Here’s how you know you are a college football nut — you have a countdown clock in your sports room telling how many days it is until the first spring game of 2018.
You will flip on the NFL conference title games this Sunday, but only to see which schools have the most players on each team. You will check out a little college basketball, but fantasize what kind of rush end every power forward would be.
And you are wondering why passing drills aren’t part of the Winter Olympics.
For the rest of America, there is a whole world going on out there, which is one reason it’s safer to be a college football nut.
But you don’t have to have tunnel vision to already be wondering about the next college football season as long as you still take your meals, remember to pick your kids up from soccer practice and pay your electric bill.
It’ll be here soon enough. The tailgates, the gnashing of teeth, the second-guessing. It’ll be different around here in Gainesville with a new coach and rumors of an actual offense.
But one thing that won’t change is a January Top 25 that will change 50 times before the first Associated Press poll is due. You’ve seen a few of them already published, but I tried to wait until almost everybody had declared for the NFL one way or another.
Wow, that was easy. It must be nice for players to announce they are leaving early and you pat them on the back and say, “Next.” The way Alabama’s freshman performed in the title game, almost everybody is going to have the Tide at the top.
2. Ohio State.
Last year, I had the Buckeyes in my Final Four and I could make an argument that I should have been proven right. It’s a factory up in Columbus.
Speaking of factories. Whether the Tigers can go all the way depends on whether or not QB Kelly Bryant can take the next step in the passing game, but — with the entire defensive line back — points will be difficult to come by against Dabo Swinney’s team.
4. West Virginia.
Will Grier hasn’t played two straight seasons of college football in his career. Watch out for the Mountaineers this year.
It was supposed to be a bit of a drop off in 2017, but it wasn’t that bad which tells you a lot about the talent and coaching.
The Bulldogs are difficult to figure, because they lose so much but still have a ton of talent and the top recruiting class. Kirby Smart needs to keep the momentum heading in the right direction.
7. Michigan State.
I’m surprised that more of the early polls don’t have Sparty higher. Clearly, MSU has rebounded from the one bad season.
Baker Mayfield was such a major factor, it’s difficult to see Boomer back in the playoffs.
The schedule is a little tougher or they might be in my top four, but Wiscy has a shot at the playoff.
That opening game against LSU in Arlington will define where this season will go.
Too high? Not with Bryce Love coming back.
12. Penn State.
James Franklin just keeps producing good teams in Happy Valley.
13. Southern Cal.
Lot of talent leaving, plenty still in the mix.
Difficult to get the taste of the UCF out of our mouths.
After that one bad season, Gary Patterson has righted the ship.
16. Notre Dame.
Losing DC Mike Elko will hurt, but the Irish will be fine. Just not great.
17. Virginia Tech.
The Hokies were a bit of a fraud in 2017. I think they’ll be better this year.
Scott Frost was a special coach and there has to be a fall off, right?
19. Florida State.
Obviously, we’re about to see if Deondre Francois is a difference maker.
Jim Harbaugh’s popularity wearing off in Ann Arbor?
It’s pretty much the same old story with the Fighting O’s.
OK, I was wrong ranking the Kitties in the preseason last year, but 10 defensive starters back makes me think this might be too low.
Does Tom Herman work some second-year magic?
24. Boise State.
You can never go wrong with the Broncos somewhere in your preseason poll.
Kevin Sumlin is a good coach. The Pac-12 is going to look a lot easier than the SEC West.
Nope, no Florida. I think the Gators have a manageable schedule, but a ways to go to be a top-25 team. Too many holes still on the roster.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.