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ESPN The Magazine’s College Football Preview Issue—on newsstands Friday—takes a deeper dive into the stories making headlines as a brand-new season approaches. The issue includes thoughtful features with playmakers Sam Darnold, USC’s darling quarterback, and Penn State’s fast and furious running back, Saquon Barkley. Following their teams’ shootout at last year’s Rose Bowl, The Mag highlights two of the best players at the most important positions and the expectations that follow. Additional featured content includes a story on the controversial “pick play,” as well as expert insight from ESPN’s college football analysts and Insiders.
ON THE COVER: “What, Me Worry?” is a profile of how Sam Darnold became the starting quarterback in a time of chaos for USC. The coach who recruited him, Steve Sarkisian, had been fired for a drinking problem. His current coach, Clay Helton, the man who convinced him to come to LA despite the presence of another top QB commit, started 2016 1-3 and was already being called a bust as a new hire. Then came Darnold, who has won his last nine games and become the leading candidate for the Heisman trophy. Both on and off the field, Darnold makes sense of chaos. By Molly Knight
Featured as part of The Béisbol Life, Marly Rivera speaks with Red Sox rookie third baseman Rafael Devers about his MLB idols, big league adjustments and why teammates call him “Carita,” or Baby Face.
Issue highlights and features:
79 Yards Later
No player can be defined by a single play, but one 79-yard touchdown run in the Rose Bowl against USC comes close to capturing Penn State’s Saquon Barkley. The Mag uses this play to break down all the elements that make Barkley the top running back in college football—quickness, vision, strength and speed—while also diving deeper into how tough it is for a player when everyone reduces him to a single highlight. The piece dissects how this one play represents Barkley’s entire toolbox and how his career is pivoting on that one point. Everything that comes after that play and how he accepts what happens will ultimately determine his success. By Hallie Grossman
Reinventing a Heisman Winner
Louisville’s Lamar Jackson accounted for 51 touchdowns and 5,114 yards last season and became the youngest player in history to win the Heisman. Now, coming into the 2017 season, the 20-year-old is not only not regarded as the country’s top returning player, he’s not even ranked as the top returning QB. The Mag explores why. By Andrea Adelson
Top 25 Preview
With help from ESPN college football analysts and Insiders, we dig deep into the 2017 college football landscape and our top 25 teams. Conference by conference, Brock Huard and Jonathan Vilma offer up their picks for players to watch, Phil Steele breaks down his surprise teams, and FPI tells us the games we cannot miss. Plus, can Clemson repeat? Will Alabama get its revenge? Brad Edwards weighs in with his four-team playoff prediction.
It Ain’t Cheatin’
Now a flashpoint in college football, the pick play, known as a “rub” by players on offense or a “pick” by defenders, is a controversial play in which a receiver, who is not allowed to block a defensive back on a pass play, “incidentally” runs into a defender, leaving a receiver wide open. It’s what Clemson ran with six seconds left on the clock to beat Alabama in last season’s championship and the play the Patriots successfully defended against the Seahawks in the 2015 Super Bowl. The controversy: Unless you get caught, the pick play is the most lethal call in college football. By Ryan McGee
January in September!
With top-ranked Bama facing No. 2 FSU in Week 1, you won’t have to wait for the championship to see a great matchup. ESPN analysts Rece Davis, Desmond Howard, and Jonathan Vilma break down the defensive showdown.
The Good, The Bad and The Moody
Take a look at the nexus of our own metrics, the Fan Happiness Index and the Football Power Index as they shed light on the college football fan bases and their expectations.
Additional issue highlights and features:
Fantasy Football: Insider Matthew Berry shares his draft day manifesto.
NFL: Bill Barnwell breaks down the 1,696-player NFL pool and builds the best 53-man roster under the league’s $167 million salary cap.
For the Books: An excerpt from Violated: Exposing Rape at Baylor University Amid College Football’s Sexual Assault Crisis, an investigation into how the Baylor scandal unfolded, from ESPN reporters Paula Lavigne and Mark Schlabach.
Numbers: Columnist Peter Keating explores why MLB batters are hitting home runs at the highest rate in league history—higher than the days of Barry Bonds and twice as high as Babe Ruth’s peak years. Keating looks at one explanation: the baseball itself.
It’s Not a Redemption Tour: Elizabeth Merrill examines the Atlanta Falcons and their upbeat coach, Dan Quinn, as they ready for the season after the most crushing defeat in Super Bowl history.
Food: Michelin-starred chef Ed Brown has been serving up cuisine for U.S. Open denizens for over two decades. With Arthur Ashe Stadium’s 20th anniversary on the horizon, Brown stopped by to talk about the palates of the Flushing faithful, Jimmy Connors and world-class salmon.