The return of CFB brings back a sense of normalcy that is so welcome, even if it will be different than it’s ever been. It will be a crazy season.
As far as the actual football goes, we are very likely going to have a different champion. LSU has lost almost their entire championship roster from their historic season. Ohio State might’ve been the top contender, but no one knows when the Big 10 is going to play, not even the Big 10. So I’m going with Alabama. Clemson is also up there. More of the same, really.
Not as many big changes this year, except that I am now married. Finally done with all the planning and moving and other wedding related stuff (now I just have to get my name changed). We have been healthy. Jake’s classes are almost all online thanks to Covid-19 concerns, but he is making it work. I am more than ready for fall to kick in because I am over all of this heat and humidity. I’m hoping y’all are staying safe and healthy and thanks for joining me for another season of college football.
I am of the opinion that these athletes are safer on their campuses with their teams than they would be at home. I’m not totally sure playing games is the right thing, but I am confident they will have better access to health care and having the routine back is beyond beneficial. I wish there was one right solution that everyone could follow, but there isn’t. I also wish the decision could be made solely on the safety of the athletes, but the money plays a huge factor. I feel for all of the athletic department employees who have lost their jobs or taken a pay cut because of the loss of ticket revenue. Especially because a lot of those jobs are the people who get most things done by enacting the ideas of the higher-level employees. It all just sucks.
But college football doesn’t suck. So let’s talk about that.
SEC: Alabama over Georgia
The SEC will only be playing conference games this season. So that is pretty exciting. As in most seasons, Alabama is the favorite. They will have to move on from Tua at QB, but Mac Jones has played enough to show they will be in good hands. Nick Sabn is still the coach, so I am not going to pick against them. Georgia was delt a tough blow when their new QB decided to opt out of the season. I doubt he was Kirby Smart’s only hope so I still see the Bulldogs winning the East. The defending champs, LSU, return almost no starters from last year’s team. I don’t see them being nearly as good this season.
(If you are looking for an in depth dive to the SEC, I will be going team by team and game by game in my SEC Preview that will be out before the SEC kicks off on September 26th.)
Big 10: Ohio State over Wisconsin
The Big 10 is finally joining the rest of the CFB world in playing this fall. I’m pretty sure everyone thinks that Ohio State will win the conference and I am in the same boat. Penn State is the only team I think should really challenge the Buckeyes. If this were a normal year and the Nittany Lions got to host Ohio State with a full crowd on Halloween, I might give them the edge. Unfortunately, for everyone really, there will be no fans in the stands for the Big 10. We will also miss out on the bands this year. From the West, I think Wisconsin has the best chance to come out on top with Minnesota being a close second. Both the Badgers and the Golden Gophers escape playing Ohio State and Penn State this season. I am giving the advantage to Wisconsin because they get to host Minnesota this season. Ohio State will need to come out of the gate hot because they will have minimal chances to prove they are good enough to make it to the playoff. Their schedule only features two games that stand out as of now (at Penn State on 10/31 and Michigan on 12/12). I’m not sure beating teams like Rutgers and Illinois by 30 will really convince me that they are as good as Clemson and Alabama.
ACC: Clemson over Notre Dame
On paper I feel like this is a pretty easy choice. Clemson is no doubt a top contender for the national championship, not just the ACC. The Tigers return QB Trevor Lawrence and RB Travis Etienne. Notre Dame will be competing in the ACC this season, which means they have a chance to compete for and possibly win the conference. The Fighting Irish will have their star QB Ian Book back this season and that should be a huge help. They host Clemson but do have to go on the road to North Carolina and Mack Brown. Besides that, they have a relatively easy schedule. Another item of note for the ACC is that there are no divisions this year. The championship game will pit the two best teams against each other. I would be very surprised if it wasn’t Clemson and Notre Dame.
Big 12: Oklahoma over Texas
I feel like a bit of a broken record here, but these should be the two best teams in the conference. Oklahoma returns a ton of starters but does have to replace QB Jalen Hurts and RB Kennedy Brooks has opted out of this season. Redshirt freshman QB Spencer Rattler will have an extremely experienced O-Line in front of him and that is why I am giving the Sooners the advantage. Texas brings back their QB in Sam Ehlinger and are an experienced team as well. Oklahoma State will be looking to play spoiler. The Cowboys have star RB Chuba Hubbard coming back and they do get to host Texas. They will have to travel to Norman to take on OU at the end of November. This should be a good season in the Big 12.
Pac-12: USC over Stanford starts November 6
The North Division is very difficult for me to pick this season. Oregon probably has the best schedule, but they are lost QB Justin Herbert to the NFL and only return 3 starters on offense. Washington also has a new QB as well as a new head coach, and like the Ducks, only return 3 starters. Stanford is a very experienced team, but they have to go on the road to face both Oregon and Washington. I have always been a David Shaw fan and I think he will have this team in a great place for this season. I think the Cardinal’s experienced defense will make a big difference against the newbies of Oregon and Washington. As far as the South Division goes, I think USC is the best team. They struggled a bit last season with QB injury issues, but I think if Kedon Slovis can stay healthy, this team has a great chance of running the table. There is a ton of experience on their roster and their toughest game should be at Utah. The Utes came so close to the CFP last season but lost to Oregon in the Pac 12 Championship game. They lose most of their defensive starters and that is a big concern for me. South Carolina transfer QB Jake Bentley will be taking over the offense and I expect he will do well. I just don’t see them taking down the Trojans.
American: UCF over SMU
This matchup was hard for me to decide. I ended up picking UCF to win because they are a proven team. They had a bit of a “down” season last year in winning only 10 games, but I think they will bounce back. Ten players have recently decided to opt out (two starters) and that could be difficult, but it is just hard to pick against the true 2017 National Champions. SMU is a gut pick for me. I was super impressed with them last season. They need to do a bit better on defense, but I think they will. There are three other contenders in this conference: Memphis, Cincinnati, and Navy. Navy is a bit of a longer shot without Malcolm Perry at QB, but if they can get solid play at that position, they will do fine. This should be a very competitive conference this season and I’m looking forward to it.
Mountain West: Nevada over Boise State
This conference was a bit tough for me to pick this season. In the Mountain Division, I think Boise State has the best chance of coming out on top. They do have to replace much of the offensive and defensive lines and that is a big concern for me. They are lucky enough to not have to face San Diego State this season. I think Wyoming will compete, but I find it very difficult to pick against the Broncos. Over in the West Division I suspect Nevada will be the team to beat. They need to do some improving from last season, but they are experienced and don’t have to play Boise State. San Diego State is always a contender. This year they have a newish head coach in Brady Hoke. I think the Wolf Pack has the edge this season.
C-USA: UAB over MTSU
I really hope I’m right on this one because UAB is one of my favorite teams and we are now an MTSU household! The battle in the East should be between Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee. Both teams need to make improvements on offense, and they should. WKU brings in a grad transfer from Maryland and MTSU’s starter has a year under his belt. I am picking MTSU because they get both WKU and FAU at home and because now I’m a Blue Raider. I the West we have UAB. Bill Clark knows what he is doing and has an experienced team this season. Southern Miss should be their biggest challenge in their division, but I think they will come out on top.
MAC: Ohio over Toledo starts November 4
The MAC is always a hard conference to pick. There tends to be some pretty competitive teams at the top every season. Out of the West, I am picking Toledo. While they didn’t do well last season, they had a great year in recruiting and are experienced on both sides of the ball. They have to improve this season and I think they will. Their QB has some experience from last year and if he can stay healthy, I think they will have a strong season. Central Michigan is probably the biggest threat to the Rockets in the West. The Chippewas only have two games at home this season and have a redshirt freshman at QB. In the East the fight should be against Buffalo and Ohio. The two will play at Ohio this year to determine the East champion. Both teams look to be very strong and experienced. Ohio will have to replace their long time starting QB Nathan Rourke. The frontrunner to do that is his younger brother, Kurtis. Buffalo has a couple of QBs with experience from last season and that could be a big help. My gut is telling me to go with Ohio so that is what I am going to do.
Sun Belt: Appalachian State over Louisiana
Appalachian State is the team to beat this year (like most years). The Mountaineers do have a new head coach this season, but I don’t think that will make too much of a difference because he has been part of the staff since 2016. Their top WR has opted out of this season, but with a veteran QB, I think they will be ok. In the West the battle will be between Louisiana and Arkansas State. The Ragin’ Cajuns are my pick because they host Arkansas State this year. Both of them have to travel to App State this season. To me it is almost a coin flip between ULL and Arkansas State.
I’m not going to do a playoff prediction because I have no idea what is going to happen in the post season logistically.
That said, I’m picking Alabama to win the National Championship (whatever that looks like) because that’s always a safe bet, and in a world full of uncertainty, Nick Saban is a constant and reliable force.