Let’s skip the chit chat. Here’s a quick rundown of projections for the Power Five conference standings at the end of the year and predictions for the College Football Playoff.
For entertainment purposes only...
Championship: Clemson (12-1) over Miami (10-3)
*I’ll include Notre Dame here. I have the Fighting Irish going 9-3.
*If you put two and two together, I projected Clemson to lose its opening game to Georgia. I made that call prior to learning the Bulldogs will likely be facing the Tigers without defensive back Tykee Smith and receiving targets Darnell Washington and Arik Gilbert. I’ll stick with it, however, as I think CU takes a very slight step back this season.
Otherwise, I envision Dabo Swinney’s team rolling through the conference slate. As of now, the Tigers’ toughest ACC game in the regular season looks like a visit to North Carolina State, and I have them as 17-point favorites there.
*I don’t share the general sense of excitement over North Carolina. The Tar Heels took some enormous hits at the offensive skill positions, losing thousand-yard rushers in Michael Carter and Javonte Williams along with thousand-yard receivers Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome. Look for the Tar Heels drop their home date with Miami and at least one more league game.
*We’re probably looking at the end of the road for David Cutcliffe at Duke and Dino Babers at Syracuse.
Championship: Ohio State (13-0) over Wisconsin (11-2)
*Much like the case with Clemson in the ACC, Ohio State is miles ahead of the rest of the Big Ten. This Buckeyes should slice through the conference slate with ease this year.
*In the West, Wisconsin couldn’t ask for a more favorable schedule. Penn State, Michigan and Iowa all play in Madison this year. The Badgers close the year at Minnesota, which is their toughest road game of the season.
This sounds like one of those scenarios where Wisky has a shot at the College Football Playoff going into the conference title game – which no one takes seriously.
*The latest news out of Lincoln doesn’t bode well for Nebraska coach Scott Frost. A .500 record this season wouldn’t either.
*At some point, we should start talking about the wisdom of that massive contract Purdue handed Jeff Brohm.
*Rutgers may not go winless, but even with all those players coming back, it’s tough to find victories on the schedule. The Scarlet Knights may take down Michigan State in Piscataway or get a win over Illinois. For now, I think they get the donut.
Championship: Oklahoma (13-0) over TCU (9-4)
*Why TCU and not Iowa State? Good question.
Frankly, the head-to-head matchup between the two teams sets up well for the Horned Frogs, even though they're playing in Ames in the regular season finale. ISU will be coming off its biggest game of the season versus the Oklahoma Sooners – and a physical one at that. TCU plays Kansas the week before, which should allow Gary Patterson and his staff to get in some early preparation for the Cyclones.
*If Texas wins more than eight games this season, new coach Steve Sarkisian has done a stellar job.
*Would 7-5 mean Matt Wells is safe at Texas Tech?
*The toughest team to figure: West Virginia. The Mountaineers have a tremendous coaching staff, but the roster looks so thin. Losing Tykee Smith to the transfer portal feels especially significant this year.
Championship: Utah (11-2) over Washington (11-2)
*Washington could end up as one of the most surprising teams in the country. I have the Huskies favored in eight of nine Pac-12 games. A trip to Michigan doesn’t look that daunting, either.
*On the other hand, wouldn’t it be very Pac-12 for UW to remove itself from contention for the final four by losing the conference championship game? Give me the Utes there for the sake of the narrative.
*Stanford’s decline under David Shaw is flying under the radar, it seems. To be fair, the Cardinal play all 12 of their games this year versus teams from Power 5 conferences. That’s a tall order.
*UCLA feels like the most likely sleeper candidate out west. I’ll take the Bruins to upset LSU in week one.
Championship: Georgia (13-0) over Alabama (12-1)
*The recent personnel issues have curbed my enthusiasm for the Bulldogs a touch, but you can’t deny how much talent Kirby Smart has assembled in Athens. Time for UGA to get over the hump.
*I’ve said it before, but only playing eight conference games really changes our perceptions of teams. Winning 10 games versus nine greatly affects how we might evaluate Florida, for example.
*Jimbo Fisher has stocked the A&M roster, but the Aggies still seem light on explosiveness. A&M needs to build up its capacity for big plays on offense if it wants to compete for conference titles.
*Feels like ex-OU assistant Shane Beamer has a steep hill to climb to get the Gamecocks back to respectability.
*Seeing as half of the league has turned over head coaches in the last two years, it makes sense that everyone’s job status appears secure this season.
College Football Playoff
Cotton Bowl: No. 1 Georgia over No. 4 Clemson
Orange Bowl: No. 3 Oklahoma over No. 2 Ohio State
Championship: No. 3 Oklahoma over No. 1 Georgia