By Joel Silverberg / @JoelSilverberg
College football is here.
Let that sink in.
It may only be two games, but the long wait is over. Florida meets Miami in Orlando tonight. Three and a half hours later Hawaii hosts Arizona. In five days four more ranked teams will play on Thursday. It’s here. Today football games that matter will be played.
There have been lots of questions during fall camps about quarterback battles, injury reports and transfer waivers, but now it’s time to answer some questions about what’s going to happen on the field and which school will be hoisting the College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy at the end of the season.
We made it everybody. Let the games begin.
Who will win the ACC?
Clemson. Next question.
Who will win the Big Ten?
Urban Meyer is gone, but Ryan Day coached three games for the Buckeyes last year while Meyer was serving a suspension. Justin Fields comes in to replace Dwayne Haskins, running back J.K. Dobbins is back and Ohio State returns most of its starters on defense.
Michigan is the early favorite to (finally) win the East division. Shea Patterson is back at quarterback, but half the defense is gone. The formula seems simple; Meyer is gone so Michigan steps in and wins the conference, right? It can’t be that easy. Ohio State gets Penn State, Michigan State and Wisconsin all at home. The Wolverines visit Wisconsin, Penn State and host Notre Dame the week after playing the Nittany Lions. Harbaugh has stumbled once too often and needs to prove he can finally get this team to Indianapolis.
Prediction: Ohio State
Who will win the Big 12?
Oklahoma’s non conference schedule probably seemed nicer at the time, but Houston loses Ed Oliver and UCLA just hasn’t gotten going with Chip Kelly yet. West Virginia, Kansas, Kansas State and Texas Tech all have new head coaches. It’s really a two-horse race between the Sooners and Texas.
The Longhorns get the early test against LSU and have to visit Iowa State later on in the season. Oklahoma gets Iowa State at home and doesn’t appear to have many caution games on the schedule besides the Red River Rivalry and it’s season-ending Bedlam game against Oklahoma State. Texas loses most of its defense and Oklahoma replaces Kyler Murray with Alabama transfer Jalen Hurts. Oklahoma has the better team and more room for error.
Who will win the Pac-12?
There’s no clear playoff contender, but there’s enough ranked teams in this conference that if someone runs the table, it would have the resume to make the last four. The problem is the Pac-12 has offered up multi-loss champions in each of the past two seasons and has the fewest playoff bids of the Power 5 conferences.
Oregon is getting a lot of buzz for having quarterback Justin Herbert and nearly its entire offense back. Utah lost quarterback Tyler Huntley midway through last season and still almost won the league. Washington is the defending champ, but lost most of its defense.
Oregon opens the season against an Auburn team that’ll be solid on the line of scrimmage. Utah and Washington have more manageable schedules and the Utes visit the Huskies on November 2. Washington also gets Oregon at home. The Ducks and the Utes have the hype, but Washington has the most proven coach.
Who will win the SEC?
The bigger question really is will both Alabama and Georgia make the playoff again? One will have to beat the other in Atlanta, meaning both would likely have to be undefeated heading into that game. Asking two SEC teams to go a combined 24-0 is a tall task, but it’s tough to pick a week where that happens.
Georgia has probably outplayed Alabama for 100 out of the last 120 minutes of football the two schools have been on the field together. Yet, Alabama has a 2-0 record against the Bulldogs in those two meetings. Georgia is playing at an elite level, recruiting at an elite level and returns enough talent to stay in the playoff conversation. The Bulldogs have been too good to not win against Alabama at some point in the near future. Why not now?
Does Notre Dame or a Group of 5 team entertain the playoff conversation?
No. The Fighting Irish return a lot of talent, and replacing Brandon Wimbush with Ian Book was the right move a season ago, but trips to Ann Arbor, Georgia and Stanford might be too much to navigate a 12-0 result for the second straight year.
Speaking of WImbush, he takes over as the starting quarterback at self-proclaimed national champion UCF. The Knights will be good again, but the biggest games on UCF’s schedule are Stanford and Pittsburgh. Those aren’t good enough to warrant a playoff conversation. Boise State lost quarterback Brett Rypien and the opener against a mediocre Florida State team won’t carry enough weight for the Broncos even if they run the table.
Who makes the College Football Playoff?
No team has lost its conference championship game and made the playoff. That likely changes if Alabama and Georgia are both undefeated heading into the SEC title bout, but last year Georgia took its second loss in Atlanta and it cost them. The committee showed there’s still something to be said for resumes when it comes to conference titles.
Oklahoma seems to have earned enough respect to allow for a loss and still potentially get in, as it did last year. Clemson should have no trouble running the table in the ACC and making the playoff for the fifth straight year. Finally if Ohio State can avoid the midseason bed pooping against some B-class conference opponent it likely finds itself playing for a title again.
Prediction: 1) Clemson 2) Georgia 3) Oklahoma 4) Ohio State
National Championship: Clemson over Oklahoma