Aside from last Friday night’s game that featured California taking on Hawaii in Australia, the 2016 College Football Season kicks off on Thursday night with a decent set of games. Most notably, the South Carolina Gamecocks and Vanderbilt Commodores will square off in the SEC opener from Nashville while the No. 9-ranked Tennessee Volunteers will play host to FCS powerhouse Appalachian State.
In all, there will be 16 college football games featuring FBS schools kicking off on Thursday night, with another 11 to kick off on Friday. That leads us into one of the best opening weekends in recent college football memory as Labor Day weekend will feature games such as Oklahoma vs. Houston, USC vs. Alabama, Georgia vs. North Carolina, Notre Dame vs. Texas, and Ole Miss vs. Florida State.
As we prepare for the big weekend of college football, let’s look at the top 5 Heisman Trophy candidates entering the 2016 college football season.
5. QB J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
The Buckeyes lost Ezekiel Elliott, Michael Thomas, Jalin Marshall, and Braxton Miller, but there’s still the potential for a ton of points being scored because of the presence of Barrett. Ohio State’s starting quarterback is one of the best in the nation and will have to put up a Heisman Trophy campaign in order for the Buckeyes to have a shot at the College Football Playoff.
4. RB Dalvin Cook, Florida State
— Warchant.com (@Warchant) September 1, 2016
The Seminoles are loaded with talent on both sides of the ball, but starting quarterback Deondre Francois will be making his first career start on Labor Day evening against Ole Miss. With inexperience at the quarterback position, Florida State will lean heavily on Cook who rushed for 1,691 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2015.
3. RB Leonard Fournette, LSU
To this point in his career, Fournette has looked like a man among boys. The junior from New Orleans rushed for 1,953 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2015 despite facing eight- and nine-man boxes thanks to the inadequacy of the Tigers’ passing game. If Les Miles’ offense can find any type of passing game in 2016, Fournette will easily end up winning college football’s Heisman Trophy.
2. RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford.
— Tank Williams (@TankWilliams13) September 1, 2016
McCaffrey is the definition of an all-around football player. The Stanford running back runs the ball, catches the ball, blocks, and returns kicks. He even completed 2-of-3 passes for 39 yards in 2015 with both resulting in touchdowns. McCaffrey rushed for 2,019 yards and eight touchdowns while adding 645 yards and five touchdowns through the air. If Stanford is going to go anywhere in 2016, it’s going to be on the legs of McCaffrey.
1. Deshaun Watson, Clemson
Watson led the Tigers to the College Football National Championship Game last season and nearly completed a shocking upset of Alabama, the team with the best defense in the country. Watson threw for 4,104 yards and 35 touchdowns while adding 1,105 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground. Although Charone Peake moved on to the NFL, nearly every other Clemson skill-position player has returned, which means Watson could have an even bigger year in 2016. If that happens, Watson could very well win college football’s Heisman Trophy and lead Clemson to a National Championship in the same season.
The greatest thing about sports is that even though these are the top-five candidates entering the season, we could have a completely different top-five after one week. Expect the 2016 College Football Season to be full of parity with no clear-cut favorite to win the national title.
Now, sit back, relax, and enjoy the opening of the 2016 College Football Season.
[Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images]