College Football 2016: Preseason Power-5 All-Conference Teams

College Football, Uncategorized

 

The upcoming NFL Combine will serve as a showcase for the top prospects in the 2016 NFL draft. Sadly, it will also serve as a reminder for college football fans about just how much star power departed for the pros this offseason.

Although many of the top performers from the 2015 season have left campus, fortunately, there’s still plenty of quality talent remaining at the collegiate level.

Returning standouts such as Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey, Clemson QB Deshaun Watson, Florida State RB Dalvin Cook, Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett and LSU RB Leonard Fournette have already ascended to star status and become household names. Plus, there are plenty of other young, up-and-coming potential breakout stars who are waiting to make a name for themselves as well this fall.

Here’s a look at the top impact players from each of the Power-5 conferences who are most deserving of preseason “All-Conference” accolades for the 2016 season.

Notre Dame vs. Clemson: Preview, Analysis and Prediction

College Football

Is it too early to begin drawing parallels between this year’s Notre Dame team and the 2012 Irish squad that went undefeated and made it all the way to the national championship game?

In just four games of action, the Irish have displayed the kind of attributes you look for in a potential national title contender.

The offense has been consistently potent, averaging 41 points and 531 yards per game. The unit’s 7.59 yards per play average currently ranks sixth overall in the nation.

Though the defense as a whole hasn’t been as dominant as the Manti Te’o-led defense of 2012, the team’s top three defenders—LB Jaylon Smith, DL Sheldon Day and CB KeiVarae Russell—have all looked like the difference-making impact players they were projected to be.

The team’s early-season resume is one that already includes a blowout victory over a high-profile opponent (38-3 win over Texas in Week 1), a gut-check close-call scary survival last-minute win on the road (34-27 victory at Virginia) and a statement showing against a top-15 team (30-22 win over a then No. 14-ranked Georgia Tech squad).

Overall, it’s a group that talent-wise looks like it could be on par with that 2012 team, and potentially (if the defense continues to gel and QB DeShone Kizer continues to grow in the starting role he’s been thrust into) could end up being even stronger.

If Brian Kelly’s squad wants to prove that it is indeed a legitimate national title contender, a win in Saturday’s showdown against No. 12 Clemson in a hostile Death Valley environment is a good way to really get that proverbial ball rolling with some serious momentum.

When Notre Dame announced its “arrangement” with the ACC back in 2013, this game is the kind of big-time matchup the Irish were hoping would spice up their football schedule.

This one’s got all the necessary ingredients to create that special level of intrigue and anticipation: Prime-time, two top-15 teams going against each other in one of the sport’s most hallowed venues, and ESPN’s College GameDay will be there to cover the day’s events from start to finish.

Notre Dame enters their bout with the Tigers with a 4-0 record and a No. 6 ranking in the current AP Poll. However, the Irish also enter the contest as a slight underdog, as most Vegas sports books currently have Clemson as a one or two-point favorite.

The fact that Clemson was installed as a slight favorite isn’t surprising. The Tigers have one of the most talked-about quarterbacks in college football: Deshaun Watson, a great home-field advantage, a defense that currently ranks in the top 10 in both total defense and scoring defense, plus a bye week in Week 4 gave them even extra time to prepare.

On paper, this would appear to be a truly tough test for the Irish. However, if you’ve watched these two teams play at all this year, then it’s easy to see that Notre Dame is the superior squad in this clash.

Though the Irish lost starting QB Malik Zaire for the season, they’ve got more than enough talent to overcome, persevere and succeed.

Hot-shot NFL prospects and All-American candidates such as LT Ronnie Stanley, WR William Fuller and the standout defensive trio of Smith, Day and Russell are the stars who routinely make the headlines. But it’s emerging standouts such as QB Deshone Kizer, RB C.J. Prosise and LB Joe Schmidt that make this year’s Irish squad so intriguing.

They’re the players who have to step up and shine in a game of this magnitude. Judging from their performances thus far, they’re ready to do just that.

Brian Kelly knows what it’s like to navigate a team through potential pitfalls and lead a group of players to the promised land that is the national championship game. Kelly knows he’s got a special collection of talent that’s capable of special things this year. On Saturday night, he’ll get to unleash it in a spotlight game in front of a prime-time national audience.

Prediction: Notre Dame 26, Clemson 21

ACC Football 2015: Predicting the Leaders For Every Major Stat

College Football

For the past two seasons, Florida State has represented the ACC on the national stage, starting with their victory over Auburn in the 2014 BCS Championship Game and ultimately ending with a turnover-filled loss to Oregon in the same location this past January.

The Seminoles are now entering a bit of a transitional phase following the loss of Heisman-winning quarterback Jameis Winston and a host of other NFL-caliber players.

The door could be open for a team like Clemson, Georgia Tech, Duke or Louisville to step up and challenge for the ACC crown in 2015.

No matter how the conference race shakes out, though, there should be plenty of excitement around the conference this fall.

Great talent at the quarterback and receiver positions should provide for some big passing numbers. Plus, there are plenty of impact standout playmakers on the defensive side of the ball as well.

Here’s a look at the ACC players who are projected be the top performers in every major statistical category for the 2015 season.

ACC Football: 5 Players Who Are Ready to Become Stars in 2015

College Football

The ACC may have lost its most talked-about attraction: Heisman-winning QB Jameis Winston, who chose to leave Florida State and declare for the 2015 NFL draft. Luckily, though, the league will welcome back plenty of established big-name stars such as Pitt WR Tyler Boyd, Virginia Tech CB Kendall Fuller, Florida State S Jalen Ramsey and Pitt RB James Conner.

The conference is also home to some intriguing young up-and-coming players who look like they’re primed to become some of the ACC’s premier performers in 2015.

Here’s a look at five players who appear destined to be apart of the conference’s next wave of breakout stars.

ACC Football: Picking Every Team’s MVP For 2015

College Football

Following the conclusion of the 2014 season, the ACC was forced to wave goodbye to many of its heralded big-name stars such as Jameis Winston, Duke Johnson, Vic Beasley, Nick O’Leary and Jamison Crowder.

The conference has lost a ton of great talent. Luckily, however, the league is stocked full of young rising stars who are ready to shine and take their place in the spotlight this fall.

Here’s a look at every ACC team’s most valuable player for the 2015 season.