College Football is extremely unpredictable in nature due to the ‘churn’ of talented athletes being routinely bussed in and out of major programmes around the United States. While the Alabama Crimson Tide have been the most dominant team of the past decade, led by the fiery Nick Saban – other teams have emerged as elite programmes in the world of college football. An arms race in facilitiy/ stadium spending and the 6-figure salary Head Coaches have demanded has seen schools like Clemson, Michigan, Ohio State, Florida State, USC and Wisconsin rise once again to prominence as they have periodically throughout their history. In this article I will attempt to predict the wild but wonderful and turbulent upcoming College Football season. Tweet @TheInsideZone with your predictions!
Championship Game: LSU Tigers v Georgia Bulldogs
Perhaps my LSU bias could be slightly clouding my judgement here, but I genuinely believe that they can win the SEC. Obviously Alabama will be favourites to win the West and Auburn could prove to be dangerous as well. However, I believe that LSU has the 2 most dangerous players in the nation on either side of the ball in RB (and Heisman contender) Derrius Guice and DE/OLB Arden Key. Defense should not be an issue as they have the best DC in the country in Dave Aranda and an exciting new OC in Matt Canada. If the Tigers can ensure QB Danny Etling doesn’t turn the ball over and they stay unbeaten until their trip to Tuscaloosa, then it could be an exciting season.
Where the SEC West is perhaps the toughest division in college football, the East lacks quality. A recent resurgence from the Florida Gators could be ended by disciplinary issues that has seen 10 members of their team suspended for opening week against Michigan. The rest of the East contains schools that specialise in other sports with South Carolina and Kentucky being strong in basketball and Vanderbilt focusing on baseball. Missouri has recent history with the SEC championship, but they’re a weak team mainly and Tennessee have been decimated by the NFL draft. So I’ve picked the Georgia Bulldogs who return star RB duo Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Rising QB Jacob Eason could have a big season and guide the Bulldogs to a championship game for the first time in 5 years.
Championship Game: Kansas State Wildcats v Oklahoma State Cowboys
Winners: Kansas State
This conference is much more open and the introduction of a championship game will only complicate matters further. Honestly, I could have any combination of 5 or 6 teams here with big things expected of TCU, Oklahoma, West Virginia and a resurgent Texas. I’ve gone with K State because I like their story, a college that doesn’t have the wealth of its neighborus and has a 77 year old head coach in Bill Snyder. Oklahoma State are a dangerous team with a potential 1st round draft pick QB in Mason Rudolph and the rivalry game with Oklahoma could be a play in game to the championship.
TCU are usually defensively sound and my local team Texas are looking to rebuild themselves with new coach Tom Herman. West Virginia is always a tough place to visit in winter and transfer QB Will Grier could stamp his authority on the team.
Championship Game: Ohio State Buckeyes v Wisconsin Badgers
Winners: Ohio State
Ohio State have a very talented team who want to bounce back from their playoff humiliation against Clemson. They should have too much for Penn State in the East, who might suffer from over reliance on RB Saquon Barkley, QB Trace McSorley might not live up to the hype and the increased national scrutiny. Ohio State are the dominant programme in the Big 10 and there is no reason to doubt Urban Meyer’s team this season. QB JT Barrett has been a 4-year starter, RB J.K Dobbins looks incredibly explosive and the Buckeyes Defense looks set to dominate yet again in 2017 (despite looking a lot of talent in the secondary to the Draft). Michigan are weakened with the loss of stars such as Jake Butt, Jourdan Lewis and Jabrill Peppers to the NFL and coach Jim Harbaugh might have to rely on his coaching skills alone to win games as he fields a very young Wolverines team.
In the West, Wisconsin should easily win the division with QB Alex Hornibrook looking to show NFL scouts what he can do. I would love to see Nebraska resurrect the glory days but it might take a few years for that to happen and Iowa can be a dangerous team. Special mention to Minnesota who have brand new coach PJ Fleck whose infectious personality took lowly Western Michigan to a New Year’s Six Bowl, but will find his new job much more difficult.
Championship Game: Florida State Seminoles v Miami (FL) Hurricanes
Winners: Florida State
I’ll be honest, I don’t like the ACC. I don’t like Clemson, I don’t like Louisville, Florida State, Virginia Tech etc. I don’t know why but the only team I like is Syracuse and they’ve got about as much chance to get to the championship game as the New York Jets have of winning the Super Bowl.
FSU should win the Atlantic as defending national champions Clemson aren’t very good and Louisville are Lamar Jackson and not much else. Miami should be the best team in the Coastal and go some way to rebuilding their reputation, but they won’t be good enough to beat FSU.
Championship game: Washington Huskies v USC Trojans
Probably the easiest championship game to predict as Washington and USC are streets ahead of the rest of the conference. USC, led by star QB Sam Darnold are looking to return to the glory days of the mid 2000’s when them and coach Pete Carroll (now of the Seahawks) dominated college football and the NFL draft. USC may be troubled by city rivals UCLA with their star QB Josh Rosen, but UCLA are less of a balanced team.
Washington’s main rivals will also be their nearest and dearest with Washington State and QB Luke Falk looking to put up big numbers. None of the other teams are worth a mention except maybe Stanford who, in David Shaw, have perhaps one of the best head coaches outside the NFL and are always a threat in Palo Alto. Washington lost a lot of talent to the Draft, notably cornerback duo Kevin King and Sidney Jones plus speedster WR John Ross. The Huskies still have All-American MLB Azeem Victor calling plays and looked stacked on both sides of the ball.
Minor Conference Winners
American: USF Bulls
Conference USA: Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
MAC: Toledo Rockets
Mountain West: Boise State Broncos
Sun Belt: Troy Trojans
College Football Playoff Prediction
1 LSU v 4 USC
2 Ohio State v 3 Florida State
Heisman Trophy Prediction
Derrius Guice, RB, LSU/ JT Barrett, QB, Ohio State