By Flint Wheeler
With 2 weeks in the books for college football. As overreactions go – here are 3 predictions that will happen over the course of this 2016 season:
1) Alabama will be the most entertaining team in college football this season
Will the Crimson Tide win another national championship? It’s impossible to know at this exact moment, although after the Crimson Tide’s disemboweling of USC on opening night, I wouldn’t be surprised. At the same time, what I can definitively say is this: 2016 will be Nick Saban’s most entertaining team yet at Alabama.
While the Crimson Tide have basically dominated all comers since Saban’s first title season in Tuscaloosa in 2009, here’s the simple truth: It hasn’t always been fun, esthetically pleasing football to watch for fans. Take a physical running game, add in a merciless defense, and a quarterback who can do “just enough.”
And really, that’s what makes Alabama so darn interesting: They already have the defense, they already have the running game but now they have a quarterback that you simply can’t take your eyes off of either. Hurts was dynamic in his first action at Alabama, completing 6 of 11 passes, with two touchdowns, while running for two additional scores as well.
2) Auburn will be forced to fire Gus Malzahn before the end of the season
Honestly, no one hates talking hot seat more than I do, especially this early in the season. It isn’t fair to teams, players and coaches to make a sweeping judgements based off just one game. Especially after all the hard work that goes into the off-season.
At the same time, it was hard to think any differently watching Auburn on Saturday. Going up against a good, but not elite Clemson defense (which returned just three starters), at home, with — again — eight months to prepare, the Auburn offense wasn’t just stagnant.
Yes, and that’s what was so disheartening about the loss: The one side of the ball where the head coach is supposed to be an “expert” looked totally lost. And I’m not just talking about the players or the schemes on offense, but the coaches themselves.
A lot has been made the last few days about the three-man quarterback rodeo that Malzahn implemented Saturday night, but it’s one thing to talk about it, and another thing to have watched it live. There was simply no rhyme or reason to any of the switches — Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee seemed to run QBs out on the field on a whim, like they were picking names out of a hat in between plays. Say what you want about other offenses which used multiple quarterbacks (like Notre Dame or Texas) but at least it was clear they had a plan on how they wanted to use their guys. Watching Auburn, it’s hard to say the same.
Because of it, the offense was never able to get into a rhythm, and also why if the Tigers don’t settle on one guy soon (or at least a better rotation), Malzahn seems doomed. The schedule (like it always is at Auburn) is loaded with landmines, and it isn’t unrealistic to think the Tigers could have three losses before the end of September with games against Texas A&M and LSU.
3) Oklahoma’s defense will cost them at least three games this season
Of every team who received off-season hype, the one I couldn’t simply wrap my head around was Oklahoma. No, this wasn’t a “Big Game Bob Stoops” thing, but instead very real questions about their defense. The Sooners lost virtually every piece off the Big 12’s best unit last year, guys like Charles Tapper, Zack Sanchez and Eric Striker.
If I was, I wasn’t alone by mid-afternoon Saturday, after Houston’s shocking upset of the Sooners. Let’s not take anything away from Houston here; they’re a very, very good team, which will be in the playoff mix all season. But they also exposed some real holes on that Oklahoma defense.
Simply put, Greg Ward was basically able to do whatever he wanted against Oklahoma, throwing for two touchdowns and averaging over eight yards per completion. It also raises the question: If Oklahoma couldn’t slow down Houston, what luck do they have against the pass-happy Big 12?
Remember, this schedule is still full of explosive offenses, starting in two weeks with Ohio State, and continuing throughout the Big 12 season with teams like TCU, Baylor, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech.
It’s hard to imagine this Oklahoma team not losing at least another 2-3 games throughout the season. It also means that a club touted as a preseason playoff contender, will more likely be around 8-4 by the end of the season.