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BTD’s 2017 College Football Season Preview

The biggest players. The wildest games. The boldest predictions. What will the 2017 college football season hold in store?

TCU v Baylor Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

25 PLAYERS TO KNOW

Josh Allen - Wyoming (QB): Once an unwanted commodity without any Division I offers, the Cowboys’ gunslinger may soon be one of the top picks in the NFL Draft.

Saquon Barkley - Penn State (RB): Barkley may be college football’s most electric running back, who has the potential to carry the Nittany Lions to a Big Ten title.

J.T. Barrett - Ohio State (QB): It’s time for Barrett’s swan song with the Buckeyes. Can the all-conference fifth-year senior end things in Columbus on a high note?

Jake Browning - Washington (QB): He’s a prototypical gunslinger that gives the Huskies offense it’s edge, and makes Washington one of college football’s biggest enigmas.

Nick Chubb - Georgia (RB): Second-year head coach Kirby Smart will need Chubb to continue his play-making ways and more importantly...stay healthy and on the field.

Sam Darnold - USC (QB): He may be college football’s “next big thing” but it’s a long way to the top, especially in a very unpredictable Pac-12.

Luke Falk - Washington State (QB): The newest product of Mike Leach’s high-octane offense, will the hype surrounding Falk’s big arm finally come to fruition in 2017?

Minkah Fitzpatrick - Alabama (DB): Fitzpatrick has returned five interceptions for touchdowns in just two seasons for Alabama. Talk about a defensive game-changer.

Quinton Flowers - South Florida (QB): Charlie Strong will hope that Flowers becomes the Heisman sleeper he can be. After all, the Bulls are the favorites in the AAC.

Deondre Francois - Florida State (QB): Francois proved his unwavering toughness as a freshman. Can he prove his championship meddle during year two in Tallahassee?

Rashan Gary - Michigan (DE): Michigan will have a bevy of new faces on their depth chart but Gary won’t be one of them. He’ll need to lead the Wolverines defense up-front.

Derrius Guice - LSU (RB): Guice had his fair share of moments playing second-fiddle to Leonard Fournette, but it’ll be his time to take the reigns in Death Valley now.

Jalen Hurts - Alabama (QB): He’s only a sophomore but expectations are simple in Tuscaloosa. It’s National Championship or bust for the top-ranked Crimson Tide.

Justin Jackson - Northwestern (RB): Three-straight 1,000 yard seasons have and still, Jackson is relatively unknown on a national scale. That should definitely change in 2017.

Lamar Jackson - Louisville (QB): He’s the reigning Heisman Trophy winner who’ll be asked to do even more in 2017, considering the losses across the board for Louisville.

Derwin James - Florida State (S): Arguably the best player in all of college football, James is a one-of-a-kind athletic talent, even for the always imposing Seminoles.

Harold Landry - Boston College (DE): Want to talk about a defensive menace? Landry totaled 16.5 sacks for Boston College in just thirteen games of action, a season ago.

Baker Mayfield - Oklahoma (QB): If the heat wasn’t already on Mayfield to bring a Big 12 title to Norman, the fire got turned up a bit when Bob Stoops abruptly resigned.

Ed Oliver - Houston (DT): Physical. Athletic. Disruptive. Oliver is everything you would want in a defensive lineman, the main reason he tallied 65 tackles and 5 sacks in 2016.

Mason Rudolph - Oklahoma State (QB): In similar fashion to Falk, Rudolph should end 2017 with some gaudy stats. Will the on-field success of the Cowboys follow his lead?

Jarrett Stidham - Auburn (QB): A transfer from Baylor, Stidham will be asked to manage some heavy expectations for an Auburn program entering a pivotal campaign.

Vita Vea - Washington (DL): There’s not a defensive talent in the Pac-12 that coordinators probably fear more than Vea. The epitome of a ruthless earth-mover.

Akrum Wadley - Iowa (RB): Remember this name. Wadley is one of the nation’s most under-loved running backs with a seriously crafty and physical, NFL-ready skill-set.

Christian Wilkins - Clemson (DT): Clemson will need some players on the defensive side of the ball to shake things up in the ACC. Wilkins should be at the forefront of it all.

Logan Woodside - Toledo (QB): The Toledo quarterback led the country with 45 touchdown passes a season ago and is one of college football’s best kept secrets.

NCAA Football: Citrus Bowl-Louisiana State vs Louisville
How will Lamar Jackson follow up last season’s Heisman Trophy campaign for the Cardinals?
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

TOP GAMES TO WATCH

Best Neutral-Site Game: Alabama v. Florida State (9/2)

The potential #1 and #2 teams to start the season will meet in Week One in Atlanta, in what might be the best kick-off game in recent memory. It’ll be a mix of improving offenses and stalwart defenses for Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher.

Neutral-Site Game To Watch: Florida v. Michigan (9/2)

Michigan lost a wealth of talent to the NFL Draft, while Florida is on the verge of piecing it all together down in Gainesville. However, the Gators were 1-3 against ranked opponents in 2016, only knocking off #16 LSU.

Best Non-Conference Game: Ohio State v. Oklahoma (9/9)

The consistent play of both quarterbacks in this game for a full-season are their team’s tickets to the College Football Playoff. The Buckeyes went to Norman and left with a 45-24 win in 2016. Will the Sooners exact their revenge in 2017?

Non-Conference Game To Watch: Clemson v. Auburn (9/9)

Clemson pulled out an ugly 19-13 thriller last season at Auburn, but the reigning National Champs will be playing with the weight of being the target in 2017. Auburn will also be much improved across the board.

Best Conference Game: Ohio State v. Penn State (10/28)

The Buckeyes and Nittany Lions played an absolute thriller a season ago and they’re both consensus Top 10 teams heading into 2017. Like 2016, this mid-Big Ten showdown could come down to the final minutes.

Conference Game To Watch: Clemson v. Florida State (11/11)

Either Alabama or Florida State will start the campaign 0-1, meaning conference losses will need to come at a minimum for both squads. A road trip to Clemson could derail the Seminoles’ College Football Playoff hopes.

Best Rivalry Game: Oklahoma State v. Oklahoma (11/4)

I’ll never say that any rivalry can compare to the spectacle of Army-Navy but in terms of sheer football prowess, this year’s meeting between the Cowboys and Sooners will live up to it’s moniker of absolute “Bedlam”.

Rivalry Game To Watch: Army v. Navy (12/9)

The Black Knights beat the Midshipmen last season for the first time since 2001, in basically their equivalent of a National Championship game. For a first time in a few seasons, these two teams look somewhat evenly-matched, as well.

NCAA Football: Army vs Navy
Other rivalries are great...but there’s just something different about when Army and Navy take the field.

CONFERENCE PREDICTIONS

AAC: South Florida v. Navy (South Florida)

ACC: Florida State v. Miami-FL (Florida State)

Big Ten: Ohio State v. Wisconsin (Ohio State)

Big 12: Oklahoma v. Oklahoma State (Oklahoma)

Pac-12: USC v. Washington (USC)

SEC: Alabama v. Florida (Alabama)

CFP: Alabama v. USC, Florida State v. Ohio State

Championship Game: Alabama v. Florida State (Alabama)

Alabama v Florida State
The Seminoles and the Crimson Tide are the early favorites to meet in the National Championship game.