College Football Watchlist: Who to Keep an Eye on This Season
August 9, 2017
It’s finally August, which means college football begins this month! This gives you permission to officially break out all your tailgating essentials and get fired up about your favorite teams if you haven’t already.
As always, there are new and returning faces in the Big 12 and Pac-12 that you should keep your eye on this season, and we have you covered. After-all, you never know who you’ll be watching play in the Valero Alamo Bowl on December 28th.
A panel of analysts, writers, and Insiders from ESPN made their votes in head-to-head matchups and these are the results:
Top-50 Players from Big 12 and Pac-12 (based off ESPN’s rankings)
#2 Sam Darnold (USC, QB, Sophomore): The reigning Rose Bowl MVP proved to be a standout quarterback in college football last season, averaging 237.4 passing yards per game and completing 31 passing touchdowns. The sophomore quarterback is one of the main reasons why the Trojans are a national title contender this year.
#3 Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma, QB, Senior): Mayfield enters his senior season with 27 career wins and back-to-back top-four Heisman finishes. His speed and 71 percent passing percentage make him one of the most dominant passers in college football.
#12 Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State, QB, Senior): The senior quarterback was one of eight to throw over 4,000 passing yards last season and tallied only four interceptions. Rudolph passed for 314 yards and three touchdowns in last year’s Valero Alamo Bowl, leading the Cowboys to a 38-8 Valero Alamo Bowl victory.
#14 Jake Browning (Washington, QB, Junior): After leading the Huskies to the College Football Playoffs last season and earning Pac-12 Offensive Player of the year, Browning is expected to lead the Huskies’ dominant offense to another successful season. The junior quarterback threw for 3,430 yards with 43 touchdowns last season.
#16 Josh Rosen (UCLA, QB, Junior): As one of the most talented quarterbacks in college football, Rosen enters this season hoping to bounce back from a season-ending shoulder injury. Despite UCLA’s struggles to win last season, Rosen has 33 career touchdowns and is a top NFL prospect.
#20 James Washington (Oklahoma State, WR, Senior): The 2016 Valero Alamo Bowl Offensive MVP caught nine passes for 171 yards and a touchdown in the Cowboys’ Valero Alamo Bowl win last year. The senior wide receiver produced back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons and earned first-team All-Big 12 honors last season, and is anticipated to continue his commanding offensive performance this year.
#27 Vita Vea (Washington, DL, Junior): The 340-pound defensive powerhouse is among the most dominant interior linemen in college football. Vea tallied four sacks and 35 tackles last season.
#30 Iman Marshall (USC, DB, Junior): With USC’s starting cornerback Adoree’ Jackson signing with the Tennessee Titans, Marshall enters the season as the Trojans’ newest defensive standout. The junior defensive back recorded 52 tackles last season.
#34 Luke Falk (Washington State, QB, Senior): WSU’s air raid offense has worked in Falk’s favor as he threw 4,468 passing yards last season, the third-most in the country, and averaged 343.7 passing yards. The senior quarterback enters the season with 89 career touchdown passes and is on track to break the Pac-12 record (116).
#35 Ronald Jones II (USC, RB, Junior): The junior running back is known for his explosive speed, rushing 1,082 yards and completing 12 rushing touchdowns last season. His overall offensive game has flourished over the past two seasons and is only getting better as his college career continues.
#39 Orlando Brown (Oklahoma, OT, Junior): The reigning Offensive Lineman of the Year enters the season with big expectations. After losing several key players on offense, Brown is projected to hold down Oklahoma’s offensive line, which is one of the best in the country.
#41 Azeem Victor (Washington, LB, Senior): With lots of talent from Washington’s defensive backfield entering the NFL, Victor is anticipated to become the Huskies’ leading force on defense this season. The senior lineback recorded 68 tackles last season.
#43 Royce Freeman (Oregon, RB, Senior): Injuries plagued the running back last season, but he’s expected to return in full force for the Ducks’ offense this season. Freeman scored three touchdowns for Oregon in the triple overtime Valero Alamo Bowl in 2016, and rushed for over 1,800 yards with 17 touchdowns during the 2015 season.
#45 Lowell Lotulelei (Utah, DT, Senior): Lotulelei recorded 3.5 sacks and 28 tackles last season. With his older brother playing in the NFL for the Carolina Panthers, the senior tackle has high expectations but is a star in his own right on defense.
#47 Myles Gaskin (Washington, RB, Junior): Gaskin tallied over 1,300 rushing yards in back-to-back seasons with 24 rushing touchdowns throughout his career. After helping lead Washington to a College Football Playoff last season, Gaskin is expected to be a key component to the Huskies’ offense, which is among the nation’s best.