College football’s regular season kicks off right around the beginning of September and screeches to a halt near the beginning of December. This length of time is actually smaller than the sport’s “preview season,” which is in high swing right now and will not end until the first games begin on Labor Day weekend.
Louisville’s Lamar Jackson has already appeared as the cover boy for both Athlon and Street & Smith. You’ve seen the Athlon layout already, but here’s Jackson on the second cover:
It used to be that the only way to get all the goodies inside these hefty magazines would be to venture out to a Barnes & Noble (or wherever) and buy one. Now, with so many alternate options available, basically every preview mag has transitioned to eventually posting most of its preview content online.
Such is the case with Athlon, which has now made its full preseason top 25 available for free consumption. Louisville is No. 18.
After a dynamic sophomore campaign, quarterback Lamar Jackson hopes to take Louisville into contention for the CFB Playoff once again. He’s also back for another run at the Heisman after accounting for 3,543 yards and 30 touchdowns through the air and adding 1,571 yards and 21 scores on the ground last season. Jackson set the bar high last year and matching those totals in 2017 could be difficult. However, he’s the nation’s best playmaker and is only going to get better as a passer this fall. Jackson’s supporting cast features some new faces after the departure of running back Brandon Radcliff, receivers James Quick (45 catches), Jamari Staples (36) and tight end Cole Hikutini (50 catches). While those are big losses, the cupboard isn’t bare for coach Bobby Petrino. Jeremy Smith should be a capable fill-in at running back, with Reggie Bonnafon chipping in as an all-purpose threat, and Seth Dawkins, Jaylen Smith and Dez Fitzpatrick filling out the receiving corps. The biggest concern for Petrino’s offense remains up front. Left tackle Geron Christian is one of the ACC’s top linemen, but this unit surrendered 47 sacks in 13 games last fall. New coordinator Peter Sirmon inherits a defense that allowed only 23.8 points per game last season and returns a solid foundation with seven starters back. Senior linebacker Stacy Thomas and cornerback Jaire Alexander are two of the ACC’s top returning defenders. This unit could get a huge boost if senior Trevon Young returns to 100 percent after missing all of 2016 due to injury. A Week 3 showdown against Clemson is an early barometer test for Jackson and Louisville’s ACC title hopes.
ACC brethren Clemson and Florida State make the top 10 at No. 7 and No. 3, respectively. You can see the complete top 25 here.