon and No. 16 Auburn.
Maybe it's just my optimistic outview on life, but I'm pleased by this development. Don't get me wrong, I love big games between big teams, but the first week of the season can be something of a crapshoot. I'd rather see those games played when the teams have settled in and have a few reps under their belt.
Which is why, even if that's the only "big game," I can still find a lot of other things to follow this weekend that interest me. And, in a way, the lack of spotlight games elsewhere will allow me to pay closer attention to some teams I might not have had a chance to otherwise. So, for this week's Friday Five, I'm ranking the five teams I'm most interested in watching this opening weekend. We'll start in Columbus.
5. Ohio State: I waffled between putting the No. 5 Buckeyes and No. 7 Michigan here, but as has happened so often of late, Ohio State won the battle. I'm interested in Michigan to see how the new offense looks with Josh Gattis, and I'm interested in Ohio State to see how the team looks now that Ryan Day is the head coach and not just an interim. I also want to see how Justin Fields looks in what will be his first chance to live up to the hype surrounding him out of high school.
Don't forget, Fields was in the same class as Clemson's Trevor Lawrence, and there were plenty of talent evaluators higher on Fields. So the potential is there. I can't rank Ohio State higher than fifth, though, because its a four-touchdown favorite at home against FAU on Saturday. It will be hard to learn too much about this team in what should be an easy win. That said, if it isn't, we might learn a lot more than we expected!
4. Oregon: It's probably fair to say that, compared to the general consensus on this No. 11 Oregon team amongst other national pundits, I'm on the lower end of the spectrum when it comes to how good I think it will be. As I wrote in The Six Pack this week, I believe Auburn.
But I could be wrong. I know, it's a shocking revelation, but it has happened before. So I would like to tune into this game with a blank slate, watch the Ducks against a good opponent in Auburn, and see if I'm underestimating this team or not.
3. Oklahoma: Not only do I have No. 4 Oklahoma winning the Big 12 again and returning to the College Football Playoff, but in our preseason predictions, I also have the Sooners beating Alabama in a semifinal and reaching the title game. So, you know, I'm high on Oklahoma this season. That said, I'm going to be keeping a close eye on them this weekend because there's an area of this team I believe people are overlooking.
Jalen Hurts is getting a lot of attention, and he should be. He's Jalen Hurts, and he's starting for the program that's won the last two Heisman Trophies. Then there's the defense, which was this team's Achilles heel last season. But what I'm interested in watching on Sunday night is the Sooners offensive line. It was a significant part of the offense's success over the previous two years. It was one of the best in the country, if not the best. There's a reason four of its five members were taken in the NFL Draft this past spring, but that could be a problem for Oklahoma in 2019. Outside of the QB, there's no position harder to replace than a good OL, and it takes time for the unit to get comfortable and find a groove. It could lead to some hiccups in the opener against Houston, and let's not forget, that game against Texas is early in the season.
2. Florida State: Speaking of offensive lines, I believe Florida State went through roughly 45 of them last season. Not only did it feel as if the Seminoles were starting a new line every week, but at times it changed from quarter to quarter, both due to performance and injury. Surely things can't be as bad this year, right? Willie Taggart's already on the hot seat with some Florida State fans after only a season, but it will be amazing how much better of a coach Taggart suddenly becomes if Florida State's offensive line starts to block people.
An opener against Boise State will provide a good test for that offensive line, and might provide some insights into what kind of steps forward the unit will make in 2019 if any. Of course, at the same time, it's hard to know how much we should take away from this game considering it's already been moved from Jacksonville to Tallahassee due to Hurricane Dorian. I'm guessing a lot of the players on the field could have other things on their mind than the game.
1. USC: I swear I'm not just putting USC here because the Trojans . It's mostly because I wonder if the world at large is not just a little too happy about the idea of burying this team. Clay Helton is on the hot seat, and he's on the hot seat for good reason. You aren't supposed to go 5-7 at USC. That said, Helton's teams went 21-6 from 2016 to 2017. So he has proven he can win there.
The question is can he do it without Sam Darnold, and the answer last season was no. Now he enters the 2019 season on the hot seat with everybody already replacing him with Urban Meyer. He also enters the 2019 season with an extremely talented roster, as well as a talented QB in J.T. Daniels with a year of experience under his belt. Can he turn that talent into tangible results? He better not take too long to find out, and on Saturday night he'll get a good test in Fresno State.
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