100 days from kickoff: 50 questions about the 2016 college football season

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Thursday May 19, 2016




We’re 100 days away from the start of the college football season, when Cal and Hawaii kick off in Australia.

Here are 50 questions that are lingering as we enter the summer and get closer to kickoff.

1. Can new offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert fix the Texas offense? - It’s the same question we keep asking about the Longhorns, who have scored more than 35 points just six times in two years of the Charlie Strong era. Tyrone Swoopes, Jerrod Heard and true freshman Shane Buechele are options at QB.

2. Will Alabama figure out its quarterback situation before losing a game this time? - The Tide QB battle went into the season last year. Cooper Bateman started against Ole Miss, but Jake Coker finished the game (a loss) and kept the job en route to a national title.

3. Will Tennessee break through with an SEC East title? - The Vols are the heavy favorite to come out of the SEC East, and for good reason, with talent across the roster and at least 17 returning starters. QB Josh Dobbs and RB Jalen Hurd will lead the way. UT also gets the Gators at home, but they travel to Texas A&M and also host Alabama.

4. Will Ohio State’s offensive momentum continue from the late-season coaching setup change? - Offensive coordinator Ed Warinner moved to the press box after Ohio State’s loss to Michigan State, and the Buckeyes scored 42 and 44 points against Michigan and Notre Dame. That setup will continue in 2016, though only three offensive starters return.

5. Will Jim Harbaugh find his quarterback to fit all the other pieces? - The Wolverines are stacked on defense, have an experienced offensive line and a powerful running game. But there still isn’t a clear No. 1 QB in Ann Arbor.

6. Is the Heisman Deshaun Watson’s to lose? - Christian McCaffrey was a finalist last season, and Leonard Fournette has a shot, but Watson has the most preseason hype and is the Vegas favorite, on a national title contender.

7. Will Mark Richt turn Brad Kaaya into one of the nation’s top QB’s? - Richt has gone back to his roots and is directly working with QB’s and will call plays at Miami (FL). Kaaya has the physical tools to be one of the best.

8. Have you seen USC’s schedule? - The Trojans open with Alabama in Texas, host a talented Utah State team and then play at Stanford and Utah. They also travel to Arizona, Washington and UCLA and host Notre Dame. That’s incredibly tough.

9. What schools’ playoff hopes will be done by Week 4? - A loaded nonconference is great for viewers, but puts teams under pressure quickly. Oklahoma plays Houston and Ohio State within the first three weeks. Clemson opens at Auburn and travels to Georgia Tech in Week 4. USC’s aforementioned difficult slate are just a few examples. Of course, the past two years have shown a team can rebound from an early loss.

10. Will Kirby Smart trust true freshman Jacob Eason to run Georgia’s offense? - While fans were ready to anoint Eason the starter after their spring game, Smart questioned their football knowledge. Eason still needs to earn Smart’s trust on the field.

11. What will Will Muschamp and Kurt Roper’s offense look like this time around? - Muschamp has said he’d still be at Florida if he’d hired Roper sooner. He’s not going to fit a square peg into a round hole this time.

12. Is the Washington hype for real? - With Oregon and Stanford replacing several key starters, the Huskies return plenty on both sides, including quarterback Jake Browning. UW hosts Stanford and travels to Oregon in back-to-back weeks in late September.

13. Are Noel Mazzone and Trevor Knight the answer for the Texas A&M offense? - Mazzone is A&M’s fourth offensive coordinator in five years under Sumlin. The grad transfer Knight looked strong in the spring game. Can he regain old form?

14. Can Gus Malzahn and a reshaped staff get Auburn back on track? - The Tigers are 4-10 in their last 14 SEC games. Malzahn says he plans to be more hands-on and less of a CEO.

15. How many schools will make a coaching change during the season? - Last fall, Illinois, Miami, Hawaii, Maryland and UCF made changes during the season, and several other schools announced a change would be made after, leading to a sped-up coaching carousel.

16. Who will contend with Houston for the Group of 5 auto-bid? - Temple, Navy and Memphis also contended with the Cougars in the American, and there’s always Boise State…

17. Will another offensive coordinator change be the answer at Kentucky? - Shannon Dawson was dismissed after one year, and in comes Eddie Gran. After back-to-back 5-7 seasons, can Mark Stoops get over the hump?

18. Will Notre Dame’s schedule help it reach the playoff? - The Irish open at Texas and only play two more true road games: at NC State and at USC. There are neutral-site games against Syracuse, Navy and Army.

19. How will Stanford replace Kevin Hogan and several offensive line starters? - The Cardinal are looking for a few replacements in key spots, but David Shaw says the coaches will stay away this summer.

20. Which true freshmen will have an immediate impact? - Defensive linemen Rashan Gary (Michigan), Ed Oliver (Houston) and Dexter Lawrence (Clemson) are names to watch, along with QB Jacob Eason at Georgia and Michigan State wide receiver Donnie Corley. 

21. Will other star players get in trouble or suspended?

22. How much of a step forward will UCLA QB Josh Rosen take in Year 2 with an offensive change?

23. Are we going to overlook Mark Dantonio again?

24. What impact will Joe Moorhead have on Penn State’s offense after leaving the Fordham head coaching job?

25. Will Ole Miss be favored over Alabama in Oxford?

26. Which team will lead the nation in points off turnovers?

27. Which first-year head coach will get off to a hot start and rally the fanbase?

28. Which play-caller will lead the nation in red zone efficiency?

29. What will Dave Aranda have in store for Wisconsin in Week 1 when LSU travels to Lambeau?

30. What will Dino Babers’ Syracuse offense look like in Year 1?

31. How much will the spring enrollment at Oregon help Dakota Prukop compared to Vernon Adams’ late arrival a year ago?

32. Which celebrity will become a college football hero after antics on College Gameday?

33. Can Brandon Harris make enough plays for the LSU offense to help the running game?

34. Can Georgia State continue the momentum after a 4-0 finish to last year’s regular season?

35. Can Bob Shoop take Tennessee’s defense over the top?

36. How does graduate transfer QB Davis Webb change Cal’s outlook?

37. Will we continue talking about Big 12 expansion throughout the season?

38. Can we please top talking about the idea of a college football commissioner as if it’s a possibility?

39. What will be the buzzword during playoff discussion? Please no more about body clocks.

40. Will this be the year Minnesota finally wins Paul Bunyan’s Axe?

41. Will Florida get enough from the QB position to contend in the SEC East?

42. How will Tee Martin fare as a first-time play-caller at USC?

43. Can Michigan beat either of its rivals on the road?

44. How will collaborative replay help with targeting calls in the SEC and ACC?

45. Will Jeremy Pruitt’s familiarity with Alabama prevent any drop off?

46. Which mid-week game will have an impact on the College Football Playoff field?

47. Will Navy keep rolling without Keenan Reynolds?

48. When will Kansas and UCF break their losing streaks after winless 2015 campaigns?

49. How much value will Michigan get from having nearly 40 satellite camps this summer?

50. Which mascot head will Lee Corso put on before the national championship game?

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with CoachingSearch.com and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News, MLive.com, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to chris@coachingsearch.com.

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