The 2020 college football season is still months away but this offseason will probably generate as much buzz as any in several years.

With LSU emerging as the surprise national champion (surprise from the 2019 preseason not once the actual games began) it leaves the rest of the country, as well as the SEC, in somewhat of a catchup mode.

The Tigers were clearly the best team in 2019. Wins over several quality opponents end any possible debate. It will be tough, however, for LSU to remain on top of the mountain due to player losses and various assistant coaches moving on.

The SEC West will be must-see football TV in 2020. In addition to LSU, you have Alabama looking to show it is still a power. The final polls had the Crimson Tide ranked way too low this past season. In reality, Alabama came as close as anyone to defeating LSU and that was with Nick Saban having to play his backup quarterback.

Some coaching hires with the SEC West will also make the league more entertaining. Mike Leach was hired by Mississippi State and is set to bring his pass first, pass second and pass often offense into what many consider the toughest conference in the country.

Quarterbacks who play for Leach typically lead the nation in passing. It happened last season at Washington State and was common during his years at Texas Tech.

Lane Kiffin’s hiring by Ole Miss will not only make the annual Egg Bowl matchup with state rival Mississippi State fun, it will likely set a record for combined passing attempts in a game.

Everyone is also eager to see Kiffin take on Alabama and Saban. The two had a successful but turbulent relationship before Kiffin was off to Florida Atlantic as head coach for three seasons. The fact that Saban fired Kiffin in the days before Alabama played for a national championship shows you just how odd that coaching relationship was.

Most predicted it would only be a matter of time before Kiffin was hired as head coach at a larger school, however, and it happened following the surprise firing of Matt Luke at Ole Miss. Kiffin enjoyed success at Florida Atlantic with the team putting up impressive numbers. Kiffin himself grew as a head coach while under the radar.

Outside of the SEC, there are several other schools which made quality head coaching hires this offseason. Greg Schiano was brought back to Rutgers, where he built a program from the scrap heap. Rutgers has not been the same since Schiano left. It seems the coach has also missed the school as Schiano has not fared as well at other stops although it was surprising to see the reaction from Tennessee supporters when it appeared the Vols were going to hire him.

Washington State likely won’t lack any offensive fireworks despite the loss of Leach. Hawaii’s Nick Rolovich was hired as the new head coach for the Cougars and he also likes to pass, pass and pass again.

It’s amazing to see how far the Florida State program has fallen. The Seminoles will try again with former Memphis head coach Mike Norvell. It’s doubtful Norvell will get an extended amount of time to turn things around as FSU got rid of its previous head coach after than less than two full seasons.

It’s still early February but the anticipation has already begun for the 2020 season. May the countdown go fast, very fast.

XFL, take two

The revamped XFL will officially return in a few days and while many football fans will likely not be paying much attention here’s hoping the league will make it this time.

After the disappointing end to the Alliance of American Football League after less than a season of play, it won’t be easy for another league to be successful. The last time around the XFL lasted just one year.

Certainly one would think that XFL founder Vince McMahon learned something from the first attempt. True football fans are not interested in a hybrid of gridiron action along with professional wrestling.

The locker room skits last time were not only silly but downright dumb. And while it’s OK to have a few different rules to make a new league unique, some of the rules for the first-run of the XFL bordered on stupid.

Having live football this time of the year after the college national championship and the Super Bowl is certainly a welcome thing for many fans who often have withdrawals during the months no games are played.

I’ve always thought it could work but to this point it hasn’t and each attempt failed for varying reasons. The odds are against the new XFL in 2020. Yet I am certainly willing to give it a chance.

We should know after a couple of weeks into the season whether this has a legitimate chance at working.

Winder resident Chris Bridges is a former sports editor for the Barrow News-Journal. He welcomes feedback about this column at pchrisbridges@gmail.com.

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