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College Football Preview

Ben Boulware kisses College Football Playoff 2017 National Championship trophy (Photo Courtesy of MCT Campus)

Grand Rapids Community College no longer fields a football team, but college football is on the horizon and the Collegiate is here to give you a rundown on the upcoming season.

The defending champion Clemson Tigers look to recreate the magic of last season. That magic will be difficult as most of it went 12th overall in the NFL Draft to the Houston Texans in former quarterback, Deshaun Watson. Along with Watson, the Tigers graduated a significant amount of their starters and look to reload (more like rebuild) for what will be a tough act to follow from last year. Clemson could make some noise this year and they will start the season ranked fifth in the national polls.

The Alabama Crimson Tide and head coach Nick Saban are looking for revenge after losing to Clemson in last season’s College Football Playoff National Championship Game. That loss last January in Tampa snapped a then Southeastern Conference long 26 game winning streak. Quarterback Jalen Hurts will yet again look to tear up the SEC through the air and on the ground. The Tide collides with the Florida State Seminoles in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta to open the season (Saturday, Sept. 2 8 P.M. ABC).

Defending Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson of the Louisville Cardinals prepares for his encore season after a 51 combined (rushing and passing) touchdown performance last year and led his Cardinals to a 9-4 record. For Jackson to succeed and to even dream about matching his numbers from last year, he needs to take care of the football and take fewer sacks (he took 46 last season).

Analysts all over the country are projecting Ohio State to win their second College Football Playoff National Championship under head coach Urban Meyer. Senior quarterback, J.T. Barrett, returns for one more season to lead the Buckeyes to the glory they saw in Dallas in 2014. Ohio State’s schedule sets up to be one of the easier this season, this could lead to another trip to Indianapolis and maybe a visit to Pasadena for the National Semifinals.

Michigan and Michigan State have the potential to be great, or to fall completely flat, much like Sparty did last season…

For the Wolverines, quarterback ,Wilton Speight, returns for his junior season after tossing a 18-7 touchdown to interception ratio with a QBR (adjusted quarterback rating) of 75.1. The departure of the “five-tool-player” Jabrill Peppers will add difficulty for head coach Jim Harbaugh to re-create the 10-3 record from last season (which should be 11-2 at least after that Ohio State debacle, but I digress). The only problem Michigan could run into is the last three weeks of the season, on the road to Maryland and Wisconsin in consecutive weeks, and the showdown against archrival Ohio State to finish the regular season. There could be another New Year’s Six berth for this team much like last year.

Michigan State has sophomore quarterback, Brian Lewerke, leading it’s quarterback battle against senior Damion Terry and looks to be the starter for the Spartans’ debut against Bowling Green (Noon ESPNU). Sparty had an extremely down year, under head coach Mark Dantonio at 3-9. They look to rebound and have the talent to do so. The Spartans have what looks to be a less than difficult road to a potential bowl game (nowhere near Indianapolis the first weekend in December, but a bowl game nonetheless).

Michigan’s first opponent, the Florida Gators, look to be stronger and ready to go for broke this season. Coach Jim McElwain has a three-man quarterback battle to settle between freshman Feleipe Franks, junior Luke Del Rio and senior transfer from Notre Dame Malik Zaire. The Gator defense looks primed and ready to pounce on the SEC once again, led by senior defensive backs Duke Dawson Jr. and Nick Washington. If the offense can take care of the football and the defense forces some takeaways, the Gators might make a return to the Allstate Sugar Bowl (or Rose Bowl) for a National Semifinal.

With conference realignment looming again next offseason, this may be the last season with the conference matchups we have come to know and love.

The roller coaster that is the college football season kicks off Saturday.