College football has a protracted talking season. Memories get fuzzy over eight months of nothing. Consensus wisdom, often baseless, calcifies. The same biases leave media members prone to the same logical leaps.
Here are five utterly predictable narratives for the 2017 season. We’re bound to get at least four of them.
Top 10 Texas A&M Takes a Tumble
Texas A&M starts off 5-0. They creep into the Top 10. Everyone gets ready to gas up the swag copter. Then, the Aggies enter the meat of their SEC schedule. They tumble to the finish with five losses. You don’t need to stop us.
We know you’ve heard this story before. It happened to Texas A&M the last three seasons. The Aggies could very well start 5-0. Plausible scenario: beat UCLA by a narrow margin, a one-score win over Arkansas at a neutral site, a comfortable win over South Carolina at home. That sets up the much-hyped “top 10” game Alabama wins comfortably. After that, Texas A&M has (at Florida), Mississippi State, Auburn, (at) Ole Miss and (at) LSU.
The Media Is Way Off On Auburn
Auburn has a broader range than any major program. Sometimes, they beat Bama and reach the national title game (multiple times this decade). Sometimes, they have an extended SEC losing streak (multiple times this decade). Sometimes, Auburn just finishes 8-5.
The only consistency with Auburn is that the media gets it wrong preseason. Since 2008, the initial AP poll has ranked Auburn in the Top 10 thrice. The Tigers finished ranked once (No. 22 in 2014) during those seasons. The two title game appearances? Auburn began ranked No. 22 (2010) and unranked (2014). Folks have been talking up the Tigers. The “SEC dark horse” is approaching “SEC contender” status. Jarrett Stidham is among the Heisman favorites. It’s starting to sound a whole lot like 2015.
USC Does Not Live Up To The Hype
USC is a big name program in Los Angeles. The Trojans often have a touted NFL prospect at quarterback. They bring in five-star recruits on the regular. It’s fun when USC is good. Hey, they came from behind to beat Penn State in a memorable Rose Bowl last year. Those factors could lead one to overlook losses and depth issues further down the roster and the fact Pete Carroll has not been coaching there.
USC, almost inevitably, will start in the preseason top five. In the three seasons where the Trojans started the season ranked 14th or higher since 2009, they have finished unranked and lost at least five games. Toss in a sneakily tough schedule with no off weeks, literally or figuratively. The Trojans could still win the Pac 12 South, at 9-3.
LSU Will Not Have a Quarterback
Both LSU and Alabama recruit elite talent. Both LSU and Alabama develop that talent and send it to the NFL. The Tigers had perhaps the best offensive (Leonard Fournette) and defensive (Jamal Adams) players in the 2017 NFL Draft.
A key difference between the two schools that has led to Alabama having much more success is quarterback play. Alabama gets good to great production at that position every year. LSU almost never does. The going will get tough for the Tigers in 2017, with five SEC road games. Former Purdue transfer Danny Etling is still the most probable option at quarterback. That position will still be the difference between LSU competing for a SEC title and not doing so.
2017 Will Not Be All About “The U”
Media members like Mark Richt. He’s a gentleman, in a sport with few of them. “The U” resurging would be great for the ACC and College Football. But Miami hiring Richt was a collision of bleak trends. Richt has averaged four losses per season since reaching his last major bowl game with Georgia in 2007.
Speaking of four-loss seasons, that’s the best Miami has produced in recent memory. The Hurricanes have finished unranked in nine of the past 11 years and never higher than 19th. Their 2017 schedule beyond Florida State does look pillow-soft. But Miami’s slate was not that formidable with Brad Kaaya in 2016, and the Hurricanes still went 8-4 during the regular season. Beware the patented post-FSU loss meltdown.