Thursday, August 4, 2016

Things to Look Forward to This Football Season

By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Training camp has begun around the NFL, and most major-college football teams will begin camp within the next week, so why don't we just tackle a broad range of awesome things to look forward to this season.

Obviously, you should be excited about everything, because football is the best, but here are a few things to look forward to, other than your favorite team shocking the world and winning a championship, of course.

Patriots Fans for the First Month of the Season

Look, we're all sick of DeflateGate, and we're probably even more sick of hearing Patriots fans whine about DeflateGate, and drunkenly inflate the class and integrity of Tom Brady.

We get it, the NFL is an evil organization that is holding down your poor, victim quarterback who has never caught a break in his life, and now must miss the first four games of the 2016 season.

That said, I'm really excited to listen to Patriots fans the first month of the season. There are already people around Boston saying "what if Jimmy Garoppolo plays well? Maybe there's no job for Tom when he comes back."

As Bill Belichick would say, "Jesus Christ."

That's just one of the many sizzling takes coming out of the Hub lately, and I'm pumped to hear more once football actually starts. Will they roast this kid every time he makes a bad throw or misses a read, or will they give him the incredible leniency I expect, given that Brady is coming back soon?

Also, the victim complex is going to be fantastic! If this team loses a game (which they may not, given that they only play one team with a pulse, Arizona, during that span) the outcry of everything being rigged will be heard in every Dunkin' Donuts throughout the land. It will be like Trump talking about the election, only funnier because it won't shake American democracy to its very core, and there will actually be some truth to it.

Don't let me down, Pats fans! I'm counting on you to destroy/coddle your young quarterback, then cry foul when your team loses/exclaim that the haters can't touch you when they win.  
Antonio Brown, Julio Jones and Odell Beckham Jr.

You like fun, right? Well, I too enjoy fun, and these three, along with a few other thrilling receivers either in, or coming into their primes, give the league arguably its greatest collection of receiver talent ever.

And yeah, I know the rules are different today, offenses are more wide-open and the game is skewed towards offense anyway, blah, blah, blah.

These guys are still unbelievable, and the numbers Jones and Brown put up last year are pretty much unprecedented. They each grabbed 136 balls for over 1,800 yards, and you could make a case that, had Ben Roethlisberger not gotten injured, Brown would have become the first receiver to break 2,000 yards in a season.

Beckham also came on strong down the stretch, recording six consecutive 100-yard receiving games from Week 8 to Week 14 (there was a bye week in there), and seems poised to contend with Brown and Jones for the receiving crown this year. While all three are great, it is Brown who has been on a historic tear, making three straight All-Pro teams (though Beckham has made two, for his only two years in the league), recording three straight 1,500 yards seasons (ok, he only had 1,499 in 2013, but I'm counting it), and setting numerous multi-year records, including most receptions in a two-year span (265), and most receptions in a three-year span (375).

Oh, and he also became the first player in NFL history to post multiple 16-catch games in a season, and four different 175-yard games in the same season, along with smashing the Steelers' single-season record for catches and receiving yards each of the last two years.

If their quarterbacks can stay healthy, look for all these guys to put up historic numbers, and make some ridiculous catches, in 2016.

The College Coaching Carousel

Nothing can invigorate a college fan base like a new coach, and this year brought some fun hires. Mark Richt returned to his alma mater, promising to restore Miami to its "The U" heyday, while former Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart replaces Richt at Georgia.

Both of those hires bring with them intense optimism from fan bases that feel their programs have underachieved the past few years, but there were so many other hires that should just be flat-out entertaining.

Lovie Smith to Illinois? Sure, he coached the Bears, who also play in Illinois. Never mind the fact that he hasn't recruited since the mid-90s (I'm sure technology and recruiting coverage are about the same now), hasn't changed his defense in a decade and has a horrible track record with quarterbacks, this will totally work!

Jim Grobe to Baylor? Don't worry about those five consecutive losing seasons Grobe endured before resigning from Wake Forest, or the fact that Baylor has become the poster program for sweeping sexual assault under the rug. I'm sure Grobe will be just as good a coach as offensive visionary (and apparent enabler) Art Briles, and he'll no doubt re-create the magic from his one good year with the Demon Deacons… Which now happened 10 years ago.

How about Will Muschamp taking over at South Carolina for Steve Spurrier? Well, I guess if a great former Gator coach can't get you over the hump, why not hire one who failed miserably in Gainesville? If nothing else, Muschamp's sideline tantrums will be worth the price of admission.

Clemson's Offense

The Tigers came up just short in last year's National Championship game against Alabama, but managed to drop an astonishing 40 points on Nick Saban's vaunted defense, even in defeat. On the year, Clemson averaged 38.5 points and 514.5 yards of total offense per game, and they should be even better this season.

Led by reigning Davey O'Brien Award Winner (most outstanding quarterback) Deshaun Watson, the Tiger offense promises to be the most exciting in the country, and perhaps the most anticipated non-Oregon or Baylor offense in some time. Last year, Watson put up video game numbers, throwing for over 4,100 yards and 35 touchdowns, and added another 1,100 yards and 12 scores on the ground.

Now a junior and Heisman favorite, Watson will have plenty of weapons at his disposal, as seven other starters return from last year's unit, including 1,700 yard rusher Wayne Gallman (meaning the Tigers return over 2,800 yards of production on the ground), leading receiver Artavis Scott, star tight end Jordan Leggett, and 2014 leading receiver Mike Williams, who missed last season with an injury.

Oh yeah, and Clemson returns three starters from one of the nation's best offensive lines. As good as the Tigers were last year (when they dropped 40 on No. 2 scoring defense Alabama, 34 on No. 4 scoring defense Boston College and 37 on No. 29 scoring defense Oklahoma), look for them to be even better, and more fun, this season.

The NFL Takes Over New Year's Day

Oh, you thought New Year's Day was yours, college football? Only because the NFL allows it, and this year, NYD happens to fall on a Sunday, so you college guys are $#!t out of luck. The NFL will play its full slate of 16 games to conclude the regular season on NYD, forcing one sorta-good bowl game (The Outback Bowl) and three New Year's Six games (The Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl and Cotton Bowl) all back to January 2nd. The Rose Bowl on the second? Is nothing sacred! What happened to my country?!?!

It also means that, for a second consecutive year, the College Football Semifinals will be played on New Year's Eve, meaning that, again, nobody will watch them. That will all change in 2017, but for one more season you'll have to fight with everyone at your New Year's Eve party to turn off Ryan Seacrest and turn on that killer Bama-Florida State semi.

Basically, this just tells you what you already know: The NFL is king, and while college football continues to gain popularity, when the NFL wants a day, it gets it.

That First Weekend of College Football

Not counting the season's actual opening game, a 10 pm game between Hawaii and Cal in Sydney, Australia on August 26th (takes place on the 27th down under!), the first weekend of college football is always something special. You've been wandering in a football-less desert for months, and you've finally stumbled upon the pigskin oasis. But wait, is this a mirage! No, you don't care! At this point, you're looking at that Thursday schedule thinking "hey, that Indiana at Florida International game could be fun. The Hoosiers were a bowl team last year!"

And what about South Carolina vs Vanderbilt. After the drought you've been through, that's practically the Iron Bowl. SEC FOOTBALL BABY!!

Ok, so maybe Thursday isn't great, but Friday will bring some action. Uh, there's the battle for Colorado… K-State at Stanford might be decent… Fine, Friday stinks too, but we all know this is about that first Saturday of the season, what a magical slate we'll have that day!

Georgia Tech and Boston College at 7:30 am in Dublin, Ireland… Ok, that could be interesting. What about games that start while I'm awake in the states? Ohio State hosts Bowling Green.. Michigan hosts Hawaii.. Pitt hosts Villanova.. Aha, UCLA at Texas A&M and LSU at Wisconsin, there are those big games I was talking about!

What about Oregon, they seem to always open the season with a… They're hosting UC Davis. Ok. Wait, Western Carolina vs East Carolina? Those aren't even real Carolinas! UMass at Florida.. South Dakota State at TCU..

So this week isn't exactly loaded, but we finish strong with USC at Alabama and Clemson at Auburn that night. Heck, Texas was even nice enough to schedule Notre Dame again for Sunday, despite the 35-point whooping the Irish put on them last year, and Monday brings a nice Ole Miss-Florida State game in Orlando.

Not exactly packed with action throughout, but by the time it gets here, you'll be ready for anything resembling big-time football.

Your Fantasy Team

Seriously, I'm really excited to hear about your fantasy team, and so is everybody else!

Oh, and you should also do that thing where you tell me about what your team did that week, but you're in like five leagues, so all your different teams start to blend together in the story.

Oh, really, you've got Adrian Peterson, Todd Gurley, Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Odell Beckham, Cam Newton and Gronk all on the same team? Wow, you must have been very savvy on draft day!

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