August is finally here! That means football is almost back! (Unfortunately it also means that summer is almost over.) My summer has been pretty amazing so far. I am going to shamelessly brag that I got to see Hamilton with the original cast. I GOT TO SEE HAMILTON WITH THE ORIGINAL CAST! (Thanks, mom!) Ok, now that that is out of my system, let’s get into some predictions!
After last season, the bar for my preseason picks is extremely low. I did pick Clemson to win the ACC and I had Bowling Green and NIU in the MAC Champ. And thanks to blind luck, I did have Stanford playing in the Rose Bowl. I was 0-4 on playoff teams and had Auburn winning it all. (Auburn came in last in the SEC West.) But hey, if the games always turned out like they were supposed to, there would be no reason to play.
SEC: Alabama over Tennessee
I’m going to be honest: I really have no idea who is going to win the West. I think every team could do it. So, because I don’t know for sure, I’m going with Alabama. I think Ole Miss has the best chance to dethrone the Tide. I think Arkansas has a good chance too. And so does LSU. I also think whichever team makes it out of the West will win the SEC and most likely will be in the national championship game (where I will be cheering them on in person). I think Tennessee has the best chance in the East. But Florida could have another good year. I think if Tennessee can play full games, they will be a great team. They started doing that towards the end of last season. And they have a genius for a QB. I expect this team to finally live up to the hype and make it to a NY6 Bowl. (My SEC Preview will have a team-by-team analysis if you are like me and can’t get enough of the best conference in football.)
Big 10: Michigan over Iowa
I think Iowa is going to win the West division. I’m relatively confident about that. The East division, on the other hand, looks to be more competitive at the top. I think it will come down to Michigan and Ohio State. The Buckeyes don’t return many starters, but they do still have JT Barrett. Michigan returns 14 starters, including TE Jake Butt. The Wolverines have to face Michigan State, Iowa and Ohio State on the road this season, which will be a huge challenge. If this team has even half of Jim Harbaugh’s “swag” and intensity, this team can be scary good. Their schedule is extremely back loaded so I expect them to be ranked in the top ten for most of the first half of the season. That Thanksgiving weekend game in the ‘Shoe could be one of the biggest games of the season.
Pac 12: Washington over USC
There must be a mistake here, right? I don’t see Stanford or Oregon… Washington? Yes. Washington. The Huskies. It has been a while since there has been a shake up in the Pac12 north. It has been the Duck and Cardinal show for as long as I have been really into football. And for the first time in recent history, Stanford doesn’t have a QB named Andrew Luck or Kevin Hogan. And great as Christian McCaffrey is, I don’t think he will be enough to get out of a very good division unscathed. Oregon is still going to score a lot of points and they still have RB Royce Freeman, but their defense is a concern. Washington has a lot of experience and I think they have what it takes to change things up in their favor. In the South, I think it comes down to USC and UCLA, and as much as it pains me, I’m picking USC. Of course, UCLA has Josh Rosen running the offense, but he doesn’t have a lot of starters coming back around him. I’m a little bit worried about him falling into a sophomore slump. USC returns pretty much their whole offence except their QB. The Trojans need to be a more consistent team to win their division. They start their season with Alabama and will need to be in midseason form from the get go. This should be an interesting year in the Pac 12.
Big 12: Oklahoma
The Sooners have the potential to go back to the Playoff this season. They return QB Baker Mayfield and RB Samaje Perine, both of whom are potential Heisman winners. OU starts their Big 12 schedule at TCU, but get Baylor and Oklahoma State at home. They also open the season with potential future conference foe Houston in NRG Stadium (Houston) and two weeks later will face off against Ohio State. I don’t see many teams in the Big 12 competing with the Sooners this season. TCU loses their star QB Trevone Boykin and WR Josh Doctson, but do get grad transfer John Diarse from LSU. Baylor’s offense should be great again, with QB Seth Russell returning from a scary neck injury. They also get WRs Shock Linwood and KD Cannon back. Defense has been their Achilles heel in recent seasons and they have also struggled against teams with strong defense. Luckily for them, the Big 12 hasn’t really been known for defense (minus Texas who can hold the best teams but can’t score unless they are playing OU). Oklahoma is the whole package. I think they are going to be a fun team to watch this year.
ACC: Clemson over North Carolina
Once again, the Clemson-FSU game should decide the winner of the Atlantic division. Clemson snapped Florida State’s 3-year ACC Champ streak last season. This year the game is in Tallahassee. Personally, I have much more faith in Deshaun Watson than I do in Dalvin Cook. Clemson was a hell of a team last season and I think they will continue to be awesome this season. They kick off their season at Auburn. Florida State opens with Ole Miss in Orlando on Labor Day. These two games will be good gauges for all four teams. The Coastal division also looks like it will be a two-team race. Miami and North Carolina. Miami returns some major players and also brought in HC Mark Richt. North Carolina had a great season and very nearly beat Clemson in the ACC Champ game. Who knows what would’ve happened if the refs didn’t make that awful and incorrect offsides call that overturned a recovered onside kick. They do need to worry about rush defense. They gave up 645 rush yards to Baylor in the bowl. I just don’t feel confident picking an inconsistent Miami team with a new coach.
American: Houston over Cincinnati
The West should be Houston’s division to lose. Navy and Memphis each lost their star QBs and Memphis lost their HC. Houston was one confusing loss to Connecticut away from an undefeated season (a feat no one accomplished in 2015). The Cougars even beat Florida State by 14 in the Peach Bowl (that made me EXTREMELY happy). Houston was also able to pull an incredible comeback against Memphis after losing QB Greg Ward. Houston could make a huge statement in their opening game against Oklahoma. This team could be scary good. Cincy went back and forth last season (they only won back-to-back games once). Gunner Kiel is back (I think this might be his 8th year playing college football… at least that’s what it feels like). Kiel was injured last season against Memphis but his backup Hayden Moore came in and threw for a conference record 557 yards in the loss. THAT was a great game. Kiel didn’t play in the spring game, so be on the look out for a possible QB comp for the Bearcats. Also watch out for USF. They turned a lot of heads last season.
MWC: San Diego State over Boise State
If you have been reading this blog over the last couple seasons, you know I have a huge soft spot for my MWC. Being from Las Vegas and a fan of UNLV (winners of 2 of the last 3 games against UNR #thecannonisred), I like to keep up with this conference. I also love SDSU for no real reason. Ok, it’s partly because they had a kicker named Seamus McMorrow. This Aztec team has been a force to be reckoned with. Last season they swept the MWC and demolished Cincy in their bowl. They return star RB Donnel Pumphrey who rushed for 1653 yards last season. Boise State returns a good part of their offense and they are coming off a disappointing 9-4 season. They are used to double-digit wins in Boise so they will be looking for an improvement this year. I really hope this is the matchup because I really want to see these two teams play.
MAC: Western Michigan over Bowling Green
Ah, MACtion. I think this will be the year NIU does not make it to the championship game. The Huskies have been to 6 straight MAC title games! Last season there was a 4-way tie for first in the West division, it was crazy. All Toledo had to do was beat WMU in the last game of the season to win the West. That didn’t happen. I’m very excited for the MAC this season. There is potential for some great games. The East division is a little less exciting. Bowling Green has been to the last 3 MAC titles and has won two of them.
CUSA: Southern Miss over Marshall
Marshall has been a perennial power in the Group of 5 conferences. I don’t expect that to change this season. Chase Litton is back for his second season as QB and should be good again. Southern Miss has a new HC this season, but returns a great QB in Nick Mullens. The Golden Eagles were at the top of their game in 2011 when they went 12-2. Then they went 4-32 over the next 3 years. Then last season they went 9-5(7-1 in CUSA) and played in the conference champ against WKU. I think they will improve this season and win the conference.
Sun Belt: Arkansas State
Arkansas State and Appalachian State are expected to be the two heavyweights this season in the Fun Belt. The two don’t face each other this season so there is a possibility of a tie. The Sun Belt will have their first conference championship game after the 2018 regular season, but until then, the only thing that matters is how many regular season games your win. App State returns a lot of starters including QB Taylor Lamb. It will be interesting to see who comes out on top. I’m picking Arkansas State, but I think both teams have the possibility to win this conference.
Like I said, I picked 0 of the 4 playoff teams last season. So these predictions are really just for fun. The same goes for the NY6 bowls because there aren’t conference affiliations anymore so I’m kind of just throwing teams into games based on how I would pick the matchups.
Semifinal (Fiesta Bowl): 4Alabama over 1Clemson
Semifinal (Peach Bowl): 3Oklahoma over 2Michigan
National Championship (Tampa): Alabama over Oklahoma
Rest of the New Year’s Six Bowls:
Sugar Bowl: Ole Miss over Notre Dame
Rose Bowl: Ohio State over Washington
Orange Bowl: Florida State over Iowa
Cotton Bowl: Tennessee over Houston
Heisman Contenders (in no particular order)
Clemson QB Deshaun Watson
LSU RB Leonard Fournette
Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly
Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey
Florida State RB Dalvin Cook
Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield
Oklahoma RB Samaje Perine
Georgia RB Nick Chubb