Talking season is finished. Media days are in the books. College football teams are finally opening their preseason camps all around the nation, with just four weeks until the regular season begins on Sept. 3 with Michigan-Utah, South Carolina-North Carolina, Minnesota-TCU and more.
There are still many questions before the season begins, although preseason practices don't always provide sufficient answers: Quarterback battles often carry into the season, and teams can still change a lot over the first month or two of play. But there is plenty to follow over the next few weeks as we get closer to watching teams actually play instead of just talking about them.
Here's what we'll spend these last four weeks talking about.
1. Is Deshaun Watson back to 100 percent?
With Clemson replacing much of its defense and Florida State replacing everybody, the ACC is widely seen as the conference mostly likely to be left out of this year's playoff. The health of Watson could change that.
Watson is the most talented quarterback in college football, coming off a brilliant freshman season -- when he was actually on the field. He tore his ACL in November, and after playing well in a win over South Carolina on his injured knee, he underwent surgery in December, missing the Tigers' bowl game.
On Tuesday, he returned to the practice field, wearing a knee brace.
"I guess so," Watson said when asked if he was 100 percent, according to ESPN. "I can't really tell if I'm 100 or not, but I feel good. They cleared me to play, so I'm just out there helping my team out."
There are numerous issues for Watson to deal with: Offensive coordinator Chad Morris is now the head coach at SMU, last year's run game was hit-or-miss and only one starter returns to the offensive line after left tackle Isaiah Battle entered the supplemental draft. Throw in the loss of six of the team's top eight tacklers, including Vic Beasley, Stephone Anthony and Grady Jarrett, and maybe Clemson should be focused on competing for a playoff bid in 2016, not this fall.
Still, overcoming all those potential issues is a lot easier if Watson is healthy and on the field. Remember, he had a higher passer rating and average yards per attempt than Marcus Mariota in his eight appearances as a true freshman. If Watson is healthy, Clemson might be the best team in the ACC, and any power conference champion has a chance to be in the playoff discussion.
2. Is Vernon Adams arriving too late to win Oregon's starting job?
Transfer quarterbacks are not automatic saviors. They arrive late and have a small window to win over a team and prepare to play. In Adams' case, he's arriving even later. The former star at Eastern Washington, an FCS power, is still finishing summer classes before he's eligible to play for the Ducks, meaning he's not expected to take the field until Aug. 13, three days after Oregon's camp begins.
Coach Mark Helfrich has brushed off questions about Adams thus far, with junior Jeff Lockie -- last year's backup -- set to continue to take first-team reps. Lockie has spent the entire offseason preparing as if he'll be the starter, even if Adams' talent proves to be too much for him to fend off. For Adams, the clock is ticking.
Adams' talent is undeniable. He twice finished as the runner-up for the FCS version of the Heisman, the Walter Payton Award, and he has totaled 886 passing yards and 11 passing touchdowns in two games against Pac-12 opponents, with an FCS supporting cast. His quickness and proven passing ability should make him an ideal fit for Oregon's offense. Assuming he does suit up for the Ducks, it's hard to imagine him being kept off the field this fall. But after opening against Adams' former team, Eastern Washington, the Ducks must travel to Michigan State on Sept. 12, a mere month after Adams is scheduled to join the team.
Given his late practice debut, Adams has a lot of catching up to do to get on the field in East Lansing.
3. Will Everett Golson be a difference-maker at Florida State?
The Seminoles have four new starters on the offensive line, lost 147 combined catches between Rashad Greene and Nick O'Leary and are currently without star tailback Dalvin Cook, who is suspended indefinitely. Throw in depth issues on defense, and this looks every bit like a rebuilding season for the Noles, even if "rebuilding" probably means nine or 10 wins followed by a top-five preseason ranking in 2016.
The question, then, is whether Everett Golson can change any of that. Golson flashed plenty of talent in two years as a starter at Notre Dame, but turnovers caused his season to unravel last year, pushing him to transfer for his senior season. Jimbo Fisher may prove to be a good match for Golson, who is attempting to beat out last year's backup, Sean Maguire, for the starting job. A Golson who significantly cuts down on turnovers can be a big boost for a team that still has a rather clear path to the conference title. Florida State is unlikely to be a playoff team, but a big year from Golson, should he win the job, can make the difference between the Russell Athletic Bowl and an ACC title. We'll find out over the next few weeks how quickly he can get acclimated in Tallahassee.
4. Will Jim Harbaugh have any answers to football questions?
Jim Harbaugh really, really loves football, but he had few answers when actually asked about football at last week's Big Ten media days. In a way, it feels relatively easy to pick Michigan as an above-average 8-4 team this season. But, week to week, the Wolverines feel like a total wild card, with a lack of standout individual talent but the potential to rebuild relatively quickly under Harbaugh's guidance.
The pressing questions are in the backfield. Only once since Mike Hart's senior year in 2007 has Michigan produced a running back who ran for 1,000 yards, but it's reasonable to assume that someone will step up between a now-healthy Derrick Green, Drake Johnson, De'Veon Smith and USC transfer Ty Isaac. The bigger question is whether or not a steady quarterback can be found. Iowa transfer Jake Rudock could certainly be that guy, with plenty of starting experience under his belt. While he had middling results at Iowa, Harbaugh is the type of coach capable of maximizing his talent. Otherwise, the top candidate is Shane Morris, last year's backup.
Michigan's schedule isn't bad this year with Michigan State and Ohio State at home and Minnesota and Northwestern as the cross-division games, but dates with Utah, BYU and Oregon State in September will make things interesting from the beginning. The quarterback answer will dictate how much progress the Wolverines can make in Harbaugh's debut season.
5. What will Alabama's offense look like?
Only at Alabama can going 23-4 over two seasons seem like a problem. Every Alabama loss is treated as a huge, life-changing moment for both the team that wins and for the Alabama team that lost. The latter is doubly true when Lane Kiffin is the offensive coordinator, for an offense that returns only three starters.
It's not that anyone is abandoning the Alabama bandwagon. Despite the attrition, the Crimson Tide -- who continue to sign No. 1 recruiting classes -- will open the season ranked third in the coaches poll. They're the SEC favorite of many, and thus a playoff favorite. Still, every little flaw is magnified with this program, and now Kiffin, in his second year as coordinator, will be tasked with replacing Amari Cooper and developing another new quarterback, whether it's Florida State transfer Jacob Coker a year later than expected or perhaps redshirt freshman David Cornwell. There is no shortage of young talent for Kiffin to work with, and Alabama will likely be just fine.
But with Wisconsin to open the season and Georgia and an improving Tennessee on the nonconference schedule, Alabama has a slimmer margin for error, in a season in which it will be counting on a lot of new faces, however talented they may be. The intense spotlight on Kiffin's performance isn't going to get any smaller, especially as Saban goes against everything he believes in and allows Kiffin to spread the field and push the tempo a bit.
6. Is the SEC finished with complaining season?
Nick Saban doesn't help himself with his complaints: Teams are moving too fast on offense. Jim Harbaugh is holding satellite camps in Alabama territory. His players are distracted during the postseason by NFL decisions. Much of the SEC has gotten in on the complaining, in fact, with Gus Malzahn claiming that the SEC is at a disadvantage in the playoff because its schedules are so difficult (because that Idaho game on Nov. 21 is sure to take a lot out of Auburn).
After a long run on top of the sport, the SEC is … still mostly on top of the sport, in terms of depth and money and power and everything but winning the last two national titles. Still, it has been on the defensive much of the offseason, despite the fact that powerful SEC schools complaining about being at a disadvantage will never not be comical. It's August, though, and as preseason camps open, we can get back to arguing about actual football, until Alabama loses to Ohio State in the Orange Bowl and the cycle starts repeating itself. Soon, though, the complaints should turn into the usual boasting about conference strength.
7. Is Notre Dame done with its offseason attrition?
Two years ago in the spring, fresh off an appearance in the BCS title game, Notre Dame lost Golson for the season because of an academic violation. Last August, with Golson back, Notre Dame lost cornerback KeiVarae Russell, defensive end Ishaq Williams and receiver DaVaris Daniels to academic violations. Now, with Russell and possibly Williams back, Notre Dame has lost running back Greg Bryant for academic reasons.
This news doesn't hit quite as hard as Golson, Russell or Williams, as Tarean Folston gives the Irish a quality starter at tailback, and Bryant ran for only 289 yards last year. Still, Bryant is a former five-star recruit who was expected to be a significant contributor in the running back rotation, possibly starting to deliver on his potential as a recruit. With expectations skyrocketing for the Irish in 2015, the next month is about hoping that the Bryant news is the last bad news of the preseason.
8. Can Josh Rosen lock down the UCLA starting job?
It is unfair to let expectations get out of control for a true freshman quarterback, but an impressive debut season by Rosen could land the Bruins in the playoff. Brett Hundley has been the face of the program for three years, and now the baton will likely be passed to Rosen, the all-world five-star recruit who arrived in the winter and was impressive in spring practice. Rosen is the type of true freshman quarterback who appears capable of succeeding early, and he's surrounded by one of the most experienced rosters in the nation.
It's seen as a given that he'll beat out Jerry Neuheisel for the job -- former four-star recruit Asiantii Woulard already transferred to USF -- and if so he'll quickly meet a couple tricky but beatable nonconference opponents at home in the first three games in Virginia and BYU. Rosen's development could be one of the biggest deciding factors in the Pac-12 race, and he has a chance to prove a lot over the next two months before the Pac-12 schedule begins. The return of senior quarterback Cody Kessler has caused heightened expectations for USC, but a freshman could push the rival Bruins over the top.
9. Which other true freshmen will be factors early?
Many key true freshmen enrolled early and participated in spring practice, like Rosen, but the majority arrived over the summer and are now going through their first formal practices. One of the most intriguing players to watch is Texas A&M quarterback Kyler Murray, who decided against a professional baseball career and instead will try to get on the field immediately in College Station.
He's unlikely to unseat quarterback Kyle Allen, who started the second half of last year and was also a blue-chip recruit. But Murray is a phenomenal athlete who led Allen High School to three state titles in Texas, and in his senior year he threw for 4,713 yards and 54 touchdowns. He's a Texas high school football legend, the type of player who fans will beg for if anything goes wrong with the offense. Texas A&M will likely find a way to get Murray on the field, even if Allen is the clear starting quarterback.
USC cornerback Iman Marshall, Auburn defensive end Byron Cowart and Alabama receiver Calvin Ridley are among the other much-anticipated summer arrivals who could quickly turn heads over the next few weeks and into the start of the season.
10. Who will take the first snap at quarterback for Ohio State?
Yes, it's the question everyone wants an answer to, although it might not change a whole lot. If J.T. Barrett was the clear starting quarterback, Ohio State would be ranked No. 1. If Cardale Jones was the clear starting quarterback, Ohio State would be ranked No. 1. If Braxton Miller was not switching positions and was the clear starting quarterback, Ohio State would be ranked No. 1. If Barrett is healthy and Jones' growth has continued, Ohio State can go undefeated with either, but that won't stop this from being one of the most fascinating quarterback debates ever. Both are great options who have proved a lot in a short amount of time, and both can be great fits for the offense, even if their styles differ.
We're probably not going to get an answer until Labor Day, when a decision finally has to be made and someone takes the first snap at Virginia Tech. Fortunately, we're almost there.