College football predictions for each Power 5 conference, Heisman Trophy and which four teams make the College Football Playoff and who just missed the cut.
Chances are I’m going to regret some of these college football predictions before Halloween. Some of them I feel really good about like saying Clemson and Alabama are really, really good. But I’ll keep these tucked away and there will be an accountability post and a day of reckoning at the end of the year to see what I got right and what I got wrong.
The ACC is home to the reigning national champion Clemson Tigers who are the overwhelming top pick in the preseason AP Top 25 and the Coaches Poll.
Beyond the Tigers, the rest of the conference is shutout in the Top 25 with the exception of Syracuse. That means Clemson should have a cakewalk back to the College Football Playoff. And the Coastal Division is relatively wide-open.
Virginia is the favorite to come out of the Coastal to face Clemson in the ACC Championship Game, but as has been the custom in the past few years, Clemson is far and away the top dog in what may be the weakest conference in college football in 2019.
Virginia Tech, Florida State, Miami and Louisville are hoping to rebound after disappointing to varying degrees last year.
Look for Trevor Lawrence to take home Offensive Player of the Year honors, Bryce Hall to take home DPOY honors, UNC QB Sam Howell to be the top freshman and for Clemson’s Xavier Thomas to be the breakout star of the ACC.
Ultimately, the ACC is all about Clemson and whether they can repeat as national champions.
As is the case most years, the Big Ten all comes down to Michigan and Ohio State.
Michigan is the preseason pick by the media to win the Big Ten as the Buckeyes transition to life without Urban Meyer. The Wolverines have Shea Patterson back under center and talented wide receivers — if they can stay healthy.
Ohio State, meanwhile, is banking on Georgia transfer, Justin Fields, to pick up new head coach, Ryan Day’s offense as quickly and proficiently as Dwayne Haskins did a year ago when he was a Heisman finalist and shattering Big Ten passing records.
The Game is in Ann Arbor this year, so Michigan has that advantage, but Ohio State hasn’t lost to the school up north since 2011.
The West division is wide open with Northwestern, Iowa, Wisconsin and this year’s darling, Nebraska. The expectations are exceedingly high in Year 2 under Scott Frost in Lincoln. It all starts with sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez who is on the shortlist of Heisman candidates. If he can stay healthy and make a big leap in this offense, the Huskers will win the West and be the sacrificial lamb for either Ohio State or Michigan from the East.
My pick? I’m rolling with Ryan Day, Justin Fields, Chase Young and Ohio State.
It’s a two-team conference with Oklahoma looking to stave off Sam Ehlinger and the Texas Longhorns who are riding the wave of momentum after a big Sugar Bowl win over Georgia to end last season.
Will that be enough to end their rivals time at the top of the Big 12?
Not so fast my friend!
Alabama transfer Jalen Hurts steps into Lincoln Riley’s quarterback school where he looks to build on the success of his predecessors, Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield. Hurts doesn’t need to win the Heisman like them to get OU back to the Playoff, but he will be a candidate to be in New York as a finalist.
Don’t be surprised to see these two teams meeting again in the Big 12 title game. But if there is a team that will play spoiler it’s Matt Campbell’s Iowa State Cyclones behind quarterback Brock Purdy who is poised for a sensational sophomore year. But the Clones may be one year away from Big 12 title contention.
My pick? I’m taking Oklahoma over Texas.
It all starts with Alabama who looks to repeat as SEC champions. Tua Tagovailoa is back to lead the Crimson Tide offense that may be even better than last year’s record-breaking unit. They’ll get their toughest tests from LSU, Texas A&M and an Auburn team desperate not to get embarrassed by their in-state rivals.
On the East, Georgia has been the top Dawgn since Kirby Smart came back to Athens and they’ll remain the top dog as long as Jake Fromm stays healthy. Georgia has the best roster in the East and should be able to hold off rival Florida and Missouri to take the division.
Georgia has played Alabama as tough as anyone not named Clemson in the last two years but has zero wins to show for it. That won’t end this year as Tua and the Tide win the SEC again and head off to the playoff again as they have every year.
Whether it’s Pac-12 After Dark or Pac-12 After Breakfast, the conference might be the most entertaining from a fan perspective. The league might not have a playoff team but there are 3-4 teams with a legitimate claim as the conference’s top team.
Washington behind Georgia transfer QB Jacob Eason, Oregon and potential No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft, Justin Herbert and Utah with their defense all have great cases to win the Pac-12.
USC is the league’s most famous team and biggest brand, but it might be a rough year for the Trojans who are unranked for the first time in the preseason poll since 2001. There’s always the chance the roster full of former five and four-star recruits exceeds expectations but with Clay Helton running the show, it’s hard to buy in.
It’s also an interesting year for Chip Kelly at UCLA, Herm Edwards at ASU and Kevin Sumlin at Arizona as they enter their second years on the job.
Ultimately, I’m taking Utah over Oregon.
Few had Kyler Murray as their Heisman pick in the preseason last year. But don’t expect another dark-horse pick this year. If Tua Tagovailoa or Trevor Lawrence don’t win this year, it will be a huge upset.
Tua is the betting favorite and should put up huge numbers again with Jerry Jeudy, Jaylen Waddle and Henry Ruggs at his disposal. The only thing that can slow Tua is if he has nagging injuries like the ones he fought through at the end of last year.
Lawrence will be the starter from Day 1 this year after backing up Kelly Bryant last year and has an impressive trio of receivers just like Tua. Both will put up 80 combined touchdowns this year.
Justin Fields, Adrian Martinez, Jalen Hurts, Sam Ehlinger and Jake Fromm will play into the conversation but are well below the talent level of Tua and Trevor.
Running backs that should be in the Heisman conversation are Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor who looks for a third straight 2,000-yard season, Clemson’s Travis Etienne and Georgia’s D’Andre Swift.
My pick is Tua who holds off Lawrence and Taylor.
College Football Playoff
The four-team field is really a two-team race because Alabama and Clemson are locks to make it again. Barring catastrophic injuries, they are the most talented rosters with the best quarterbacks and the best coaches.
Joining Alabama and Clemson will be the Big 12 champion, which I have as Oklahoma, which could set up a highly interesting game against his former team Alabama to get to the championship game.
And the last team will be the Big Ten champion, which I have as the Ohio State University because I am a big believer in Justin Fields and Ryan Day.
The fifth-best team will be Georgia who gets left out again and the Pac-12 is on the outside looking in, for the third year in a row.
Championship Game: I have Alabama and Clemson meeting in the title game for the fourth time but this time, I have Alabama winning it all to even the series at two titles apiece.