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50 days, 50 voices: What we're looking forward to in 2018

In 50 days, college football comes charging out of the tunnel with its first full weekend of games. What are coaches like James Franklin looking forward to? Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire

Fifty days. That's all that's separating us from the first full weekend of college football. If you're bored with an especially dull offseason, start your countdown now.

Next week brings us talking season. On Monday, the SEC and Big 12 kick off their media days in Atlanta and Frisco, Texas, respectively. The ACC soon follows, as well as the other conferences. So we asked 50 people from around the sport -- coaches, players and others -- the same question: What are you most looking forward to about the 2018 college football season?

Here are their responses.


Alabama coach Nick Saban: "Every season presents a new set of challenges, and that's what makes it fun. That's what keeps me going. Everybody always asks me, 'What keeps you going?' Well, every team and every season is a challenge, and it doesn't matter what you did last year. It's all about what you do with the guys you've got this year, and that's what excites me every year at this time. It's what comes next."

Houston DT Ed Oliver: "I'm looking forward to having fun and sending the seniors out right. I feel like my brother [Marcus, a Cougars offensive lineman from 2013 to 2017] didn't go out the way he was supposed to, so if it's the last thing I do, they've got to go out right."

Former college football coach Steve Spurrier: "Heck, I work for the University of Florida, so I'm hoping the Gators can show big improvement, and I believe we're capable. Seeing what we can come up with this season is what most of us Gators are looking forward to. We will have a better offense than in the past. I don't think that's going to require too much. But I pull for South Carolina and Duke, too. So I have three schools, which makes it even more fun."

Texas coach Tom Herman: "I'm really looking forward to seeing the development of the young players in our football program and how the veterans put in the work and lead the way in weight room and offseason training."

Florida Atlantic coach Lane Kiffin: "I'm eager to see our guys with a whole different set of challenges now that they've put themselves on the map. There were no expectations at all a year ago, so that's easier. It's a lot harder once there are expectations because they've got to learn to manage those expectations, and other teams spend the offseason studying us so they will have a better feel for going against us. That's why it's always harder to stay on top than to get on top."

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney: "We have the most experienced returning team since I have been the head coach at Clemson, with 61 lettermen and 17 starters coming back. With that type of experience, I am most excited to see the competition we will have at each position. So I am excited for the very beginning of practice in August."

Stanford RB Bryce Love: "I'm looking forward to my final year at Stanford, both on the field and in the classroom. The opportunity to complete my education and compete on the field with my brothers is a blessing."

ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit: "I'm most looking forward to see how dominant Alabama will be with Tua [Tagovailoa] at quarterback. Bama has never had this kind of QB, and he -- along with their typical outstanding defense and special teams -- will make this Bama team maybe the best Saban has had yet!"

ESPN analyst Rece Davis: "Why wait? Week 1. Michigan at Notre Dame. Let me count the reasons. Tradition. Renewal of a rivalry. But mostly, I can't wait for the overreaction. Because frankly, some of it will be valid. The winner will have the right to let championship dreams enter their heads. The loser will have justifiable angst over the ability to 'win the big ones.' Delicious. And it happens in the first week. Only in college football."

Michigan QB Shea Patterson: "I'm excited to get back on the field, especially with an early exit last season and the stress of potentially not being able to play this season during the spring. I'm just ready to play ball, but I'm really ready to play with this team because if we reach our full potential with the talent we have, we should be unstoppable."

Penn State QB Trace McSorley: "I'm most looking forward to running out of the tunnel in Beaver Stadium with this new group of teammates. With so many guys moving on to the NFL, a lot of people expect a drop-off from us, but we thrive on going out there every week to prove people wrong. Also, playing in Beaver Stadium for the last time, not necessarily looking forward to that, but all the emotions that will be surrounding that game with everything this place has meant to me for the last five years."

ESPN analyst Todd McShay: "I'm most looking forward to see which quarterbacks rise to the challenge this year. We're coming off an historic draft class of QBs, with five being drafted in the first round, including four in the top 10. So which QBs are going to step up in 2018? Will it be Missouri's strong-armed triggerman Drew Lock? Or Oregon's raw talent Justin Herbert? Or Iowa's underrated quarterback Nate Stanley? Or will some of the young guns -- like Tua Tagovailoa [Alabama], Trevor Lawrence [Clemson], Jake Fromm-Justin Fields [Georgia], etc. -- steal the spotlight?"

Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor: "The thing I'm most looking forward to this season is being able to compete against new teams and different guys who are going to give us their best. Even the teams we've played before are going to be different. That's exciting. I'm looking forward to seeing where our team is at and how we can keep getting better."

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy: "I think for me, I'm looking forward to watching us develop on our offense, and then watching our new defense coordinator. Those things are gonna be really fun for me."

Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck: "Our young players playing. I'm really excited about this 2018 class. They're a special group of young people. They're people who have bought a vision, bought the 'Row the Boat' culture, bought the vision of winning the Big Ten West championship, starting with that, and then the Big Ten championship, getting into the playoff. That's why they came here. They gave up a lot of opportunities elsewhere, maybe more recent, modern, traditional programs than us to make it that traditional program again, to connect the bridges between the '30s, '40s, '50s and '60s to the 2000 teens and '20s and '30s, because we've had a gap in there, a 51-year championship drought. That group bought that and they gave up a lot of opportunities that most people sat there and thought, 'Why would you pick Minnesota?' I'm excited to watch them play. I'm excited to get them in camp and see what they can do."

Penn State coach James Franklin: "We have a lot more questions this year than we've had in the last two years, so for me, it's to get to training camp to resolve some of those questions at D-tackle and linebacker. That's probably the things I'm most anxious about, to be able to figure out those things as quickly as we possibly can because I feel pretty good about the other positions -- that and kicker, we don't have a kicker. It's just looking forward to get to camp as soon as possible to answer some of our core issues. We do have more questions after having six guys drafted and 15 guys in training camps."

UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton: "The one thing I'm most looking forward to this season is starting a new journey, along with my teammates and an awesome young new staff, and giving it our best shot at repeating as champions."

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly: "The success of [quarterback] Brandon Wimbush and [defensive coordinator] Clark Lea stand out to me. Brandon has made major strides in all facets of his game and will benefit greatly from a second year in the offense. Clark is very clear in communication with our guys. He built an immediate culture of peer accountability within the unit that helps build pride in how they, each player does their job."

Boston College running back AJ Dillon: "I'm most excited to open up some eyes around the nation. I feel like we've got a lot of great pieces on this team, offensively and defensively, and I feel like we're going to shock a lot of people this year, so I'm excited for that. We've got a bunch of great senior leadership, and we've got guys who are really invested and working hard. The focus is indescribable. Everyone is dialed in right now, everyone is trying to get the most of each other. Walking around you have this positive vibe about this team and what we're going to bring to the table and you know everybody's working really hard. I've never been a part of anything like this before."

USC coach Clay Helton: "I'm most looking forward to walking back into the historic Coliseum with a group of seniors that I started my head coaching journey with three years ago and helping them achieve their goal of a championship, which would add to their legacy of winning a Rose Bowl, capturing a Pac-12 championship and extending our 16-game home winning streak."

Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham: "I'm looking forward to us finishing out this season. We were, in my opinion, one quarter away from the College Football Playoff last season, so I'm looking forward to this team getting over that hump. I think we're going to have a really, really good football team. We may be even better than last year, and I thought last year we were really good. We just didn't finish the way we wanted to, and the main thing this year is finishing when it matters the most. We don't want to be just really close again."

TCU coach Gary Patterson: "I do things the same way over and over again every year, but what I always look forward to the most is the start of fall camp. That's the most fun for me, really the best part of the job besides game day. I'm still in it for coaching and seeing the kids develop. I like coaching. I don't like raising money, dealing with problems, all the other things head coaches have to do. I like being around the kids -- period."

Arizona QB Khalil Tate: "I'm looking forward to the opportunity to hopefully make this a memorable season for our team and all Arizona Wildcat football fans. Bear Down!"

ESPN analyst Greg McElroy: "I'm looking forward to Trace McSorley showing that he's a superstar as well. Over the last couple years, Saquon Barkley received endless amounts of credit for Penn State's resurgence, while McSorley flew largely under the radar. With Barkley departing for the NFL, it's McSorley's show and he'll finally get the credit he deserves."

Arizona State coach Herm Edwards: "The one thing I am most looking forward to this season is the tradition of running through the Tillman Tunnel with my team and coaching staff and touching the statue of Pat Tillman on the way to the field."

Purdue coach Jeff Brohm: "I really want to see how our players respond to a little bit of success! I want to make sure our guys have that same hunger, fire and burning desire to be the very best on a daily basis. We need to find a way to play harder, tougher and smarter than our opponent every week."

ESPN analyst Jonathan Vilma: "Texas A&M gave Jimbo Fisher 75 million reasons to leave FSU. I'm looking forward to seeing if money can buy you a championship. Is Texas A&M finally a real threat in the SEC? Can't wait to find out."

Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst: "It's the season. It's kind of what you look forward to every year. It really is. You look forward to getting it going. It's not like one thing stands out above others, but it's why you do all this. It's each kid's, each team's chance to do something. You do all that work for the year."

Clemson DE Christian Wilkins: "I am looking forward to seeing if we can rank among the great defenses in Clemson history. We have a great tradition here when it comes to defense, and all of us on the defensive line want to contribute to that. We hear a lot about the 2014 defense that led the nation in so many [11] categories. So I want to see if we can rank with that defense. If we do, Clemson will have a very good season."

Miami QB Malik Rosier: "What I'm most looking forward to is just getting back to the ACC championship game. I know last year didn't end the way we wanted it to -- even the bowl game, at that. Those are two big goals that we have, that our coaches and players still talk about. It's something to where we're playing with a chip on our shoulder. We've been there, we know what it feels like to play in the ACC championship game, but now we need to go there and actually win it. We can't just be satisfied with winning the Coastal Division. I think that's the biggest difference, and what I'm most excited about for this year."

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany: "Honestly, more of the same. College football, and Big Ten football in particular, has been on a tremendous trajectory the past few years. I can't recall a time in my tenure when the conference has had better coaching, better competition or better fan support. I think much of that has to do with our scheduling principles -- nine conference games, one major intersectional opponent, limited FCS opponents -- and our coaches' and administrators' enthusiasm for embracing them.

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald: "Preparing in our new facility, just figuring out all the bugs and how everything works, it's going to be an exciting first year for us. That's what I'm most excited about big picture. Footballwise, I would say I'm most excited about the opportunities that we have in front of us. We've got obviously a daunting schedule, but what a great group of opportunities we have. Kickoff on the road against a Big Ten West opponent [Purdue] is going to be a huge challenge for us, so that's also exciting."

ESPN analyst Mack Brown: "The one thing I'm looking forward to following this fall is how the new QBs will work out for some of the top programs in CFB. Who replaces Sam Darnold at USC? Kyler Murray has to replace the Heisman winner at OU? Dwayne Haskins steps in for J.T. Barrett at Ohio St., and Michigan will have ex-Ole Miss spread QB running their pro-style offense. And how will Alabama handle the situation or rotation with Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa. Two great ones can be tricky in the locker room."

ESPN analyst Todd Blackledge: The thing I am really looking forward to seeing (although quite honestly it may take a few seasons) is the impact UCLA's Chip Kelly will have on college football in his second go-around.

North Carolina coach Larry Fedora: "Better health, better season, all those things, but the thing that's most exciting about what's going into this year is this new redshirt rule, just being able to utilize the guys that would have been redshirting and them still getting some experience and playing four games. It's been one of the best rule changes we've had in a long time. I'm looking forward to getting back and playing and getting this taste [from 2017] out of our mouth, but I think it's a pretty significant rule, I really do."

ESPN analyst Tom Luginbill: "The Big Ten East division. It's going to be a bloodbath, a battle of attrition. I think there could be three CFP contenders in Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State. Add to the mix a pesky team in East Lansing and I don't know how anyone comes out unscathed. It's the best division of the power five conferences."

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey: "Before every season, I always look forward with great anticipation to the first week. There's this renewal. There's energy. For the Southeastern Conference, we finished in January in Atlanta with two teams playing for the national championship. Not unlikely that continues to happen, but there's an excitement and even an expectation around getting back into that position. When I look at a season, there's unknowns and so much set to happen, yet that beginning is just something fresh and new for everyone. And I'm always charged up for that first week."

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott: "We've got five new head coaches in our league, including some of the most notable college football coaches out there -- Chip Kelly, Kevin Sumlin, Herm Edwards. And I think it's truly going to change the face and the dynamic of our league. They drive a lot of conversation amongst the fan bases with their style of play and their recruiting. I'm expecting our league to be very competitive and very deep, with traditional powerhouses Washington, Stanford and USC, but I think there's a lot of anticipation for what's going to happen with programs like UCLA, Arizona and Arizona State that have been knocking at the door but really haven't broken through."

Oregon AD and CFP chair Rob Mullens: "Each new college football season brings the incredible passion of college football faithful and the unique rhythm and momentum that builds throughout the fall. I always look forward to the pageantry, emotion, and amazing student-athlete performances that define each season, and I am certain that 2018 will be another memorable and exciting year for college football."

Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead: "What I'm most excited about for this season, my first here at Mississippi State, is the opportunity to compete in the SEC West against some of the best coaches and best players in the country."

Baylor coach Matt Rhule: "The thing I am most excited for this season is our next home game. Our fans have been so terrific since we have been here, and we haven't been able to reward them with a win on our field. We want to play our first home game this year and have a chance to win for them."

Georgia QB Jake Fromm: "I'm looking forward to see how the team responds and how we compete in a new season. But I'm most excited about opening up with that first game at home in Sanford Stadium. There's nothing like playing in front of 93,000 Dawg fans starting off the season. It can't get here fast enough."

Ole Miss WR A.J. Brown: "I love how Rebel Nation supports us, and I can't wait to Lock the Vaught with them again this fall. We play in the best conference in America, and I'm excited for SEC play, especially the Alabama and LSU games."

Troy coach Neal Brown: "The exciting part for our football team is we lost a four-year starting quarterback [Brandon Silvers] and we lost our leading rusher [Jordan Chunn], who's with the Dallas Cowboys now. The general consensus, just looking at preseason magazines and things, is we're going to have a really difficult time overcoming those losses. I'm just excited to see how our team responds to those losses. We've got so much youth. We have only 11 scholarship seniors. Both of those guys were great players, but my belief is that we're going to respond in a much more positive way than maybe what people expect."

Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente: "In terms of our team, one of the many things you take satisfaction in as a coach is seeing guys take the next step. That might mean a young guy emerging into a starting role. It might mean a guy reaping the benefits of his offseason work in the weight room and becoming a difference-maker. Or it could mean a guy embracing a leadership role and have his words carry real weight with his teammates. I'm looking forward to seeing who steps up for us in 2018."

Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi: "The one thing I'm looking forward to is rectifying the season from last year to this year, just proving to everybody what kind of football team we have and where we're going. To me, it's a challenge. You win five games but you don't have every piece you need and you don't have a quarterback. I think we've got a good football team, and I'm looking forward to putting that on the field, turn our kids loose on the field."

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby: "I always look forward to the months of October and November. It's the best regular season in all of sports, and it's that two-month period when all the conferences are playing conference games that I most enjoy. In the case of our league, we're going to have a wide-open race. It ought to be fun. West Virginia believes they've got the best team they've had in a while. Oklahoma State's going to be good, Texas should be better, Oklahoma will always be good. I'm excited to see the balance in the league. I think it will be exceptional."

ESPN analyst Holly Rowe: "They want to know the ONE thing I am looking forward to this football season. The catch is it is 100 things wrapped up into one -- the unknown. How will Alabama's QB battle shake out? What will Clemson do in a similar situation? Does Georgia have a shiny new freshman QB take over like last year? How do all the new coaches -- Jimbo Fisher at Texas A&M, Scott Frost at Nebraska, Mario Cristobal at Oregon, Chip Kelly at UCLA, Willie Taggart at Florida State, Kevin Sumlin at Arizona, Herm Edwards at Arizona State, Chad Morris at Arkansas -- impact big-time programs?

College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock: "This will be the fifth season for the CFP -- our first milestone, if you will. I'm looking forward to seeing if the championship game will go down to the wire for the third year in a row. How cool would that be?"

Duke coach David Cutcliffe: "The first thing is our staff. There's not been a great deal of change but enough adjustment that I really was kind of blown away with how well our staff worked this spring. The second thing I'm really excited to see is how good our defense can be. I think we're going to be at a different level than we've been around here. As I look at our entire team, how can you not be excited about Daniel Jones? Any time you have a third-year starter back with his talent level and the people around him ... the biggest challenge for us offensively is for that offensive line to perform at the best level they can, and I've got a good feeling about that. The third thing that I am excited about is this team's chemistry. They're fun together. When I've been down in the weight room, they're really noisy, they like each other. I'm anxious to see if that computes to a really good, special football team."