Calhoun Times Sports Editor Alex Farrer

Calhoun Times Sports Editor Alex Farrer

Hello, all. It’s been a while.

I honestly can’t remember the last time I wrote a column with so many things going on and my weekly column getting lost in the shuffle. But now that we’re back to football season, I’m going to try my best to get my routine restarted with one per week.

I’ve got a lot to vent about since I’ve gone a long time without doing it, but for the purposes of this column I’ll stick with a football theme. Here is something I’ve been thinking a lot about as well as my College Football Playoff Picks and picks for the opening weekend of college football. (Man, it feels good to say that. Football’s back!)

There is only so much safety to go around in football

The hot topic (or at least the one I want to talk about) in the NFL preseason has been the new crackdown on defensive hits as well as offensive players being penalized for lowering their helmet. Here’s my takeaway from it…enough is enough.

There have been flags on hits that literally were textbook tackles. There have been flags on offensive players protecting themselves by lowering their pad level to try to absorb a hit or gain a few extra yards. There have been flags for high hits, low hits and everything in between.

Here’s the reality. I know that player safety has been at the forefront for the past few years at all levels. And I’m not bashing that thought in any way that we should do what we can to make the game a little safer. But a phrase I’ve been using a lot, including in my headline above, is “you can’t take football out of football.” By that, I mean that football at its core is a hazardous game to a player’s health. You can make all the new rules, all the new safety regulations and teach all the new techniques you want. And I encourage that to a point. But when it comes down to it, the game will never be completely safe.

It’s simple biology that it’s probably not the best idea to run your body full speed into something, especially another human who is also going full speed the opposite direction. I’ve loved football for as long as I can remember, but it honestly just hit me one day a few years ago that it’s incredible that someone doesn’t get hurt on every single play. You’ve got 22 guys on a field all focusing on doing their specific job, and that makes for a dangerous situation. It’s simply the truth.

With that said, the game has gotten somewhat safer with the new rules and techniques implemented at all levels. I believe there is a ceiling to that though. The game will never be completely safe, and those who want a completely safe game should look for a different sport. And I’m not saying that as a rude, stubborn football fan. I’m saying that as a realistic, understanding person. There is no shame in encouraging your kids or grandkids to play another sport. But if you are going to play football, it’s going to be dangerous. There are going to be risks that are never eliminated no matter how many techniques, rules or strategies are used in the aim of making the game safer.

I’m afraid if someone important doesn’t step up and tells the truth about this and it continues to go down the road we’re on at the moment of trying to take all danger out of football, the game itself won’t be around in the next 10 or 20 years or at least it will be so different we won’t recognize it. That makes me very sad. Hopefully, it’s not the case. Only time will tell.

College Football Playoff picks

I’ve seen all the analysts throwing around their College Football Playoff Picks lately so it’s my turn to give an opinion on it. There are a lot of good teams with a lot of experience at key positions going into the 2018 season, but there is a clear top eight or 10 clear contenders for the whole ball of wax.

As far as I’m concerned, until Nick Saban retires or passes on from this life, Alabama will be a playoff pick of mine every single year. They are just an unstoppable machine currently, and in my opinion, he is the greatest college football coach of all time. So there’s one.

I also think that Clemson has built a program with staying power under Dabo Swinney, and by staying power, I mean top five every season. This year is no different as they have one of the top defensive line groups in college football in the last few decades. I’ll put them in the quartet as well.

My last two picks aren’t as clear to me, but I think Wisconsin is going to take advantage of a little bit of a down year in the Big Ten and represent that conference in the Playoff, and Oklahoma rounds out the group as they are clearly the class of the Big 12 still.

When it’s all said and done, I’ve got Alabama and Clemson meeting once again for the national title (seems like we’ve seen that matchup a few times over the past few years), and the Crimson Tide once again will reign as the kings of college football. They are just too talented, too deep and too well-coached.

I know the Georgia fans are wondering where they are in the mix. They will be a contender for most of the season, but I believe too many big-time players from last season that were lost to graduation or the NFL will cause them to take a slight step back. But the way Kirby Smart is recruiting, they will be a perennial Playoff contender in a few years.

I also left the Pac 12 out of the mix because despite Stanford, USC and Washington all having really talented teams this year, I believe that strong competition will cause those teams to beat up on each other and eliminate a true Playoff contender.

Week 1 college picks

There are a few big matchups on the schedule on opening weekend so I’ll hit just a few. (Georgia and Georgia Tech aren’t included because they have a couple warm-up games against lesser opponents.)

In the marquee matchups of the weekend, I’ll take Washington over Auburn, Alabama over Louisville, West Virginia over Tennessee, Michigan over Notre Dame, LSU over Miami (upset special) and Florida State over Virginia Tech.

Happy football season, everyone. Enjoy it!