NCAA Football News

Offseason Question Marks for Top College Football Playoff Contenders

Spring football has finally wrapped up across the nation, and as college football players dig into their final exams and prepare for “voluntary” offseason workouts, the time has come to sit back and reflect, at least for a moment.

This week’s dominant college football story has been Everett Golson’s eventual destination following his transfer from Notre Dame, which has spiced up a slow period. Now is the time when players think about what lies ahead and coaches analyze what they have on their rosters.

It’s an excellent opportunity to look at the offseason questions that face the top College Football Playoff contenders. So we’re going to do just that.

Here’s an examination of the biggest question marks facing the top 12 teams in our most recent preseason top 25.

Begin Slideshow

Notre Dame Football: Brian Kelly's Offensive Blueprint with Malik Zaire at QB

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — A blueprint executed to perfection in 2012 is back on the table for Notre Dame football in 2015.

Everett Golson is gone, and Malik Zaire is left to run the show. While it’s tough to make the argument Notre Dame is better without Golson—the 85-man roster is weaker, after all, with the loss of a quarterback with 23 starts, 5,850 passing yards and 55 total touchdowns—life, in a way, is easier for Irish head coach Brian Kelly.

Instead of tailoring an offense to two different quarterbacks, Kelly, associate head coach Mike Denbrock and offensive coordinator Mike Sanford can go all-in with Zaire, crafting the playbook and play-call sheet to fit the style of the dual-threat redshirt sophomore.

And Kelly doesn’t have to look far for the blueprint.

Through five seasons in South Bend, five different quarterbacks have started for Kelly. How did Kelly fit the offenses around them?

The Irish trended toward a 50-50 split between running and throwing the last two seasons. But in 2012, with a first-year starter in Golson at the helm, Notre Dame ran roughly 57 percent of the time, the 34th-highest rush rate in the country, per TeamRankings.com.

Now correlation obviously doesn’t equal causation, but Kelly and the Irish were on to something with an inexperienced quarterback, a veteran defense and a rushing attack that featured heavy doses of Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood with a side order of George Atkinson III.

Golson, a redshirt freshman at the time, only needed to complete 187 passes in a 12-1 season that ended with the trip to the national title game. He only tossed 12 touchdowns, but he only coughed up six interceptions. In his 12 games (11 starts), Golson attempted 318 passes.

By comparison, Golson’s 319th pass (of an eventual 427) during the 2014 season came in the third quarter against Arizona State, Notre Dame’s ninth game of the season and a loss during which Golson chucked four interceptions.

In the months since Zaire started and helped Notre Dame to a 31-28 win over LSU in the Music City Bowl, Irish fans have increasingly wondered—and some begged and clamored—if Notre Dame should run more in 2015. With Zaire unquestionably atop the quarterback depth chart now, the answer assuredly crystallizes for Kelly and company. The pieces around Zaire on offense seem ready for their part, as well.

“It was pretty clear that we’ve got a very good offensive line,” Kelly said after Notre Dame’s spring game in April. “They’re going to be able to control the line of scrimmage in most instances, and we’ll continue to go to our strength, which we believe is up front.”

Ronnie Stanley, Quenton Nelson, Alex Bars, Nick Martin, Steve Elmer and Mike McGlinchey will be tasked with protecting Zaire and plowing ahead for running backs Tarean Folston, Greg Bryant and C.J. Prosise, who certainly seem capable—in some combination—of at least replicating the production from Riddick, Wood and Atkinson in 2012.

The blueprint isn’t as straightforward as it might seem four months away from a season opener. Zaire will still have to make important throws, and the defense must play well enough to allow a persistent offensive focus on the ground game.

But a quarterback is gone, and an offensive identity could be forming.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Mike Monaco is a lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Georgia Football: Predicting the Bulldogs' 2015 Win-Loss Record

It’s mid-May, and that means the college football preview magazines will be hitting the shelves in the near future. And odds are many of those magazines will have the Georgia Bulldogs high in the polls and have them in first place in the SEC East.

That would not be a surprise, because the Bulldogs won 10 games last year, and they have the majority of their starters from last season coming back in 2015.

But they are also replacing some starters at very important positions, and if they don’t grow up in a hurry, it could be a long and disappointing season for the boys from Athens.

So what will be the win-loss record for the Bulldogs this upcoming season? Let’s take a look.

Begin Slideshow

UCLA Football: Projecting Bruins' Post-Spring 2-Deep Depth Chart

With spring practice officially over for head coach Jim Mora and the UCLA Bruins, it's time to take a step back and assess the bigger picture heading into the fall.

The session proved to be significant for the Bruins. There were no serious injuries reported, and the depth on this team is potentially as good as it's been during Mora's tenure.

There are still some questions being asked—specifically at quarterback and various reserve spots.

This piece will attempt to craft a post-spring two-deep depth chart. We will exclude any incoming freshmen unless they're already enrolled in school.

Begin Slideshow

Pages