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HomeFootballNCAA FootballCollege football 2023 preview: names to know

College football 2023 preview: names to know

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We had a handful of games on Aug. 26, but the 2023 college football season really begins this weekend.

We finally get games to watch! Yes, realignment will continue to be a topic, but it’ll take a backseat to the actual product on the field. It’ll be another fun year, too, for everybody involved.

There’s not a lot of parity (shocker!) at the top, as the champ will likely come from one of either Georgia, Michigan, Ohio State, LSU, or Alabama. The fun comes outside of that group. The last two seasons have produced the most teams that finished the season unranked after being ranked at the outset. That makes for a lot of fun Saturdays.

Once again, the presumed death of the game is premature. Realignment does come with some issues, but it’s never going to stop fans from watching. The allegiances to the programs are too strong. The bonding time spent with friends and family each season is too important.

Those fans this season will see a lot of talented players on the field and coaches on the sidelines. To start our 2023 college football preview, we’ll take a look at some of the names that will stay at top of mind over the course of the season.

Quinn Ewers, Texas QB

Ewers is the pilot of the offense of the team favored to win the Big 12. Ewers in 12 games in 2022 led the Longhorns in all the passing categories. Ewers beat out highly-touted recruit Arch Manning and redshirt freshman Maalik Murphy for the job. This has to be the year for Texas. Oklahoma is a bit down. It’ll be tough for TCU to duplicate the success it had in 2022. The Longhorns, who have only won three Big 12 titles since the league formed in 1996, have to get it done this season. Texas enters the season with its best recruiting class since 2018. Coach Steve Sarkisian has the team trending upward going into his third season. With the Longhorns moving to the SEC in 2024, this is their last best chance at a special season. They’ll go from favored to win the Big 12 this season to being the fifth- or sixth-best program in the SEC next year. If Texas isn’t back in 2023, it’s not gonna happen. Ewers will have a shot to prove his worth early when the Longhorns travel to Alabama on Sept. 9.

Tommy Rees, Alabama offensive coordinator

At only 31 years old, Rees is already on his second job at a storied program. Rees joins the Crimson Tide after three years as OC at Notre Dame, where he also played quarterback from 2010 to 2013. Rees joins the Tide at an interesting time. There’s some thought that Bama’s run is over after going 11-2 last season. That’s even though those two losses came in extreme situations: a gutsy play call in an overtime loss to LSU and a strong offensive showing from Tennessee on a wild October night in Knoxville. The Tide will be in the title picture all season, but there are a lot of questions surrounding the team. Coach Nick Saban won’t release a depth chart or name a starting QB. Bama’s QB room is the most unproven it’s been in a while. Penalties and dropped passes killed the Tide in 2022. The team is talented, with 90 percent of the Bama roster comprising 4- and 5-star players, but Rees has his work cut out for him. The Tide over the first eight weeks of the season has matchups with four teams ranked in the preseason AP poll.

Brian Ferentz, Iowa OC/Cade McNamara, Iowa QB

These two are a package deal. Iowa in 2022 had one of the weirder seasons I can remember. The Hawkeyes had the second-best scoring defense in the country (13.3 ppg) and a bottom-10 scoring offense (17.7 ppg). Iowa’s offense was so bad last year the school essentially put an ultimatum in Ferentz’s contract that calls for his firing in June 2024 if the team doesn’t win seven games and average 25 points per game. McNamara is the reason I think Ferentz will still have his job next fall. The Michigan transfer, a two-year captain with the Wolverines, is solid but not spectacular. That could be all it takes for Iowa’s offense to get going in 2023. McNamara in three years at Michigan had 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions before losing the starting job to JJ McCarthy. McNamara in 14 starts in 2021 on a playoff team had 15 touchdowns and six picks. The 15 touchdowns is more than double the seven Iowa quarterbacks threw in 2022. The Hawkeyes last season lost games 10-7 and 9-6. Iowa in 2022 scored 17 points or less seven times. The Hawkeyes games last season should have been broadcast in black and white. With McNamara and tight ends Sam LaPorta and Luke Lachey, the Iowa attack should come back into the 21st century. Iowa gets Penn State early with the Nittany Lions working in a new QB. The Hawkeyes have a big game at Wisconsin in mid-October. Win those two and the Huskies could make some noise nationally.

Michael Penix, QB Washington

Penix, now a super-duper senior, dazzled in his first season in Seattle. The Indiana transfer, entering his sixth year as a college quarterback, completed more than 65 percent of his passes on his way to throwing for more than 4,600 yards and 31 touchdowns. The Huskies are ranked 10th in the preseason AP top 25. Penix has two returning 1,000-yard receivers in Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan. The Huskies QB could face more pressure this season, as Washington lost three starting offensive linemen to graduation. The Huskies have a helluva schedule too. Washington opens with Boise State, travels to Michigan State on Sept. 16, and has home games against Oregon and Utah, and road tilts at USC and Oregon State. Penix is currently a longshot (+1,800) to win the Heisman. He’ll have plenty of chances to show he’s the best player in the country.

Coming tomorrow: ranking the best weeks of the season

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