The college football season will begin in full this Labor Day weekend. For football fans, this is one of the best times of year. It is hard to not get pumped for fall football Saturdays. All the alumni and fans can dress up in their school’s colors and enjoy the best time of year.
As with local high school football, it looks like the same national powers will dominate the 2017 college football landscape. The AP Top 25 have the usual names at the top of the preseason poll with Alabama, Ohio State, Florida State, USC and Clemson as the top teams, Nos. 1-5. These teams are givens as teams to beat every year to win the national championship. Nearly every college football fan would have these teams ranked near the top.
A test for the top 10 are Penn State, Oklahoma, Washington, Wisconsin, and Oklahoma State. These are teams that can make some waves for the playoff picture this year. Penn State, the defending Big 10 champion that also beat Ohio State in last year’s regular season, is probably motivated to prove something to the College Football Playoff committee that picks the four playoff teams.
Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are the first teams ranked nationally from the Big 12. It will be interesting to see how Oklahoma operates under a new head coach. Oklahoma State will score a lot of points but the problem has always been their ability to stop opponents.
Washington is being predicted as the rising power again in the Pac-12. Wisconsin is always a top 10-15 team every year. It has the tradition and lack of fear in competing against the Big 10 legendary powers of Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State.
Michigan, Auburn, LSU, Stanford and Georgia are ranked in the next five. Michigan lost a lot of players last year but has had a lot of success with recruits from some of the best high school talents in the country over the past three years.
Auburn will be trying to make a comeback after just average seasons the past two years. LSU has a new coach and all the talent in the world. The key is whether this annual college power can play up to expectations.
Stanford always has a solid program and always seems to upset higher ranked teams each year in the Pac-12 Conference. Georgia is like LSU – it recruits some to the best high school players in the country. They just fall short at the end because of the domination of Alabama in the SEC.
The rest of the top 20 includes Louisville, Florida, Miami, South Florida and Kansas State. Louisville will have a high scoring offense but at times they look like a team that never practices defense. Florida is just the opposite; they have defensive stallions but they have a hard time getting a first down on offense.
Miami is rebuilding into a competitive power again. South Florida may be the best team in Florida other than Florida State.
Kansas State is going into 2017 with more hype than it has had for many seasons. It is hard to say whether that is good or bad for a program that has been so successful in its underdog role over the years.
The last five teams of the top 25 are all schools that would still be in the top 25 at the end of the season – Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Texas, Washington State and Tennessee. These programs have been very good in past NCAA football history but they have a long way to go to make it to the big show come playoff time.
This year’s best conference in the country should be the ACC in early projections. Florida State and Clemson are both capable of winning the national title. The Big Ten should be next in line with a lot of great teams like Ohio State, Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan.
The always rated No. 1 conference in the country is the SEC. This year looks a little different because Alabama has been so dominant the past few years. Georgia, LSU, Auburn and Tennessee must step up to a different level to make the SEC the best conference in the nation.
The Pac-12 is showing signs of rebounding from the last few years with the very good teams of USC, Washington, Washington State and Stanford.
The Big 12 has been the best overall offensive conference in the nation but lost respect because of the poor defense traditionally played in the conference. It looks like Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Kansas State can make some changes in that thinking. Texas and West Virginia still have a lot to prove.
College football is more than a game played every Saturday in the fall – it is a happening!
• If you like good college football, you have the best NCAA Division II conference right at your doorstep, the MIAA. Two-time defending national champion Northwest Missouri State leads a conference of great teams. Emporia State, Central Missouri State, Pittsburg State, Washburn, Missouri Western are just a few of the good programs in the MIAA.
• Weightlifting has become a crucial part of all high school football programs and has spread to all high school sports. The truth of the matter is that the traditionally good athletic programs over the last 40 years have been good because of weight and conditioning programs adopted during that time. A team is no longer developed just during the season. The heart and soul of any team is developed by the work put in during the offseason. It is a state rule that you cannot make weight and conditioning mandatory outside the school year. But the truth of the matter is to be able to compete at a high level, participation in offseason programs is key. That is a reality.
• My quote of the week comes from former NFL head coach Chuck Knox: “Winning and losing are both very temporary things. Having done one or the other, you move ahead. Gloating over a victory or sulking over a loss is a good way to stand still – or worse.”
– Tim Crone, a William Chrisman High School graduate, is a former activities director and coach for Blue Springs High School and is a host of a weekly radio show, “Off the Wall with Tim Crone,” on KCWJ (1030 AM) 6 p.m. every Monday. He writes a weekly column for The Examiner. Reach him at email@example.com.