2018 College Football Spectacular!
Inspired by the Sports Illustrated series of “College and Pro Football Spectacular” preview issues they pumped out between 1982 and 1986, I’m bringing back this concept. Call it a retro magazine. Call it whatever you like. The Dutch Lion is pumped!
Someday this will become a printed magazine to be sold on the newsstands right next to Sports Illustrated, ESPN, Sporting News, Athlon’s, Lindy’s, and of course, Phil Steele’s. But for now this online edition will have to suffice. So what’s got you pumped about college football this year? Let’s dive in and find out what the “Dutch Lion” has in store!
Last year the “Dutch Lion” posted his 2017 College Football Spectacular and it was a rousing success. Who else had Georgia not only making the College Football Playoffs (CFP) but also had them going all the way to the National Championship Game? Nobody!……except for the “Dutch Lion” of course. In fact, most publications had Georgia finishing about 14th in the country. What a joke! It’s too bad that Georgia’s season ended in heartbreak city, losing their lead over the 13-1 and still National Champion, the Crimson Tide of Alabama. Losing in OT 26-23 was bittersweet for both Georgia and “Dutch” because it was one of those predictions that kept going ALL….THE…..WAY…until the last play of the season. Oh well, “Dutch’s” prediction that Georgia “Will win the National Championship within three seasons” still has two more years to make good on that promise. But not this year.
The 2018 season has been long-awaited, not just by “Dutch Lion” but also by Gary “The Gut” Goombah. It’s time to gamble and this year “Dutch” and “Gut” have a gut feeling that a certain team will prevail. Now announcing our pick for 2018 National Champion……
…..the MICHIGAN WOLVERINES!
I know. “Dutch” has truly lost it. He has gone crazy. Maybe so, but just watch. The Wolverines will be a spectacular squad this year. They are deep, experienced, and brutally tough. This defense has a chance to be spectacular. The biggest problem for Michigan in past years? Quarterback. Now they have a tremendous talent in Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson. The biggest problem for Michigan THIS year? A brutal schedule. Our good friend Phil Steele has Michigan’s schedule as the 3rd toughest in all the land. They not only play in the world’s toughest division, the B1G East, but they also add in a road game at Notre Dame to kick off the season. Sound familiar? Last year we had Georgia going all the way despite an early season trap game at……Notre Dame. Georgia came out of South Bend alive, just barely, and then going all the way to Atlanta’s National Championship. This year Michigan will have a similar ride, only this year’s Title match will be in San Francisco’s Levi’s Stadium.
Before we get to this year’s Preview, let’s recap last year’s Spectacular. What were we right about? What were we wrong about? Where did teams finish versus their prediction in Dutch’s Top 25?
He’s a Soothsayer
- Georgia! – As noted above, I’m extremely proud of this prognostication. It takes some guts to go out on a limb and Georgia made me proud. To me it wasn’t that hard of a prediction, but then why was nobody else on board?
- Auburn – We had Auburn at #6. Auburn finished 10th at 10-4. They won the SEC East after beating Alabama. They beat both the #1 and #2 squads in ‘Bama and Georgia. They then split vs UGA by losing the rematch in the SEC Championship. They lost the Peach Bowl to UCF 34-27. Their four losses were at Clemson (4th), vs Georgia (2nd), at LSU (18th), and vs UCF (6th). That’s a tough schedule, eh?
- Notre Dame – We had them 7th. They finished 11th with a 10-3 record.
- Tennessee, Florida, and Texas – In our “Paper Champions” segment, we had the Vols, Gators, and Longhorns as being way, way overrated. Sure enough, Tennessee finished 4-8 after many preseason pubs had them ranked! C’mon man. It was easy to see they would struggle after losing Josh Dobbs, Alvin Kamara, Jalen Hurd, and Derek Barnett. They were amazing talents that led them to a 9-4 season in 2016. This is the proof that preseason publications and polls usually just rank teams based on their previous season. I knew better. UT scuffled through a horrible year and they fired Butch Jones. Florida was similar to Tennessee. The Gators were highly ranked coming into 2017. I could see through that like a parent sees through a toddler lying about eating ice cream as the chocolate drips down their face. Florida finished 4-7, at one point losing 5 games in a row. Their only victories last year were over Tennessee, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, and UAB. Of course, their biggest victory was firing Jim McElwain and replacing him with Dan Mullen. Finally, Texas was hyped, as usual. I knew better. I even pleaded with AP voters to not rank them yet, but no. They wouldn’t listen! The team I love to hate was mediocre. They almost beat OU in the Red River Rivalry but finished 7-6 in Tom Herman’s first year. That’s nothing to cry about, but why were they ranked 23rd to start the season? They promptly went out there in the opener at home and gave up 51 points to…….choke……Maryland!?! C’mon man!
He’s a Visionary with an Eye Problem
- Florida St. – We had them at #2 but that quickly eroded when starting QB Deondre Francois was lost for the year in the season opening loss to Alabama. FSU finished 7-6. Ugh!
- Clemson – We foresaw Clemson struggling without generational talent QB DeShaun Watson. However, the Tigers were not to be denied. They rode QB Kelly Bryant and a phenomenal defense all the way back to the CFP where they again met ‘Bama. This time they lost 24-6 to finish a 12-2 season. We had them at #21. What were we thinking?
- Oklahoma – For some reason we had OU finishing 17th. They proved us wrong by making the CFP behind Heisman Trophy winning QB Baker Mayfield. Led by first year Head Coach Lincoln Riley (oh yeah, that’s why we had them so low), the Sooners almost made it to the National Championship game until they lost an epic Rose Bowl Semifinal to Georgia 54-48 in 2 OT. OU finished 12-2.
Dutch Lion’s 2018 Top 25
- Michigan – This is the year for Coach Jimmy Harbaugh and the Wolverines. Put your money down in Vegas and you’ll make millions. That’s what Gary “The Gut” Goombah is doing. Speaking of Gary, he’s on his flight back from some remote island in the Pacific Ocean that he just purchased with his winnings from last year’s Georgia selection. This year he says, “Mark it down. Michigan is going to the CFP! Michigan is my upset Lock of the Year.”
- Clemson – The only defense better than Michigan’s? Clemson’s. Led by an all-time defensive line of not one, not two, not three, but all four guys as super NFL Draft prospects, the Tigers should have little problem defending their run of trips (3 in a row!) to the CFP. DC Brent Venables is the top coordinator in all the land. That’s why he gets paid more than most head coaches. The Tigers specialize in recruiting and developing defensive linemen. They consistently dominate at the point of attack, constantly ruining opposing team’s gameplans. You better have a good OL or you have little chance of beating Clemson, especially in Death Valley. The Tigers are 27-1 at home over the last four years. They haven’t lost two home games in a season since 2010, Dabo Sinney’s second year. He was just a pup then. He’s grown into a massive adult tiger who rules the jungle. When will it end for Clemson? When Dabo takes over for Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa when Saban finally decides to hang it up. Swinney’s record in South Carolina is 101-30 in 11 years.
- Washington – Consistently underrated, Coach Chris Peterson has improved UW each and every year (almost) since he left Boise St. to become the Huskies Head Coach in 2014. That first year he went 8-6, then 7-6, 12-2, 10-3, and in 2018…..we’re talkin’ CFP. Again. In ’16 he led UW to the semifinal vs Alabama in Atlanta where they lost 24-7. It reminds me of the same old topic….why do the Southern teams catch all the homefield and travel breaks? Why not have a CFP Semi in Seattle, or Chicago, or Indianapolis, or New York, or Kansas City, or….Lincoln? GASP! Don’t even think of ruining our advantage says Mr. SEC. This is nothing new. I’ve railed on this forever. I get it….we all want to go to a warm locale on New Year’s. I totally understand. However, it’s not fair. Can you imagine the Southern boys having to travel Up North to face a B1G team in Green Bay, Chicago, Detroit, or…..Lincoln? Talk about an advantage. Wo!
- Boise St. – Are you ready for the first Group of 5 team to make the CFP? How about Boise St.? They return 16 starters from an 11-3 team that won the Las Vegas Bowl over Oregon. They play only the 75th hardest schedule according to Phil’s. They have a Senior QB in Mark Rypien’s nephew Brett Rypien. Their Head Coach is Bryan Harsin, now in his 5th year after posting 12-2, 9-4, 10-3, and 11-3 records in his first four seasons. Why not? The Broncos biggest hurdle might be Week 3 at Oklahoma St. Can they win a road game at a Big 12 school? Will it be enough to get them into the Playoffs should they go undefeated? I think it might.
- Auburn – Usually good but often overlooked because of their in-state rival, the Auburn Tigers have tremendous talent on their roster. Coach Gus Malzahn has really done a nice job recruiting in his 5+ years on the job. This year Auburn returns 13 starters from a 10-4 team that failed to win the Peach Bowl over UCF. The Tigers beat Georgia and Alabama on their way to an awesome season but they also lost at Clemson (14-6), at LSU (27-23), vs Georgia in the SEC Championship (28-7), and UCF (34-27).
- Georgia – “Glory Glory Hallelujah!” Georgia was so fun to watch last year it gave me joy each and every week. Butkus Award winner Roquan Smith became my favorite player quickly, as he simply dominated recording 137 tackles, 14 TFL’s including 6.5 sacks, 2 PBU’s, and an amazing 20 QB hurries! Then the Chicago Bears drafted him at #8 in April’s NFL Draft. What a year! But now we turn the page to 2018. Georgia will be excellent again but will take a minor step back after losing Smith along with 8 other veteran defenders. Plus, UGA loses dynamic duo Nick Chubb and Sony Michel at RB. Replacements are waiting in the wings to get out there “Between The Hedges” but Georgia can’t do it again right away…….can they? Perhaps 🙂 Meanwhile, watch out for this team in 2019. I foresee us picking the Bulldogs to win the National Title……next year.
- Penn St. – Trace McSorley is awesome. So is Saquon Barkley’s replacement at RB, Miles Sanders. Watch Sanders this season. He is fantastic! PSU has been gathering talent for several years now and they might win the B1G. Their conference schedule is brutal as usual, but they get Ohio St., Michigan St., and Wisconsin at home. Their only tough road game is at Michigan, but I believe that game will decide the East Champion and thus the B1G Champion.
- Alabama – I believe ‘Bama will take a step back this year. Everybody including God has them ranked 1st but their defense concerns me. They only have 3 returning starters on that side of the ball. It will bite them at Ole Miss, at LSU, and home against Auburn. The Crimson Tide will still be great, but just a little worse than usual. They won’t make the CFP for the first time since it was introduced back in 2014.
- Notre Dame – Every year ND has a brutal schedule. They get very few cupcakes. “Cryin’ cuz you didn’t get a cupcake?” – Litl’ Sweet from the Dr. Pepper commercials. This year PS has them with the 16th toughest schedule. They open with Michigan, face Stanford in Week 5, at Virginia Tech in Week 6, host FSU in Week 11, and go to the Coliseum to close the year at USC. They seem to get everybody’s best effort, even when they face supposed also-rans such as Pitt, Navy, and Syracuse. Anyway, the Irish have 9 returning starters on D but lost their DC Mike Elko. On offense, they return QB Brandon Wimbush and 3 starters from their OL which is seemingly always close to the best. They do lose 1st round NFL draft picks Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson however. Overall, I’ll call for another solid but unspectacular season with losses to Michigan, Stanford, and probably one of the two games vs FSU and at USC. Therefore, another 10-3 season feels about right.
- Stanford – Big, solid, physical is the name of the game in Palo Alto. K.J. Costello is the starting QB on The Farm this year. Is Costello the best QB for the Cardinal since Andrew Luck? Perhaps. If so, Stanford could make a run for the Roses.
- Wisconsin – Big, solid, physical is the name of the game in Madison too. Can Hornibrook keep improving like he did in the Orange Bowl? He’s a lefty with some accuracy issues. That’s not a positive on my ledger as a quarterback guru. Good thing the Badgers have maybe the best OL in the nation with a killer running game.
- Ohio St. – The Buckeyes will take a step back this year. Too much controversy with Urban Meyer. A new QB. Too much competition in the B1G East division. Michigan and Penn St. are at the top of their games. I’ll call for OSU to lose at Penn St., at Michigan St., vs Michigan, and maybe vs TCU in Dallas in Week 3. So that’s 8-4 or 9-3 before the bowl game. And as for Coach Urban Meyer……he’s a major turd.
- Oklahoma – Once again I’m picking them lower than most. However, this year’s issue is replacing Baker Mayfield. Can they do it successfully? They might with QB Kyler Murray and an awesome running game.
- Texas A&M – I believe in Head Coach Jimbo Fisher and his down home Southern accent. This guy can coach, especially QB’s. A&M has talent and Fisher will lead to improvement on last year’s 7-6 record. Their schedule is difficult (15th according to PS) but there are plenty of opportunities to prove themselves with upsets (vs Clemson in Week 2, at ‘Bama in Week 4, and at Auburn in Week 10). A&M is on the rise.
- West Virginia – WVU was 7-6 last year. They return 12 starters with QB Will Grier, a tremendous receiving corps, and 4 of their offensive linemen. Their schedule is tough (12th) or else I’d have them even higher in my rankings.
- Miami – Is the turnover chain coming back again? I hope so. That was cool. Of course, you gotta get takeaways to have fun with this prop. Can the ‘Canes force some turns? HC Mark Richt is bringing the fun back to Coral Gables.
- Florida St. – I was too high on them last year. Am I too low this year? QB Deondre Francois is back. HC Willie Taggart takes over in Tallahassee.
- Kansas St. – Coach Snyder keeps going. Dude is in his 27th year here as HC. His career record: 210-110-1. A tie? Yeah, they used to have those about 25 years ago. OT was “invented” in 1996. Last ever tie in college football? It was Illinois at Wisconsin on November 25, 1995. I recall Illini DE Simeon Rice and LB Kevin Hardy dominating. Doubt me? Look it up. Final score: Illinois 3, Wisconsin 3.
- Arizona – Could it be a year to remember in Tucson? New HC Kevin Sumlin hopes so. ‘Zona returns 16 starters including All-World running QB Khalil Tate. 9 starting defenders return, but from a unit that allowed 34.4 ppg. Is that good or bad?
- Oregon – I used to love the Ducks. Now, I don’t even know who their coach is. Too much staff turnover in Eugene.
- Michigan St.
- UCF – Last year was a once-in-a-lifetime dream season for UCF. They still have super QB McKenzie Milton but have a new HC in Josh Heupel now that Scott Frost went back home to Nebraska. UCF has 6 returning starters on each side of the ball but will have a bullseye on their backs this year. They could repeat as AAC East Champions if they get by Temple, Cincinnati, and USF. The USF game is on the road to close our their schedule.
- TCU – Consistency. Coach Gary Patterson is usually consistent. In his 18th year now, Coach Patterson is 160-57. He has won at least 11 games in 3 of the last 4 years. He wins bowl games. He wins at home with three undefeated seasons at Amon G. Carter Stadium over the last four years. In ’18 TCU has a hard schedule (18th) and a new QB. Can Patterson guide them to another double digit victory season?
- LSU – If Coach Orgeron doesn’t produce they will surely move on sooner rather than later. In fact, I could see Coach O on the hot seat as soon as Week 3, 5, or 6. They start with Miami, then SE Louisiana, at Auburn, vs Louisiana Tech, vs Ole Miss, then at Florida. They could be 3-3 or 2-4 and uh oh.
2018 Playoff Predictions:
- Cotton Bowl: #1 Michigan over #4 Boise St.
- Orange Bowl: #2 Clemson over #3 Washington
2018 National Championship Prediction:
- Levi’s Stadium (San Francisco): #1 Michigan over #2 Clemson
Dutch Lion’s All-America Team
- QB1 (Pocket Passer) – Will Grier/West Virginia/SR/6-2 215/PS#3/Jersey #7 – Remember when Grier was a top recruit at Florida? Me neither. That was in ’15. He transferred to WVU in ’16 and finally starting playing again last year. He only put up 3490 passing yards with 34 TD. He added over 100 yards rushing and 2 TD on the ground. Grier is old. He seems like he should be in the NFL already. What will he do for an encore in the NCAA? He has a difficult schedule but that only means the Mountaineers will need to pass and score often. I see a huge year from Grier and thus, he earns our nod for All-America QB1.
- QB2 (Dual-Threat Running QB) – Khalil “Turbo” Tate/Arizona/JR/6-2 215/PS#15/Jersey #14 – Tate burst onto the scene last October at Colorado. He rushed for a QB record 327 rush yards……and he didn’t even start the game! Good God Almighty! Tate finished with 1411 rushing yards, 12 TD’s, 1591 passing yards with 14 TD’s and 9 INT’s. If he improves on his passing, Tate will be a truly special player. If he keeps running like this, it will be Cam Newton all over again. Can “Turbo” lead Arizona to their first-ever Rose Bowl? They are the only Pac-10 program to have never had the pleasure of experiencing Pasadena.
- RB Jonathan “Touchdown” Taylor/Wisconsin/SO/5-11 214/PS#54/Jersey #23 – Taylor is special. You can just see his acceleration when he breaks through the line. He needs to work on his fumbling this season. He coughed it up about 8 times in ’17 and lost 5 of them. Can he improve on his 1977 rushing yards, 13 TD’s, and 6.6 ypc? I think he will definitely score more, and maybe even rush for over two grand but 6.6 ypc? I don’t see him improving on that figure.
- RB Bryce Love/Stanford/SR/5-10 202/PS#27/Jersey #20 – Love finished 2nd in last year’s Heisman. He only ran for 2,118 yards and scored 19 rushing TD’s. What can he do for an encore? What does he need to do to win the Heisman? He probably needs to put up similar numbers AND lead Stanford to the CFP.
“Miles To Go Before I Sleep” Awards (TIE):
- RB Myles Gaskin/Washington/SR/5-10 191/PS#47/Jersey #9
- RB Miles Sanders/Penn St./JR/5-11 211/PS#3/Jersey #24
- WR N’Keal Harry/Arizona St./JR/6-4 216/PS#7/Jersey #1 – Total stud!
- WR David Sills/West Virginia/SR/6-4 201/PS#32QB/Jersey #13
- TE Jace Sternberger “& Fries”/Texas A&M/JR/6-4 250/PS#110JC/Jersey #81 – The next Zach Ertz! He’s a lanky, receiving TE who also blocks far downfield to help his teammates. He can go up and snare passes like Ertz and the other great NFL TE’s. Check out this guy in Week 2 vs Clemson. If he can produce against them, he can do it against anyone.
- OT David Edwards/Wisconsin/JR/6-7 319/PS#20TE/Jersey #79 – He’s a road-grader.
- OT Mitch Hyatt/Clemson/SR/6-5 305/PS#2/Jersey #75 – Why is Hyatt so good? Think about the guys he goes up against in practice every day. Talk about work. Wilkins? Ferrell? Bryant? Lawrence? Ugh.
- OG Alex Bars/Notre Dame/SR/6-6 318/PS#15/Jersey #71 – The next in a seemingly endless line of great linemen from ND.
- OT Trey Adams/Washington/SR/6-8 331/PS#63/Jersey #72 – A mountain of a man, Adams got hurt last year and the UW offense was never the same. Browning needs this guy healthy.
- C Erik McCoy/Texas A&M/JR/6-4 315/PS#198/Jersey #64
- DE Nick Bosa/Ohio St./JR/6-4 263/PS#3/Jersey #97 – Just like his bro Joey, Nick is a dominator. He’ll be picked in the Top 15 of next year’s NFL Draft. Just ask Mel Kiper. He loves the Bosa boys.
- DT Christian Wilkins/Clemson/SR/6-4 300/PS#17/Jersey #42 – Wilkins had 53 tackles, 8.5 TFL’s, 4.5 sacks, and 11 hurries last year. In fact, all four Clemson d-linemen had between 10 and 12 hurries in ’17. They combined for 45 hurries altogether. Just those four guys. Think about that. That’s some serious pressure!
- DT Ed Oliver/Houston/JR/6-3 290/PS#5/Jersey #10 – Oliver is the closest I’ve seen to former Huskers dominator Ndamakong Suh in 2009. Oliver had 73 tackles, 16.5 TFL’s, 5.5 sacks, 7 hurries, and 3 PBU’s last year…..as a DT. Rarely does a DT put up those kind of numbers, especially when you’re being double-teamed in the interior by a center and a guard. Ed Oliver is a two-time 1st Team AA and last year’s Outland Trophy Winner……at Houston. I love that Oliver went to Houston rather than just another cog in the SEC machine. He could’ve been just another guy at Alabama, or he could become the greatest player ever at Houston. Good for ya’ Ed! Oliver is next year’s likely #1 overall pick in the NFL Draft.
- DE Rashan Gary/Michigan/JR/6-5 281/PS#1/Jersey #3 – Gary anchors a fab DL in Ann Arbor. He had 67 tackles, 12 TFL’s, 6 sacks, and 7 hurries last year. Chase Winovich is on the other end and he deserves a mention too. In fact, Winovich might be better than Gary. He had 77 tackles, 18 TFL’s, 8 sacks, and 6 hurries in ’17. Wo!
- OLB Sutton Smith/Northern Illinois/JR/6-0 230/PS#210/Jersey #15 – My “Group of 5 Player of the Year Award” winner. Smith registered 63 tackles, 29.5 TFL’s (LED FBS!), 14 sacks!, 3 PBU’s, and 8 QB hurries. Wow! Those are some insane numbers for a 230 pound pass rusher. It just shows you that size doesn’t always matter. I watched him in the upset over Nebraska and he was truly the real deal. He was a disruptor. Neb couldn’t block him at all. NFL comps: Clay Matthews, 6-3 255, who has 80 NFL sacks so far, Kevin Greene, 6-3 245, Hall of Famer with 160 sacks, and James Harrison, 6-0 255, who just retired this Spring with 84.5 career sacks. Smith has that type of ability but he is undersized so maybe we should save the NFL hype for later.
- ILB Devin Bush/Michigan/JR/5-11 222/PS#28/Jersey #10 – Led the Wolves with 100 tackles last year. Also recorded 9.5 TFL’s, 5 sacks, 8 PBU’s, and 1 INT. Bush is really the cog, the leader of UM’s outstanding D.
- ILB Devin White/LSU/JR/6-1 260/PS#6/Jersey #40 – I was shocked when I saw White’s weight at 260 pounds. I didn’t realize he was that big. He moves like a much smaller man. Is White the next Brian Urlacher or Levon Kirkland? Watch White run. He led LSU last year with 133 tacklees, 14 TFL’s, 4.5 sacks, 3 PBU’s, 1 INT, and 5 QB hurries. Those are Roquan Smith type numbers. Uh oh, get ready for some serious Devin White hype this year. 2018 Butkus Award Winner?
- OLB Anfernee Jennings/Alabama/JR/6-3 262/PS#37/Jersey #33 – Like Devin White, Jennings is a big LB at 262 pounds. Jennings wasn’t very productive last year, recording only 41 tackles, 6 TFL’s, 1 sack, 2 PBU’s, and 4 QB hurries. However, the dude only started 11 games out of 14 and ‘Bama had 7 guys with more tackles that are now in the NFL. Knowing that, he was actually very productive. With all those stars gone, now it’s Jennings’s time to shine.
- CB Julian Love/Notre Dame/JR/5-11 189/PS#60/Jersey #27 – I love this guy. He’s from the Chicagoland area. Love played at Nazareth High School. Love is a fantastic cover corner. In ’17 Love had 68 tackles, 20 PBU’s!, and 3 INT’s. Look for more of the same in ’18 as Love might be this year’s Jim Thorpe Award winner. I love Love!
- CB Deandre Baker/Georgia/SR/5-11 185/PS#103/Jersey #18 – Baker was surprisingly Georgia’s 4th leading tackler last year with 44. More impressive is Baker’s cover ability, physicality at 185 pounds, and his 9 PBU’s and 3 INT’s.
- SS Jaquon Johnson/Miami/SR/5-11 190/PS#33/Jersey #4 – The “Turnover Chain” should live on in Miami this year with Johnson leading the way for Coach Richt. The ‘Canes safety led them with 96 tackles and 4 INT’s.
- FS Taylor Rapp/Washington/JR/6-0 207/PS#71/Jersey #7 – Rapp is fun to watch. This dude brings the heat on opposing offenses. He had 59 tackles and 2 sacks last year with 1 INT. He had 4 INT’s as a true freshman in ’16. Expect him to improve that takeaway total this season.
- K Rodrigo “Hot Rod” Blankenship/Georgia/JR/6-1 191/PS#14/Jersey #98 – This is the guy with the weird goggle glasses. “Hot Rod” hit two HUGE field goals in last year’s CFP. He nailed a 55 yarder right before halftime of the Rose Bowl victory over Oklahoma. Then he blasted a do-or-die 52 yarder in OT of the National Championship game prior to Alabama’s game-winning TD pass. Overall, Blankenship made 20-23 FG’s and 63-63 PAT’s.
- P Mitch Wishnowsky/Utah/SR/6-2 220/PS#187JC/Jersey #33 – He won the Ray Guy Award for top punter in ’16. He was a finalist for the award again last year and was 5th in the nation in net punting average at 42.2 yards per punt.
- KR Tony Pollard/Memphis/JR/5-11 200/PS#170/Jersey #1 – How can anyone NOT pick Pollard at KR? This guy had an amazing 881 KR yards on just 22 chances for a 40.1 average!!! He scored 4 TD’s!!! Pollard is THE premier return man in the college game.
- PR Mecole Hardman/Georgia/JR/5-11 183/PS#2/Jersey #4 – Hardman returned both kickoffs and punts last season. He had 23 PR’s for 271 yards for an 11.8 avg. His long was 30. Look for Hardman to bust at least one all the way for a score this Fall.
Head Coach – Scott Frost/Nebraska – Frost has all the makings of a 25 year career as the head man in Lincoln, just like his hero Tom Osborne (1973-’97). Life is funny, no? Frost quarterbacked Nebraska to their last National Title in 1997 while Dr. Tom was writing his swan song in Memorial Stadium. Now Frost and the Huskers will play on Tom Osborne Field when they run out of the tunnel, with Osborne watching from high above the Red Sea in his suite at Memorial. Frost has already talked about how surreal it is when he’s in his office, formerly Osborne’s office, sitting behind the desk and his guy Tom walks in and sits down on the other side of the desk to chat. Surreal indeed. Twenty years wandering in the wilderness, or something like that. Check out my article on Frost sometime. GBR!
Offensive Coordinator – Lincoln Riley/Oklahoma – I know he’s the Head Coach at OU, but he’s basically the OC for the Sooners too. Riley started as the OC for HC Bob Stoops in 2015. He upped Oklahoma’s scoring from 36.4 ppg to 43.5 ppg in his first year. Then he continued improving to 43.9 in ’16 and 45.1 in ’17. That’s three years in a row over 43 points per game. Geez Louise! Now that Baker Mayfield is gone, we’ll see if Riley can maintain those numbers.
Defensive Coordinator – Brent Venables/Clemson – Simply the best. It’s not even that close. I love what he’s done in Clemson. Is he waiting for the dominos to fall for his first head coaching job? When Saban retires, I see Dabo going to ‘Bama. When Dabo leaves, I see Venables taking the Clemson HC gig, if he wants it.
“Dutch Lion’s” Favorite Players
- Nebraska WR #8 Stanley Morgan Jr./SR/6-1 195/PS#51 – Loyal to the Huskers, Morgan returned for his Senior season after recording 986 yards and 10 scores last year. Just named a captain of the Huskers today, Morgan is NOT the son of former NFL WR Stanley Morgan who you might recall played for New England from 1977-89. It’s just a coincidence that seems to be making the rounds. #FakeNews can be awful sometimes. Morgan looks to be in better shape than ever. 6-pack much? This dude is cool. Look for him to have a big season and hopefully become Nebraska’s first ever 1000 yard receiver after falling just 14 yards short in ’17.
- Washington S #7 Taylor Rapp/JR/6-0 207/PS#71 – Every time you look up, Rapp is blitzing. He’s incredibly fun to watch. For more, see above.
- Wisconsin RB #23 Jonathan “Touchdown” Taylor/SO/5-11 214/PS#54 – Incredible runner. The power….the speed! Very impressive. For more, see above.
- Northern Illinois OLB/DE #15 Sutton Smith/JR/6-0 230/PS#210 – For more, see above.
- Houston DT #10 Ed Oliver/JR/6-3 290/PS#5 – For more, see above.
- Arizona QB #14 Khalil “Turbo” Tate/JR/6-2 215/PS#15 – Electric! For more, see above.
- LSU ILB #40 Devin White/JR/6-1 260/PS#6 – For more, see above.
- UCF QB #10 McKenzie Milton/JR/5-11 185/PS#102 – Milton put up over 4000 passing yards last year with 37 TD’s and just 9 INT’s. Add in 613 rushing yards with another 8 scores and you have one of the most productive QB’s in the country. Oh yeah, and he led UCF to an undefeated season. If he was on a Power 5 team he’d have one Heisman Trophy already with one or two more chances still to go.
- Georgia DT #52 Tyler Clark/JR/6-4 300/PS#61 – Watch Clark when you watch UGA this season. He really impressed me toward the end of last year. The Bulldogs are so deep on the defensive front that he didn’t even get much mention, but Tyler Clark deserves it. Watch him become a disruptor this year for the ‘Dawgs.
- Georgia DE #13 Jonathan Ledbetter/SR/6-4 277/PS#16 – Like Clark, watch Ledbetter become a star for Georgia in ’18. Last year he was pretty darn good but was overlooked by Roquan, Trent Thompson, and Davin Bellamy. Ledbetter will be wearing those crazy spiked shoulder pads on the sidelines a lot this Fall.
- Washington QB #3 Jake Browning/SR/6-2 206/PS#10 – I like Browning but boy did he struggle last season. He just wasn’t the same QB as he was in ’16. he dropped from throwing 43 TD’s in ’16 to just 19 TD’s in ’17. Last year Browning was recovering from shoulder surgery and you could see he wasn’t that sharp. He had little zip on the ball and lacked confidence. He often ran around in the backfield until he was sacked and then had that look on his face like it wasn’t his fault. Maybe not, but his moxie came into question many times. I’m giving Jake the benefit of the doubt that it was a combination of things in ’17 such as poor OL play due to injuries, WR’s that didn’t get separation due to injuries and inexperience, and his lack of arm strength due to the shoulder from the end of the ’16 season. Moving forward, will Browning rebound? Or is his time over in Seattle? I’m betting on Browing, Coach Peterson, and a healthy offense around Jake to improve his performance for his last go-round as a Senior.
- USC WR #21 Tyler Vaughns/SO/6-2 185/PS#3 – Vaughns is relatively new to me but in watching his performance as a true freshman, I was very impressed by Vaughns catch radius. He’s a long, lanky WR that goes up and high-points the football. Watch Vaughns become FR QB J.T. Daniels number one target out in Los Angeles. He put up 57 catches for 809 yards and 5 TD’s with Sam Darnold last year. Now that he’s had a year in the system, look for 1000 and 10 for Vaughns in ’18!
- Michigan St. RB #3 L.J. Scott/SR/6-1 230/PS#6 – As noted in last year’s Spectacular, Scott runs similar to Lawrence Phillips from the mid-90s Cornhuskers. Not as good, but similar. Watch for him to have a big Senior season on his way to the NFL. Surprisingly, Scott has never run for over 1000 in his 3 years at MSU. That will change.
- Northwestern TE/SB #84 Cameron “Cam” Green/JR/6-3 230/PS#97WR – Cam is a great kid. Just saw him over the Summer at Target. Green’s father Mark Green played on the 1988 Notre Dame National Champions and then in the NFL with the Chicago Bears. So Cam grew up locally and went to Stevenson H.S. where I work. He’s bulked up from WR to play the Superback position at Northwestern which is a Tight End. Cam is my buddy. We had many great conversations over the years about life, our Stevenson sports teams, his dad, his teammates, and his future. He’s a wonderful young man and I’m proud of him. Good luck Camzilla!
- Illinois WR #18 Mike Dudek/SR/5-11 185/PS#123 – We said it last year and we’ll say it again. Let’s hope Mikey Dudek can stay healthy. A local kid who played at Neuqua Valley, my buddy Mike met Dudek at a party in Naperville once. Beset by injuries, this once promising WR has battled back from two ACL tears and broken ribs over the last 3 seasons. Did you forget that Dudek was 2nd team All-B1G in ’14? I almost did. 2015: ACL; 2016: ACL; 2017: only 7 games due to the ribs injury. 2018: ???
- Michigan St. FS #10 Matt Morrissey/SR/6-3 204/PS#124 – Matt is a year older than Cam Green and has a similar background. His dad is Jim Morrissey, #51 from the 1985 Super Bowl XX Champion Chicago Bears. Matt grew up here in Lincolnshire and played from 2010-’13 at Stevenson H.S. He is now in his 5th year up in East Lansing, MI and plays FS for the Spartans. Matt and I had some nice talks over the years and I’m super proud of this young man. Growing up with a father who played for the Bears puts a lot of pressure on a kid and Matt always handled it so well. Good luck MattMo!
Special Shout Out………
- Nebraska RB #18 Tre Bryant – He just retired due to balky “old man” knees. It’s too bad. He was amazing in his two games last year. He put up 299 rushing yards against Arkansas St. and Oregon. He showed awesome quickness and burst. Then his knees gave out. Sad but memorable nonetheless.
Dutch Lion’s Favorite Stadiums
Places I’ve Attended a Game
- Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium – 4 games: Baylor in 1996, USC 2007, Northwestern 2013, Wyoming 2016; Also non-gameday in 2003. We walked on the field
- Illinois’s Memorial Stadium – many, many times: Next time you go, take some quiet time and go up in the columns. It’s a special place. You can feel the history of Red Grange and Big Ten football for a century while up there. Read the commemorations. Take great pics with your family. Enjoy the views. The west side has amazing sunsets. Just enjoy the serenity. It’s really special, trust “Dutch”.
- Notre Dame Stadium – three times: Texas 2015, Navy 1998?, Stanford 1999?: Notre Dame is a special place. It really is. On a beautiful Autumn Saturday, where else would you rather be? Touchdown Jesus, the statues, the atmosphere are all top-notch. Last time I was there with my son, we stood in the tunnel during pre-game to see the team walk out. We saw RB #25 Taurean Folston. It was awesome!
- Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium – several times: Nebraska 2011 & 2014; Illinois ? Western Kentucky ? – I’ve been to Camp Randall for several games. Once it was so hot we thought we were melting. Another time it was so cold our hand-warmers froze during the mid-November snowfall. It’s a nice stadium but the fans can be brutal. I’ve been there for two Cornhuskers games and there was hatred in the air. You can feel the jealousy, the hatred, the envy, and the anger. Wisconsin fans expect to dominate and they usually do. They get restless if their starting RB isn’t over 100 yards with a 20 point lead by halftime. Nonetheless, the experience can be pretty fun. I’d enjoy going to a game against Ohio St. someday.
- UCLA’s Rose Bowl – We went to an Illinois at UCLA regular season game in ’03? It was cool but it’s not the same as an actual Rose Bowl game. Our game was a really boring 6-3 loss by Illinois.
- Michigan Stadium – Illinois at Michigan 1996
- Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium – Indiana at Iowa 1999
- Purdue’s Ross-Ade Stadium – Nebraska at Purdue 2017 – Purdue’s stadium is average, by Big Ten standards anyway.
- Northern Illinois’s Huskie Stadium – 3 games, most recently vs Toledo 2006? – Better than Northwestern’s Ryan Field, and that’s saying something. How can NIU have a better stadium than a Big Ten team? I don’t know. They just do. Last time I was at Huskie the vuvuzelas were raucous!
- Northwestern’s Ryan Field – Nebraska 2012, Michigan St. 2001 – Ryan Field is only slightly bigger than a high school field. Big Ten football? C’mon man. This stadium needs renovations and improvements. It’s boring, small, and not befitting a B1G team.
Other Stadiums I’ve seen in person on a non-gameday
- Michigan State’s Spartan Stadium – We drove by on vacation when I was a kid.
- Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium – Impressive. Good thing they moved from the old HHH Metrodome.
- Indiana’s Memorial Stadium – Walked on the field. It’s way better than Northwestern for one.
- Vanderbilt Stadium – Drove by, not much to look at.
- Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium – Really cool vibe. Definitely a bucket list item to see a game in Knoxville.
- Kentucky’s Commonwealth Stadium – Drove by. Not much to look at.
- Georgia’s Sanford Stadium – I saw from afar while on Georgia’s campus back in 2001? Georgia’s campus is one of the most gorgeous I’ve ever seen. Beautiful.
- Texas’s Darrell K. Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium – Walked on the field, stepped on the Longhorn. It’s huge.
- Oregon’s Autzen Stadium – Walked inside with nobody else there. Incredible! I want to move there and buy season tickets.
- Washington’s Husky Stadium – Looked in through their pad-locked gates. Awesome!
- Arizona State’s Sun Devil Stadium – Drove by. Looked really cool.
- Baylor’s McLane Stadium – Drove by on the highway. It’s new and fantastic. We probably should’ve stopped to look closer.
Dutch Lion’s Top Running Back Duos
- Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins & Mike Weber – They combined for 2029 rushing yards and 17 TD’s.
- Oklahoma’s Rodney Anderson & Trey Sermon “On the Mount” – 1905 rush yards and 18 TD’s.
- Florida State’s Cam Akers & Jacques Patrick – 1772 rush yards and 14 TD’s
- Washington’s Myles Gaskin & Salvon Ahmed – 1768 rush yards and 24 TD’s
- Alabama’s Damien Harris & Najee Harris – 1370 rush yards and 14 TD’s
- Clemson’s Travis Etienne & Tavien Feaster – 1435 rush yards and 20 TD’s
- Stanford’s Bryce Love & Cameron Scarlett – 2507 rush yards and 27 TD’s
- Michigan’s Karan Higdon & Chris Evans – 1679 rush yards and 17 TD’s
- Arizona’s QB Khalil Tate & RB J.J. Taylor – 2258 rush yards and 17 TD’s
So that’s it for this year’s College Football Spectacular. I hope you enjoyed the Preview. I KNOW you’ll enjoy the games. Have a great season!
Michigan? they have to get past Notre Dame first.
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I’m really excited about the game tonight. It will probably be tight. I’m cheering for ND but either way, one opening week loss won’t rule out either team from making the CFP. Of course, the loser most likely has to win out. Have fun Jim!
Great preview and I love all the detail, though I can’t agree with that Team up North winning the title #BuckeyeNation. Still, really enjoyed it and would love to see more of your college football pieces
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Thanks so much! Man I’ve been busy. I’m sorry it took me so long to thank you. I was just browsing my comments and found yours.
Anyway, yeah I still believe in Michigan. Maybe I shouldn’t but I do. I think the Wolverines defense will be amazing. The one close loss at ND will be fine. Of course, they need to win the B1G first and then who knows. The Buckeyes are awesome too.