Coming off a national championship and starting the season as the No. 1 team in the coaches (and likely the AP) poll makes Ohio State appearing on one of four regional covers for Sports Illustrated’s college football preview issue standard operating procedure. As such, the Buckeyes are represented by Joey Bosa (suspended for the season opener) and Joshua Perry along with Brutus and the College Football Playoff national championship trophy on one of the four featured covers of this year’s preview issue.
As has become the routine for Sports Illustrated, as opposed to the time when just one team was given the cover and thus supposedly jinxed for the upcoming season, SI has added three other schools to their preseason preview cover selection; TCU, Mississippi State and Notre Dame.
Why Ohio State?
The defending champions lost zero underclassmen to the NFL Draft, bring back a dynamic quarterback duo that forced perhaps it’s best offensive athlete to pick up a new position, an emerging running back, one fo the top defensive an all-around players in the country and perhaps the best coach in the game. Ohio State is loaded and prepared for another run to the playoff this season. The clear favorites in the improving Big Ten could very well get through the season without a loss, which would make them a lock to enter the four-team playoff field at the end of the season.
One thing I thought was curious was Sports Illustrated electing not to feature either Cardale Jones or J.T. Barrett on the cover. Bosa became a household name last season and could be the bets player in the country this season. I also thought Ezekiel Elliott would be worthy of cover consideration, but he may have his opportunity next season.
This one is rather simple, really. The Horned Frogs are a preseason No. 2 in the coaches poll and a popular preseason pick out of the Big 12. TCU is expected to compete for a playoff spot at the end of the season, as is last year’s co-champion Baylor. TCU also has a Heisman Trophy favorite on its squad in quarterback Trevone Boykin. That’s him on the cover standing back-to-back with the TCU mascot.
It is pretty cool to see TCU receive SI cover treatment. You know the last time TCU was featured on the cover of an issue of Sports Illustrated? Unless I missed any, it was a late 1955 bowl preview issue featuring Jim Swink on the cover. So yes, it has been a while since the Horned Frogs graced the cover of the most popular sports magazine in the country, and it is well deserved considering the growth of the program.
In my Big 12 predictions, I picked TCU to run the table this fall, and Boykin to be the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year. I am all in with TCU this season, but now the SI cover jinx could ruin it all.
Why Mississippi State?
As you can see by the College Football Playoff predictions printed on each of the preview issue covers, Mississippi State is not included among the four playoff picks from the Sports Illustrated staff. Auburn is the lone SEC representative in that mix, which of course is a division foe of Dak Prescott and the Bulldogs.
Perhaps SI got tired of featuring players from an Alabama school on the cover, but the more realistic logic may be in Prescott being considered the SEC’s top Heisman Trophy candidate in the conference. Sure, there are some really good running backs in the SEC worthy of some preseason Heisman hype (Nick Chubb, Leonard Fournette), but the Heisman Trophy more often than not these days goes to a quarterback. Prescott is the lone quarterback coming back this season with a legitimate shot at the Heisman Trophy, unless someone breaks out this fall.
Plus bulldogs are super cute.
Why Notre Dame?
College football season must be around the corner because the Notre Dame hype train is in full operation. I previously attempted to explain why so many seem as optimistic about the Irish in 2015 as a playoff contender. In short, the defense returns a ton of starters and Malik Zaire could provide some stability on offense after an up-and-down season in ball control with Everett Golson running things. Golson transferred to Florida State, allowing Zaire to take over without question.
I understand why Notre Dame has some thinking big this season. I’m just not one of them.
A quick scan of Notre Dame’s schedule seems to have three losses right off the bat for me, and possibly four or five. One loss may be enough to eliminate Notre Dame from the playoff discussion if there are four power conference teams (or more) with one or no losses at the end of the season, especially without the benefit of a 13th game (See: Big 12). A Notre Dame squad with two losses? I always say we have to let a season play out before making such statements, but I could not envision too many scenarios that see a two-loss Notre Dame getting in a four-team playoff field at the end of the year. And like I said, I’m picking three losses right out of the gate for Notre Dame.
The two automatic losses I have on Notre Dame’s schedule are road games at Clemson (see my ACC predictions) and Stanford in the final game of the regular season. I think Notre Dame does no better than a split in games at home against USC and on the road against Pittsburgh. And I haven’t even mentioned the decent test of Georgia Tech coming to South Bend this season.
So go all in with the Notre Dame hype if you dare. I feel as though we have been down this road before, and I even got sucked into the Irish momentum during their undefeated run into a mountain that was Alabama just a few years ago. Times are different, and certainly this Note Dame team is different as well.
Or are they?