By Richie Avila | Contributing Writer

The 2017 college football season has officially started, and it’s started with a bang. In a battle of national championship hopefuls, Alabama defeated Florida State 24-7. In addition to the loss, Florida State took a hit when their star quarterback, Deondre Francois, suffered a serious knee injury that will sideline him for the remainder of the season and leave FSU in the hands of true freshman James Blackman. Francois’ injury has not eliminated Florida State from title contention, but it has seriously dampened their hopes. Miami, Clemson, Louisville, and Virginia Tech are now presented with an opportunity to win the Atlantic Coast Conference and perhaps make it to the College Football Playoffs. Louisville in particular has high hopes for the season as they return last year’s Heisman winner, Lamar Jackson. The junior quarterback was responsible for 51 touchdowns last season, as he led the Cardinals to a 7-1 conference record.
Alabama forced three turnovers and looked dominant on defense against Florida State, but their offense struggled with only 269 yards. Sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts will hope to improve on a freshman campaign in which he threw 23 touchdowns, ran for another 11, and was named both SEC Offensive Player of the Year and SEC Freshman of the Year.
The rest of the Southeastern Conference will look to put an end to Alabama’s run of three straight conference titles. The Auburn Tigers, led by transfer quarterback Jarrett Stidham, look to challenge Alabama. The Tigers will attempt to recapture the magic of their 2013 season, where they beat Alabama and made it to the national championship game.
LSU is another potential challenger from the SEC West division, as star running back Derrius Guice will hope to help his team win its first conference title since 2011. Georgia is the favorite out of the SEC East division; with running back Nick Chubb returning for his senior season. The Georgia Bulldogs have experienced a similar down period, as they have not won their conference since 2005.
The Big Ten conference has several national championship contenders of its own. Ohio State is the favorite out of the conference, and they return senior quarterback J.T. Barrett, who was part of the 2014 national championship team. This year, he aspires to lead his team to glory and make up for a 2016 season that ended in a shutout defeat to Clemson, the team that eventually won the National Championship.
Rival Michigan is another contender, helmed by charismatic head coach Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh has recruited an elite group of athletes this past year, and while this team is talented, they are young and may be a year away from serious title contention.
Penn State is ready to challenge now, as they possess one of the best offenses in the country. Quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley are back to build on a conference championship win last season. Barkley is one of the favorites for the Heisman and is perhaps the best running back in college football.
The Big 12 should be led by either Oklahoma or Oklahoma State, with Kansas State as a popular underdog choice. Oklahoma will be led by 2016 Heisman runner-up Baker Mayfield back at quarterback. Oklahoma State is led by senior quarterback Mason Rudolph, who already owns the school’s passing record and hopes to break the touchdown record this season.
In the Pac-12 conference, California powerhouses USC and Stanford expect to challenge for the conference title and a spot in the College Football Playoffs. USC is lead by Sam Darnold, who is favored to win the Heisman and be selected as the number-one pick in next year’s NFL draft. The hype is with USC, but Stanford has made a habit of killing that hype and taking the Pac-12 title for themselves. Head coach David Shaw has quietly run one of the nation’s most consistent programs, winning three conference titles since 2012 and only failing to win 10 games in a season once in his tenure at Stanford.
The Washington Huskies also have the ability to win the Pac-12. The Huskies won the conference title last season and looked competitive in a close loss to Alabama in the Peach Bowl.
In addition to the national title contenders, the state of California has a few programs with a lot to play for this season. Cal returns a strong offense and may play spoiler to one of the favorites thanks to an improved defense. UCLA has star quarterback Josh Rosen, who along with being a Heisman contender, will look to have a strong season to help his case as the top quarterback in next year’s NFL draft. San Jose State plays in the Mountain West Conference and will look to be competitive with new coach Brent Brennan. San Diego State won the Mountain West last season but lost one of the program’s best ever players, Donnel Pumphrey.
The season looks to be an exciting one, with multiple teams in the hunt for a conference title and the National Championship.

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