College Football: An early look at next season's key storylines


Celebration comes with sadness. As soon as the LSU conquered its first national championship in 12 years, it lost the biggest quarterback in school history, which was the biggest season in college football history.

The Heisman Trophy winner, Joe Burrow, will become the top favorite in the NFL draft, and the best performance ever will return without its leader.

"What Joe did was unique," said recipient Justin Jefferson. "You can't just believe that you can replace that."

The tigers will try.

The country's leading recipient (Ja’Marr Chase) is expected to be back, possibly with Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Thaddeus Moss.

Under the middle? Sophomore Myles Brennan is the internal candidate. The transfer portal also offers options.

The LSU will have the talent to repeat itself. But the tigers are in a familiar position and are looking for size at quarterback again.

Here are the other top stories that will appear next season:

The next breakthrough

It feels like Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma and the state of Ohio are in the playoffs every year. Together, they captured 17 of the 24 spots in the playoff era, but never qualified in the same season.

Which strong but long-suffering program can lead the LSU as a first-time playoff participant? Maybe Penn State, with three top 10 finishes in the past four years, hoping to end his grief against Ohio State, like LSU against Alabama. Maybe Florida, which is 21: 5 under Dan Mullen in two seasons. Possibly Oregon, the clear favorite in the Pac-12 and with enough talent on both sides to make up for Justin Herbert's departure.

The Heisman

Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields
Trevor Lawrence and Justin FieldsUPI; Getty Images

Clemsons Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields from Ohio are again facing the fight. The quarterbacks, who were among the top two recruits in the country despite growing up in Georgia 30 miles apart and currently competing in a classic semi-final, are the favorites to win the sport's most prestigious award next season.

But only one of the last 14 favorites from the previous season won the Heisman Trophy. Kyler Murray was going to play professional baseball. Joe Burrow was an afterthought.

Another surprise or a shadowed star may appear, such as Kedon Slovis from the USC, Chuba Hubbard from Oklahoma State, Sam Ehlinger from Texas or the new quarterback from Oklahoma, Spencer Rattler.

Changing of the guard?

For the first time in five years, Clemson or Alabama are no longer at the top of the sport. But the top teams in the playoff era are the favorites to start again next season. After four of the last five national championship games, Dabo Swinney brings Lawrence and several key figures back and adds his best recruiting class to date. Alabama missed the playoff for the first time and lost Tua Tagovailoa, but brought back star linebacker Dylan Moses and as much talent as any team. Since Nick Saban's arrival in 2007, Alabama has never spent three seasons in a row without winning anything.

The fresh faces

Mike Norvell, 38, comes after a 12-1 season in Memphis, Florida and hopes to bring the program back to the fore. Greg Schiano plans the same in his second stint at Rutgers. Lane Kiffin is sure to make life at Ole Miss more interesting, as will Mike Leach in Mississippi. Former assistant Jimmy Lake takes office in Washington after Chris Petersen's surprising resignation. If Ed Orgeron could become a legend, no new employee can be discounted.

The familiar faces

Why USC decided to bring Clay Helton back remains a mystery after signing the school's least celebrated recruitment class in one generation in the past two seasons, between 13 and 12 years old. He is in his own row in the hot chair.

Scott Frost's heroic return to Nebraska has led to a 9:15 record since his unbeaten run at UCF. Michigan State's Mark Dantonio is three games over. 500 the past four years. Texas A&M is still waiting for a double-digit winning season for its $ 75 million coach (Jimbo Fisher). Tom Herman took a step back in his third season in Texas.