2019 CFB Season Headlines
(Athens, OH)… It seems nowadays in modern sports the only thing a person sees are the dynasties that dominate them. However, in the world of college football, the Clemson Tigers have appeared to open up what seems to be more than just a dent in the armor of Nick Saban’s power house program at Alabama.
After Clemson’s 44-16 defeat against Alabama, in which the great Saban looked to be out-coached throughout every aspect of the game, the Clemson tigers weren’t the only teams who felt ambitious for next year’s season. With teams such as Ohio State, Georgia, and Florida returning a bulk of their starters, things could get pretty interesting when it comes to picking the final four. Overall, here are the top five headlines each top five team has to address before the season’s over if they wish to punch their tickets to the CFP.
#1. Clemson Tigers
2018 Record: 15-0, 8-0 ACC
Headline: TREVOR LAWRENCE NOT DESHAUN WATSON
First of all, let me pay respects and say congratulations to the national champions. Secondly, lets slow down the hype train a little bit on Clemson’s Freshman QB Trevor Lawrence before we get WAY ahead of ourselves. Lawrence had a great year as he beat Kelly Bryant for the starting job and proceeded to throw 30 touchdowns to just four interceptions along with over 3,000 yards passing. If audiences take just one look at the national championship game against Alabama, anyone with eyes can agree the kid is a great talent who had a phenomenal game and looked like the second coming of his fellow high school and college idol Deshaun Watson. Unfortunately, I don’t believe Lawrence is at Watson’s level yet. Not saying he can’t get there, but AS OF NOW, Lawrence is not Deshaun Watson. Watson in his first full year as a starter had more passing yards and more passing touchdowns. Also, the running game of Watson separates the two quarterbacks even more as Watson ran for 1,105 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns compared to Lawrence’s 177 rushing yards and one lone touchdown.
The advantage Lawrence has over Watson is the number of turnovers he causes. Last year Lawrence threw only four interceptions (less than Tua Tagovailoa and Kyler Murray) which should continue to be a huge part of his game going forward. With a defense that’s losing almost all of its defensive line to the NFL and also a couple of key offensive pieces including senior receiver Hunter Renfrow, it will be crucial for Clemson and Lawrence to dominate the time of possession and secure the football at all times, especially when it comes to the games played in late November and December. If Clemson wishes to pull off the “impossible” and repeat as national champions, Lawrence is going to have to continue to evolve his game and keep on improving. If he does, not only could the surfer-dude quarterback find himself in next year’s national championship down in New Orleans, but may very well also find himself in New York for the Heisman.
#2. Alabama Crimson Tide
2018 Record: 14-1, 8-0 SEC
Headline: KEEP TUA HEALTHY
Alright, let’s address the elephant in the room; Monday night was ugly. After the Crimson Tide fell to the Clemson Tigers 44-16, there seemed to be a bunch of holes to open up on how to play against Alabama. Although this off season will be tougher than normal for Alabama fans, believe me when I say NOT ALL HOPE IS LOST. After taking a break and letting the smoke clear, it’s still easy to see that the Crimson Tide will be in contention for a national title once again. While Alabama is losing star defensive players such as defensive tackle Quinnen Williams and All-American safety Deionte Thomson along with play-making running back Josh Jacobs, Alabama also holds onto a couple of key pieces as well. Next year the Tide bring back all of their wide receivers, most of their offensive line, and were able to convince safety Xavier Mckinney to stay another year.
While all is great in returning such key players, Alabama’s success once again is going to boil down to star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. However, the team’s success may not be determined by Tagovailoa’s play more so rather than his health. Despite having a great year in which the sophomore quarterback threw 43 touchdowns to just six interceptions, it always seemed the quarterback was constantly affected throughout the year with nagging injuries that would affect his overall ability to make plays. From the very first game against Louisville all the way to the SEC championship game against Georgia (in which some experts claim Tagovailoa’s ankle injury cost him the Heisman Trophy) it seemed Tua was never 100 percent. Add alongside the news of backup quarterback Jalen Hurts announcing his transfer to Oklahoma for next season, and Tua’s health becomes even more of a priority for Nick Saban’s squad. If Alabama wants to return the favor next year against Clemson and win it all, Tagovailoa is going to have to be 100 percent mentally and physically come game time.
2018 Record: 11-3, 7-1 SEC
Headline; JAKE FROMM FOR HEISMAN
If the Georgia Bulldogs want to get back into the playoff, this year is going to have to be Jake Fromm’s coming out party. Ever since hitting the national spotlight his freshmen year, Fromm has been a steady but overall good college football quarterback with some NFL potential. However, in the first half of the 2017 National Championship against Alabama, Fromm looked amazing as the Bulldogs were able to build a 13-0 first half lead. In the second half of that game though, Fromm and the Bulldogs became tight and couldn’t stop the Crimson Tide’s momentum as the Bulldogs fell 26-23 in overtime. Since that first half, Jake Fromm has always played consistently well in the majority of his games. BUT, every year it seems Georgia is in line to take that next step but end up blowing an opportunity by losing in the regular season, putting themselves in a major hole every year when it’s time for the playoff committee to make their picks.
If Georgia wants to reach that next step and finally bring back its first national championship trophy since 1980, Jake Fromm is going to have to be a Heisman Trophy finalist. Not only does Fromm possibly have one of (if not the) best offensive line in football with four returning starters, but he also doesn’t have the overlooking pressure of Justin Field’s behind his back as well. This year the quarterback job is going to be solely Fromm’s. I do warn that most of the blame will fall on him too if the Bulldogs can’t take that next step and come up short from missing the playoff yet again. Word of advice to Fromm and Georgia fans; remember, with great power comes great responsibility.
#4. Ohio State
2018 Record: 13-1, 8-1 Big Ten
Headline: FIELDS DROPOFF FROM HASKINS
I understand Justin Fields is an exciting young quarterback prospect, but if you’re telling me right now that you would take Fields over ex-quarterback Dwayne Haskins, you’re lying to yourself. Fields looks like he can bring a style of play similar to that of ex-Buckeye J.T Barrett as Fields is able to make plays both with his arm as well as his legs. However, Haskins’ play this past season was something special to watch and frankly put the quarterback on another level. In his first full year as a starter, Haskins broke the Big Ten records for total touchdowns and total yards and also came in third in the Heisman voting. If Ohio State fans expect Fields to produce that same level of production, then they have another thing coming for them.
Here’s the key difference with next year’s Ohio State team; I don’t think Fields needs to be Haskins in order to be a playoff team. Ohio State next year returns a couple of explosive offensive weapons in wide receiver K.J Hill and running back J.K Dobbins and keeps most of their offensive line intact. The key part to next year’s Ohio State’s team is they return 10 defensive starters. That’s crucial for an Ohio State team who in 2018 ranked 72nd in total defense (56th against the run, 86th against the pass) and gave up 51 points to a five-win Maryland team. Key players such as defensive end Chase Young and safety Jordan Fuller are expected to have breakout years and I wouldn’t bet against those odds. Ohio State has a real possibility of clinching next year’s Big Ten title and a spot in the final four. The drop-off between Haskins to Fields could be the final determining factor in the end as to how far the Buckeyes go.
#5. Texas Longhorns
2018: 10-4, 7-2 in Big 12
Headline: SERIOUSLY, TEXAS IS BACK
College football fans can finally rejoice after seeing the Texas Longhorns get back on track and finish on an impressive note defeating Georgia 28-21 in the Sugar Bowl. Don’t be surprised if Tom Herman and the Longhorns take the momentum of that win right into next year. First of all, Texas has a couple of key things going for them. Number one, Kyler Murray next year will either be playing in the NFL or MLB. Oklahoma does soften the blow of Murray leaving by securing Alabama transfer Jalen Hurts, but still; Jalen Hurts is NOT Kyler Murray. Murray was the sole reason for beating Texas in the Big 12 Championship and punching Oklahoma’s ticket to the playoff. Without having to go against Murray and other top-rated quarterbacks such as West Virginia’s Will Grier, while also keeping the services of star quarterback Sam Ehlinger, Texas gains the advantage in the quarterback department. Texas also returns a number of key offensive players as both standout wide receiver Collin Johnson and running back Tre Watson return to boost the offense.
The problem with Texas is the defense. The Longhorns are losing almost half their starters on defense which is never good in a conference with as much offensive fireworks as the Big 12. Although Texas’ defense could be an issue for them throughout the season, the silver lining here is that almost EVERY defense in the Big 12 struggled last year. Whether it’s Oklahoma’s horrendous pass defense (129th out of 130 teams) or Iowa State (33rd in total defense), Texas balance of defensive talent with their high-scoring offense will win the Longhorns a lot of games. If Texas is able to keep that same offensive production and strengthen their defense, the Longhorns could be next season’s dark horse when it comes to winning it all.