The offseason for football lasts too long! But, lucky for us, the season is right around the corner. Last year we saw Alabama and Georgia clash for the national championship game. Though I’m sure many outside of the SEC world were not happy about it, but the game delivered and the Tide Rolled again. Of course, the best game from last season was the Rose Bowl in which Georgia defeated Oklahoma in a game neither team deserved to lose. Last season sets a high bar for this year, but in my experience, it gets better every year.
I like to make preseason predictions just for fun. Zero downs have been played and so much can happen in the next couple of weeks. All 10 conferences now have conference championship games and we gained a new FBS member in Liberty. And with that, here’s to another great season of college football.
SEC: Alabama over Georgia
Alabama and Georgia blew me away in the National Championship game last season. And of course, the most amazing part was just how young both teams were. The QB battle between Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa. Jake Fromm is the QB for Georgia, but some are claiming the new freshman, Justin Fields, could challenge him for the job. He’d have to be pretty dang good to beat out Fromm after the season he had. Both teams can kick butt on offense and defense. The only team I see getting in the way of either of these two is Auburn. The coaching turnover in the conference makes me wary of singling out another team that could change the script.
Nick Saban is the reason I am picking Bama to win this matchup. He has yet to lose to one of his former assistants and I believe he can keep that streak going and ride it to another title game.
(If you want a more in-depth SEC preview, check this out!)
Big 10: Ohio State over Iowa
The Big 10 East should be a very interesting race this season. Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan are the contenders, and each have their own issues. Ohio State’s coaching situation is in question, Michigan has been unable to get over the hump with Jim Harbaugh and Penn State loses star RB Saquon Barkley. The Buckeyes have the easiest road (don’t play Wisconsin or Iowa) to the Big 10 Champ game. As much as I dislike OSU, they tend field a pretty great team and I think that will be the case even if Urban Meyer is not at the helm this season. They will have a new QB for the first time in forever now that JT Barrett finally graduated and that will be something to watch.
In the West, I see it as a battle between Wisconsin and Iowa. The Badgers have been at the top of their division for a very long time. Iowa has been in the conversation recently and are a tough team. The Badgers have to play both Michigan and Penn State and they have to travel to Iowa. The other big story in this division is the addition of Scott Frost as the head coach of Nebraska. He comes back to his alma mater after turning the UCF program around and claiming a national championship last season. I doubt his first year will be great. The Huskers are on the road against Michigan, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Ohio State and Iowa. It is difficult to have that tough of a schedule when you play in the Big 1o.
Pac 12: Washington over Arizona
In the North I think it is Washington or bust. Jake Browning is back at QB and is finally a senior. He has lots of experience and is a very good QB. RB Myles Gaskin is also back for his senior year. Expect this offense to be exciting. Besides their opening game against Auburn, the Huskies have a relatively favorable schedule. They get Stanford at home but do have to travel to Utah and Oregon.
The South is much harder to predict. USC is the sexy pick, but without Darnold I’m concerned about this team. Utah is good, but they haven’t proven that they can make it all the way to the Pac12 champ game. The Utes also have to play Washington and Oregon and go to Stanford. Arizona really interests me. Kevin Sumlin is the new HC and he will get to coach QB Khalil Tate. Their defense might be their downfall, but I think they have a decent chance to take home their division. Two more Pac12 South teams have new coaches: Herm Edwards at Arizona State and Chip Kelly at UCLA. Both of those hires are extremely interesting for two very different reasons. Definitely keep your eyes on this division throughout the season.
Big 12: Oklahoma over Texas
This is such a fun conference to watch if you love offense. And that is the reason I think Texas has a great chance this year. As one of the only Big 12 schools that actually plays good defense, they should be able to be in every game. They also have some more experience on offense and Tom Herman will be in his second year as the Head Horn. They have a pretty good schedule and should be much improved.
Oklahoma is still the better team (and I can’t pick Texas to win and live with myself). Though the sooners lose Heisman winner and 1st overall draft pick Baker Mayfield, they get Kyler Murray as their QB. Murray was drafted by the Oakland Athletics and he got a $4.66 million signing bonus. This will be his last season of football before transitioning to baseball full time for the A’s. He’s scary good and should pick up where Baker left off. Lincoln Riley did an amazing job in his first season and lost a heartbreaking Rose Bowl game to Georgia. (I am still sad someone had to lose that one. Instant classic.)
In this conference it can be anyone’s game. Both TCU and West Virginia could take home a conference title this year. Gary Patterson is a great coach and WVU get QB Will Grier back. Oklahoma State has their ups and downs and has to replace some major players this year.
ACC: Clemson over Miami, FL
Clemson was a bit of a surprise team last year. But to be fair, most of the so-called experts picked Florida State to win the conference. The Tigers have a QB competition that pits incumbent Kelly Bryant with newcomer Trevor Lawrence. They get two of their major stars back in RB Travis Etienne and WR Hunter Renfrow and should have another really good season on offense. Florida State hopes to be improved with new coach Willie Taggart and the return of their star QB, Deondre Francois, from injury. This year’s matchup in Tallahassee could be a very important game. I went against Dabo last season and I don’t plan to make that mistake again this year.
The Coastal division is a little harder to pick. Miami won last year and will be the favorites again this year. They return QB Malik Rosier as well as many other players. North Carolina, Duke and Virginia Tech are also hoping to be contenders. UNC has to deal with some suspensions early and they are coming off an awful year. If they can stay injury free they should be much improved. Duke struggled in conference last year but could be improved. Virginia Tech’s offense should be good this year, but I am worried about their defense.
American: UCF over Memphis
If you didn’t already know, the real National Champs are the UCF Knights. But that’s just because they beat the team that beat the team that beat Alabama in the championship. If you go by that logic, Arkansas could also claim the 2017 National Championship (Arkansas beat Ole Miss who beat Miss State who beat LSU who beat Auburn who beat Georgia who beat Alabama). UCF was the only undefeated team in the FBS last season, and may have deserved a spot in the playoff, but with the current set up, a group of 5 team will never make it that far. This year, UCF loses their HC in Scott Frost, but they do return a significant number of players. One of those is QB McKenzie Milton. Even with a new coach I expect them to have another great season.
The American West is a little more up in the air. Memphis is the front runner in the division. For a little while in the offseason it seemed Mike Norvell would be changing jobs, but instead he got a raise and a contract extension. In all but 4 games last year, Memphis scored at least 41 points, and scored at least 55 points 5 times. Defense was a major struggle for this team last year and they will need to improve on that side of the ball this season. Houston and Navy will be there if Memphis slips up. Houston has a Heisman-hopeful in DT Ed Oliver. He also plays a little bit of offense, scoring a rushing TD last season. Navy was good last year but struggled to end up on the winning side. Except for their huge win over FAU to start the season, there was never more than a 10-point differential in their games. This team is always fun to watch with their triple-option offense.
MWC: Boise State over San Diego State
It is difficult for me to pick any team other than Boise State in the Mountain division. They are a very good team and even when they are having a down year they are one of the better teams in the conference. Utah State has been sneaky good recently, but I just don’t have the confidence to pick them over the Broncos. Wyoming was ok last year, but that was when they had star QB Josh Allen. With him gone I’m not sure they can compete with Boise State.
In the West division, there are a couple teams that could rise to the top. Fresno State did a 180 between their last two seasons (0-8 in ’16 and 7-1 in ’17) and should have another impressive season. San Diego State is another perennial contender in this division and like to knock off P5 teams (ASU and Stanford last season). They lose their second 2,000 yard back of the last two years in Rashaad Penny and it doesn’t seem they will keep that streak going for a 3rd year. UNLV might actually surprise some people this year (I’m not just saying that because I am from Vegas). Despite losing an awful game to Howard to start the season (Rebels were 45-point favorites), UNLV had a strong team and should’ve gone to a bowl game but was unable to beat UNR to end the season. Look for them to at least contend this season.
MAC: Ohio over Northern Illinois
I don’t think it is going to be much a battle in the East division. Last year Ohio was the best team, but they had a weird loss to Akron that basically ended their chances to win the division. They return a lot of their major players like QB Nathan Rourke and RB AJ Ouellette. The MAC can get a little crazy so if they aren’t careful, they may drop a game that costs them.
The West has two very strong contenders: Northern Illinois and Toledo. The Rockets have been the hot team over the last couple years, but NIU is tried and true in this conference. The Huskies have the advantage of hosting the matchup with the Rockets this season. They will also host Ohio for homecoming. Once again this should be a very fun conference to watch, especially in November when we get all of that mid-week MACtion.
CUSA: Florida Atlantic over UAB
Florida Atlantic and Lane Kiffin took the college football world by storm last season. After two dismal showings against Navy and Wisconsin and starting the season 1-3, the Owls rattled off 10 straight wins and scored at least 41 in 7 of those games including beating Akron 50-3 in a bowl game. I expect them to have another great year even though they don’t return their QB Jason Driskel. What really impressed me last year was their defense. They weren’t great, but the games weren’t very close. I think the Lane Train will keep chugging along.
No one expected UAB to be competitive in their first season back from the program being cut. The Blazers proved everyone wrong by winning 8 games and being a really good overall team. They lost two conference games by a combined 4 points. I am so excited to see how this team does this year and I have a hard time picking against them. The team from the West that has the best chance to challenge them is Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs had a major drop-off on offense last season. The numbers should go back up this year.
Sun Belt: Arkansas State over Troy
This is the first season that the Sun Belt will have a conference championship. The conference lost two members from last year: Idaho dropped to the FCS and New Mexico State became an Independent. Despite only having 10 teams, they have divided into divisions. The East is led by Appalachian State and Troy. These two shared the conference crown last season. This year both lose 4-year starters at QB: Taylor Lamb from App State and Brandon Silvers from Troy. Troy does not have to face Arkansas State this year. That is the reason I am picking them to win the division. Appalachian State does host the showdown with Troy on the last week of the season. That should be a major game. (SBC East teams: Appalachian State, Troy, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Coastal Carolina)
Arkansas State looks to be the easy pick coming out of the West division. They return veteran QB Justice Hansen. Their toughest game should be when they host Appalachian State. I just don’t see any other teams coming out of the West that can challenge the Red Wolves. (SBC West teams: Arkansas State, ULM, Louisiana, South Alabama, Texas State)
Here are my playoff predictions, as well as the 8 other teams I think will end up in NY6 Bowls. Last season my Heisman list was too long. I’m going to cap it at 10 players this year.
Semifinal (Orange Bowl): 1Alabama over 4Ohio State
Semifinal (Cotton Bowl): 2Clemson over 3Georgia
National Championship (Bay Area): Alabama over Clemson
Rest of the New Year’s Six Bowls:
Peach Bowl: Iowa VS Miami, FL
Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma VS UCF
Sugar Bowl: Auburn VS Notre Dame
Rose Bowl: Penn State VS Washington
My Top 10 Heisman Contenders (in alphabetical order):
Jake Browning, QB Washington
Deondre Francois, QB Florida State
Jake Fromm, QB Georgia
Myles Gaskin, RB Washington
Will Grier, QB West Virginia
Bryce Love, RB Stanford
Trace McSorley, QB Penn State
Kyler Murray, QB Oklahoma
Ed Oliver, DT Houston
Jarrett Stidham, QB Auburn