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BTD’s 2018 College Football Season Preview

The players to know. The games to watch. The potential conference winners. It’s BTD’s 2018 college football season preview.

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship Game-Alabama vs Georgia Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

20 PLAYERS TO KNOW

Nick Bosa (Ohio State) DE: The younger brother of NFL-er Joey Bosa, many outlets already have strong belief that Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa will develop into a top-five pick in next year’s draft. The 6’ 4”, 270-pounder finished with 8.5 sacks during the 2017 campaign.

AJ Brown (Ole Miss) WR: The leading returner in the SEC in receiving yards, Brown also finished second in the league in catches and tied for first in touchdowns last season. He’ll anchor a Rebels squad that has potential, despite the transfers, to become a darkhorse contender in the league.

Nick Fitzgerald (Mississippi State) QB: Fitzgerald needs to get his passing completion percentage up and his interception rate down, but the dual-threat quarterback for Mississippi State has all the tools to take the leap. He’ll be a key decider in how the Bulldogs fare in 2018.

Jake Fromm (Georgia) QB: Georgia’s run to a National Championship game last season was largely due to the breakout play of freshman Jake Fromm at quarterback. It’ll be tough to top his rookie campaign, but the Bulldogs have their eyes set on a return to the College Football Playoff.

Joe Giles-Harris (Duke) LB: In Giles-Harris, Duke has a workhorse who has tallied 232 tackles in just two seasons of football with the Blue Devils. Almost a lock for an All-ACC first team accolade, the Blue Devils might have a future conference Defensive Player of the Year on their hands.

Will Grier (West Virginia) QB: A well-hyped gunslinger, the belief is that somewhere between West Virginia’s high-powered offense and Grier’s natural talent, the pieces are going to fall together for Grier and company. If healthy, he can be one of the country’s elite quarterbacks.

Jalen Hurts (Alabama) QB: One half of the Alabama quarterback saga, before Hurts found himself on the bench in the National Championship game, he was commonly revered as arguably the country’s best quarterback. He’ll have to fight to win his job, before he can prove that again.

Jaquan Johnson (Miami-FL) S: Johnson snagged four interceptions a season ago, as one of the undeniable leaders of the Hurricanes unrelenting defense. He would go on to finish the 2017 campaign with three games in double-digits tackles and a total of thee forced fumbles on the year.

Drew Lock (Missouri) QB: Still largely unheralded on a national scale, Lock threw for an SEC record 44 touchdowns in 2017, as one of the biggest arm talents in the country. If he can help his Tigers squad fit in the conference picture now, he may rise up into the first round of the NFL Draft.

Bryce Love (Stanford) RB: There’s not much that can be said about Love that hasn’t been said before. He’s the easy front-runner for the Heisman Trophy heading into the season and he might just be the best player in all of college football. It’s simply hard to get enough of Bryce Love.

Trace McSorley (Penn State) QB: Without electric running back Saquon Barkley next to him, it’s McSorley’s turn to step into the limelight at Penn State in 2018. In 2017, he finished with 39 touchdowns, which included 28 through the air and 11 on the ground as a dual-threat play-maker.

Ed Oliver (Houston) DT: Oliver will have to play this season with the intrigue of being a top-five pick in the NFL Draft looming over him, which sometimes steers players in the wrong direction. However, expect that to not be the case for the 290-pounder, who dominates the interior line.

Dalton Risner (Kansas State) OT: Definitely not a household name by any measure, Risner is the type of unassuming offensive lineman who keeps defensive coordinators up at night. The 6’ 5”, 300-pounder is a two-time All-Big 12 selection and a likely All-American pick heading into 2018.

Sutton Smith (Northern Illinois) DE: Smith tied with Central Michigan’s Joe Ostman for the most sacks in the country in 2017 (14) and he’s already lead a serious trash-talking brigade into the Huskies’ season opener against Iowa. Remember his name as the 2018 campaign begins.

Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama) QB: The other half of the Alabama quarterback saga, Tagovailoa burst onto the national scene during his heroic second half in last year’s championship game. He’s the slight favorite to beat out Hurts for the job, but he’ll play on a short leash if that’s the case.

Khalil Tate (Arizona) QB: Electrifying and simply hard to contain, Tate is one of the best true play-makers in the country. He re-energized the Wildcats offense last season after earning the starting full-time gig and he’s expected to take a leap again under new head coach Kevin Sumlin.

Jonathan Taylor (Wisconsin) RB: A lurking Heisman threat, Taylor will anchor Wisconsin’s offense from the backfield, as arguably the best running threat in college football besides Bryce Love. Taylor might be the top talent on a College Football Playoff bound Badgers squad.

Levonta Taylor (Florida State) CB: The Seminoles always have that one defensive back that makes fans jaws drop and this season’s version will be Taylor. He’s not a prototypical, Florida State-esque big-hitter, but he might be the best pure cover corner in all of college football.

Christian Wilkins (Clemson) DL: Arguably the most feared player in the ACC, the impact of Clemson defensive lineman Christian Wilkins on opposing offenses, will only be amplified by defensive end Clelin Ferrell right by his side. Wilkins will lead the scariest defense in the country.

Jonah Williams (Alabama) OL: A less heralded piece who will be every bit of important to another potential title run for Alabama, massive 6’ 5”, 300 pound lineman Jonah Williams might just be the most coveted talent on the Crimson Tide roster, when it comes time for the 2018 NFL Draft.

NCAA Football: Alamo Bowl-Stanford vs Texas Christian
Stanford running back Bryce Love leads the early Heisman conversation.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

TOP GAMES TO WATCH

Best Neutral-Site Game: Ohio State v. TCU (9/15)

Neutral-Site Game To Watch: Auburn v. Washington (9/1)

Best Non-Conference Game: Notre Dame v. Michigan (9/1)

Non-Conference Game To Watch: LSU v. Miami-FL (9/2)

Best Conference Game: Penn State v. Wisconsin (11/10)

Conference Game To Watch: Florida State v. Clemson (10/27)

Best Rivalry Game: Alabama v. Auburn (11/24)

Rivalry Game To Watch: Army v. Navy (12/8)

NCAA Football: Army at Navy
Everything is left on the field when the Black Knights and Midshipmen meet in early December.
James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

CONFERENCE PREDICTIONS

AAC: UCF v. Houston (UCF)

ACC: Clemson v. Miami-FL (Clemson)

Big Ten: Penn State v. Wisconsin (Wisconsin)

Big 12: Oklahoma v. TCU (Oklahoma)

Pac-12: Washington v. USC (USC)

SEC: Georgia v. Alabama (Alabama)

CFP: Alabama v. USC, Clemson v, Wisconsin

Championship Game: Alabama v. Wisconsin (Alabama)

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Alabama Celebration
The Crimson Tide are early favorites for another national title.
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports