Updated: Mar 5
The College Football Season is underway, sort of. The ACC and the Big 12 have already kicked off their season with the SEC starting this weekend. The Big 10 and Pac 12 initially canceled their seasons but now are intending to start in October with a shortened season. Needless to say, this season has already been like no other and will continue to be unlike any other. At many points, it looked like there wouldn’t be a season, and the season can still be derailed or even canceled. I had a set of predictions prepared but the circumstances have changed the outlook of these predictions. Any prediction can only be tentative as there has to be a lot taken into account. In the end, here are my College Football
ACC Winner: Clemson
This should come as little surprise. Clemson has come to suffocate the rest of the conference as they are the dominant team of the previous decade. One would fear the Tigers falling off if Trevor Lawrence contracted Covid-19 or the team had a mid-season outbreak (as any program might have thus spiraling the season into discourse) or Trevor Lawrence opts-out of the season (highly unlikely since Lawrence was the one who wanted a season in the first place). The Tigers are aware of the talent they have and the risk of squandering the opportunity to win two National Championships in three years with Trevor Lawrence there.
The rest of the conference is honestly up in the air. Notre Dame joined the conference for the season and might serve as a form of competition to Clemson. North Carolina has emerged from the depths of despair and are now one of the better programs in the ACC. Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Miami can all either be surprisingly good or incredibly bad. When it’s all said and done, Clemson looks to be the favorite and a given to make the College Football Playoff.
Big 12 Winner: Oklahoma
The Big 12, like the ACC, has become a conference that has been dominated by one program. Oklahoma has owned the competition and has already kicked off the season running. One could say that Texas is going to make a comeback with Sam Ehlinger finally getting over the hump and proving that he is a legitimate quarterback. Likewise, there are a few “sleeper” schools in the Big 12, but Oklahoma is the heavy favorite and likely to be the program that makes it out of the Big 12.
SEC Winner: Alabama
This conference is going to be a fight until the final weekend. This year we have the luxury of seeing Alabama vs. Georgia, Auburn vs. Kentucky, and many more inter-division games that are going to be exciting and create a tough race to the top. The SEC Championship game will likely determine which team in the SEC is going to play in the College Football Playoff and force a more than qualified team to just miss the playoff.
I see Alabama as having the most complete program in the SEC. Auburn has a great quarterback in Bo Nix, but the rest of the roster leaves us with question marks. Georgia looks great again, especially on defense, but every year they always lose a game they can’t afford to. LSU lost a surplus of talent to the NFL and it is going to be hard to overcome all the losses. Florida is knocking on the door and is ready to become a powerhouse, but they just aren’t there yet. I personally think that Nick Saban choosing Mac Jones to start instead of the true Freshman Bryce Young is a mistake, as they will need to have an explosive offense when it comes to playing teams like Ohio State or Clemson. At the end of the day, I still see Alabama as the best team in the conference and a team that will win the SEC and represent the conference in the playoff.
Big 10 Winner: Ohio State
I was convinced that the Big 10 wasn’t going to risk playing amid the pandemic. There is little to gain and there is more than enough risk in playing. The pressure forced them to play and we will have a season, a shortened season but nonetheless, a season. Many players have opted-out of the season including one of the best defensive players in College Football in linebacker Micah Parsons from Penn State. The short season only favors the top programs and thus the best programs will only look better in this season.
There is a massive dropoff from Ohio State to their closest competition. Michigan is good and so is Penn State, Iowa, and Wisconsin. Ohio State is on a different level. Justin Fields was one of the best players in College Football last season and is a Heisman favorite this season, the quarterback is expected to lead one of the best offenses in the game. On defense, the program lost two of the top three picks in the NFL Draft in Chase Young and Jeffery Okudoh, yet they return more than enough talent and potential top-five picks in cornerback Shaun Wade. Ohio State looks almost guaranteed to return to the playoff and this time with a good chance at winning the National Championship.
Pac 12 Winner: Oregon
Like the Big 10, I thought the Pac 12 was going to cancel their season and not return. The Pac 12 players were demanding compensation for the return to playing, especially since some of these players can be putting their life at risk by playing (then again, football is a life-threatening game so you can be your own judge). We should also keep in mind that the Pac 12 will be the first conference to cancel their season if there is an outbreak.
The Pac 12 is also playing an abbreviated season and every year I have the same problem with the conference every year, I don’t know who will be good since they are the invisible conference of College Football (the East coast fans rarely see them play and when they are seen, they lose). I like Utah, Washington, and Arizona State but I can’t see any of these schools emerging as a playoff contender.
The only playoff contender I see from this conference is Oregon. Oregon is one of the more complete programs, yet they will be without the best left tackle in College Football in Penei Sewell. Oregon will likely win the conference with a great running game and a great defense but it will be hard to make the argument that Oregon can make the playoff without Sewell and without games against Ohio State to boost their resume. Oregon will have to not only win every game in the shortened season, they will likely have to dominate in order to reach the playoff.
I see the four programs making the playoff as Clemson, Ohio State, Alabama, and Oklahoma, with Oregon and Florida just missing the playoff. Clemson and Ohio State would likely advance to play the National Championship and Clemson would emerge as the National Champion (Clemson has never lost to Ohio State, ever).
I see Justin Fields winning the Heisman Trophy in a vote that will likely stir up much debate. Justin Field will have less game to make a case for the trophy but assuming he dominates every defense he faces and is a human highlight reel, he will win the vote. The season will be hard to predict and hard to follow, yet Saturday will once again be more exciting with football back in our lives.