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College Football: By the Numbers


By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowmanon Twitter)

Are you as ready for college football to start as we are at Athlon? Our daily countdown will take us right up to kickoff on September 1. Some days our number might represent an All-American player, a great stat or just something fun about the game we all love.

Days Until College Football: 1

With apologies to South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery, Baylor’s Kendall Wright and West Virginia’s Tavon Austin, No. 1 on our countdown is our request to all the fans: enjoy the football. In an offseason full of scandal and realignment rumors, it’s time for toe to meet leather and for the conversation to turn to gridiron happenings. It’s easy to be distracted with bad news during the summer months, but now it’s time to enjoy the game we all love.

Can the SEC win its sixth straight national title? How will Nebraska fare in the Big Ten? Can Andrew Luck lead Stanford to a Pac-12 crown with Jim Harbaugh gone to the NFL? Will Boise State win its third straight opener over a major BCS power? These are some of the storylines that we can’t wait to see play out during the upcoming months.

College football is back!

Days Until College Football: 2

LSU ranked No. 2 in scoring defense in the SEC last season, but the Tigers suffered some major losses in the offseason. The best player on each level of the defense – tackle Drake Nevis, linebacker Kelvin Sheppard and cornerback Patrick Peterson – moved on to the NFL, and coordinator John Chavis will have a challenge in getting his group to repeat as best in the league against the run. Additionally, the schedule will present some very difficult obstacles – the fast-paced Oregon spread, West Virginia’s new passing attack under Dana Holgorsen, the power run game of Alabama and the high-octane aerial assault of Arkansas.

The defense will need to carry LSU early with offensive starters Jordan Jefferson (QB) and Russell Shepard (WR) being suspended for the huge opener – if not longer - against Oregon. With those two missing and Stevan Ridley’s departure to the NFL, Les Miles’ bunch will only return five of their 29 rushing touchdowns from a year ago. The offensive line and running backs are solid, but the passing game may be inconsistent in September. With points at a premium, the defense will need to hold the vaunted Ducks in check.

LSU has plenty of talent on defense, but most of the experience is in the back seven. The defensive line must perform above expectation if the Tigers are going to beat Oregon and compete for the SEC West crown.

Days Until College Football: 3

Oklahoma State ranked No. 3 in the nation in both scoring and total offense a year ago. Most of that high-octane attack is back, but intrepid offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen has moved on to West Virginia as the Mountaineers new head coach. The pieces – senior quarterback Brandon Weeden, record-setting receiver Justin Blackmon, and an offensive line with all five starters returning – seem to be there for the Cowboys to repeat their gaudy output of over 520 yards and 44 points per game. But the question remains – will the OSU offense be the same without Holgorsen calling the plays?

New offensive coordinator Todd Monken returns to Stillwater, where he previously spent three years as an assistant under Les Miles. After four years with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Monken will try to keep the momentum going that led the Cowboys to a school-record 11 wins last year. The schedule is formidable, with road trips to Texas A&M, Texas and Missouri, and the Bedlam Game with Oklahoma could decide the Big 12 champion.

The OSU defense has talent but will need more consistent play from the front seven to compete for the league title. If Mike Gundy and Monken can keep the offense at the same productive level, the Cowboys can win double-digit games once again.

Days Until College Football: 4

Only four teams – Boise State, Ohio State, Virginia Tech and West Virginia – in FBS football have won at least nine games in each of the last six seasons. That low number of schools shows how difficult it is to maintain a consistent winner in the current college football landscape, even though the expectations from fans and administrations tend to be higher than ever. With escalating coaching salaries and constant television coverage, many fans want an immediate double-digit wins per year program with no drop off from season to season. That’s a pretty unrealistic way to judge your coach and team.

The fact that no SEC school was among the four is hardly surprising. It’s a conference where most of it members are spending huge dollars on coaches and facilities. The reality becomes that not everyone can win every Saturday, even if you’re paying top money for a coaching staff, stadium, practice complex and weight room. The SEC has won the last five national titles, but the last repeat winner of the league championship game was Tennessee in 1998.

It’s probably a futile thought, but fans need to remember that their team is not going to win ten games every season. Every school would love to have a Chris Petersen or Frank Beamer coaching its program, but there are only so many top bosses who want to stay in one place. The next time you’re calling for a firing after an eight- or nine-win season, let it go.

Days Until College Football: 5

Arizona finished last season with the No. 5 scoring offense in the Pac-10, including the top passing attack in the league. But can the Wildcats do it again with a brutal early Pac-12 schedule this year? The skill positions look solid with the leading passer (Nick Foles), leading receiver (Juron Criner) and leading rusher (Keola Antolin) are returning as seniors. Foles has plenty of experienced targets, and the receiving unit will also be bolstered by talented Texas transfer Dan Buckner. However, the biggest question on the team has to be an offensive line with no returning starters. New line coach Robert Anae will need to get his group up to speed early to give Foles time to pass and to improve an inconsistent running game.