Author: Herb Gould

No. 9: Michigan

Jim Harbaugh, I am convinced, could take a bunch of Muggles and coach them to the Quidditch championship at Hogwarts. But this year, with Ohio State and Penn State looming like Gryffindor and Slytherin—I’ll let you decide which one is which—that’s not the way to bet. Before taking his team to practice in Rome, Harbaugh said arrivederci to 10 defensive starters, including Heisman finalist Jabrill Peppers. Sophomore DE Rashan Gary seems to have `next’ in the pantheon of Wolverine defensive legends. Faster than you can say, “Omaha, Utah, Sword, Gold, Juno,’’ Harbaugh announced that next year’s practice trip will be to Normandy, site of the Allies’ D-Day assault on Nazi Germany. The rest of this article is available to subscribers only – to become a subscriber click here....

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No. 10: Auburn

Gus Malzahn was a genius in 2010, when, he offensively-coordinated Auburn to the national championship. It’s always good to have Cam Newton taking the snaps. Returning to Auburn as head coach when the bottom fell out on his old boss, Gene Chizik, Malzahn also was pretty darned good in 2013, when he took War Eagle to a nationaal-championship game loss to Florida State. Since then, Malzahn has endured three years without double-digit wins. Which leaves him needing a big year—or else—in the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately college football coaching world. Fortunately, former Baylor quarterback Jarrett Stidham will suit up for Auburn, with the hope that he’ll provide the missing piece for an offense that possesses a solid running game. The rest of this article is available to subscribers only – to become a subscriber click here....

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No. 11: Oklahoma

Who’s more important, the legendary coach or the studly Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback? We may get some insight into that this year, Oklahoma carries on without Bob Stoops, 56, who stepped away from one of the premier college football jobs in America when he had it going and was seemingly in his prime. That just doesn’t happen. One explanation offered was that Stoops’ father, a legendary Youngstown, Ohio, high school coach, died young, and Stoops has a heightened sense of mortality. Another is that his protege, offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, was going to get the job sooner (Sooner?) than later—and Stoops’ departure assured that he wasn’t lured away. Whatever the reasons, Riley ascends to the throne in Norman with a coveted component, quarterback Baker Mayfield, who will be mentioned for the Heisman Trophy early and often. There’s a lot to like about Oklahoma. And yet, there are three thorny issues. The rest of this article is available to subscribers only – to become a subscriber click here....

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No. 12: Oklahoma State

Texas or Oklahoma State? Oklahoma State or Texas? That was the question in my mind when I was thinking about my pre-season top 16. I didn’t really see room for more than two teams from the Big 12, which is fifth in my mind among the Power Five conferences. A lot of people are assuming that Tom Herman is going to wave his magic wand and restore the Longhorns to glory. It’s the most anticipated coaching debut in Austin since. . . Charlie Strong. (True fact: I expected Strong to shine in the Lone Star state.) We’ll see about Herman, who is an outstanding prospect after accomplishing so much at Houston. I expect him to do well. But it wouldn’t surprise me if the Longhorns endured a period of adjustment this fall. Meanwhile, Mike Gundy will have another high-flying offense in Stillwater, thanks to the return of quarterback Mason Rudolph, who pondered passing on his senior season and heading to the NFL. The rest of this article is available to subscribers only – to become a subscriber click here....

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No. 13: LSU

When it comes to SEC football, I have a soft spot for LSU. Alabama is either good or miserable. Florida was OK with Spurrier, but has become kind of boring. Tennessee wasn’t all that interesting even when Phillip Fulmer had it going. Georgia hardly ever smiles. Auburn could give you whiplash. You could go down the line; they’re so dadgum serious in the land of hurricanes and sweet tea. Not LSU. Win or lose, the Tigers always seem to be entertaining. Les “the Mad Hatter’’ Miles is gone. But Ed Orgeron, who replaced him in late September, is a Bayou native who will test the axiom that “You can’t go home.’’ He already has the first three words down. He told the media, “You can’t go to practice.’’ The rest of this article is available to subscribers only – to become a subscriber click here....

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Notes

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