Baylor remains short of the NCAA maximum of 85 scholarships as it continues to recover from a sexual assault scandal. But second-year head coach Matt Rhule said progress has been made in rebuilding the program's culture and that he'll be able to focus more on football this season.
"The first couple of games last year, I was on the sidelines just kind of like a cheerleader because literally I was in meetings on Tuesdays and Wednesdays that weren't football meetings," he said in an Associated Press interview, referring to the university working to implement more than 100 recommendations in reforming its Title IX process.
Rhule, the former Temple coach, said the team will be better than last year, when it finished 1-11, but a lack of depth makes staying healthy the No. 1 priority.
"If we had the wrong injuries, I don't know how it could go," he said. "Last year, we played a lot of guys that weren't ready for college football yet. This year, I like our mix of guys. We have to go out and challenge people. I expect our guys to do that."
Chip Kelly makes his return as a collegiate head coach Saturday when UCLA takes on Cincinnati, and the folks in Los Angeles are finding out that Kelly does things his way, a method cloaked in almost absolute secrecy.
The former Eagles coach has declined almost every interview request since he's been at UCLA, even a series of them from the Los Angeles Times, which wrote a three-part series on Kelly two weeks. In one recent quote to ESPN.com, he talked about the things he was "excited" about in his return to coaching and concluded, "I'm pretty sure I just used that word six times in the last 10 seconds."
But he still likes his offense to play at warp speed, and it sounds as if his guys are buying in.
"I heard his practices were fast and then I got out to practice, and they were all true," offensive tackle Jake Burton told ESPN.com. "Super fast, they're really physical. His biggest thing is, you have to fly around, you have to play with your hair on fire. And if you mess up, mess up going a hundred miles an hour."
Former St. Joseph's Prep star D'Andre Swift sat behind Georgia's excellent tailback tandem of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel last season but received enough handoffs to rush for 618 yards. Now with Chubb and Michel in the NFL, Swift will likely see more carries.
"It's great," he said. "I've got to show a lot to people. I've got a little bit of hype behind me so I've got to show people what I can do."
It is still not known whether Swift or junior Elijah Holyfield will start Saturday's opener against Austin Peay. The 5-foot-9, 215-pound Swift, who never had more than 10 carries in a game last season, can hit the edge and has big-play potential. The 5-11, 215-pound Holyfield, son of former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield, is more of a punishing runner inside the tackles.
There once was a time when freshmen quarterbacks entering college stood in line behind the upperclassmen and began a painstaking process of learning schemes and terminology without any hope of seeing game action.
That's not so any longer. Look at the Big Ten, where three guys who were playing high school football a year ago – Artur Sitkowski of Rutgers, Adrian Martinez of Nebraska and Zack Annexstad (a walk-on) of Minnesota – will start the season openers for their team. All three graduated early, enrolled in January and participated in spring football.
"They're really not freshmen when they do that," Rutgers coach Chris Ash told the Associated Press. "When you come the early enrollment, all the training they're getting year-round at that position, the game has changed. All those things combined, it has led to more young guys having an opportunity to compete and potentially play."
When Michigan plays Saturday night at Notre Dame, it will be looking to break one of college football's most dreadful streaks – 16 consecutive road losses against ranked teams. No, you can't blame all of that on coach Jim Harbaugh; the streak began with Lloyd Carr and continued with Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke. Harbaugh is 0-3 on the road against ranked teams, including a 42-13 pasting at Penn State last season. The Wolverines' last road win came at Notre Dame, 47-21, on Sept. 16, 2006.
Redshirt sophomore center Jimmy Morrissey, a two-time All-Catholic League player at La Salle College High School, anchors an offensive line for Pittsburgh that returns four starters. The 6-foot-3, 300-pound Huntingdon Valley resident started all 12 games last season for the Panthers, who open their season Saturday hosting Albany.
Washington (plus 1.5) vs. Auburn at Atlanta, 3:30 p.m., 6ABC: The Huskies' Myles Gaskin starts the season as the No. 1 rusher (4,055 yards) among active FBS players. The Tigers return quarterback Jarrett Stidham but need a running back to replace Kerryon Johnson, who rushed for 1,391 yards and 18 TDs last year.
Tennessee (plus 10) vs. West Virginia at Charlotte, N.C., 3:30 p.m., CBS3: Former Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt is the Volunteers' new coach but an improved offense is his team's greatest need. Maybe the Vols can learn from the Mountaineers and the high-octane connection of Will Grier and David Sills.
Michigan (pick) at Notre Dame, 7:30 p.m., NBC10: Senior Brandon Wimbush, who completed less than half of his passes last season, remains the starting quarterback for the Fighting Irish. The Wolverines, whose offense needs to rise a few notches, unveil their new quarterback, Mississippi transfer Shea Patterson.
Miami (minus 3.5) vs. Louisiana State at Arlington, Texas, Sunday at 7:30 p.m., 6ABC: The Hurricanes started 10-0 last season but quarterback Malik Rosier completed just 44.9 percent of his passes with five interceptions in an 0-3 finish. The Tigers are 15-6 under coach Ed Orgeron and need a good start to cool off their fan base.
Virginia Tech (plus 7) at Florida State, Monday at 8 p.m., 6ABC: Here's hoping FSU quarterback Deondre Francois has a better season opener than he did in 2017, when he tore the patellar tendon in his left knee against Alabama and missed the rest of the year. The Hokies allowed the fourth-fewest points in FBS last year.
Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn, 6-3, 215, Jr., Stephenville, Texas
Stidham, who began his career at Baylor and spent a year in junior college before arriving at Auburn, was named SEC newcomer of the year last season when he completed 66.5 percent of his passes for 3,158 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also earned second-team all-conference honors.