These might not be the best college football teams of the coming season, but they all carry a lot of intrigue for many obvious reasons and some not-as-obvious reasons. These teams will create big stories whether they win or lose. They will not be dull. They could represent new movements in college football, but even if they don’t, what happens in 2017 could set the stage for 2018. Some programs just drift along, but these six promise something different.
Lane Kiffin returns to a head coaching position after his years as the offensive coordinator at Alabama. Kiffin has been the head coach at Tennessee and USC, and Florida Atlantic is not either of those schools in terms of prestige or power. However, Kiffin is the head coach, and that will generate a lot of publicity. People will want to see if he can be a better head coach and lead athletes instead of being distracted, indecisive, and a failure. If Kiffin gets this job right, he is still a very young man in coaching terms. Three really good seasons at FAU will give him the ability to get a better head coaching job and restore his career. He still has the time to do that, which is why FAU is not a final stop for him, but a possible catapult to something better… like the jobs he once had.
Ed Orgeron was not the favorite to get the LSU job once Tom Herman turned down the Tigers. However, Orgeron had a plan and he convinced athletic director Joe Alleva to give him a chance. Orgeron coached in the SEC before, and he was a total disaster at Ole Miss. Why did Alleva give him another shot at being a head coach even though Orgeron has never been a successful head coach in college? The main reason is that Orgeron is an excellent recruiter who can keep the Louisiana pipeline of talent flowing into the program. If he can do that, his coaching staff can take care of the player development part, instructing players at various positions to be better and more precise. Will the formula work? It will be exciting to find out, one way or another.
Coach Willie Taggart quickly rebuilt Western Kentucky and South Florida after taking those jobs. Oregon is a much bigger task, but Taggart has great energy and used to be an assistant coach in the Pac-12 with Stanford. He also hired defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt from Colorado, where the Buffaloes won the Pac-12 South last season. Leavitt and Taggart represent one of the better coordinator-and-coach combinations in the Pac-12. This should make Oregon relevant again after going 4-8 last season.
The Boilermakers might lose a lot of games again this season, but they will develop an attacking passing game under new coach Jeff Brohm. Purdue probably won’t win games by slamming the ball between the tackles, so it wisely calculated that it needs to throw the ball really well to have a decent chance of winning games. Brohm can make that idea work, but he will need time to get the project off the ground.
Charlie Strong coached in the state of Florida for decades. He knows the ropes in terms of recruiting. The state is familiar to him. He will not feel out of place in Tampa. He also inherits a highly talented veteran team which won 11 games last season. Quinton Flowers is a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback. This team is the favorite to make the Group of Five’s New Year’s Six bowl game. Strong could make a quick rebound after getting fired at Texas.
Speaking of Texas, Tom Herman takes over at the 40 Acres. He was the number one coach on the market this past offseason. Everybody wanted him, but only Texas and LSU were the realistic candidates. He turned down LSU, so that meant Texas was the job. Herman very likely won’t win big this year, but people will want to see if Texas is in a position to turn the corner when this season ends and gives way to 2018. Anything less than large-scale success will be seen as a disappointment. This is Herman’s year to build a foundation which will become complete next year and beyond.
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