Schmidt List: 2017 college football preview, Heisman watch, playoff picks, more

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09: The Clemson Tigers celebrate during the trophy presentation at the conclusion of the National Championship game against the Alabama Crimson Tide on January 9, 2017, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL. Clemson beat Alabama 35-31. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09: The Clemson Tigers celebrate during the trophy presentation at the conclusion of the National Championship game against the Alabama Crimson Tide on January 9, 2017, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL. Clemson beat Alabama 35-31. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

The 2017 college football season is upon us. Let’s preview the conferences, make playoff predictions, Heisman picks, identify who is on the hot seat and have a little fun along the way.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. College football is back and our long national nightmare is over. Now out Saturdays will be spent watching College GameDay and 12 hours of college football instead of binge-watching shows on Netflix and finding excuses to get out of visiting your in-laws. The new season brings renewed optimism for teams thinking 2017 will be their year and the disappointments of last year as a distant memory. Conversely, playoff teams, Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State and Washington start from scratch with a blank resume as they look to compete for the National Championship in January.

And I’m going to be with you every step of the way.

In the first edition of the Schmidt List, which will run on Sunday mornings during the season, I am going to run through the Power 5 conferences in a lightning round fashion, because I’ve always wanted to be on a game show and because it will highlight the top storylines facing each team in those conferences. Beyond that, I’ll give you my preseason predictions for the College Football Playoff, my top Heisman Trophy contenders and which coaches are sitting on the hottest seats.

The Schmidt List will be fun, hopefully, a little humorous and we’ll throw in some pop culture references and tips for what you should be watching on Netflix and TV, and what you should be bringing to your tailgate party. Because college football is better with great food and drinks.

Having said all of that, let’s hit the Schmidt List.

College Football Preseason AP Poll
Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images /

SEC Preview: Alabama and everyone after

Alabama seeks its fourth straight SEC championship after falling one second short of back-to-back national championships to Clemson. Jalen Hurts is back at quarterback and the Tide reloaded on defense to make them the prohibitive favorites in the SEC. In-state rival hopes to challenge Alabama with the help of transfer quarterback Jarrett Stidham while LSU hopes new coach Ed Orgeron and running back Derrius Guice can lift the Tigers to conference contention.

Texas A&M could be facing a make-or-break season for Kevin Sumlin but have questions at quarterback and must replace top NFL draft pick, Myles Garrett. Ole Miss had a nightmare of an offseason with Hugh Freeze forced to resign after an off-field scandal. Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald may be the best QB in the conference, but if he’s not, Arkansas’ Austin Allen may be in the running.

The SEC East is a two-team race with Florida and Georgia hoping this is the year they can compete with Alabama. Tennessee may have missed their window of opportunity. South Carolina may be on the rise with QB Jake Bentley and could surprise, but Kentucky, Missouri and Vanderbilt will make their fans wish for basketball season.

ACC Preview: Mr. Heisman’s neighborhood

Clemson is the reigning national champion but don’t write off the Tigers this year because of the loss of Deshaun Watson to the NFL. The Tigers are loaded on both sides of the ball. Their biggest test will again come from Florida State who is primed to overtake Clemson for ACC supremacy. Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson is back at Louisville but must answer the doubters after struggling late in the season. I think he’s going to be just fine and approach 50 total touchdowns and look to join Archie Griffin as the only two-time Heisman winners. NC State, Wake Forest and Boston College look like bowl teams and Year 2 for Dino Babers at Syracuse should result in plenty of points being scored. Mark Richt has Miami on the rise and could be a sleeper in the Coastal with Virginia Tech and North Carolina having to replace quarterbacks. Pitt and Georgia Tech could be contenders too, but Duke and Virginia fans are already looking forward to hoops season.

Related: Visit the FanSided college football page for more news, opinion and analysis

Big Ten Preview: The new best conference in college football

Arguably the best conference in college football with four teams in the top 10. Ohio State is the team to beat, but Michigan’s revamped defense and Penn State’s explosive offense led by Saquon Barkley will be tough tests for J.T. Barrett and the Buckeyes. Wisconsin is the class of the West and has a schedule that could see them run the table into November.

Saquon Barkley - Big Ten
Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images /

Iowa and Nebraska will be solid but look out for Minnesota and first-year head coach P.J. Fleck to make the Gophers a potential 10-win team in short order. Indiana, Maryland and Northwestern should compete for a bowl berth.

Michigan State should be better than last year’s three-win nightmare, but Illinois and Purdue fans are still hoping for any signs of progress.

Big 12 Preview: Lincoln Riley, Tom Herman represent youth movement

Gone is Bob Stoops at Oklahoma and in comes Lincoln Riley to direct the Sooners as they look to return to the College Football Playoff. Baker Mayfield returns for his final season and should be a Heisman candidate. The Sooners’ toughest challenge comes from in-state rival Oklahoma State, where Mason Rudolph is a Heisman candidate in his own right. Bedlam will be just that when the two teams meet. Tom Herman is in at Texas and will have the Longhorns back in short order, but it won’t be an overnight fix. Kansas State and West Virginia play the best defense in the Big 12 and will look to play spoiler to the Oklahoma schools. TCU looks to recover from a down 2016. Texas Tech must replace Patrick Mahomes and Iowa State and Kansas are looking forward to March Madness.

Pac-12 Preview: It’s Sam Darnold’s world and we’re just living in it

Washington won the conference last year over Colorado and earned a trip to the College Football Playoff but 2017 looks to be the year for USC. With QB Sam Darnold leading the way, look for the Trojans signal-caller to possibly join Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart as Heisman winning QB’s from USC. Crosstown rival UCLA has a talented QB of their own with Josh Rosen giving hope to the Bruins faithful that this is the year Jim Mora’s doesn’t underachieve. Utah is underrated again, Colorado has to prove they weren’t a one-hit wonder and Arizona State and Arizona have too many questions and not enough answers to be taken seriously as contenders, let alone, potential spoilers.

Washington will be back to take the North division with Jake Browning under center but their in-state rivals have a great QB of their own with Luke Falk who could lead the nation in passing yards. Stanford will miss Christian McCaffrey and that could keep them out of conference championship contention. Oregon hopes Willie Taggart can bring the Ducks back to glory while Oregon State and Cal hope to play spoiler.

Heisman Trophy
NEW YORK CITY, NY – DECEMBER 10: 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson (4) holds the Heisman Trophy. Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. /

Heisman Watch

5. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

Barkley became a national sensation after running for 194 yards and a pair of scores in the Rose Bowl last year as a sophomore. This year, Barkley looks to build on the 1,496 yards and 18 scores he had a year ago and approach the vaunted 2,000 yard plateau. The award is typically given to quarterbacks now, but if he gets 2,000 yards and a Big Ten title, Barkley just may end up the second back to win the Heisman in the last three years, joining Derrick Henry.

4. Jalen Hurts, QB, Alabama

Hurts was the third-string QB when the season began last year but finished the season opener as the unquestioned starter and helped guide Alabama to one second away from a national title. Hurts looks to finish what he started this year and has the help of Calvin Ridley who could have an Amari Cooper-type season and one of the nation’s best offensive lines to protect for him to make plays with his legs and arm this year for the top team in the country.

3. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

Mayfield was a finalist last year along with teammate Dede Westbrook but the Oklahoma quarterback lost some familiar faces. Gone is Westbrook and running backs Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine and head coach Bob Stoops abruptly retired in the spring. Mayfield brings a certain flair to the position so look for him to become acquainted with some fresh faces early and turn them into household names.

2. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

Last year’s winner looks to join Archie Griffin as the only two-time Heisman winners. Jackson struggled at the end of last season but got bigger, stronger and faster in the offseason after throwing for 30 touchdowns and rushing for 21. He should account for more than 5,000 yards through the air and the ground. A remarkable dual-threat who remains the most electrifying talent with the ball in his hands.

1. Sam Darnold, QB, USC

Darnold came off the bench last year to lead USC to nine straight wins and a remarkable comeback win in the Rose Bowl vs. Penn State. He is a potential top pick in the NFL Draft and looks to follow in the footsteps of past Trojans, Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart to win the Heisman.

Brian Kelly - Hot Seat Rankings
SOUTH BEND, IN – OCTOBER 15: Head coach Brian Kelly of the Notre Dame. Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images. /

Coaches on the Hottest Seats

5. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M

You may have heard this before, but Texas A&M started off hot before finishing as cold as a winter in the Arctic Circle, going 8-5 for the third straight year. He’s not been terrible, but he hasn’t been great as the Aggies remain firmly stuck in slightly above-average. Will that be enough to save his job? The pressure certainly is on after massive renovations to Kyle Field and a fanbase that thinks they should be competing with Alabama for SEC championships.

4. Jim Mora, Jr. UCLA

If 2017 goes as poorly as 2016 did for UCLA, then Jim Mora is in trouble. After winning 37 games in his first four years in Westwood, everything went wrong last year when UCLA lost QB Josh Rosen to injury, went winless on the road and vs. ranked teams to finish 4-8. If Rosen doesn’t live up to the prodigious hype surrounding him and UCLA fails to get back to 8 wins, it could be curtains for Mora.

3. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech

His win-loss record isn’t as pretty as his headshot, so Kliff Kingsbury has the temperature kicked up a few degrees entering this season. The pressure is on him to develop the next great Red Raider QB with Patrick Mahomes in the NFL. That may be the easy part but the real challenge is improving the nation’s worst defense. If the Red Raiders show the slightest bit of interest in playing defense, Kingsbury should win six games, make a bowl game, and keep his job. If it’s a third losing season in the last four years, and the former Red Raider QB could be on the outs.

2. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona

It’s been all downhill for Rich Rod after leading Arizona to the Pac-12 Championship Game in 2014 and bottomed out with a dismal 3-9 record last year with only one conference victory. The defense is one of the nation’s worst and the one-time offensive genius has had trouble finding a suitable quarterback. If the Cats don’t make it to a bowl game, Rich Rod could be on his way out of the desert and back to a TV studio.

1. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame

When you go 4-8 at Notre Dame, fire both your coordinators and publicly throw your quarterback under the bus like Brian Kelly did, you’re hot seat is going to be scorching. Kelly is coming off the worst season of his coaching career and may need to reverse his record from last year to remain in South Bend for one more season.

Sam Darnold
PASADENA, CA – NOVEMBER 19: USC (14) Sam Darnold (QB) passes during the USC Trojans win vs. the UCLA Bruins on November 19, 2016, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA. Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. /

College Football Playoff Predictions


Jalen Hurts, Bo Scarbrough, Calvin Ridley and the Tide’s talented offensive line all return. The defense saw an exodus head to the NFL but as always, the Tide reloads with Rashaan Evans, Shaun Dion Hamilton, Da’Shawn Hand and Minkah Fitzpatrick all candidates to garner All-American honors. Oh, and that Nick Saban guy is still patrolling the sidelines as the best coach in college football.


The Trojans were the hottest team in the country the last 2 months of 2016 and capped it off with a thrilling Rose Bowl victory. Quarterback Sam Darnold has a lot of weight and pressure on his shoulders but the redshirt sophomore looks poised beyond his years. Look for some receivers to step up as his preferred targets this year and the defense to be slow the high-powered Pac-12 offenses.

Florida State

Florida State will take back the ACC now that Clemson is without Deshaun Watson. Deondre Francois leads a potent FSU offense that will see true freshman Cam Akers offset the loss of Dalvin Cook. The biggest reason the Noles will make the playoff and potentially enter as an undefeated team is their defense led by a deep and talented defensive line and safety Derwin James, who may be the best player at any position in college football.

Ohio State

Ohio State looks to make it three straight appearances in the playoff but the Buckeyes are hoping for a better showing after a 31-0 loss in the semifinals to Clemson. J.T. Barrett, Mike Weber and a defensive line led by Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbard should be enough to hold off challenges by Penn State, Michigan and Wisconsin for the Big Ten crown.

National Champion: Alabama over USC

Next: 30 bucket list items for college football fans

Game of Thrones
Credit: Game of Thrones – Helen Sloan – HBO /

Out of Bounds

I’ll close every installment of the Schmidt List with a non-college football item that’s on my mind. Generally, they will be related to what I’m watching on Netflix or TV as I double as an entertainment editor and run Netflix Life. Basically, when I’m not watching college football, I’m watching TV and Netflix.

If you haven’t watched The Defenders on Netflix, you should totally check it out if you’re a fan of the previous Marvel shows. This sees Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and our favorite supporting characters like Claire, Colleen, Misty, Karen, Foggy and Trish on the same show. The four superheroes come together after a shadow organization threatens to destroy New York City. It was so cool to see this All-Star cast of characters meeting each other and interacting with and working with each other for the good of the city and the people. It’s arguably one of the most ambitious things Netflix has done so far and I think it lived up to the massive amount of hype that preceded its arrival. Before Narcos and BoJack Horseman release new seasons on Netflix in September, you’ll want to watch The Defenders.

More Best TV Shows on Netflix

Game of Thrones never ceases to amaze me and the penultimate episode of season 7 was one of the wildest things I’ve ever seen in movie or television. This is a spoiler-free commentary, but the season finale airs on Sunday, Aug. 27 and if you watch one thing this weekend that’s not college football, make it the season finale of Thrones because you’re likely to have your eyes pop out of your skull in amazement at what the writers have managed to do.

Okay, that’s it. Enjoy the Week Zero slate of college football, the season finale of Game of Thrones and please do check out The Defenders on Netflix. I’ll be back Sunday to take a look at the Week 1 slate of games, including the massive matchup between No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Florida State.