College football season is right around the corner, so that means it’s time to make some predictions! I’m going to make predictions for all of the conference champions, the playoff and the rest of the New Year’s Six bowl games. I figure the more predictions I make, the more chances I have to be right (or a lot of chances to be wrong).
SEC: Auburn over Tennessee
I think Auburn has the best chance to come out of the SEC West gauntlet this season. They get both Alabama and Georgia at home in Jordan-Hare Stadium. Will Muschamp joined the staff this off-season as the defensive coordinator and should have an immediate impact for the Tigers. Tennessee was a very young team last season and should benefit from the experience. They will return 18 starters from last year, including their scary smart QB Josh Dobbs. I think that Auburn won’t have too much trouble winning the championship game given they aren’t too beat up from their season.
Big 10: Ohio State over Wisconsin
I might not be an Ohio State fan, but I have to give them credit. They were by far the best team in the country last season. I still have no idea how VT was able to beat them in Columbus. The QB race is down to two since Braxton Miller switched to WR, but I believe either Cardale Jones or JT Barrett could take this team to a Big 10 Championship. I think Wisconsin will have another good season but they won’t be able to beat Ohio State. I don’t think it will be as one-sided as a game as it was last year, but I don’t think it will be very close.
Pac 12: UCLA over Stanford
Many have picked USC to win the Pac 12. They have a veteran QB, veteran O-Line, and return most of their defense. The Trojans might be the logical pick. But I have a gut feeling about UCLA. (Whether or not that feeling is right is yet to be seen.) The Bruins are looking to return 10 players on offense. The 11th is true freshman QB Josh Rosen. He enrolled early and is a five star recruit. Their defense will need to be improved from last season to be able to win this conference. Now that Mariota is gone, this might be Stanford’s year. This is QB Kevin Hogan’s senior season and should have a good season. The Cardinal lost a lot of defensive starters but defense has never been an issue for this team. I think this will be a great matchup each time these teams play.
Big 12: TCU
I think TCU will have another great year. QB Trevone Boykin returns and so do most of his weapons from a season ago. Baylor is TCU’s last regular season game. I expect that game to be almost as exciting as it was last year. If TCU wants to get in the playoff, they will have to be the sole Big 12 Champ, which is hard to do. This conference needs to get a championship game if they want to keep up with the other Big 5 conferences.
ACC: Clemson over Virginia Tech
Florida State should’ve been beaten so many times last season. I think without Jameis Winston, this will be the season Clemson finally wins the Atlantic division. Their defense was pretty good last season, but they only return 3 starters. The Tigers have a tough schedule this season but I think they can do it. I think the Hokies have a good chance this year as well. I don’t think they will get another win over Ohio State, but I think they will be improved from last year. I don’t think Clemson will have too much trouble with them in the championship game.
American: Cincinnati over Memphis
Cincinnati had a very good season last year and only lost one conference game. The Bearcats return most of their offense but will need to improve on defense. They allowed more than 30 points in 7 games last season, but they scored more than 30 points in 9 games. Memphis also had a good season last year and gave UCLA all they could handle at the beginning of the season. The Tigers only return 3 starters from a very good defense. They return 8 on offense and they will be able to score. These two teams meet in the first month of the season, giving us a good look at how they will fair this year.
MWC: Boise State over San Diego State
In recent years it has been a one-Bronco race for the conference title (pardon the pun). I don’t think this year will be any different. It’s very hard to pick against Boise State. Their toughest conference road game is Utah State and they don’t have to play West division foes San Diego State, Nevada, or Fresno State in the regular season. I’d be surprised if the Broncos were not in the MW championship game. I expect SDSU to have a better season than last year. The Aztecs get Fresno State, Utah State, and Nevada at home this year. Their biggest game might be their conference opener against Fresno State on October 3rd. They have a new QB but I don’t think that will hurt them too much once conference play rolls around.
MAC: Northern Illinois over Bowling Green
I had a hard time picking between Toledo and Northern Illinois to come out of the West. The two will face off the first weekend of November in Toledo and that will probably be the deciding game. NIU has been to the MAC Champ game the last 5 seasons and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if they went again this year. The Huskies have the easier schedule of the two. If anyone is going to end NIU’s run it will most likely be Toledo. I think that Bowling Green will also make it to the MAC Champ game for the third straight season. They return almost all of their offense but need some improvement on defense. They should be able to score a lot of points this season.
CUSA: Marshall over Louisiana Tech
I don’t think Marshall will have the season they did last year, but I think they will still win CUSA. They lose QB Rakeem Cato but that shouldn’t break the team. The 66-67 OT loss to WKU was Marshall’s only loss last season and probably kept them out of a bigger bowl game. Louisiana Tech will have a familiar face at QB this season in former Florida QB Jeff Driskel. He joins a team that went to the CUSA Champ game last season and returns more than half of its starters. The Bulldogs should have another good season but I don’t think they will be able to overcome Marshall.
Sun Belt: Appalachian State
This team returns 20 starters from last season. Their defense will need to step up to win this conference. Their biggest game will probably be against Georgia Southern in the middle of the season. Georgia Southern was undefeated in conference play last year but because it was their first year in the FBS they were ineligible for a bowl game. GSU loses some key players and it is hard to argue with the experience that App State has. Whichever team wins the head to head will be in the driver’s seat to win this conference.
Semifinal (Orange Bowl): 1Auburn over 4UCLA
Semifinal (Cotton Bowl): 3TCU over 2Ohio State
National Championship (Glendale, AZ): 1Auburn over 3TCU
Rest of the New Year’s Six Bowls:
Peach Bowl: Tennessee over Clemson
Fiesta Bowl: USC over Boise State
Sugar Bowl: Alabama over Wisconsin
Rose Bowl: Baylor over Stanford
And just for the heck of it, here are my Heisman contenders in no particular order:
Ohio State QB Cardale Jones/JT Barrett (whichever one starts)
TCU QB Trevone Boykin
Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott
Alabama RB Derrick Henry
Georgia RB Nick Chubb
Oklahoma RB Samaje Perine
Ohio State TB Ezekiel Elliott
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