CODY STOOTS

A look at all things college football as the season begins

A look at all things college football as the season begins
A bold prediction about Kliff Kingsbury... Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images

I don't know if there is a sport in the world that offers such dominating greatness which can see its quest derailed on one Saturday night. College football has the best regular season in sports. The champions have to be near perfect. Others can call a 6-6 season a success with one December win. It's beautiful and it's played by boys who act like men on the field and then get to return to boys when the clock strikes zero. 

Enough of me waxing poetic on the greatness of college football. Inside this article, you will find my Heisman preview, playoff selections, and various predictions for the 2018 season. Good luck to your favorite school, alma mater, or however you select your rooting interest. 

Heisman preview

This will be my sixth year voting on the Heisman trophy and it is one of my favorite things I am lucky enough to be a part of in my career. I have voted the eventual winner at the top of my ballot every year with the exception of 2015 when I believed Deshaun Watson was the Heisman winner over Derrick Henry. It's an honor to do this each season. I will tell you the few contenders, and a few bonus players, and how they can win the illustrious trophy. 

Bryce Love (RB Stanford)

Love starts as the favorite though he has some built-in disadvantages that hinder him greatly. He will play a lot of games on the West Coast and thus many Heisman voters will miss his amazing PAC-12 After Dark feats of awesomeness. He doesn't have a championship team around him, at least not yet but maybe they play into it. He will have to best what Christian McCaffrey did in breaking Barry Sanders' all-purpose yardage record in 2015. Oh, and McCaffrey's performance was good enough for runner-up in the Heisman voting. 

Tua Tagovailoa (QB Alabama)

The best chance someone who has never started a college football game has ever had at winning the Heisman is where this young man starts his journey. His remarkable performance to help the Crimson Tide win the national championship last year is legendary. This would be a remarkable accomplishment if he wins because of Nick Saban. Saban doesn't like wildcards; he likes players who don't make mistakes and stay within themselves. Tagovailoa wins if he warms Saban's cold heart to a dynamic and risk-taking style of offense and leads the Tide to the SEC Championship. 

Jonathan Taylor (RB Wisconsin)

This is going to sound hard but Taylor wins if he is the best running back in the country. Now, while it may sound hard, it isn't as difficult as you may think. Wisconsin has a monster offensive line, returning every starter from last year. Their extremely favorable schedule has two truly tough games with road affairs against Penn State and Michigan. Taylor was third in rush yards last year as an 18-year-old freshman. This sophomore could see 2,000 yards and 15 touchdowns and some great hardware on his mantle in December. 

Trace McSorley (QB Penn State)

Saquon Barkley is gone and the third-year starter takes over as the potential star of the Nittany Lions. He is at a slight disadvantage though with his offensive coordinator Joe Moorehead departing to coach Mississippi State. Penn State has plenty of big matchups on their schedule and it presents plenty of opportunities for McSorley to shine. He won't get this done with stats; how he wins it with remarkable moments in big games and leading Penn State to the Big Ten title game. He's a longshot but can make it happen. 

Khalil Tate (QB Arizona)

The stat monster is here. He is exciting and dynamic. His head coach, Kevin Sumlin, has coached a Heisman winner before. Though the numbers aren't eye-popping as a passer, he was the 17th leading rusher in the nation last year. Tate fully unleashed and seasoned should be something close to Lamar Jackson the year he won the trophy. Now is it likely Tate replicates and rips off 51 touchdowns and over 5,000 yards? No. Can he do something incredible like 40 touchdowns and 4,000 yards? You bet. 

Will Grier (QB West Virginia)

I don't see it with Grier but he can win the trophy. He was pretty much the third-best quarterback in the Big 12 in most categories behind Baker Mayfield and Mason Rudolph last year. Without a significant improvement from some other quarterback in the conference, Grier will be top of the class. If West Virginia is truly the team poised to take the next step and reign supreme they will be led by him. Challenging for the conference title and slight bump could have him headed to New York. 

Trevor Lawrence (QB Clemson)

You're probably asking who the heck this guy is and that is a worthwhile question. Let me describe him to you. Imagine if Sunshine from Remember the Titans grew six inches, his hair grew three inches, and suddenly had the arm talent to make any throw and even on the run could make those throws. That's Lawrence in a nutshell. The incumbent starter Kelly Bryant couldn't climb out of Deshaun Watson's shadow and he failed to wow or show consistency. If Bryant struggles in Clemson's second game at Texas A&M the Tigers could turn to Lawrence. From there, Lawrence just has to guide the Tigers to a playoff berth. Simple enough. 

Sam Ehlinger (QB Texas)

If Texas is back and there is only one starting quarterback all year then the quarterback of Texas will be in the race. Tom Herman can coach offense and the thought of him elevating Ehlinger should make him a longshot for the trophy. If Herman could craft a 2015 Greg Ward campaign with a little more passing and a little less rushing you could see Ehlinger in the neighborhood of 35 touchdowns and nearly 4,000 yards. Now, if the Longhorns are good on top of that, he's in the hunt. 

Kellen Mond (QB Texas A&M)

Don't you dare laugh at this one. The last time Jimbo Fisher coached a player as highly touted as Mond he went number one overall in the NFL Draft and the year before that won the Heisman. That's right, despite Mond's lackluster first season he is a talented athlete. He, like Jameis Winston, was the number one quarterback in the nation on the Rivals recruiting service. Fisher is a quarterback whisperer and the Aggies play in the best division of any conference. Showing off there with the national attention and surprising people with what he can do after a disappointing start last year could earn him the trophy. 

Nick Bosa (DL Ohio State)

The sack record. That's how Bosa could win. It's really the only way a defender could win the award. Just be a transcendent menace on a great team. Ohio State could be great and 21 sacks would blow people away and get him in the conversation. It can't be just the sacks though. Elvis Dumervil has the most single-season sacks ever and he finished 10th in the voting. The next three highest totals have zero Heisman votes. He has to turn some of those sacks into scores, via fumble or safety, and really show-off against the run. It was a joke Manti Te'o was in consideration into 2012 looking back. A legendary season from Bosa wouldn't be looked back on foolishly. 

Ed Oliver (DL Houston)

In the last five years, one defensive lineman has earned Heisman votes and it was Jonathan Allen in 2016. He rattled off 69 tackles, 16 tackles for a loss, 10.5 sacks, and scored two touchdowns. Oliver comes in with a real chance to go number one overall in the draft so he has the eyes already on him. People will be paying very close attention to Houston's stud defensive lineman. Should he stay healthy and dominate like he is expected to, really up the sack numbers, he will be in the mix.

Playoff prediction

1. Clemson

2. Alabama

3. Oklahoma

4. Wisconsin

I love Clemson this year. They have a more dynamic option at quarterback than last year and have the best defensive line in college football. Their big non-conference game gives them the nod over Alabama (at Texas A&M is better than neutral against Louisville) when the dust clears on their two conferences. Alabama has a dynamic quarterback the likes of which they haven't before and if he isn't good the backup is still really good. Oklahoma has a nice enough non-conference schedule to survive one Big 12 loss and despite me not believing in their quarterbacks Rodney Anderson is that dude. Wisconsin has three big games this year which are two tough road games at Michigan and at Penn State and the Big Ten championship. They should mash in their other ones with almost their entire offense back. 

Bold Predictions (Excuse me. Once more with feeling. *clears throat*) BOLD PREDICTIONS

Texas loses to Oklahoma in a Red River Big 12 Championship game. 

Kyler Murray starts less than five games for the Sooners. 

Kansas wins three games matching their win total from the three previous years combined. 

Baylor wins six games this season. 

Oklahoma State and Mike Gundy finally call it quits on each other. 

LSU calls it quits on Ed Orgeron midway through a disappointing season. 

Lane Kiffin is the new head coach of LSU after his FAU team rattles off a double-digit win season. 

Texas A&M wins nine games in Jimbo Fisher's debut year but it won't be easy on the Aggies hearts. 

Florida wins 10 games because Dan Mullen is one of the best coaches in the country. 

Someone has something better than the turnover chain this year. Sorry, Miami. 

Michigan State wins the Big Ten East. 

Michigan and Jim Harbaugh part ways. 

Ohio State and Urban Meyer part ways. 

Jeff Brohm leaves Purdue for one of the above open jobs. 

Herm Edwards and his Arizona State Sun Devils win four games. It's a disaster. 

Chip Kelly and his UCLA Bruins have the sixth-best record in the Pac-12. Doesn't sound like much but Chip makes noise. 

Boise State plays in a New Year's Day Bowl. 

And I finish with my Texas Tech prediction. My alma mater wins seven games and win their bowl game meaning the best result in Kliff Kingsbury's tenure since his first year at the head of the program. Led by a defense returning a ton of experience, which sounds so strange to say about Texas Tech, the Red Raiders are poised to surprise. Let's say Dakota Allen even challenges for the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. Yes, I am drinking the red and black kool-aid. 8-5 here we come!

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The NBA Draft takes place this Wednesday and Thursday. Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images.

This year's NBA draft features potential starters and valuable role players more so than no-doubt future stars. That becomes evident when looking at the headlining prospects among big men.

French teenager Alexandre Sarr from France could go No. 1 overall with his length and defensive potential, key reasons why he has thrice topped the AP's NBA mock draft. Meanwhile, Donovan Clingan from two-time reigning national champion UConn also will likely be a high pick as a rim-protecting force.

It's just unclear how quickly any will be ready for a leading role in the league, particularly offensively.

Here's a look at some of the top players in the position:

Alexandre Sarr, France

STRENGTHS: The athleticism, mobility and length offer significant upside at both ends of the court for the 7-footer, whether as a rim protector and versatile defender or as a rim-runner off pick-and-rolls for lobs on offense. Sarr, 19, spent two seasons with the Overtime Elite developmental program for top prospects in the United States, then last season with Perth in the Australian-based National Basketball League as part of its “Next Stars” program. He ranked tied for second there by averaging 1.5 blocks despite averaging just 17.3 minutes.

He finished strong by averaging 10.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.2 blocks and 1.3 assists in his last six games with Perth. He also ranked among the best at the combine with a wingspan of better than 7-4.

CONCERNS: He'll need time to add bulk to a lean 224-pound frame and handle the rigors of an NBA season. Developing more consistent 3-point range (he shot 29% in the NBL last season) will be key to fully realizing his defense-stretching potential.

Donovan Clingan, UConn

STRENGTHS: He is big, strong and surprisingly nimble for his imposing 7-2, 282-pound frame, which made him an interior shot-blocking force in the Huskies' run to college basketball's first repeat men's title in 17 years. He ranked eighth in Division I by averaging 2.5 blocks per game despite playing just 22.6 minutes, then had some massive games in the NCAA Tournament. That included eight blocks and 14 rebounds in the second-round win against Northwestern, followed by 22 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks in a regional final against Illinois (the Illini were 0 for 19 on Clingan-challenged shots ) and four more swats against Alabama in the Final Four.

The 20-year-old sophomore runs the floor well despite his bulk and is a strong finisher. He also was tied for first at the combine in standing reach (9-7) and was second in wingspan (nearly 7-7).

CONCERNS: It's unclear how well he might handle switches to defend outside the paint in space. While he shot nearly 64% to rank among the national leaders, he has rarely had to produce much outside of the paint. He also shot just 55.8% from the line in two seasons.

Kel'el Ware, Indiana

STRENGTHS: The 20-year-old sophomore has flashed intriguing two-way potential to make himself a first-round prospect, first in a season at Oregon and then last year at Indiana. He averaged 15.9 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.9 blocks last season as a starter for the Hoosiers. He made 17 of 40 3-pointers (.425), indicating the potential for growth in terms of pulling defenders outside.

The 7-footer has a nearly 7-5 wingspan and tested well at the NBA combine by ranking second among bigs in the lane agility test (second at 10.97 seconds) and shuttle run (second, 2.91).

CONCERNS: He'll need to add strength to his 230-pound frame and improve at the line, where he shot just 63.4% last year.

Kyle Filipowski, Duke

STRENGTHS: The 6-11, 230-pound sophomore could play either forward or center as a first-round prospect. He was a steady producer by averaging 15.8 points and 8.6 rebounds with the Blue Devils. He also more than doubled his shot-blocking totals last year (54, up from 26 as a freshman) when having to work as Duke's interior anchor after Dereck Lively II's departure for the NBA. He has shown improved mobility and footwork after surgery on his hips before last season, and he has improved as an outside shooter (34.8% from 3 last year, up from 28.2% in 2022-23).

CONCERNS: Filipowski isn't an elite athlete, so he could be vulnerable defensively in space as well as struggle against physical play. He slipped at the foul line last year, shooting just 67.1% after checking in at 76.5% as a freshman.

Others of Note

—ZACH EDEY: The 7-4, 299-pound Purdue center is a two-time Associated Press men’s college basketball player of the year who led the Boilermakers to last year’s NCAA title game as the national scoring leader (25.2) and Division I’s No. 2 rebounder (12.2). He closed his career with 37 points in the title-game loss to UConn. He has a ridiculous wingspan of nearly 7-11 to go with the ability to shoot over any defender. There is uncertainty whether the first-round prospect is athletic enough to handle defensive switches or guarding in space.

—DARON HOLMES II: The 6-9, 236-pound junior from Dayton spent the past two seasons putting up big numbers, averaging 19.3 points and 8.3 rebounds while shooting 56.7%. He also hit 38.6% of his 3s last year and averaged 2.1 blocks for his college career. The Atlantic 10 co-player of the year and league defensive player of the year could go in the back half of the first round, though he is a bit undersized among bigs.

—YVES MISSI: The 6-11, 229-pound center from Baylor came on as the season went on as a one-and-done prospect with bouncy athleticism, helping him finish at the rim (61.4% shooting) and block shots (1.5). That could make him a pick-and-roll or lob threat in the pros, though the 20-year-old from Cameroon will have to expand his offense beyond those crowd-charging dunks and improve at the line (61.6%).

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