This season of college football will hopefully help bring some sense of normalcy back into our lives. I could go into last season and all that happened in the offseason, but I think we are all just ready to get into this season.
SEC: Alabama over Georgia
For my in-depth SEC team by team preview, click here!
Big 10: Ohio State over Wisconsin
As much as I would love to pick some new and exciting teams in the Big 10, the schedules favor these two teams. Ohio State draws Nebraska and Purdue from the West and their biggest road test should be at Indiana. Ohio State does have a pretty young team and an untested QB, but they are still Ohio State. The West looks to be a 3 team race: Wisconsin, Iowa, and Northwestern. None of these three have to play Ohio State, but Wisconsin does draw Michigan and Penn State but will get these two games and their games against Iowa and Northwestern at home. Wisconsin QB Graham Mertz should have a comeback year and has the potential to take this team to the playoff. That said, I have more confidence in Ohio State than I do in Wisconsin.
Big 12: Oklahoma over Iowa State
Iowa State was a bit of a surprise team last season. Despite starting their season with a loss to Louisiana, the Cyclones ended up with the best record in the Big 12. Unfortunately for Iowa State, they were unable to defeat Oklahoma in the title game. These two should be the two best teams in the league again this year. Oklahoma brings back QB Spencer Rattler and should once again have a dominant offense. Their defense might be good this year as well, making them a very scary team. Iowa State also returns a strong QB in Brock Purdy. Oklahoma will get to host ISU during the regular season this year, and I think that they have the better team. Texas has a new head coach this year in Steve Sarkisian. The Longhorns underperformed under Tom Herman (at least in the eyes of Texas fans and boosters). Sometimes a new HC can bring out the best in a team, but I don’t think it will be enough to make it through the Big 12 unscathed.
ACC: Clemson over Miami
Another familiar face. Clemson has been on the top of the college football world for a while now. They lose QB Trevor Lawrence and RB Travis Etienne to the NFL but I have no doubt they will be just fine without them. According to my Phil Steele book, the Tigers will only face one conference opponent who had a winning record last season. They do get a tough test to start the season when they play Georgia, but it should be smooth sailing from there. The Coastal division should be more competitive. Both North Carolina and Miami seem to be in a place to win. Both return strong QBs, but UNC is losing a lot of last year’s top offensive skill players. These two will face off in Chapel Hill this season, but I think Miami will have the better chance to win the division. I don’t think either has a chance to beat Clemson.
Pac 12: USC over Oregon
The Pac 12 is a bit hard to preview because they only played a few games last season, but let’s take a crack at it anyway. Washington and Oregon should be the competitors in the North division. Oregon has the more established coach and I just have a feeling. In the South division USC is the favorite but Utah and Arizona State should contend. USC has an established QB and that is why I am giving them the advantage to win their division and their conference. But you never know what is going to happen when the stadium lights come on in the Pac 12.
American: Cincinnati over UCF
The American is probably Cincinnati’s to lose this season. The Bearcats finished last season ranked in the top 10 after a close loss to Georgia in their bowl game. UCF had a hard time last season with opt outs and injuries. This year they bring in a new head coach (Gus Malzahn from Auburn). He has brought some key transfers and has 17 returning starters. Houston, SMU, Tulsa, and Memphis are also in the hunt, but the Knights have the most favorable schedule of those 5 teams. Cincinnati gets to host the matchup against UCF, and I think that will put them in the top spot for the conference.
Mountain West: Boise State over San Diego State
Boise State is a perennial pick to win the Mountain division and the conference as a whole. This year they bring back a lot of starters including their QB. The biggest hurdle for the Broncos will probably be having a brand new coaching staff. I don’t think it will be too much of an issue for them. They get both Air Force and Wyoming at home, with their biggest road test coming the last week of the regular season against San Diego State. In the West division there are three strong competitors for the top spot: Nevada, San Diego State, and San Jose State. All three teams have a decent chance to make it to the conference champ game, but I am going to go with the Aztecs. They get Nevada and Boise State at home and have to travel to San Jose State. SDSU is one of my favorite teams, and I maybe have a couple of issues with both Reno and San Jose State.
Sun Belt: Louisiana over Coastal Carolina
The Sun Belt was truly the “Fun Belt” last season. The competitors in the East division are Appalachian State and Coastal Carolina. Both are returning a lot of players this year. App State will have to break in a new QB, and even though they get to host the matchup with Coastal, I like the Chants to win the division. The West division is Louisiana’s to lose. They return a lot of starters and get to host Appalachian State. The Ragin Cajuns have been a fun team to watch in recent years and I think they will continue that trend this season.
Conference USA: UAB over Marshall
UAB has been one of the best stories in college football over the last few years. Head coach Bill Clark always has his team ready to go, and I doubt things will be much different this season. In the East division Marshall is the frontrunner. The Thundering Herd probably have the most established QB in the conference and that should really help them. I think UAB has the better team and they will win the conference.
MAC: Ohio over Western Michigan
The West division of the MAC looks to have three real deal contenders. Western Michigan, Toledo, and Ball State all have a chance to reach the conference championship game. Western Michigan has the most favorable schedule, getting to host both Ball State and Kent State this year. In the East, Ohio and Kent State are the favorites. Ohio will host Kent State and Toledo this season, giving them the edge in the division. I am picking Ohio to win the conference because they are coached by Frank Solich.
Looking all the way ahead to the end of the season is futile. Let’s do it anyway.
Semifinal (Cotton): 1Alabama over 4Oklahoma
Semifinal (Orange): 3Ohio State over 2Clemson
National Championship (Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis): Alabama over Ohio State
Rest of the New Year’s Six teams: