With kickoff just a few days away from the first full weekend of college football, I’m going to make my predictions on the conference winners and my four teams to reach the College Football Playoff and eventual National Champ. I will also make a prediction for the SoCon.
UCF starts the season as the only team in the American to be ranked in the Top 25. The Golden Knights have been on top of the conference for the last two years and I don’t see that changing in 2019. While I think that teams like USF and Temple could give them a run in the East Division, I believe the Knights will ultimately make it to the American Conference Championship. In the West, while I have always loved Navy, they have not fared well since joining the conference. Houston or Memphis seem like the likely favorites to come out of this division. I really don’t think it will matter as the Golden Knights will, for the third year in a row, don the American Conference crown.
UCF – 51 Memphis – 45
This one is a no brainer. Four time defending champion Clemson will roll through the ACC again this year. The conference is getting better, but the level of talent that separates the Tigers and everyone else is clear. Florida State is still rebuilding under second year coach Willie Taggart while NC State and Syracuse just can’t seem to get over the hump in the Atlantic division. In the Coastal, it’s really just a toss up. Who will rise up out of the division this year? There have been six different schools in the last six years to win the division. Since 2009, its been either Clemson or FSU in the Atlantic. I’m big on either of the two Virginia schools, Virginia or Virginia Tech, to win the Coastal this year. But again, it won’t matter as Clemson will crush whoever they face.
Clemson – 49 Virginia Tech – 14
This conference will be fun this year. Tom Herman has Texas in prime position coming into the year to win a conference title. It would be their first since 2009. Junior QB Sam Ehlinger is a solid player and has the talent and the weapons to lead Texas to the championship game again this year. Of course, #4 Oklahoma returns as the favorite as well they should, seeing that they are the four time defending conference champions. These are the two best teams in this conference and I fully expect to see Texas and Oklahoma meet up for a second time this season (the first meeting being the Red River Rivalry). However, I think this year has a different ending.
Texas – 35 Oklahoma – 31
Ohio State comes into the season as the highest ranked team out of seven ranked teams in the Big Ten. Not far behind them is #7 Michigan who will look to wrap up some unfinished business with the Buckeyes come November. A conference that is riddled with talent, the Big Ten regular season is always a gauntlet. Will this be the year Michigan beats OSU and gets to the Championship? Or will it be the same old story for the “Fighting Harbaughs”? I seriously doubt it as I seriously believe Ohio State wins the East again this year. The West is also a touch division, with three ranked teams that can all take the division title. I know Scott Frost had a tough first year in Lincoln as the head coach of Nebraska, but I believe he is building a solid culture and has talent to make a run with the ‘Huskers this year. I’m going out on a limb with Nebraska.
Ohio State – 30 Nebraska – 27
I think the most underrated story in college football last year was UAB winning the C-USA Championship in only their second year back after having previously cut football at the university. What would be even sweeter, would be backing that championship up again this year. I like the Blazers.
UAB – 45 FAU – 38
I love watching teams from the MAC play. The talent pool is small, but the heart and drive is very large. Last year’s championship game was a thriller. A one point victory for NIU over underdog Buffalo. Probably the most entertaining championship game other than Georgia/Alabama. NIU should return as West Division champs. Buffalo has a lot of returning talent and could definitely make a push again this year. I like the rematch in the title game, but the Bulls get their revenge.
Buffalo – 31 NIU – 28
The last two Mountain West Championship Games have featured contests between Fresno State and Boise State, with them splitting the two games. Utah State in the Mountain Division is a good looking team, who nearly took down Sparty and whose only conference loss was to Boise a season ago. The Aggies are in a good spot to play spoiler in the Mountain Division. Do they have enough to get past Boise? Very likely, but I’m sticking with the Broncos. I would say that Fresno State is a lock again to win the West Division, but after seeing Hawaii beat Arizona last weekend, I’m not so certain anymore. I think the division ends up coming down to one of these two teams.
Boise State – 45 Fresno State – 35
Oregon and Washington are the two favorites in the North this year. Washington, the defending champion, no longer has their star QB Jake Browning. However, they do have Georgia transfer Jacob Eason. The Ducks have SR Justin Herbert returning, a Heisman contender, at quarterback. The game between these two teams in October will decide who makes it to the Championship Game, and possibly even the College Football Playoff. The South Division really only has one team that I feel good about making it to the conference finale, and that would be Utah. The Utes lost a hard fought game last year to Washington in the Pac-12 Championship. I think they get back again this year, but it will be the same result as last year, a loss for the Utes.
Oregon – 56 Utah – 31
Before last Saturday, I would have picked the Gators as my favorite to win the SEC East this year. After Saturday’s performance against Miami, I no longer feel that way. Georgia is still the leader in the division and the only teams that might give them problems in the East are Missouri and Kentucky. The SEC West is even more cut and dry. Its ‘Bama and then everyone else. LSU still can’t throw the ball to save their life and I think Texas A&M is still another year away. We will see how Auburn fares this year. They are probably the most likely team in the West to knock off the Tide this year. But I’m going to go ahead and call it now – Bama vs. Georgia in a rematch.
Alabama – 35 Georgia – 33
The Sun Belt, also known as the “Fun Belt”, hosted their first ever conference championship game last year with App State taking down the Rajun’ Cajuns’ of Louisiana. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that App State has the best team in the conference. This is a team that could very well beat both UNC and South Carolina this year. App State is my dark horse pick to be the highest ranked Group of 5 team this year. All that to say, App State will win the Sun Belt title again this year.
App State – 40 Louisiana – 17
Notre Dame doesn’t play in a conference, although they play several games against ACC opponents and compete in the ACC in every other sport, but I felt the need to talk about the Fighting Irish’s 2019 season. Coming into the year ranked #9, the Irish were a Playoff contender last season, and could very well get back this year. Notre Dame plays a very tough schedule on the road this year with three games against pre-season Top 25 ranked teams – Georgia, Michigan & Stanford. Other than that, the schedule is pretty easy. USC and Virginia Tech would be the next toughest games for the Irish and both of those games are at home in South Bend. If Notre Dame can go 12-0 again this year, then they get into the playoff, but I don’t see that happening. I’ll give Notre Dame a solid 10-2 regular season.
Last year, the SoCon had three teams take a share of the conference title – Wofford, ETSU and Furman. The first two made it to postseason play, while Furman was left sitting at home. The SoCon race looks to be a good one in 2019. I believe Wofford and Furman will be big players in the league again this season. Furman gets Mercer at home, which is a plus, but have tough road tests at Chattanooga and Wofford. I suspect that Chattanooga will be better than they were a year ago after finishing T-5 in the final conference standings. Maybe I’m a little biased, but I’m going to pick the Paladins to take at least a two-way share of the conference title and make a FCS Playoff run.
College Football Playoff
Now to unveil my top four teams that make it to the College Football Playoff this year.
- Ohio State
First two out:
And the two teams I think will make it to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game in New Orleans are:
Clemson vs. Alabama (Again)
I’ll take the Tigers over the Tide in yet another National Championship rematch. This year though, I think Alabama keeps it closer than 28 points.
Clemson – 38 Alabama – 31