National Columnist Mike Farrell is back with the 3-Point Stance discussing ways each Power Five favorite could falter, predicting the rushing and receiving leaders for the 2022 season and five true freshmen running backs to watch.
— The favorites this year in every Power Five conference are obvious save for the Pac-12. But that doesn’t mean they will all win as expected and here are some things that could derail them.
Alabama: Jimbo Fisher Walking the Walk
There may be a temporary cease-fire between Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher, but make no mistake about it, there is a lot of bad blood there. And with Fisher’s recent wins on the recruiting trail, there is a serious chance that all of that talent really starts to blossom, especially with a steady veteran signal-caller in Max Johnson leading the way or a dual-threat troublemaker like Haynes King. Ole Miss will have a good team too, but Texas A&M is the team that can spoil another CFP appearance for the Crimson Tide.
Clemson: DJ Uiagalelei
If the former five-star recruit continues to look like he did last year, it doesn’t matter how dominant Clemson’s defense is. They cannot overcome his mistakes and lack of accuracy, especially without a really strong line in front of them, which he won’t have. Cade Klubnik is the long-term answer but we’ll see if he’s ready to take over as a true freshman.
Ohio State: Michigan is More Than a 1-Year Wonder
Despite not winning the conference last season, Ohio State is still the clear favorite in the Big Ten, and rightfully so. They’ve got all the talent in the world – especially compared to the rest of the conference, a favorable schedule, and a great coaching staff. But after their first Big Ten title since 2004, Michigan is now riding high again, and while some people may think that the Wolverines’ run to the CFP was a one-year wonder, there’s a chance that Michigan is back for good and will be able to bully the Buckeyes once again with the combination of Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards in the backfield.
Utah: USC Gels Quickly
Utah returns the deepest roster in the Pac 12, but everyone and their brother knows that Lincoln Riley and USC have brought in all the talent in the world. However, at least at the beginning, the Utes should still have the upper hand as the more experienced team that has already won together and clearly has the better defense. But if Caleb Williams and co. can get on the same page and live up to their potential quickly, then everyone is going to need to watch out.
Oklahoma: Texas Being (Actually) Back
We’ve been asking “is Texas back” seemingly every year for a decade now, but for some reason, it feels a little different this year. Maybe that’s the Quinn Ewers effect, but the time is now for the Longhorns to strike. Brent Venables may well turn into an outstanding head coach, but in his first season at the helm, there is definitely not a ton of room for error.
— After predicting the QB leaders earlier in the week, let’s take a stab at the running backs and wide receivers.
Rushing Yards: Deuce Vaughn, Kansas State
The most dynamic player in the country, Vaughn will once again be the focus of the Wildcats’ attack. He’ll also lead the country in total yards from scrimmage as he’s arguably the best receiving back in the country as well. He’s going to touch the ball as much as anyone in the country.
Rushing TD’s: Braelon Allen, Wisconsin
As a true freshman, the 6’2″, 238 lb. Allen didn’t even start until the Badgers’ 8th game of the season yet still managed to finish with over 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns. Now as the undisputed number one back behind a line that will be drastically improved behind new (old) offensive line coach Bob Bostad, expect him to put up 20+ scores this year.
Receiving Yards: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
He was third in the country last season while sharing the field with two top-15 picks at the same position. There’s very little question as to if he’s the best receiver in the country – the bigger question is if he’s the best player at any position. With CJ Stroud at quarterback and that particular system, there’s a chance that JSN breaks 2,000 yards receiving.
Receiving Touchdowns: Brock Bowers, Georgia
Bowers was the best true freshman in the entire country last year, and with George Pickens and Jermaine Burton both gone, he’s the unquestioned top pass catcher for the Bulldogs now if he wasn’t already. After snagging 13 last year, 16-18 isn’t out of the question.
— And finally let’s look at five true freshmen running backs we should keep an eye on.
Nick Singleton, Penn State
Everyone is raving about Singleton after the spring and he has a chance to be as impactful as a freshman as Treyveon Henderson was for Ohio State last season.
Raleek Brown, USC
Travis Dye will be the man but remember that Brown is electric in space and could be a valuable pass-catcher.
Tavorus Jones, Missouri
Remember this name. He may not start the season as the guy but it wouldn’t surprise me if he ended it that way.
Jovantae Barnes, Oklahoma
Barnes is sudden and explosive and there’s no way he’s kept off the field this season.
Damien Martinez, Oregon State
The big back from Texas wasn’t as highly rated as the others on here but he has a chance to impact as much as anyone if he becomes the bell cow.