In the summer of 2016, I worked as a College Football Betting Specialist for a magazine known as Sports Reporter. I had no real qualifications.
Somehow, I found myself hired to write college football previews for the 2016 College Football season. They hired me to write previews despite the fact that I had basically only been a college student for a year, in which I had taken no writing classes, and had basically only worked on my high shcool paper. However, I worked really hard and scouted the teams to the best of my ability, so I could give the best work to the readers.
Anyway, I recently (in 2019) came across these and figured I’d see how I did. The actual previews are below this post.
I finished with an average of 2.3 from the actual results, which probably is not great. I take comfort in the fact that half of them were right or 1 win off. For example, I predicted that Washington was “a College Football Playoff sleeper”, which they were! They made the College Football Playoff!
However, I also said that for Colorado, who spent multiple weeks ranked in the top 10, “getting to four wins would be considered a successful season.” Oops! That was my biggest miss as they had ten wins.
Anyway, it was good experience to write about college football and I definitely came out of the experience knowing more about sports writing and sports journalism.
If youre interested, here are my previews.
Arizona: If Rich Rodriguez’s Wildcats can stay healthy, then Arizona’s offense may surprise some teams. Probable quarterback Anu Solomon (3,793 yds, 28 TD in 2014), was hampered by two concussions last season but still managed to throw for 2,667 passing yards and 20 TDs. If he stays healthy, his wide receiving corps of Nate Phillips and Trey Griffey will be poised for big seasons. Like Solomon, leading rusher Nick Wilson (1,375 yds, 17 TD in 2014) was injured in 2015 but still grabbed a respectable 725 yards. The big storyline, however, will be the effect of first-year defensive coordinator Marcel Yates. The former Boise State DC’s nickel package will require a lot of aggressive playmakers up front, which should benefit some of the Wildcat players, but even coach Rodriguez admits they’re “not nearly deep enough” at the position, behind them, the Cats will need greater production and leadership from guys like linebacker DeAndre’ Miller (8 TFLs, 2 Sacks). While the secondary was the bright spot on Yates’ defense at Boise, he may struggle with taking over a pass defense that ranked 115th last season, gave up 268.2 yards per game through the air and lacks any real playmakers. A healthy offense and improved defense could lead to surprises in Tucson. 6/Average
Arizona State: After the first losing season in Head Coach Todd Graham’s tenure, the Arizona State Sun Devils may have trouble getting back to their winning ways in his fifth season. Despite maintaining a top-35 scoring offense in each of the last four seasons, the team loses seven starters on offense, including QB Mike Bercovici, top offensive weapons Devin Lucien and D.J. Foster and four of their offensive lineman. Consequently, new Offensive Coordinator Chip Lindsey has been forced to find Bercovici’s successor among four underclassmen who have never started a game at the collegiate level. The biggest positive on this Sun Devil offense will be the return of its dynamic duo of running backs in 1,000-yard rusher Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage. Because of their QB situation, ASU may have to rely on their punishing, blitz-heavy defensive style, which allowed them to lead the FBS in sacks and finish 3rd in tackles for loss in 2015. But, they finished as the worst defense in the FBS in passing yards allowed. While many of the pass rushers will return, the defense will be defined by its secondary. Fans will have to hope players like freshman corner Kareem Orr, who led the Pac-12 with six interceptions, will improve upon last season. 6/ Average
California: Cal is losing some big pieces in 2016. Sonny Dykes’ fourth year at Cal will be his first without #1 overall NFL draft choice Jared Goff and his long-time Offensive Coordinator Tony Franklin, who left to take the same position at Middle Tennessee State. The team also loses its top six wideouts and top running back from 2015. While the losses may seem big, Dykes has secured some seemingly solid replacements. Led by Texas Tech-graduate transfer Davis Webb (2539 yds, 24 TD in 2014), who served as a backup in 2015, the Bear Raid offense will keep rolling on. Mel Kiper Jr. has called Webb the top senior quarterback prospect and former coach Kliff Kingsbury has noted said Webb possesses the tools to be a top-five overall NFL Draft pick because of his size, arm strength and mind. The offense will be coached by Kingsbury-protégé Jake Spatival, who has been known as a college QB-guru. While the offense returns a strong running back trio of Khalfani Muhammad, Vic Enwere and Tre Watson, but it will up to highly-touted wide receiving newcomers in in five-star Demetris Robertson and Melquise Stovall for the pass-heavy Bear Raid to succeed. Defense almost doesn’t matter because the Bears are just trying to outscore the opposition.
Colorado: The Buffs need to hope that senior quarterback Sefo Liufau, who has been rehabbing a season-ending foot injury, is ready to go for the start of the season. If not, their quarterback situation is fairly dire and they’ll have to throw “QB-of-the-future” Steven Montez into the role, before he’s potentially ready and with an offensive line that gave up a Pac-12 worst 40 sacks and 423 yards lost on TFLs. To make things worse, the team also lost its top offensive threats in WR Nelson Spruce and RB Christian Powell to the NFL. While Colorado does have some playmaking replacements at the skill positions, with talented wide receivers Shay Fields and Maryland-transfer Juwann Winfree and undersized half-back Donovan Lee, the offense will be completely dependent on their quarterback situation. Defensively, the Buffs will need to improve their 99th ranked rushing defense and their relatively weak defensive line, but will return seven starters and boasts a strong secondary with all-conference cornerback in Chidobe Awuzie and hard-hitting safety Tedric Thompson. However, throughout the season, the defense will struggle with its lack of depth. Unfortunately, overall there isn’t a whole lot to love in Boulder and even getting to four wins would be considered a successful season.
Louisville: Stuck in the ACC Atlantic with Clemson and Florida State, the upstart Louisville Cardinals will return nineteen starters from last season’s 8-5 squad. Typically, Head Coach Bobby Petrino’s squads are known for their defensive prowess, but this year’s an exception with the emergence of sophomore QB Lamar Jackson (1,840 pyds, 960 ryds), who led 2015’s team in passing and rushing and looks improved after a strong spring. Since their top three backs and all of the prolific receivers return, Jackson may put up some of the highest numbers in the conference. If the offensive line, which ranked 124th in sacks allowed and 119th in TFLs allowed, improves with experience, then Jackson’s numbers will be even higher. Defensively, Louisville should be as strong as ever, with big-hitting linebacker Keith Kelsey, safety Josh Harvey-Clemons and 2012 Big 12 Defensive PotY Devonte Fields returning for their senior seasons. While losing 12th overall pick Sheldon Rankins is a big loss, DT DeAngelo Brown should fill up the loss nicely. If the defense can manage to improve and force as many turnovers as last year (17 INTs, 9 forced fumbles), then the Cards may be able to sneak away with a win when they host Florida State on Sep. 17th or when they travel to Death Valley on Oct. 1st. 9/AVERAGE
Middle Tennessee State: Father-and-son duo Rick and Brent Stockstill led the Blue Raiders to their most productive offensive season ever. Head coach Rick entrusted his quarterbacking son with the starting role and saw him thrive. Brent (4,005 pyds) finished just short of the NCAA freshman passing yards’ record, and will now learn from new offensive coordinator Tony Franklin, the former Cal OC who mentored #1 pick QB Jared Goff. Franklin, whose offense set many records when he was formerly the OC at MTSU, should thrive with his move back home and a talented unit. His top wideout option Richie James (108 receptions, 1,346 yards) and his RB I’Tavius Mathers, an Ole Miss-transfer, are top talents for the C-USA. Though the offense looks strong, the Blue Raiders lost five of their top six tacklers. Consequently, they’ll have lots of inexperience at the linebacker and safety positions, where players have shown promise but have still yet to fully be seen. Otherwise, the defense is strong and will possess C-USA’s top cornerback pairing Mike Minter and Jeremy Cutrer and a veteran defensive line that should keep opposing runners at bay. A win at Marshall on November 12th, could do enough to propel this team to an East division title. 8/AVERAGE
Missouri: Missouri’s 2015 offense ranked 117th in possession time and second worst in scoring (13.6 ppg). This meant that DC Barry Odom’s defense saw plenty of time on the field. Having parlayed his defensive success into the head coaching role, Odom will now have to build an effective offense from the promising remnants of the disastrous 2015 unit. Woeful freshman Drew Lock completed an abysmal 49% of his passes and posted a 2-6 record in what was supposed to be a breakout year. Lock should improve under the tutelage of new-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel and by having more experienced receivers. Underclassmen had 65% of the Tigers’ receptions in 2015. While Missouri has a decent group of experienced running backs, their already-poor offensive line will be one of the biggest issues in 2016 and will need to show improvement if the Tigers’ stagnant offense is to run. However, if the team can go 5-7 with the nation’s second-worst scoring offense, then their largely-returning defense must be pretty effective. New DL and LB coaches inherit a strong set of players and will use the front seven of Odom’s versatile defense out of both a 4-3 and 3-4 scheme. The Tigers know that their defense will be strong, but success will come by way of Lock’s arm and offensive line improvements.
Nevada: Fourth-year head coach Bud Polian, hired new offensive coordinator Tim Chansey to improve a stagnant offense by combining Nevada’s typical Pistol offense with a more spread-heavy approach. The Wolfpack finished 25th in rushing offense and that appears to be Nevada’s strength yet again. With the return of junior James Butler (1,342 yds, 10 TDs), who emerged as Nevada’s best offensive weapon despite only starting one game, Nevada’s offense should be built around their strong ground game. Not including Butler, Nevada returns ten starters on offense, which will allow players like starting QB Tyler Stewart (2,139 yds, 15TDs) and their experienced offensive line to improve and become more consistent. While their offense mostly returns, their defense will lose six of their starting front seven. While some of the linemen have shown flashes of potential and their whole linebacker corps has just three starts between them, the team could be decent if everyone stays healthy. If not, the Wolfpack will be in trouble. The bright spot on the defense will the secondary, which returns a pair of safeties who are among the best in the conference and a talented group of corners. Nevada likely loses too much on defense to seriously compete in the Mountain West and will have to rely on their offense, if there’s to be any success. 8/ AVERAGE
North Carolina State: Disappointed fans compare this team to the likes of UNC and Duke who’ve lately had much stronger seasons than the Wolfpack. However, Dave Doreen seeks to take his NC State team to its third straight postseason. Doreen and new OC Eli Drinkwitz will rely on the ACC’s top backfield duo in star RB Matt Dayes and hybrid TE/RB Jaylen Samuels, who combined for 28 TDs last season. Other than in the backfield, NC State faces a lot of uncertainty. Sophomore Jalan McClendon figures to be the starter, but only has 14 career passing attempts. The receivers lack a true top target and will look to senior Jumichael Ramos (457 yds) for production. The offensive line has to replace most of its starters but will need to be strong run blockers if they’re to win more games than last year. Alternatively, under coordinator Dave Huxtable, the defense has been steadily improving over the past two years. 2015’s 29th-ranked defense should rise even in Huxtable’s third year. Even better, the unit returns its 2015 gem in the DL, which returns a strong set of pass rushers. However, the team will need more production from its linebackers and secondary, who have experience but have faced injuries and inconsistencies that will need to see improvement.
Oregon: After seven consecutive ten-win seasons, 2015’s 9-4 record is a disappointment to Ducks fans. 2016 may not be any better. If they’re going to win the Pac-12 North, Oregon will have to get through Christian McCaffrey’s one-man-show at Stanford and the dark horse Washington, and they’ll have to do so with a new quarterback yet again. Montana State graduate transfer Dakota Prukop (3,822 all-purpose yards, 38 total touchdowns in 2015) looks to provide another dynamic playmaking option for Oregon. He’ll be joined by Royce Freeman (1,836 yds, 17 TDs), who will provide the Ducks with one of the nation’s best running backs, and the strongest wide receiving corps in the conference, which largely returns a strong group of pass-catchers like Darren Carrington (609 yds). While the offensive line is rebuilding, Prukop will have a talented arsenal of offensive weapons to keep this Ducks team rolling. While new defensive coordinator and Former-Michigan HC Brady Hoke is switching the defense to a 4-3, he’ll have to rely on star DE/DT Henry Mondeaux and the Ducks’ completely-retained secondary, if the team is to hold opponents to fewer points than Prukop and Freeman can provide. Ultimately, this team won’t be able to seriously challenge Stanford, although they’ll try again this year. 9/Average
Pittsburgh: Pitt fans are happy with the progress head coach Pat Narduzzi made in his first year, and hope he can build on it in year two. He is set to return a pair of top running backs in the now cancer-free 2014 ACC Player for the Year James Conner (1,765 yds, 26 TDs in 2014) and 2015 ACC Offensive Rookie of the Year Qadree Ollison. Quarterback Nathan Peterman also returns, after finishing third in the ACC in touchdown passes, despite not starting the first two games. With them, Pitt has a formidable backfield that will scare most defenses. Pitt may also have the most experienced offensive line in the ACC with a combined 99 career starts among their lineman. The Panthers, however, will struggle to find a replacement for WR Tyler Boyd, among their largely unproven receiving corps. On the defensive side, Narduzzi employs an ultra-aggressive approach. His team averaged 2.85 sacks per game and senior defensive end Ejuan Price (11.5 sacks, 19.5 TFL) finished tenth nationally. While Price leads the front seven, reigning ACC rookie of the year Jordan Whitehead, has star potential for the secondary and leads a unit that nearly completely returns in 2016. The team may not be able to compete with the likes of Clemson yet, but they are definitely improving. 7/Average
Stanford: Christian McCaffrey is a beast. After breaking Barry Sanders’ college record for most single-season all-purpose yards with 3,864 and narrowly missing out on the Heisman, RB McCaffrey is the cornerstone of this reloading Stanford offense. He’ll take hand-offs, from the winner of the quarterback competition between former four-star recruits Keller Chryst and Ryan Burns, who have both looked competent. A true Renaissance man, McCaffrey also led the team in receptions and will work alongside a wide receiving group that proved itself last season and largely returns. While his offensive line loses three starters, including Outland trophy winner Josh Garnett, there will be no stopping McCaffrey and he’ll rack up yards regardless of whose protecting him. The biggest concern on defense is the depth of the defensive line. The team will have to look to edge rusher Solomon Thomas (10.5 TFLs last season) and nose tackle Harrison Phillips, whose coming off a torn ACL, for the line to be as brutal as last season. The linebackers and the secondary are losing some pieces but have plenty of experience and will see nice boosts in both units. Overall the defense shouldn’t be a concern, and if there’s any concerns about the offensive loses, they should be quashed after the first few games. 10/Average
Syracuse: First-year head coach Dino Babers has made fans about optimistic about the Orange. While it will likely take some recruiting cycles before his Baylor-style veer and shoot offense can really get going, Babers is inheriting a young Syracuse team that showed a lot of potential for growth last season. Sophomore quarterback Eric Dungey showed strong playmaking abilities and accurate passes, when he was healthy last season. While the offense will mostly depend on his performance, skill players like WR Steve Ishmael (9.3 yards per target in 2015) and RB Dontae Strickland, who surpassed 2015 starter Jordan Fredericks on the depth chart, will have to make big plays in order for this Orange team to win more games. Although the team brings back 12 of its 13 top tacklers and almost their entire linebacking and secondary corps, the team may struggle to with new Defensive Coordinator Brian Ward’s drastic change to a new zone-heavy Tampa-2 scheme. While the team has some promising talent at the defensive tackle spot, they’ll need to see major development for their defensive ends, as none of them have any playing experience for the Orange. Syracuse will improve in 2016, but that doesn’t mean that we’ll see the improvement translate to more wins. 5/ HIGH
Texas: Charlie Strong was given a tough job two years ago, to rebuild the Texas Longhorns. After two lackluster seasons, Strong’s job security is in doubt. If Texas is to see a grand improvement that alums are demanding, it’ll have to start with new offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert and his spread offense. Four-star Freshman quarterback Shane Buechele showed a mastery of Gilbert’s up-tempo scheme and is expected to be the Week One starter, after unexpectedly dominating Tyrone Swoopes and the injured Jerrod Heard, in spring practice. Buechele will have plenty of help from the Longhorns’ skilled backs and receivers like D’onta Forenan (7.2 rypc) and John Burt (8.8 ypr) and an experienced OL, but it will ultimately up to the quarterback as to if this offense will move forward. Defensively, the Longhorns will be led by preseason All-American Malik Jackson, as well as the Big-12’s top sophomore duo in lockdown corners Davante Davis and Holton Hill. The 2016 Longhorns will have a strong passing defense but will be relying on a pair of highly-recruited freshman defensive tackles to help improve one of the nations’ worst rushing defenses. If the freshmen pan out, then you’re looking at a fourth season for Mr. Strong. If not, there may be a new “sheriff” in Austin. 8/ AVERAGE
Texas A&M: Kevin Sumlin’s fifth year at Texas A&M may be his last, after underperforming the last couple of seasons. The Aggies return about half of their starters and will see dual-threat Oklahoma-transfer Trevor Knight take over at quarterback, after putting up strong numbers (3,424 pyds, 25 TDs) in 24 games for the Sooners. He should settle in the Aggies offense and succeed with a group of talented wide receivers, who all return from 2015. Oklahoma-transfer and former five-star recruit RB Keith Ford will provide the Aggies with a nice complementary running game, but he’ll have to rely on improvements to an offensive line unit that has just 21 career starts amongst them. The team will shine defensively. They’ll return their top five tacklers to a unit that gave up just 22 points-per-game. All-American junior Myles Garrett and senior Daeshon Hall comprise a defensive end pairing that combined for nearly 20 sacks last season. Senior LB Shaan Washington (81 tackles, 6.5 TFLs) will have to become a mentor to an inexperienced group. The secondary will be relatively solid and will include S Donovan Wilson, a former linebacker who snatched five interceptions last season. Both the defense and offense will need to make strides, if the Aggies plan to be competitive in the tough SEC West. 8/AVERAGE
UCLA: Head coach Jim Mora and new OC Kennedy Polamalu are moving towards a “pro-style” system with more two-man backfields, and more snaps under from under center. The change should help a Bruins team that loses three offensive line starters and is shifting towards a more aggressive run game, led by Soso Jamabo and Nate Starks (who each averaged over 6ypc in 2015). In this transition period, the team will be led by Freshman All-American Josh Rosen (3,669 yds, 23 TDs) who will have to adapt to both the scheme change and the loss of most of his 2015 receiving corps. Rosen will have to rely on wideout Darren Andrews and a bevy of former top-rated recruits, if he hopes to put up similar numbers in year two. The defense struggled against the run last season and loses All-American NT Kenny Clark and Jacksonville Jaguar Myles Jack, but returns 2014 All-Conference DE Eddie Vanderdoes, who returns from a torn ACL, leading tackler Jayon Brown as well as couple strong edge rushers. The Pac-12 leading secondary, however, returns all its starters and will be a key component of UCLA’s success. Rosen and the running game should be solid and if the rush defense improves, one can easily see the Bruins winning a wide-open Pac-12 South.
Utah: In his first year as Utes’ defensive coordinator, Morgan Scalley is looking to develop an aggressive, but smart, unit and he should get that by commanding one of the Pac-12’s best defenses. Led by All-Pac-12 defensive tackle Lowell Lotulelei, the Utes will have one of the nation’s deepest defensive lines in “Sack Lake City” and will look to improve on their Pac-12 leading rushing defense. They’ll also look to improve upon their P5-leading 34 forced turnovers and Pac-12 leading 22 interceptions, with the return of All-Pac-12 free safety Marcus Williams and almost everyone else from their secondary’s two-deep. However, the weakness of this defense will come with replacing their departed linebacking corps, whose play will make-or-break this defense’s success. On offense, this team will struggle. Head coach Kyle Whittingham declared the quarterback competition “a dead heat” between three of the Utes after spring ball, which isn’t really a good sign for the Utes. RB Devontae Booker was the offense for most of 2015. He’ll be replaced by Joe Williams who averaged 133 yards in three games after Booker went down to injury. While the offensive line looks good, the rest of the offense will need to show it can be as good as its defense, if this team is to be successful.
Utah State: After an inconsistent 2015 season, fourth-year head coach Matt Wells and the Aggies are looking to get back to their winning ways. While their mid-season domination of then-ranked Boise State looked promising, Utah State went on to lose five of their last seven games and saw big offseason player and coaching losses. USU is replacing four starting linebackers in their 3-4 defense and six coaches to better-paying programs, including both their defensive and offensive coordinators. As a result, the team is going to have rely heavily on their offense. Led by junior quarterback Kent Myers, who seems poised for a breakout season after strong play in 2015, and a powerful backfield with star RB Devante Mays, who HC Wells believes will be a 1,000 yard back in the Aggies’ run-first style. The team also returns three of their all-Mountain West offensive lineman and a number of top receivers and tight ends. While defensively, they’ll return their entire secondary as well as veteran leadership along the defensive line, the offense will have to be the Aggies strength. They should be helped by a weak Mountain West schedule and could pick up a few more wins then they probably should, but either way this team should have no trouble reaching six wins.
Wake Forest: After two straight 3-9 seasons, third year head coach Dave Clawson will have to hope that the 31 returning players from last season’s two-deep will be enough to see improvements. Despite the team getting older, there are still concerns throughout the team. The offensive line has been among the nation’s worst, allowing 40 sacks and helping the team finish 122nd in rushing yards per game, in 2015. The Deacons will also need to settle on a permanent quarterback, with more-accurate junior John Wolford and explosively mobile sophomore Kendall Hinton appearing locked in quarterback duel. But because of Offensive Coordinator Warren Ruggiero’s balanced offensive style, last season’s middling passing game and woeful ground attack will both need to improve if Wake Forest is to show signs of improvement. On defense, the Deacons will look to the leadership of senior Marquel Lee, who has led the team in tackles-for-loss for each of the last two seasons. The secondary has the ACC-leader in passes defended, and the team’s top tackler over the last three seasons. It should improve in 2016. The defensive line led a strong run defense last season and should continue to maintain that success in 2016. Ultimately, Wake’s success hinges on how his quarterback of choice end up preforming. 4/Average
\ Washington: Some insiders are calling this Huskies team “a College Football Playoff sleeper”, and Washington could be in for a big season. Head coach Chris Petersen will have a “two-headed monster” in his offense with passer Jake Browning (2,955 yds, 16 TDs) and surprise star RB Myles Gaskin (1,302 yds, 14 TDs), both of whom saw major playing time as true freshman in 2015. The Huskies will also be bolstered by their strong offensive line, led by behemoth tackle Trey Adams, and the return of versatile receiver John Ross, who missed 2015 with a knee injury. After switching to a 3-4 set last season, the Huskies defense became the best unit in the Pac-12 statistically, leading the league in fewest points allowed, yards per play and yards per game. They should be even better in 2016. A pair of All-Pac-12 DBs, in CB Sidney Jones and FS Budda Baker, head the conference’s most dangerous pass defense. Star DT Elijah Qualls and linebackers Azeem Victor and Keishawn Bierria are all big, fast and should cause nightmares for opposing quarterbacks. Ultimately, the Huskies’ season may be defined by how they do at home to Stanford (Sep. 30). If they get through that game, they’ll shoot up the national polls. 9/High