In just 100 days, Florida and Miami will kick off the 150th season of college football (Aug. 24, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN).
It will be a season defined by the quarterbacks, especially those with whom we’re already on a first-name basis: Tua and Trevor. And though the Alabama and Clemson signal-callers will get the most attention, there’s also Oregon’s Justin Herbert, Georgia’s Jake Fromm and plenty more.
To get you ready for another season of college football, here’s everything you might have missed this spring and everything you’ll need to know in the fall: early Heisman contenders, top games to watch, a look ahead to top 2020 recruits and much more.
Top nonconference games
1. Notre Dame at Georgia, Sept. 21
Two CFP contenders in a rematch of a 2017 classic won by Georgia. Plus, several Bulldogs players weren’t shy about talking trash when the Irish were getting routed by Clemson in the playoff.
2. LSU at Texas, Sept. 7 (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
Both teams ended 2018 on high notes with big bowl wins, and a victory here will put one team’s hype machine into overdrive — and lead to panic for the other.
3. Notre Dame at Michigan, Oct. 26
Jim Harbaugh enters the season desperate for some big wins, and this one could help set up a playoff push.
4. Texas A&M at Clemson, Sept. 7
Jimbo in Year 2 vs. Trevor Lawrence in Year 2. The Aggies came closer to beating the Tigers than anyone else in 2018.
5. Auburn vs. Oregon (Arlington, Texas), Aug. 31 (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
Will the Pac-12 make a serious push? A Ducks win over the Tigers would go a long way.
6. Miami vs. Florida (Orlando), Aug. 24 (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)
This intra-state battle will kick off the 150th season of college football, with both teams facing serious questions at quarterback.
7. Florida State vs. Boise State (Jacksonville, Fla.), Aug. 31
Boise State is looking for a New Year’s Six bid, while Willie Taggart needs a big year for the Seminoles.
8. Stanford at UCF, Sept. 14
The Knights look to start another winning streak against one of their better Power 5 opponents to date.
9. Houston at Oklahoma, Sept. 1 (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
Dana Holgorsen, Jalen Hurts and Oklahoma’s post-Kyler debut.
10. Nebraska at Colorado, Sept. 7
Can the Cornhuskers ramp it up in Year 2 under Scott Frost? — Andrea Adelson
Early Heisman contenders
Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson: He won a national championship as a true freshman, throwing for 3,200 yards and 30 touchdowns in the process.
Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon: In his first full season as Oregon’s healthy starter, he threw for 3,100 yards and 29 touchdowns.
Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma: The former Alabama national champion takes his 7,602 total yards, 94 total touchdowns and 26-2 record to a Lincoln Riley offense that has produced back-to-back No. 1 NFL draft picks and Heisman winners.
Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama: We thought he was going to win it last year, but Tagovailoa will be in pursuit of another national championship appearance after throwing for nearly 4,000 yards with 43 passing touchdowns last year.
Sam Ehlinger, QB, Texas: The bulldozing quarterback accounted for almost 3,700 total yards last year and led the Longhorns with 16 rushing touchdowns.
Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia: Many think he’ll be one of the first quarterbacks taken in next year’s NFL draft because of his ability to make just about every throw asked of an NFL quarterback prospect.
Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama: Last year’s Biletnikoff winner was arguably the nation’s most exciting receiver in 2018, with 1,300 yards and 14 TDs. Having Tagovailoa on the roster hurts his candidacy, but he’ll be hard to ignore if he betters last year’s numbers.
Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson: Clemson’s offense is so balanced that even having Lawrence in the backfield won’t kill Etienne’s candidacy. He ran for 1,658 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2018.
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin: He probably isn’t talked about enough, but the reigning Doak Walker Award winner has been one of the nation’s best players each of the past two seasons.
D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia: After a dazzling freshman season, Swift overcame nagging injuries and a crowded backfield to pass the 1,000-yard rushing mark last season. — Edward Aschoff
10 best plays of 2018
New faces in new places
1. Ryan Day and Justin Fields at Ohio State
We got a sneak peek at the Day administration during Urban Meyer’s suspension last season, but now Day is captaining the ship full-time, and he’s got former No. 1 recruit Justin Fields to work with.
2. Jalen Hurts at Oklahoma
Hurts knows a thing or two about getting to the playoff. Lincoln Riley knows a thing or two about turning transfer QBs into Heisman winners. It should be a match made in heaven.
3. Dana Holgorsen at Houston
You don’t often hear about a head coach voluntarily leaving a Power 5 job for the American Conference, but that’s what Holgorsen did. Of course, he has always been a little different, which is what makes this move so intriguing.
4. The old guys at Kansas and North Carolina
No, the Jayhawks and Tar Heels aren’t likely to compete for conference titles this year, but they’ll be fun to watch with the returns of Les Miles and Mack Brown.
5. Bo Nix at Auburn
The five-star true freshman has made huge strides toward landing the starting job. And though starting a true freshman QB isn’t the easiest way to upend Alabama, it sure worked for Clemson.
6. Pretty much all of Miami
Mark Richt retired suddenly, Manny Diaz dumped Temple to become the new head coach, and everything changed. Diaz landed one big-name transfer after another, including QB Tate Martell.
7. Jacob Eason at Washington
The Georgia QB transfer spent last season redshirting, but he’s now ready to step into Jake Browning’s spot. Eason was once considered the next big thing in the SEC, but his return to his West Coast roots could make Washington the favorite once again in the Pac-12.
8. Derek Stingley Jr. at LSU
Stingley arrives with massive hype as one of the nation’s top recruits, and LSU has a huge need in the secondary after the departure of first-round pick Greedy Williams.
9. Kayvon Thibodeaux at Oregon
The No. 1 recruit in the country, Thibodeaux figures to be a force on Oregon’s defensive line. But add the new faces of Thibodeaux and the Pac-12’s top recruiting class to the big-name holdover of QB Justin Herbert, and there’s a big reason people are pegging the Ducks as a potential breakthrough team.
10. Chris Klieman at Kansas State
Bill Snyder was synonymous with K-State football, and replacing a legend is never easy. There are, of course, questions about Klieman’s rise from FCS to Power 5, but his success at North Dakota State is undeniable. — David M. Hale
Stats to know
11: Alabama and Clemson have combined to win 11 of the past 12 College Football Playoff games.
1-8: Jim Harbaugh’s record at Michigan against top-10 opponents.
85.1: The Total QBR for Georgia QB Jake Fromm in 2018, behind only Kyler Murray and Tua Tagovailoa.
10: Returning starters on offense for Oregon, led by star QB Justin Herbert. Can this help the Pac-12 stay in playoff contention?
40-1: Alabama’s record against all non-Clemson teams in the past three years. The Tide are 1-2 against the Tigers.
20+: Clemson enters 2019 having won 10 consecutive games by 20 or more points, tied for the second-longest streak in the AP Poll era (since 1936).
125: ESPN 300 recruits who signed with SEC schools, the most by any conference in the 14 years ESPN has done recruiting rankings.
2001: The last year a first-year head coach — Larry Coker at Miami — won a national title. Can Ohio State’s Ryan Day do the same?
21-5: Army’s record over the past two seasons, better than all Division I teams except UCF, Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Notre Dame and Georgia.
79: Percentage of Texas’ touchdowns last season accounted for by QB Sam Ehlinger, the highest for a Big 12 player since 2011.
Information provided by ESPN Stats & Information
Dogs bark in the postseason: The underdog has covered in six straight championship games, with three outright wins. This includes three of the five CFP championship games.
Tide a rolling favorite: Alabama has been favored in 54 straight games (and 126 of its last 127), 40 games longer that the next-longest active streak.
Heisman jinx: Tua Tagovailoa is the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy at +250. The last 10 players to open as the favorite to win the Heisman did not win the award, including Bryce Love last season.
Bedlam is real: Since Lincoln Riley took over Oklahoma, 19 of the Sooners’ 28 games have gone over the total, the third-highest mark in FBS in that span. And in Stillwater, 22 of Oklahoma State’s past 27 games have gone over, the highest mark in FBS in that span.
Cougars roar: Washington State went 9-2-1 against the number last year, best in FBS. As for the nation’s longest streak of covers? The BYU Cougars have covered in five straight.
Wildcats roar, too: Few teams perform better as underdogs than Pat Fitzgerald’s Northwestern Wildcats. The Cats are 13-3-1 ATS with 10 outright wins in their past 17 games as a dog, including a 7-1-1 mark with six outright wins as a dog in 2018.
Not fighting on: Don’t expect USC to pull off many upsets. The Trojans are just 1-12 straight up and 2-11 ATS as underdogs under Clay Helton.
Husky whimper: Looking for a team to fade? The UConn Huskies went 1-11 against the spread last year. And over the past five seasons, UConn is 16-40-2 ATS, the worst mark of any team in the FBS.
Hook those dogs: Texas coach Tom Herman is 13-2-1 ATS in his career as an underdog and 10-6 straight up. Herman is 14-3-1 ATS in his career against AP top-25 teams. One of those wins was against Georgia in the Sugar Bowl last season as 13.5-point underdogs.
Hail to the non-cover: Michigan will face Notre Dame and Ohio State this year. Overall, Michigan is 1-9 outright — 2-8 ATS — against top-10 teams under Harbaugh. Even worse, in the five games the Wolverines were favored, Michigan is 0-5 ATS with four outright losses.
Information provided by ESPN Stats & Info
Top 2020 uncommitted recruits
While 50 ESPN 300 recruits have announced their commitment, there are still many highly ranked prospects still uncommitted, including nine of the 15 five-star recruits and the top four overall recruits.
RB Zachary Evans
ESPN 300 rank: 1
Schools in contention: Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Penn State, Texas, Texas A&M, Washington
The lowdown: Evans and Leonard Fournette are the only two running backs to hold the top rank since ESPN started its rankings in 2009. Evans has an ideal combination of size, speed and vision.
DE Myles Murphy
ESPN 300 rank: 2
Schools in contention: Auburn, Clemson
The lowdown: Murphy is big and has a lot of what coaches are looking for both on and off the field. If Murphy chooses Clemson, Dabo Swinney will have three five-star commits in this class.
DE Desmond Evans
ESPN 300 rank: 3
Schools in contention: North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio State, Alabama, Virginia Tech, Tennessee, NC State, Florida, Clemson, Duke
The lowdown: Evans is long and lean with a lot of upside. He hasn’t announced a commitment date yet, so there is plenty of time for schools on his list to make moves.
WR Julian Fleming
ESPN 300 rank: 4
Schools in contention: Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State, Penn State
The lowdown: Fleming is the top-ranked receiver in this class and plans to announce his commitment on May 31.
DE Jordan Burch
ESPN 300 rank: 6
Schools in contention: He’s kept it quiet, but Clemson, South Carolina, Alabama and Georgia have been mentioned
The lowdown: Burch has a great combination of speed and power. He has a big frame that should get him on the field very early in his college career.
LB Justin Flowe
ESPN 300 rank: 7
Schools in contention: Alabama, Arizona State, Clemson, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Miami, Texas, USC
The lowdown: Flowe is a big, stout linebacker who is not afraid of contact. He does not lack confidence and has many of the intangibles coaches want.
DE Sav’ell Smalls
ESPN 300 rank: 9
Schools in contention: Florida, Ohio State, Texas, Clemson, Miami, Washington State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Florida State, Texas A&M, Washington, Alabama
The lowdown: Smalls is one of two five-star defensive recruits from the West Coast. Though listed as a defensive end, he is also an outside linebacker and could provide versatility for programs.
LB Reggie Grimes
ESPN 300 rank: 10
Schools in contention: Alabama, Florida State, LSU, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt
The lowdown: Grimes is very athletic, though a little lean right now. With a frame primed to bulk up, he should fit in well with what defenses are looking for as they attempt to stop spread offenses.
TE Darnell Washington
ESPN 300 rank: 14
Schools in contention: Not narrowed yet, but recently visited Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Miami, Oregon, Tennessee
The lowdown: Washington is a freak athlete. At 6-foot-8, he has some refining to do, but given how big he is, and what he is able to do at tight end, it’s a no-brainer that he’s a five-star prospect.
CB Kelee Ringo
ESPN 300 rank: 18
Schools in contention: No recent updates to his list, but Texas, Ohio State, Oklahoma, USC, Washington, Georgia and Oregon seem like contenders
The lowdown: Ringo is the highest-ranked corner in the class. He has ideal size to play corner and that length combines with his speed to make him a coveted prospect. — Tom VanHaaren