We’re just 100 days from the start of college football season, and 2017 offers another endless supply of stars, storylines and subplots. New coaching staffs are in place at some key programs, and thanks in part to the strength-of-schedule component for playoff qualification, exciting non-conference games are on the rise. So 100 days out from kickoff, College Football 24/7 looks at 100 things to look forward to this season.
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1. At least one more year with Lamar Jackson. Louisville’s junior quarterback is a transcendent athlete who can make good defenses look like a Pop Warner team, and the 2017 season could potentially be his last in CFB. Enjoy this ride — his weekly highlights are can’t-miss television, and when he’s gone, we might never see another quite like him.
2. The Josh Rosen–Sam Darnold Show. The quarterbacks at UCLA and USC will downplay how their seasons comparatively unfold, as will their coaches. But the fact is they’re two of college football’s best players, playing the game’s most high-profile position at rival schools in Los Angeles. The comparisons are inevitable, and their Nov. 18 head-to-head matchup could be epic theater.
3. Jim Harbaugh, Act III. His second season in Ann Arbor has Michigan fans rightfully excited for the third, but he has a lot of talent to replace. To challenge in the Big Ten again, he’ll need a lot of inexperienced players to emerge and thrive in major roles.
4. Alabama-Florida State. How about a matchup of these two powerhouse programs in Week 1? A decade after Bobby Bowden beat Nick Saban‘s first Alabama team, 21-14, in Jacksonville, Fla., Jimbo Fisher will face a much tougher task in Atlanta on Sept. 2. The future NFL talent on this field will be make scouts wish they had extra eyes.
5. Tom Herman, Longhorn-style. Texas football has become college football’s wounded lion, and UT fans are tired of the pain. Enter Herman, whose boundless energy lifted Houston to a new level of relevance. The challenge now for the Longhorns’ new coach: rediscover an old level of relevance.
6. How will J.T. Barrett be remembered after his final college season? It seems like it was a decade ago when he stepped in for an injured Braxton Miller as Ohio State’s quarterback. The Buckeyes offense doesn’t always look pretty with Barrett at the helm, but he oozes leadership.
7. The Big Ten East. The battle between Penn State, Michigan and Ohio State last year supplanted the SEC West, at least temporarily, as the most competitive division in the game.
8. How will Clemson’s offense handle the loss of Deshaun Watson, along with all the key playmakers who surrounded him? Dabo Swinney‘s offenses never seem to struggle no matter who is running the show, but Mike Williams, Wayne Gallman and Jordan Leggett won’t be around for the new guy to lean on.
9. Baker Mayfield is one of the few players who are, by themselves, worth the price of a ticket. He’s always been fun to watch, but this year, he’ll carry the Oklahoma offense like never before.
10. Derrius Guice as a full-time starter. Now out of Leonard Fournette’s shadow, LSU’s spectacular running back will get to cast a long one of his own.
11. A pivotal season for Brian Kelly. The Notre Dame coach will try to rebound from a 4-8 season with a new quarterback against the Fighting Irish’s always-tough schedule.
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12. More Ed Oliver. Houston’s incredible defensive tackle can’t possibly top his freshman season, can he? To make 23 tackles for loss as an interior defensive lineman was a stunning debut, but it wouldn’t be smart to doubt him.
13. LSU’s Ed Orgeron is back in charge of a program, which is always fun, and this time it’s not on an interim basis.
14. Oklahoma-Ohio State, the rematch. Bob Stoops and the Sooners must go on the road to avenge last year’s 45-24 loss to the Buckeyes, and The Shoe is no easy place for payback.
15. The return of Derwin James from a knee injury. Florida State’s gifted safety, presuming good health, has ACC Defensive Player of the Year potential.
16. The Big 12 Championship Game is back. Finally, the Power Five conferences will all have a stage on which to play on the first weekend in December.
17. An improved Jalen Hurts. Alabama’s freshman quarterback went 14-1 last year despite shaky accuracy on intermediate and deep routes. If former Patriots TE coach Brian Daboll, now the Tide’s OC, can get Hurts’ passing to be as effective as his running, the Crimson Tide should be right back in the playoff.
18. Here’s hoping the Michigan-Ohio State game has Big Ten and playoff implications once again. With those stakes in place last year, it was the best game of the CFB regular season.
19. How will P.J. Fleck fare in his first year at Minnesota?
20. Oklahoma State WR James Washington goes for his third straight 1,000-yard receiving season, with the quarterback (Mason Rudolph) who has gotten him there twice so far.
Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.