The cast of characters is changing at Whitworth. However, the entertainment factor will remain high at the Pine Bowl, where the Pirates will host six games while continuing coach Rod Sandberg’s spread offense.
Brett Rypien may not have been here, sitting on a chair inside the recruiting lounge of the Blaymaier Football Complex talking about preparing for his final season at Boise State. In fact, he probably wouldn’t have been here.
They can run, but they can’t save their hides. OK, well maybe Russell Wilson can – running is all that’s saved his in the past two seasons as quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks.
Oklahoma is be the preseason favorite to win another Big 12 Conference title. West Virginia was picked second in the preseason media poll, ahead of TCU, Texas and Oklahoma State. The Mountaineers will be led by quarterback Will Grier, a Heisman Trophy hopeful who threw for 34 touchdowns and 3,490 yards last season.
Boise State hopes to make this a memorable 20th season for the Mountain West. The Broncos have the leadership and experience to contend for a big-time bowl game. Still, Broncos coach Bryan Harsin is tapping the brakes on all the expectations surrounding his squad, which is the favorite to win the Mountain side of the division. There are plenty of potential pitfalls in the way.
The Big Ten West might not be best but appears closer to challenging the East Division’s conference dominance. Wisconsin returns the entire offensive line and a 1,900-yard rusher from its record-setting 13-win team a year ago. Some see the Badgers as a contender for the College Football Playoff. The East Division has won five straight conference championships and Ohio State is favored to extend that streak to six.
Clemson is the overwhelming favorite to win a fourth straight Atlantic Coast Conference championship. The Tigers have lost just two games against league opponents in the past three seasons. Another title would make Clemson the first team to win four straight ACC titles since Florida State’s dominating run through the 1990s. Clemson headlines an Atlantic Division featuring significant changes for contenders FSU, Louisville and North Carolina State. Miami is picked to win the Coastal Division.
Washington coach Chris Petersen has a roster loaded with NFL-caliber talent to make a run at the Huskies’ second College Football Playoff berth in three seasons. But Petersen isn’t happy about being the preseason Pac-12 favorite, and the entire league could be excused for taking an inferiority complex into the fall. Stanford tailback Bryce Love leads the usual wealth of talent around the league, which also has five new head coaches.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart gave mentor Nick Saban and Alabama a run for their money in the national championship game – and did it again in the offseason. Smart brought in the nation’s top recruiting class and stayed on point with Saban-like messages. The Bulldogs and Crimson Tide are the favorites to meet in a rematch of the national title game – this time for the Southeastern Conference championship.