The 2017 football season is upon us. This season we get five “week 0” games, two of which feature ranked teams. The official start of the season is just a few days away. No one knows what is going to happen, but that won’t stop me from trying to predict it…
Last season I did a nice job with my predictions. I correctly picked 7 out of 10 conference champions and I picked 2/4 playoff teams (I had Alabama beating Clemson in the semis). I set a high bar for myself, let’s see if I can do it again.
SEC: Alabama over Georgia
Alabama has been dominant during the last few seasons, even with their loss to Clemson in the National Championship last year. It is very hard to bet against the Crimson Tide and HC Nick Saban. Alabama gets LSU at home this season and are on the road for the Iron Bowl. I have Bama running the tables for a second year in a row in the SEC and I think they have a chance to make it to their third consecutive National Championship game.
I went back and forth between picking wither Georgia or Florida to win the East. Though the Bulldogs underperformed last season, I think the advantage of returning QB Jacob Eason as well as RBs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Those three, along with some pretty good receivers, should make this a strong offense to contend with. Florida’s question mark at QB concerns me, as does the rest of their offense (their kicker seems to be awesome, though). No matter who wins the East, I expect Alabama to win the SEC for a 4th straight season and for the 5th time in the last 6 years.
Big 10: Ohio State over Wisconsin
Ohio State ended last season as the only bowl team not to score a point (*thumbs up emoji*). They also didn’t even win their conference but made it to the Playoff. I think this season will end a little differently. The Buckeyes return a lot of players this season including QB JT Barrett. While aOSU (an Ohio State University) does play in the more difficult East division, I don’t think they will have much trouble this year. They get Penn State at home but do have to go to the Big House to face Michigan. The Nittany Lions might be their toughest conference competition.
Wisconsin looks to be the main contender for the Big 10 West. Their conference schedule is nice this season, but they do have to face Michigan. Losing RB Corey Clement will be big for the Badgers, but they return an experienced QB as well as last season’s top two receivers. Wisconsin’s defense has always been strong and will most likely be strong again this season. I think Ohio State will end up winning the conference and have a good chance to head back to the Playoff.
Pac 12: USC over Washington
USC showed a lot of potential in the Rose Bowl against Penn State. After starting last season 1-3, the Trojans rattled off 9 straight wins. Their two early losses to Stanford and Utah kept them out of the Pac 12 Champ game, but I expect them to make it this season. USC QB Sam Darnold will be a sophomore and will look to continue where he left off last season. They get the toughest teams, Stanford, Utah and UCLA, at home this season. USC has a chance to be very good this season.
Washington was a strong team in a not so strong conference last season. Their only regular season loss came to USC (who was probably a better team by the end of the season). QB Jake Browning and RB Myles Gaskin both return this season for the Huskies. They do lose their leading receiver John Ross, but they should still be a good offense. Washington has to travel to Colorado and Stanford this season, but they get UCLA , Utah and Washington State at home. This should be another great year for Washington, but I don’t think they will be able to beat USC.
Big 12: Oklahoma over Oklahoma State
This will be the first year that the Big 12 has a conference championship game, which I’m sure the Big 12 hopes will lead to a higher chance of making it to the Playoff. While I’m fairly confident this will mean two Bedlam games this year, I’m much less confident on who will win. Oklahoma returns most of their strong offense, but lose playmakers RBs Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon as well as WR Dede Westbrook. QB Baker Mayfield will have to have another excellent season to help his new HC. Losing Bob Stoops could be a major blow to this team.
Oklahoma State played for the de facto Big 12 Champ last season against OU. The game was tied at the half, but the Pokes were only able to put 3 more points on the board. Like OU, OKST has a veteran QB in Mason Rudolph. They also return 1000+yd rusher Justice Hill and 1000+yd receiver James Washington. I’m very interested to see who comes out on top, but I’m going to pick Oklahoma for now.
ACC: Florida State over Miami(FL)
Clemson has been the top of this conference for the last two seasons, but I believe losing QB Deshaun Watson is going to be too much to overcome this year. With the Tigers down, Florida State should be the team to beat in the ACC. While they do lose RB Dalvin Cook and WR Travis Rudolph, they bring back sophomore QB Deandre Francois. The ‘Noles get Miami and Louisville at home this year and they travel to Clemson. It will be interesting to see if FSU can figure out Lamar Jackson this season.
Miami seems to be the favorite in the Coastal division this season. I believe that VT would’ve been the favorite in this division if their 3 biggest playmakers had stayed one more year instead of leaving early for the draft. But they left so a Brad Kaaya-less Miami is in the best position. The Hurricanes have to go to Florida State early in the season and they get Virginia Tech at home. I still think the Hokies will compete. Either way, I expect Florida State to win the conference.
American: USF over Houston
USF lost coach Willie Taggart to Oregon but gained Charlie Strong from Texas. The Bulls also return star QB Quinton Flowers and get both Temple and Houston at home this season. USF went 11-2 last season and returns a large part of their starting lineups. I expect them to have another very good season.
Houston started out very strong last season with a big win over Oklahoma and, near the end of the season, the Cougars welcomed in third ranked Louisville and held star QB and eventual Heisman winner Lamar Jackson to just 10 points. They also have a new coach this season after Tom Herman left for Texas. Despite that, I still believe Houston will be very competitive in the American this season. It doesn’t hurt that they have former Texas A&M QB Kyle Allen leading the offense this season.
MWC: San Diego State over Colorado State
The Mountain division has the potential to be pretty strong this season. Colorado State, Boise State and Wyoming could all vie for the top spot. Colorado State returns QB Nick Stevens for his senior season and is very experienced. Boise State will feature a lot of new starters and that makes me a little worried about them. The Rams get the Broncos at home but do have to travel to Wyoming. Boise State is the only one of the three that have to play SDSU and they have to travel for that one.
The Aztecs have a very favorable schedule except for Boise State. The other team they draw from the West division is UNLV, and though I would like that to be a competitive game, it shouldn’t be. The biggest loss for SDSU is, of course, RB Donnel Pumphrey (who broke the NCAA career rush record with 6,405 yards). They do return their other 1,000+ yard back in Rashaad Penny. I would be surprised if anyone in the West division came close to SDSU.
MAC: Toledo over Ohio
Ah, #MACtion. Fun fact: I came close to getting an internship with the MAC, but it didn’t turn out. Do not fret, everything worked out for me. Back to what you’re here for though: #MACtion. The West division lost some good players and one very good coach. WMU’s loss of PJ Fleck might be too much for the Broncos to overcome. Toledo returns their QB and should have another good year, though they do have to travel to Ohio later in the season.
Ohio is in the easier East division of the MAC and have a favorable schedule this season. Their toughest game looks to be against Toledo. The Bobcats return a little more than half of their starters. I don’t think it’ll be enough to beat Toledo twice.
CUSA: Louisiana Tech over WKU
Despite losing a ton of starters and getting a new HC, Western Kentucky returns a QB who threw for nearly 4700 yards. Despite having a new coach, I doubt the offensive production will change too much. They host Louisiana Tech early in the season, a game that should tell us a lot and will probably be a preview of the conference championship game.
Like WKU, Louisiana Tech loses some major playmakers, including two 1500+ yard receivers. Also like WKU, I don’t think that will do too much damage to their offense. I had the chance to see this team in person last season and I was pretty impressed (and terrified since we only won by one). These two teams have played some exciting games over the last few seasons and I think that will continue in 2017.
Sun Belt: Appalachian State
Arkansas State surprised everyone last season (well not me). After starting off 0-4, all against non-conference teams, the Red Wolves rattled off 6 straight wins and ended the season with an 8-5 record. Though I think they will be good again this season, Appalachian State has the easier schedule and doesn’t have to play Arkansas State. Though both have to face ULL, the team who gave ARST their only conference loss last season. App State also returns a very good QB in Taylor Lamb. I still believe one of these two teams will win the conference.
Here are my playoff predictions, as well as the 8 other teams I think will end up in NY6 Bowls. Also I present to you my wide net of Heisman candidates, maybe I’ll catch one this season.
Semifinal (Sugar Bowl): 1Alabama over 4Florida State
Semifinal (Rose Bowl): 2Ohio State over 3USC
National Championship (Atlanta): Alabama over Ohio State
Rest of the New Year’s Six Bowls:
Orange Bowl: Penn State vs Clemson
Cotton Bowl: USF vs Florida
Peach Bowl: Oklahoma vs Georgia
Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma State vs Washington
Heisman Contenders (in no particular order):
Louisville QB Lamar Jackson
LSU RB Derrius Guice
Alabama QB Jalen Hurts
Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield
Ohio State QB JT Barrett
Penn State RB Saquon Barkley
USC QB Sam Darnold
Washington QB Jake Browning
Washington RB Myles Gaskin
Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph
TCU QB Kenny Hill
Florida State QB Deandre Francois
USF QB Quinton Flowers
Georgia RB Nick Chubb