Why Power Is Shifting in This Year’s College Football Season

Why Power Is Shifting in This Year’s College Football Season

D'Andre Walker (No. 15) of the Georgia Bulldogs sacks Baker Mayfield (No. 6) of the Oklahoma Sooners in the third quarter during the 2018 College Football Playoff Semifinal Game at the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual at the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 2018, in Pasadena, California.

SourceMatthew Stockman/Getty

Why you should care

D-Fense: The College Football Kickoff Dossier

This is an OZY Special Briefing, an extension of the Presidential Daily Brief. The Special Briefing tells you what you need to know about an important issue, individual or story that is making news. Each one serves up an interesting selection of facts, opinions, images and videos in order to catch you up and vault you ahead.

What to Know

Offense is for the birds — be it the Gamecocks, the Hawkeyes or the Ducks. College football has become synonymous with spread schemes and gaudy passing numbers, but in 2018, we’re seeing the power shift to the other side of the ball. Whether it’s defenses putting out a hit on the run-pass option (RPO) or defensive coordinators raking in the big bucks — and, speaking of big bucks, sports betting is now legal — OZY has gathered all the freshest angles and emerging trends ahead of college football kickoff.

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Ezra Cleveland (No. 76) of the Boise State Broncos runs on the field before the start of the Las Vegas Bowl against the Oregon Ducks at Sam Boyd Stadium on Dec. 16, 2017, in Las Vegas. Boise State won 38–28.

Source David Becker/Getty

While Alabama and Georgia will remain atop the sport, Big Ten and Pac-12 powers are rising to challenge the SEC’s recent dominance — something to consider if you’re partaking in newly legal wagers. And with all those powerful D’s, plan to bet the under this year.

How to Think About it

RP-NO. What has long been college football’s (and, increasingly, the NFL’s) secret offensive weapon is about to lose its luster. College defenses, which often trail far behind offenses in terms of innovation and explosiveness, are finally prepared to thwart the run-pass option, a play design that lets the quarterback either run the ball, pass the ball or hand it off. Across the SEC, defenses are planning to harass the quarterback early and often, while officials are beginning to crack down on tricky and illegal uses of option plays.

Snacking on quarterbacks. Ohio State defensive lineman Dre’Mont Jones knows he’ll have to give up Cheetos and improve his diet if he wants to become a quarterback-sacking machine this season. But it’s more than cheesy snacks that will challenge Jones this year. His Buckeyes are in turmoil, with head coach Urban Meyer suspended for the first three games of the season due to his failure to escalate domestic abuse allegations against an assistant coach. Ohio State also saw a core of its defensive leadership leave for the NFL. But Jones is poised to assume that role not only on the field but also in the locker room, as long as he can increase his discipline and decrease his penalties.

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Holton Hill (No. 5) of the Texas Longhorns intercepts a pass and returns it for a touchdown in the first quarter against the Maryland Terrapins at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on Sept. 2, 2017, in Austin, Texas.

Source Tim Warner/Getty

Bullish on the Dawgs. Anyone can rank college football’s preseason contenders. But we’re prognosticating the players in this year’s championship with an eye toward underreported storylines and underestimated sleepers. Our top five picks to seize your TV screen in January: Georgia, Alabama, Clemson, Michigan State, Washington. Click on for the rest of the top 10, with a few bonus picks.

Seven figures for these six figures. It pays to be defensive. If you follow the money in college football, you’ll often see offensive coordinators charting their courses to the pros. But this offseason, six defensive coordinators signed contracts for more than $1 million per year, including the highest-total-value contract for a college assistant. Now, their schemes have to back up their paychecks.

What to Read

The Next Great USC QB Shouldn’t Even Be in College, by Mike Piellucci at The Ringer

“Only two college football players, former USC quarterback John David Booty and current South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley, are believed to have attempted what Daniels is now trying to do: go directly from playing as a high school junior to starting as a college freshman.”

The Saban effect: How one coach’s unrelenting process has sculpted college football, by Alex Scarborough at ESPN

“Piece by piece, fallen rival by fallen rival, the tendrils of Saban’s ‘process’ span college football, his blueprint reshaping an entire sport.”

What to Watch

2018 National Championship Game

Relive Alabama’s epic overtime triumph in January, for its fifth national title in nine seasons, with every snap compressed into 36 minutes.

Watch on CFBin30 on YouTube

No. 6 Auburn vs. No. 5 Washington

Sat., Sept. 1, 3:30 p.m. EST, Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Line: Auburn -1.5. Over/Under: 48.

A delicious top-10 matchup to open the season tests whether the high-octane attack of Huskies QB Jake Browning and RB Myles Gaskin will travel well to the heart of SEC country.

Watch an … interesting preview on Lego on Fuego on YouTube

What to say at the Watercooler

“Wanna bet on it?” Thanks to the United States Supreme Court striking down a federal ban on sports gambling back in May, would-be bettors will have unprecedented access to the sports books. Now, depending on where you live, you may not be able to walk out your door and plunk down your cold hard cash in person — not every state has passed legislation to legalize sports gambling. If you live in Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey (which brought the suit to the Supreme Court), Mississippi or West Virginia (as of Sept. 1), go hog wild. The wait might not be long for the rest of you, though. After all, states love tax revenue almost as much as sports bettors love point spreads.

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