2015 College Football Season Preview: What You Need to Know
Tailgate grills are firing up, students are getting all decked out in the best gear and the players and coaches are itching to get back on the field. It's the time of year when the leaves begin to change and the air begins to cool; it's college football season. The FBS season officially starts today, and we here at SQ are beyond pumped for what 2015 will bring. So we've created this roundtable preview to give you the rundown on what to expect this season.
Which QB should start for Ohio State?
Ray Boone: J.T. Barrett
Geoff Hammersley: J.T. Barrett. He was named team captain last week.
Erik Weiss: As good as J.T. Barrett is, when your first three career starts result in a Big Ten Championship, a Sugar Bowl victory and a National Championship, you deserve to be the starter.
Sean Berger: J.T. Barrett should get the nod in week one. He deserves it after leading the team all the way to the Big Ten title game. I understand what Cardale Jones did in the three games he played was nothing short of spectacular, but Barrett should at least get to start the first week.
Is moving Braxton Miller to WR from QB a good move for Ohio State?
Ray: Yes. He was considered a Heisman candidate a few years ago.
Geoff: Yes. Braxton's speed is something straight out of a cartoon. Give him an inch of space, and he's gone.
Erik: It's a good move for both parties, actually. Let's be real here, Braxton is the worst of the three quarterbacks position-wise, but he is clearly the best athlete. It would do both him, and the team, no good to keep him as a backup QB.
Sean: This is definitely a great move for the Buckeyes. If Urban Meyer isn't going to start Miller at QB, he might as well use his explosive athletic ability somewhere else on the field. Miller could definitely be the secret weapon on Meyer's offense this season.
Which coach is in most danger of losing his job heading into the season?
Ray: Al Golden, Miami
Geoff: Art Briles, Baylor
Erik: Al Golden, Miami
Sean: Al Golden, Miami
Well it looks as though Al Golden's seat is really starting to heat up down at the "U," and while Art Briles has seen a string of success on the field, the recent mess with Sam Ukwuachu has landed him in some hot water.
Which player has the best shot to win the Heisman?
Ray: J.T. Barrett, QB Ohio State
Geoff: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
Erik: Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU
Sean: Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU
Both J.T. Barrett and Ezekiel Elliott are solid choices here; Barrett had a phenomenal freshman season (2,834 passing yards, 34 touchdowns), while Elliott put on stellar performances in the Big Ten Championship, Sugar Bowl and National Championship (696 total rushing yards, eight touchdowns). However, Trevone Boykin will put up the production that could put him over the top. Boykin threw for 3,901 yards and 33 touchdowns in 2014, leaving many to think he could surpass those totals in 2015.
Which team will have a breakout season?
It seems our writers at least agree on the fact that this season's breakout team will come from the SEC, there's just a little debate on which program it will be. Arkansas had a strong finish to 2014 by winning three of its last four games, including a pair of wins over teams ranked in the top-20 (LSU and Ole Miss) in consecutive weeks. Tennessee, on the other hand, is looking to make a lot of noise in the SEC East after finding a spark when Josh Dobbs was inserted under center. The Vols may have the edge here based on a weaker division.
Which player will have a breakout season in 2015?
Ray: A'Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama
Geoff: Corey Clement, RB, Wisconsin
Erik: Jeremy Johnson, QB, Auburn
Sean: Seth Russell, QB, Baylor
A lot of division here between our writers, as they each think a different player will have a breakout season in 2015. A'Shawn Robinson, a former five-star recruit, had a solid season recording 49 tackles (6.5 of which were for a loss) and was named as an All-SEC Honorable Mention selection by the Associated Press. Corey Clement looks to replace the almighty Melvin Gordon, who ran past pretty much everyone last season.
Jeremy Johnson has a lot of hype surrounding him, despite playing just a single half of football last season. Be that as it may, Johnson gives a better passing element to an already explosive Gus Malzahn offense, giving experts the justification to praise him so highly. Then there's Seth Russell, who may be unknown, but could be one of the most talked about quarterbacks by the end of the season. Art Briles has a quarterback factory at Baylor, and Russell is latest to come off one of the most productive assembly lines.
What team that will bounce back in 2015?
Both Michigan and Florida will begin a new era with Jim Harbaugh and Jim McElwain taking over the helm for each respective program. Harbaugh returns to his roots in Ann Arbor, hoping to bring back glory to the maize and blue, while McElwain hopes to revive a Florida team that has been anemic on offense the last few seasons. Les Miles and LSU had a rare off-year in 2014, but 2015 looks to be filled with more promise, just as long as quarterback play improves.
Which current top-25 team will finish the season unranked?
Ray: Missouri. Lost a lot of talent on defense/offense.
Geoff: Baylor. I think all the stuff happening off the field will get to them. It'll be a snowball effect: lose one game, and then it turns into three in a row.
Erik: I'm not that high on UCLA. Their quarterback situation is up in the air and with teams like USC, California and Arizona State on the rise, the Bruins may have a down year.
Sean: Missouri will be the team to fall out of the Top-25 by the end of the season. Losing a lot of talent on defense, coupled with the inconsistent play of QB Maty Mauk, could be what does the Tigers in.
Which unranked team has the chance to finish the season in the top-25?
Ray: Florida! No particular reason why.
Geoff: Michigan. I don't think they will be top-10, but certainly will be in the ranking when all is said and done.
Erik: Mississippi State can definitely finish the season ranked. Let's not forget they were the top team in the country for quite some time last year. There's no way Dak Prescott leaves this school without a successful year.
Sean: There's not a lot of talk surrounding Oklahoma State, but the Mike Gundy-coached squad has a shot to make some real noise this season. It found its offensive leader in QB Mason Rudolph last season, and the sophomore could do a lot of damage in 2015.
In your opinion, what game will be the best to watch this season, and why?
Ray: Florida vs FSU. Because I'm a diehard gator fan, and I hate the Seminoles.
Geoff: Ohio State vs. Michigan State. The game will essentially be for the Big Ten Championship, and will have playoff implications if both teams walk into Columbus unbeaten.
Erik: Baylor vs TCU, easily. Who doesn't want to watch a game that ends in a score of 82-80? Also considering how vital the outcome could be for playoff implications, this game is a no-brainer.
Sean: This is such a tough question, but I'm going with the Iron Bowl between Auburn and Alabama. Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin going up against Gus Malzahn and Will Muschamp, there are sure to be fireworks flying in this one. Not to mention, there could be conference title or College Football Playoff implications on the line.
Who will be the most exciting player to watch in 2015?
Ray: Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
Geoff: J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State
Erik: Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU
Sean: Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU
In the nation's toughest conference, Nick Chubb looked like a seasoned pro with the way he tore up the field as a freshman. Chubb rushed for 1,547 yards and scored 14 touchdowns, while averaging 7.01 yards per carry (first in SEC). Barrett is a phenomenal athlete who we already talked about a little, but the versatility he brings to the offense is so invaluable. There's also Boykin, who seems to put together a highlight reel every time he steps onto the field; often using his legs to escape pressure, then launching a bomb to an open receiver.
Is the SEC still the "best" conference in college football? If not, give the conference you think has surpassed it.
Geoff: Big Ten
The SEC has failed to produce a national champion the past two seasons after crowning seven straight from 2006-2012. However, the conference has a lot of quality football teams coming out of it year-in and year-out, and they consistently show up in the top-25. The Big Ten showed some life last season, and with Ohio State looking like a juggernaut under Urban Meyer, the conference makes a quality case. But it's not nearly as deep as the SEC, or even the PAC-12.
Which new head coach will have the most success in his first season?
Ray: Jim McElwain, Florida
Geoff: Tom Herman, Houston
Erik: Paul Chryst, Wisconsin
Sean: Tom Herman, Houston
There are a plethora of questions surrounding the Gators' offense heading into 2015, but there's optimism that if this team can show some semblance of life on that side of the ball, it can compete for a division title. Herman is the latest apple to fall from the Urban Meyer coaching tree, and there's reason to believe he can turn an underachieving Houston team into a conference contender immediately. Paul Chryst will head up his alma mater, taking over for a Wisconsin program that has the pieces to contend for a second straight division title.
Which offense will be the most explosive in 2015?
Ray: Oregon. It always is.
Geoff: Ohio State. Putting Braxton Miller at H-back alone makes the Buckeyes the most dangerous offensive team in the country. Throw in J.T. Barrett and Ezekiel Elliott, and it's just unfair.
Erik: I'm going with TCU here. They return 10 of 11 starters from 2014, including the leading passer, rusher and both leading receivers. They have the talent, and now chemistry, to produce electrifying numbers.
Sean: Baylor will again be the nation's most explosive offense. The quarterback may have changed, but much of the supporting cast remains. Running back Shock Linwood and receivers K.D. Cannon and Corey Coleman all return, giving new signal caller Seth Russell plenty of weapons.
Which team will have the most lockdown defense in 2015?
Ray: Alabama. Too much talent across the board.
Geoff: Alabama. I feel as if Nick Saban is looking for retribution after last season's Sugar Bowl loss. Whatever went wrong last season, expect it to be fixed by the time conference play begins.
Erik: I don't really have one team in mind, but the SEC will most definitely boast some of the country's best defense in teams like Alabama, LSU and Florida.
Sean: Alabama is going to win a lot of games this season, and they're going to do it with a lot of help from the defense. This defense has plenty of talent returning, and has a chip on its shoulder after giving up 42 points and 537 total yards against Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl last year.
Which Power 5 Conference will get left out of the College Football Playoff?
Ray: Big 12
The Big 12 was snubbed from the College Football Playoff last season, after both Baylor and TCU were left, with many speculating that the failure to have a "true" conference champion being the reason. Could the same thing happen again in 2015? Meanwhile, the ACC doesn't seem to have a true contender to make it back to the Playoff. Sure, Florida State and Clemson have a shot, but can they put up the type of season that warrants a selection?
Which conference stands the best chance to get two teams into the Playoff?
Geoff: Big Ten
Sean: Big Ten
Both the Big Ten and SEC have a couple teams that could crack the top-4 and make the College Football Playoff, and it wouldn't be surprising to see either one of these conferences get two teams in. The SEC is always loaded, but if two teams get into the Playoff, they'll likely come from the SEC West. It's a packed division, with Auburn and Alabama currently the two favorites at the top.
Similarly, the Big Ten would have two division foes crack the top as Ohio State and Michigan State both look very strong. Plus, there's the chance that the only loss either of these two teams sustains could come from the other one.
Which four teams will make it to the College Football Playoff?
Ray: Ohio State, Alabama, Florida State, Georgia
Geoff: Ohio State, Alabama, Michigan State, Oklahoma
Erik: Ohio State, TCU, Auburn, LSU
Sean: Ohio State, TCU, Auburn, USC
If there's one thing the writers can agree on here, it's that Ohio State will again be playing in the Playoff. The defending national champs don't have a particularly difficult schedule, and with what the team did last season, there are a lot of people who are betting on the Buckeyes to repeat. There's also a representative from the SEC in each writer's choice, presuming each one is the conference champion. Auburn and Alabama were picked as the top two teams in the SEC, and either one could very well reach the Playoff.
It's not surprising to see Michigan State on the list, especially after the discussion above. What is surprising to see is the uniqueness of our writers' fourth and final choice. Georgia hasn't drawn a lot of Playoff talk, although the 'Dawgs could pull off a surprise run to the Playoff, especially if they win the SEC. Oklahoma is definitely a dark horse choice, due in large part to the fact that it would have to beat both TCU and Baylor. USC is another team that's on the rise for 2015, and QB Cody Kessler has quietly made a name for himself in the PAC-12. Don't be surprised if the Trojans turn a lot of heads this year.
Which team will win the national championship?
Ray: Alabama. A lot of talent.
Geoff: I want to believe Ohio State. This team is too good to not win it again. With that being said, if they run into a rematch with Michigan State in the playoffs, or even Alabama, all bets are off at what happens.
Erik: I have TCU over Ohio State in a close one. The Horned Frogs just have too much offensive firepower to be stopped, and they always seem to perform 200% better during bowl games.
Sean: TCU has a great shot to win the national title, provided it doesn't get snubbed by the College Football Playoff committee again. The offense will undoubtedly be one of the best in the nation, while the defense is sure to be superb under Gary Patterson.