When it’s late August and even the ethanol in your gasoline smells as if it’s pumpkin-spiced, you know college football season is fast approaching.
Which 2022 powerhouse has the softer 2023 schedule, national champion Georgia or semifinalist Michigan? Which teams have the hardest treks? Low has those answers and much more in his annual college football schedule superlatives feature.
Which 2022 superstars were worthy of being 2023 ESPN Preseason All-America Team selections? He revealed his thoughts here.
And Low contributed his thoughts with other ESPN college football experts to compile the list of the Top 100 players this season.
Low is pounding the SEC beat this week with stops slated for LSU and Texas A&M and made an appearance on SEC Network’s The Paul Finebaum Show” on Wednesday. Between all the information-gathering, he answered a few questions for Front Row.
Which SEC school visits this summer have you been looking forward to the most and why?
Both LSU and Texas A&M, two SEC West teams, have big expectations for this season, but for different reasons. LSU went to the SEC championship game in Year 1 under [head coach] Brian Kelly, so the expectations are naturally soaring in Baton Rouge. But at Texas A&M, there’s some restlessness building that “if not now, then when?” under [head coach] Jimbo Fisher after the Aggies suffered a losing season a year ago.
What’s so intriguing about checking in at Texas A&M is getting a close-up view of Fisher and new offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino working together. Petrino will call the plays, which should be fascinating because Fisher has always called his own plays. Everybody will be watching to see how it works out.
With the advent of the transfer portal and radical conference realignment, how do you keep up with all the changes?
Twitter or “X” is a good resource (if you can avoid all the nonsensical bickering about nothing), and I’m fortunate that I’ve been covering college football long enough that I have contacts at different schools from around the country, a lot of those assistant coaches and other staff members.
That way, I have an idea if a player is thinking about transferring or has at least mentioned it. The conference expansion is even more difficult to gauge because it changes seemingly by the day, even the hour. And sometimes, officials within a conference are hesitant to say what they think is happening because there’s disagreement within the conference.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL BEGINS THIS MONTH‼️
— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) August 1, 2023
How do you determine the ESPN preseason All-America selections?
I lean heavily on coaches who have coached against a lot of these players and not just coaches who coach the players. I also reach out to colleagues in the media who have seen some of the players play even more than me and have kept close taps with them during the offseason workouts.
Pro scouts are also helpful as they are allowed to watch practice and get even more in-depth intel on the players from the coaches when they visit campus. This year, there were nine players on our preseason team that also made our postseason team in 2022, including USC Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Caleb Williams. Georgia led the way with five selections, and that’s after losing 10 players in the 2023 NFL draft.
What inspires the college football schedule superlatives post? How do you do your research? What’s the most memorable reaction been?
When [College Football Hall of Famer] Steve Spurrier, aka the “Head Ball Coach,” was still coaching, he always said, “A coach is only as good as his players and his schedule.”
I still laugh when I think about that line, but it got me thinking about the importance of delving deeper into teams’ schedules and examining who has the toughest and cushiest paths to a successful season. I also like having fun with it and looking at those matchups out of the conference you normally wouldn’t consider, like Auburn at Cal. Talk about culture shock.
I picked Florida’s schedule as the toughest overall this year, and I heard from at least seven other fan bases claiming that their schedules were far more treacherous. And, oh year, never suggest that a two-time defending national champion like Georgia has an easy schedule.
The 2023-24 college football season kicks off on Saturday with four Week 0 games on ESPN platforms. ESPN’s industry-leading college football presentation will feature several marquee matchups throughout the season, including nearly 60 games slated for Week 1 alone. Learn more on ESPN Press Room.