We haven't seen our guy Chip Scoggins around the office much lately. We think he might be breaking in a new college football couch, or practicing his channel flipping. That man loves himself some college ball. Chip surfaced just long enough to send us his annual treatise. Here are 17 thoughts from him on the 2017 season:
With a bang
The most wonderful time of the year is upon us and college football isn't fooling around with its welcome. How about No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 3 Florida State this Saturday night for openers? This could be a preview of the national championship game. How can you not love the new emphasis on scheduling marquee matchups early in the season instead of feasting on cream puffs?
Not so fast, ACC
The ACC has a compelling argument in declaring itself the nation's toughest conference. Maybe it's my SEC bias, but I still put that conference No. 1, though I moved the ACC up a spot this season. My Power Five conference rankings by strength: SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12, Big 12.
I hate the idea of Big Ten games being played on Friday night, the night for high school football, but TV money wins every battle. No sense in complaining, because athletic departments and conferences are dependent on television revenue as a primary income source.
Arkansas center Frank Ragnow, a Chanhassen product, is an All-America candidate and is expected to be a high NFL draft pick next spring.
Ann Arbor blues?
Not sure what to make of Michigan. Coach Jim Harbaugh's team lost three of its final four games last season and returns only five starters. Ohio State and Penn State are a notch better in the Big Ten East.
Big jobs, hot seats
Two coaches sitting on the hottest seats: Notre Dame's Brian Kelly and Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin. Kelly turned over his coaching staff after a disastrous 4-8 season. He's out of excuses if things go south again. Sumlin has posted three consecutive 8-5 records. That's not going to cut it anymore.
Another sport that's trying to speed up
The average time of game in college football last season was 3 hours, 24 minutes, according to Big Ten coordinator of officials Bill Carollo. He said the Big Ten average game was 3:21. Pace of play in football doesn't bother me nearly as much as baseball, but the length of some games feels absurd. Carollo said officials will take steps to shave off time, including a strict 20-minute halftime.
Herschel — remember him?
Athlon Sports preseason magazine ranked the top 50 college players since it began publishing in 1967. Herschel Walker was No. 1. Here are my top five that I have watched play in person (in no particular order): Bo Jackson, Peyton Manning, Reggie White, Vince Young, Reggie Bush.
Five games that will impact the national playoff chase:
Sept. 2: Alabama vs. Florida State. Must-see.
Sept. 9: Oklahoma at Ohio State. Another early test for two top-10 teams. Baker Mayfield vs. Ohio State defense is a big-time matchup.
Oct. 28: Penn State at Ohio State. A blocked field goal turned into a touchdown gave Penn State a stunning upset last season. The Nittany Lions aren't sneaking up on anyone this season.
Nov. 10: Washington at Stanford. Washington could be undefeated and staring at a return to the playoff. This would be the last hurdle before Pac-12 title game.
Nov. 11: Florida State at Clemson. Clemson won by three points on the road last season. Florida State will try to return the favor in Death Valley.
J.T.: more dangerous?
Curious to see what impact new Ohio State offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson will have on senior quarterback J.T. Barrett. Wilson needs to help Barrett become a more dynamic passer, especially on deep throws.
The prediction here is that Tom Herman brings Texas back to national prominence in short order.
Jerry World's big game
The Big 12 will resume holding a conference championship game after a six-year hiatus. The game again will be played at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys. The Big 12 stopped having a championship game in 2011 after realignment left the league with only 10 teams, two short of the previous NCAA requirement, but the rules were changed for this year.
The Clemson defense has led the nation in tackles for loss four consecutive seasons and returns the best front four in college football, led by All-America candidates Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence.
Listen for the 'War Eagle' cries
Auburn ranked 112th nationally in passing last season — one spot below the Gophers — at 169.5 yards per game. The Tigers finished sixth in rushing (271.3), however. Transfer quarterback Jarrett Stidham (Baylor) should significantly upgrade their passing attack and give the offense more balance.
... and 'Ride 'em, Cowboys'
Another team to keep an eye on: Oklahoma State. Quarterback Mason Rudolph returns for his senior season to lead a high-scoring offense. The Cowboys must replace a number of starters on defense, but Mike Gundy's team could contend for a playoff spot coming off a 10-win season.
Tough schedule for Seminoles
Florida State's path to the playoff won't be easy with road games at Clemson and Florida and a neutral site game against Alabama in Atlanta in the opener.
One shelf. Two trophies?
Here's a stat that I find amazing: Louisville's Lamar Jackson carried the ball 260 times last season. As a quarterback. For context, that was 20 more carries than Rodney Smith got for the Gophers. Jackson also threw 409 passes, accounting for 5,114 total yards and 51 total touchdowns. He earned his Heisman Trophy. What more can he do for an encore?