The games have yet to kick, but the competitions have already begun. Battles are being waged and scraps are taking place for depth chart superiority all around college football. At this point last year, Mississippi State's Nick Fitzgerald was just battling for playing time, Sam Darnold was running with the twos at USC and Kamryn Pettway was still trying to prove he was more than just a fullback at Auburn.
With that in mind, we bring you the 10 most important and compelling preseason position battles that are still being waged in college football. The fate of these competitions could tilt the seasons of college football's highest-profile teams.
1. Florida quarterback
Favorite: Malik Zaire | Contenders: Feleipe Franks, Luke Del Rio
Why you should care: I didn't expect to include Florida's quarterback battle on this list because, heading into fall camp, all indications were that this was Zaire's job to lose. The only problem is that Zaire may actually be losing it -- or at least someone else may be winning it. Franks "won" the job in the spring before Zaire enrolled, and both he and Del Rio have been getting plenty of work with the ones. I'm told Del Rio had the best showing among the quarterbacks in Florida's most recent scrimmage. If Florida does roll with Del Rio again, what does that say about the rest of its quarterback room? What does it say about the upside of this offense?
2. Miami quarterback
Favorite: Malik Rosier | Contenders: N'Kosi Perry, Evan Shirreffs
Why you should care: Miami could be favored in as many as 11 games this fall depending what happens at the quarterback position. A young, talented defense, plenty of skill on offense and a favorable schedule means Miami is a quarterback away from contending for an ACC title. Miami would love for freshman Perry to win the job because he's the future and clearly the most talented, but letting the less talented yet more experienced Rosier warm up the seat for him may be the more likely play.
3. Florida's fourth defensive back
Favorite: Jaewon Taylor | Contenders: Marco Wilson, Joseph Putu, Christopher Henderson, Brian Edwards
Why you should care: Florida just lost three defensive backs to the NFL Draft that were at least candidates to go in the first round and another to a torn Achilles just days before fall camp began. That secondary helped Florida lead the SEC in interceptions last fall with 16. Duke Dawson, Chauncey Gardner and Nick Washington are talented and have enough experience to keep the DBU fires burning, and all three are expected to start. It's that fourth and final piece following the injury of starting safety Marcell Harris that has the Gators hunting. Gardner looks likely to move down to corner if Taylor can win the safety job. If not, Wilson, Putu, Henderson and Edwards will battle it out for that fourth spot while Wilson at least looks like he's won the nickel job.
4. Louisville offensive guard
Favorite: Kenny Thomas | Contender: Cole Bentley
Why you should care: Louisville's offensive line gave up 47 sacks last year. The Cardinals had the best player in college football and nobody that could block for him. That has to get fixed this preseason if Louisville wants to be a legitimate contender. There are lots of moving pieces in the Louisville offensive line, but this is one of the crucial battles. While Louisville has plenty of size, Bentley, a true freshman, may be the athlete that this offensive line has been lacking.
5. Oregon cornerbacks
Favorites: Arrion Springs, Thomas Graham | Contenders: Ugo Amadi, Deommodore Lenoir
Why you should care: Willie Taggart is going to get keep Oregon humming on offense, but the defense needs an overhaul. Fortunately for new defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt, the Ducks brought in two of the best corners in the class of 2017 in Graham and Lenoir. Those two have brought some competition to a cornerback position that has been toasty in Eugene of late. Expect Graham to win a job, Springs to finally show some life and Oregon's defense to be improved.
6. Texas running back
Favorite: Chris Warren III | Contender: Kyle Porter
Why you should care: New Texas coach Tom Herman didn't have a 1,000-yard rusher at running back in either of this two seasons at Houston. He did have a dynamic athletic quarterback, though, in Greg Ward Jr. That's not what he inherits at Texas in Shane Buechele. Texas just said goodbye to a Doak Walker Award winner, All-American and 2,000-yard rusher in D'Onta Foreman. Warren and Porter are battling to replace that production but neither has had much luck staying healthy. True freshman Daniel Young could emerge as a factor, but Texas needs one of the veterans to be the focal point of the run game.
7. LSU safety
Favorite: Ed Paris | Contender: Grant Delpit
Why you should care: One of the modern-day constants in college football is talent in the LSU secondary. Corey Raymond's unit is always dripping with talent, and this year's battle is so much more intriguing because a true freshman enters attempting to beat out some of that talent. Paris, a former top 100 recruit, has waited his turn to for a starting job, but as he heads into his senior season, true freshman Delpit is looking too good to keep on the bench. Despite Paris being the favorite to start, Delpit looks like the next great defensive back for the Tigers, and you've got to let that kind of guy eat.
8. Arizona State quarterback
Favorite: Manny Wilkins | Contender: Blake Barnett
Why you should care: A big, athletic, strong-armed quarterback transferred in to Arizona State this fall with plans on taking Wilkins' starting job. That quarterback is former five-star, former Elite 11 MVP, former Alabama starter Blake Barnett. He's also a current backup. Wilkins is holding off the big-name transfer for now, but in a critical year for Todd Graham at Arizona State as he welcomes his third offensive coordinator in as many seasons, the winner of this position battle could go a long way toward determining Graham's fate after consecutive losing seasons.
9. Michigan cornerback
Favorites: David Long, LaVert Hill | Contenders: Keith Washington, Ambry Thomas, Brandon Watson
Why you should care: The Wolverines lose two of the best cover corners in college football from last year's team in Channing Stribling and Jourdan Lewis. While the whole defense will be inexperienced, mistakes at corner lead to touchdowns not just first downs. Long, a former top 100 second-year corner, seems to have secured the first spot, and Michigan coaches would love to see Hill lock up the other side. Unfortunately for him, he's getting pushed by Washington, Thomas and Watson.
10. Mississippi State safety
Favorite: Brandon Bryant | Contender: Jonathan Abram
Why you should care: If Mississippi State is going to blossom into a dark horse SEC West contender, it will need some junior college talent to step in and play major roles. A great example of that is at safety where Jonathan Abram is giving returning starter Brandon Bryant all he can handle for the starting job. Bryant is one of the most athletic defensive backs in college football, so if he loses out to Abram, that could be a good sign for a defense that would be upgrading at an already strong position.
11. Wisconsin running back
Favorite: Chris James | Contender: Bradrick Shaw
Why you should care: Wisconsin is a College Football Playoff contender. Playing in the manageable Big Ten East, Wisconsin may be favored in every game it plays this fall with the possible exception of a home game against Michigan. Win those games, and it's a Big Ten Championship away from the biggest stage. But to win those games, the Badgers need someone to step in at running back. In 21 of the last 24 seasons, Wisconsin has had a 1,000 yard rusher. For now, it's just looking for a starter. Shaw left the spring as the favorite, but James, a Pitt transfer, has been emerging this fall.