To wrap up my 2018 preseason football previews I'm going to do college football today. And yes, I realize that 4 games were played on Saturday, and there were a couple on Sunday. But, honestly, college football truly starts on Labor Day Weekend. It has for as long as I can remember, and the fact that 8-10 teams played this past weekend doesn't change that for me. As I have done in the past, I will focus on the Power 5 conference teams, pick a winner from each, pick a few "sleeper" teams, pick the playoff and pick the title game opponents and winner. I will also give everyone my preseason Heisman pick.
Okay, lets go.
I'm going to start with the Pac 12. The Pac 12 is actually kind of solid. USC is starting a freshman QB, but they always have a solid run game, good receivers and an above average defense. Oregon had a rough year last year, but I feel like they will bounce back with Justin Hebert at QB and a new head coach. Washington State will light up the scoreboards, but play no defense. Utah is always a tough team that no one wants to play, especially in Utah. UCLA hired Chip Kelly, and even though he didn't have success in the NFL, the dude can coach college football. Colorado is starting to have a bit of a resurgence, and that is nice. Arizona has a real legit Heisman candidate at QB in Khalil Tate, but they are horrendous on defense, possibly worse than WSU. Arizona State hired Herm Edwards, which is still puzzling to me, but they have a solid incumbent QB. And Cal and Oregon State are the conference whipping boys. The Pac 12 comes down really to Stanford and Washington. Washington has threats everywhere. Jake Browning is back, and he has a ton of threats on the outside to help him out. Chris Petersen is also a great college football coach, and this team was in the playoff last year. They are good. Stanford has Bryce Love, who is one of the best running backs I've seen in a long time. David Shaw is a top notch coach and his team's are always very, very good. Once again, I don't know why I continue to let them do this to me, I'm going to go with Stanford. Their defense is better than Washington, I like David Shaw more, and Bryce Love is, far and away, the best player in the conference.
Lets go to the Big 12 now. This conference lost a ton of talent at QB. Baker Mayfield and the kid from Oklahoma State are gone. Kenny Hill at TCU is gone. That is three top tier QB's from last season. Oklahoma has a replacement who is a great athlete. He was a first round pick in the MLB draft this year. Oklahoma also has an explosive offense, and they didn't seem to miss Bob Stoops at all. Lincoln Riley is perfectly capable of running this team. But, Oklahoma is still Oklahoma, which means they don't play defense, and they always blow an easy game late in the year. Oklahoma State lost their QB, their best receiver and they play no defense, in fact, this whole conference doesn't play defense. They will step back. TCU has a replacement for Hill, and while he isn't a big name like Oklahoma's new QB, he will be by the middle of the year. They also may be the only team that actually tries to play defense. Iowa State is solid, they are tough to play, especially in Ames, and they will somehow win a few games they have no business winning. Texas is about to become real good again. Tom Hermann has now been through an entire season with the team, he has "his guys" in place, and they will be explosive. He will bring the level of scoring to the Longhorns that he did in Houston. Watch out for this team. Kansas State will play solid, but boring offense. They will look okay on defense, until some team like Oklahoma or Texas lights them up. They are an 8 win team at best. Texas Tech is great on offense, but hat is because they throw the ball a million times per game. They will start hot and then backtrack, like they always do. I wouldn't be shocked if they fire Kliff Kingsbury by the end of the season. Screw Baylor. They are loathsome. Kansas is a dumpster fire, and they are a basketball school anyway. I feel like the winner of the Texas-Oklahoma game will win the conference, and I think Oklahoma will win the game. They are, for the moment, the better team.
The ACC is finally not the joke it was a few years back. Clemson has helped with that by winning a title and playing in another. And, Clemson may be the best team in the country this year. They have a great offense returning. And when a true freshman pushes the incumbent starter at QB, I love that in the college game. That will just make Kelly Bryant play that much harder. Where Clemson really dominates is defense, and especially on the D line. They will stop everyone that comes their way. I don't know how teams will run on them, and if they try to pass on them, the QB better get rid of the ball quick. Clemson is ferocious, and they are awesome. Florida State had a bad year last year, but remember, their QB went out in week one. Deondre Francois is back, and I know that Jimbo Fisher left, but Willie Taggart is more than capable, and this team is loaded everywhere on the roster. They are bound to be a problem again. While they are not on Clemson's level yet, I can easily see them being the second best team in the conference. Virginia Tech is back to being a problem for everyone. I knw their QB got in some offseason trouble, but if he is cleared to play, they will be good. They have a very good defense too. They also excel on special teams. Virginia Tech is a solid team. Miami is back as well. They are like Texas, but just a year ahead. They have a solid offense, but where they excel is defense, and more specifically, in the secondary. They have ball hawkers and hitters everywhere on the field. Mark Richt has turned that team around. Miami is legit once again. NC State may not be great, but they are a tough out for every team they play. They play rough, want to slow down the game and try and win low scoring games. They will be a headache. UNC is going to get in some kind of trouble, but until then, they will score quite a bit, and they should be a bowl team. Louisville has to replace Lamar Jackson, and that will be tough. Also, Bobby Petrino is a scumbag. The Cardinals will definitely take a step back, but they should still be a 7 or 8 win team. Pittsburgh is destined to be a .500 team. They are also awful on defense, which is surprising considering their head coach's background. Boston College isn't great, but they have a real good defense, they have a great running back, and they will win more games than they should this year. I wouldn't be shocked if they somehow win 8 or 9 games with scores in the range of 17-10 or 13-6. Syracuse shocked Clemson last year, but that was a blip. They are still trying to become relevant again. Duke is not very good anymore. They can fill it up, but they get beaten easily by better competition with a solid defense. Virginia and Wake Forest are very mediocre. And Georgia Tech will triple option the hell out of you, and I like their QB, but they are no better than a 7 win team, especially in the ACC. I'm taking Clemson for obvious reasons. But, don't be surprised in FSU and Miami are there in the end. The ACC is so much better now.
Next we have the SEC. I used to think the SEC was wildly overrated, and while I do not think it is the best conference in football, it is loaded. Alabama is Alabama. They will be number one a lot of the season. I know they lost a ton of talent to the NFL, but they always do and they always reload. They also still have Jalen Hurts and Tua Tiagoviola at QB. This team is unfairly stacked. They will be in the conversation all year long. They are the dominant team of the 21st century. Auburn seems to be back. Stidham seems to be a solid read option QB. They have great running backs. Their O line is stout. They have a great, swarming defense. Gus Malzahn has done a solid job getting this team back to being top 10 every year. Georgia lost 2 great running backs, and they won't skip a beat. Jacob Fromm is back, they have stud running backs waiting for their turn, they have a great tight end and solid receivers. They also hang their hats on defense, which they dominate. They are the new team that will challenge Alabama every year. Texas A&M just hired Jimbo Fisher, just got in trouble and they will still be good. It may take a year, that defense needs to be retooled, but the Aggies will be heard from sooner rather than later. LSU has to replace Derius Guice, and a solid defense. I think they will accomplish that task, but it may be tougher than usual. But, if you have read any preseason stuff, apparently they finally have a solid QB. This new kid seems legit. If he is, that would be big time for this team. That is the thing they have lacked for a long, long time. Florida now has a legit coach in Dan Mullen, and much like Fisher at A&M, he will get this team back. It will take a little longer, but Mullen can coach and recruit, and he has a fertile base in Florida. The Gators will be a force in maybe 2 years. He will right the ship on offense for sure too. South Carolina has a very good defense, a solid offense and, kind of a shock to me, Will Muschamp can coach. They are the stingy team no one wants to play in the SEC. Tennessee is in a weird limbo right now. They had an awful coaching search, players have sprinted out of the program and they just aren't very good right now. They have a former Alabama coach as their head coach now, but I do not believe in the Volunteers at all right now. Mississippi State had to replace Mullen, but they got a good hire in Penn State's former offensive coordinator. He also has a QB in place in Nick Fitzgerald, and that dude can play. MSU is a better team, but they have a rough schedule, and that will make them look not as good at they are. But, MSU is good. Ole Miss is about to go through some shit due to their former coaching staff. Arkansas fired Bret Bielema, and they aren't very good anyway. Vanderbilt plays defense, but their offense is horrible. Kentucky is a 6 win team at best. And, saving them last for my brothers, Missouri has a great QB in Drew Lock, but nothing else. Lock, and their schedule will get them bowl eligible, but they are not very good on defense, and they will give up a ton of points. But, they will also score a ton. They belong in the Big 12. I'm going to go with Alabama just because they are Alabama. But, I really like Georgia, and if Auburn can get by a brutal, brutal schedule, they could be there in the end too. But, I'm still going with Alabama.
The final Power 5 conference is the conference I watch the most, the Big Ten. The Big Ten is loaded. I personally think the Big 10 is the best conference in college football. I'm sure my bias comes into play here, but also, 7 teams are in the preseason top 25. That is half the conference. To take it a step further, 5 of those teams are in the top 15. The Big 10 is good, they just cannot get out of their own way. The University of Ohio State is going through some horrible stuff, by their own doing. But, all those scumbags of course got away with it because this team is good. They have a better QB than JT Barrett in waiting. They have a great, young running back. They have an awesome O line. Their defense is stout as well. This is a defense they can lean on when they struggle on offense. I hate hate hate this team, and I am disgusted by how they treated the whole Courtney Smith story. But, they will continue to win football games. Penn State is another school with a horrific past, but they are good at football now. This team should have gotten the death penalty for what they did, but they only had to "suffer" through 2 years where they couldn't go to a bowl game. Now, even with Saqoun Barkley off to the pros, this team has a very good QB, a good running back ready to play and very good, and fast receivers. They also have a defense that can get stops when needed. James Franklin is also a scumbag and a douche, but he has some talent around him. He will have to replace his offensive coordinator, which will be tough, but they have good players that can mask any problems. Wisconsin is the most boring team in the Big 10, and that is exactly how they want it. They play excellent defense. They can stop anyone. They have a game managing QB. They have some guys that can make catches. And they have the best O line in college football, and Johnathan Taylor. He is one of the best running backs in college football, and he will only get better. Wisconsin should easily walk with their half of the Big 10. My team, Michigan, is a wild card this year. They have a great defense. I am back to the point where I can count on this defense. They will get stops. Devin Bush is a top notch linebacker. Rashan Gary is a first round talent. Chase Winovich is a professional football player. David Long and Lavert Hill is one of the better cornerback duos that Michigan has had in a long time. The defense is great. The offense, that is the question. They do seem to have a QB in Shea Patterson now, and he could be the difference. That was what plagued this team last year was horrendous QB play. Hopefully Patterson can shore that up. Losing Tarik Black is a blow, but this will give others a chance to step up. I also really like how they use their tight ends, and I am a fan of Donovan Peoples-Jones. The O line should, I am being optimistic here, be better. They finally have a core group. And the running game has 2 very stable guys in Karan Higdon and Chris Evans. I have high hopes for my team, but they have a very, very tough schedule. Week one will show a lot, but they have a ton of tough matchups all year. I am eager to see Patterson play, and I love the defense. Now is the time for Harbaugh to make something happen with this squad. Michigan State, who I should have put with the University of Ohio State and Penn State, because of what happened this past winter, does have a good team. They play dirty, they play rough and they win games. They are scummy and filled with cheap shot artists, but when they get away with it, they are good. They also have a good running back, a good QB and good guys on the outside. Time will tell, in terms of possible sanctions, but for this season, MSU has a very, very good team. After that, it gets a little murky. Northwestern has a very good QB and very good skill players. They are also the tough team that no one wants to play in the Big 10. They will be tough and they will play tough. Their success is all on the shoulders of the QB. Nebraska hired Scott Frost, and while I love that for them, ease up on the preseason praise. It is going to take some time. Frost will need time to recruit his guys, but when he does, Nebraska could be a perennial top 25 team again. Iowa is like Wisconsin light. They want to run the ball, use their defense and bleed the game away. Kinnick stadium is also their best advantage. They will win 8 games, they do every year, but will they be the Iowa team that wins double digits, or will they struggle to get to 8? You never know with this team. Minnesota is in the second year of PJ Fleck. They will be better, but they are still on the bottom half of the conference. They will be in bowl game this year. Purdue is on its way back up. They had a very solid season last year, and they will build on that. They need to get better on defense, but they have a good offense, and they will be a thorn for awhile. Indiana got better at defense last year, but that took a toll on its offense, and that is where their bread is buttered. They are in a limbo of 6-6 or 4-8 or 5-7. Maryland is a horrendous program with some very disturbing issues they need to resolve very soon. DJ Durkin seems like a real awful person, and I am shocked that he hasn't been fired yet. And Illinois and Rutgers are there to be beaten. They should be better, but they just are not. Not yet anyway. The Big 10 is going to be brutal, especially in the East. The East has the University of Ohio State, Michigan State, Penn State and Michigan. I mean, come on. If nothing more than the 3 game suspension happens, I feel like the University of Ohio State will win it, and then have to forfeit it after an investigation. If something more comes out, Penn State, MSU, Michigan and Wisconsin all have a shot. I'm going to go with Wisconsin because I think Urban Meyer will get into more trouble, or he will just quit.
As far as "sleeper" teams, I like Boise State, because they are due and Troy. Troy beat LSU in LSU last year. They are a really, really good team. As far as the Heisman goes, if he stays healthy, I'm going with Bryce Love. He is amazing. But, don't sleep on the new guy at QB for Oklahoma, Johnathan Taylor or some defensive player from Clemson. I would not be shocked if a defensive player gets a ton of Heisman love this year.
As far as the playoffs goes, in backwards order from 4-1, I have Stanford at 4, Clemson at 3, Wisconsin at 2 and Alabama at 1. In the 1-4 matchup, I have Alabama beating up on Stanford. In the 2-3 matchup, I'm going with Wisconsin to win a very low scoring, very defensive minded game. So, my title game would pit number 2 Wisconsin versus number 1 Alabama. I know it is boring and dull and seemingly going through the motions, but I have Alabama repeating. Alabama is a much better version of what Wisconsin, and pretty much every other college football team for that point, wants to be. They have the best coach, the best players and they are more talented than everyone they play. I don't like it either, but I have Alabama going back to back.
There it is, my full NCAA football preview. That wraps up all my preseason football coverage. I will reassess everything midway through the year, but this is how I see it playing out now. I'm so excited for football this weekend. This is like my birthday.
Ty is the Pop Culture editor for SeedSing and the other host of the X Millennial Man Podcast. He has already penciled Alabama in as the champions of next year. Maybe Michigan can prove him wrong. Come on Wolverines, win it all for Ty.
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