You hear that? The pop of the helmets clinging against each other in Tallahassee as the Oklahoma drill is ran. You smell that? Rubber Pellets on a blazing hot turf in Lubbock. That’s right. College football is back baby! No more sitting around on Saturday’s wishing for football to come, the time is here, the time is now. This is your one stop shop to anything and everything concerning the crazy world that is college football. In this article, we will be breaking down all power 5 conferences in its entirety along with picking a conference champion for each deliberation. I will also pick 5 teams that will turn some heads this year and be “surprise teams,” along with 5 teams that will be major disappointments in 2018. The preview will then be capped off by my preseason CFP prediction along with my preseason National Championship pick. Let’s start down south, with one of the most historically dominant conferences in the country and a conference that cranks out championships year in and year out.
Welcome to the Southeastern Conference, the most dominant conference in college football. Although I do not believe that the SEC is the strongest conference in 2018 collectively, they do have the best teams up front with the most potential to win a national title. SEC football is of course, broken up into two divisions, the east and the west. Starting with the eastern division, I think it is already won before the season even kicks off. Georgia is too big, too strong and are just flat-out better than everybody else in the SEC East. As many of you know, Georgia ended last season on a low note, losing the National Championship game in heartbreaking fashion to the Alabama Crimson Tide. Although the Bulldogs will be without their previous star running backs, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel this season, I think they are arguably more talented than they were last year. Head coach Kirby Smart is one of the best recruiters in the country and is bringing one of the deepest recruiting classes into the season that we have ever seen. This recruiting class includes one of the best recruits in the country, Justin Fields. Coming into the recruiting process last season, Fields was given the honor of being not only the nation’s top QB in the country but the nation’s top recruit. Fields can practically do it all, with an arm from heaven and the ability to scramble that is uncanny. Smart landed Fields and hit the jackpot, as this kid is all you could ever want in a college QB. In Georgia’s spring game, Fields put on an absolute clinic in Athens, putting the nation on notice, showing that he means business. The only problem for Fields is that he will most likely start the season on the sidelines as the man in front of him is pretty damn good. Last season, Jake Fromm had one of the best true freshman seasons at the QB position, in the history of college football. Being a QB in the SEC is never easy, but to do it as a true freshman is seemingly unfathomable. Fromm took the task head on however, and made it his bitch, taking control of each game, and eventually leading his team to a National Championship appearance. He earned his spot as the starting QB and there is no doubt in my mind that he will start week one behind center as the Bulldogs take on Austin Peay on September 1st. I think this Georgia team is built for success and I do not only think they are going to dominate the SEC East, but they are my preseason pick to win the National Championship.
SEC East Winner: Georgia
As for the SEC West, I honestly think the division is going to be a three team race all year-long and may even be a division that is decided on the final day of the regular season. The three teams I am alluding to are the all and mighty powerful. Alabama Crimson Tide, the little brothers who are not so little any more, Auburn Tigers, and the team with a stud QB and stout defense, the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Let’s start with Alabama. They are of course, heading into the season as the favorites to win the SEC West as they are the defending National Champions. Year in and year out, Nick Saban brings an Alabama team into the year that is ready to win and compete at the highest level. The expectation for the Crimson Tide is to win a natty every year and this year is no different. Alabama is coming into the 2018 season absolutely loaded. They have a monstrous and explosive defensive line, a secondary that is probably the fastest in the country and skill players that are some of the most talented athletes you have ever seen. There is one part of Alabama’s game that concerns me however, and that is why I am not picking them to run away with this division. That problem is, their QB situation. The deal is that Alabama has two really talented quarterbacks in the likes of junior QB, Jalen Hurts and sophomore, Tua Tagovailoa. Last year in the National Championship game, Alabama was getting their teeth kicked in and Hurts was a big part of the problem, as he was playing at an extremely poor rate. Saban decided he needed to make a change and brought in Tagovailoa, who had gotten none to very little playing time the entire season and was as cold as an ice-cube. Tagovailoa saved the day however, playing hero and leading the Crimson Tide to their 17th national title. Tagovailoa is now considered to be the favorite to win the starting job this season, and Hurts is not to happy about it. He vocally voiced his displeasure to the media and in many ways, threw his teammates and coaching staff under the bus. There are many reports that are now stating that Hurts will transfer from Alabama any day now, which will mean that Alabama will start the season without a true backup QB. In hindsight this is a small problem that Saban can handle with his eyes closed, but it is an observation that you should be aware of as the Tide look to repeat as champs.
As for the other teams that are looking to catch Alabama in the SEC West, I think Auburn is one of them that has a real good shot to do so. Auburn finished their 2017 season with a positive 10-4 record, although dropping their final 2 games to Georgia (SEC Championship) and UCF (Peach Bowl). The Tigers are coming into the 2018 season as defending SEC West champions, and have the tools this year to repeat. The key to Auburn’s success this year is going to rely heavily on the production from their star QB, Jarrett Stidham. Stidham was an absolute sensation in 2017, throwing for 3100 yards as well as throwing for 18 TD passes. Stidham is as cool, calm and collected as they come, and is one of the most poised QBs in the entire nation. He is seemingly unfazed when he sees pressure coming into the pocket, and knows how to take a hit and get up like a true man does. The thing I love most about Stidham is his competitive drive. The dude literally lives for the moment and would give an arm and a leg for his team to win. Auburn also comes at you with an aggressive defense that is constructed by one of the better defensive coordinators in the country, Kevin Steele. The one concern I do have for this Auburn team however, is that I don’t necessarily know how deep they are at the RB position, as they no longer have the electric back in the likes of Kerryon Johnson. Overall though, I think this is a strong, physical and talented Auburn team who will give Alabama a run for their money.
The third and final team that I think have a legitimate shot at winning the SEC West are the Bulldogs of Mississippi State. In late November of 2017, reports began to flutter that the Bulldogs were planning on hiring the offensive coordinator at Penn State, Joe Moorhead to be their next head coach. Fast forward a hand full of months, the reports have come into fruition and Moorhead is getting ready to coach his first season as head of the Bulldog ship. Moorhead is an offensive mastermind and has molded many great offensive talents over the years; helping create and mold some absolute superstars in the likes of Saquon Barkley and Trace McSorley. Moorhead’s play calling style at Penn State was very simple, pass first, run second and if the run works, pound it down the defenses damn throats. Moorhead is looking to carry this style with him from Happy Valley and take it all the way to Starkville. Moorhead is going to have more than enough weapons to make his transition a smooth one as the Bulldogs are loaded on the offensive side. The one key factor that will make their season a bang or a bust in my opinion, will be the production from their senior QB, Nick Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald is not only the leader on this Bulldog team but is also an absolute playmaker and will make plays on Saturday that seem almost impossible. Fitzgerald finished his junior season in 2017 with 1700 passing yards to go along with 15 TD passes. The one weak part of Fitzgerald’s game however, is that he has the tendency to throw a boat load of interceptions, as he finished 2017 throwing for 11 picks, a stat that is hard to stomach. If Fitzgerald can learn to limit his turnovers and find a way to move his offense efficiently, I think this Bulldogs team can have one of the more dangerous offenses in the SEC and will put up some big numbers all season long. On the defensive side of the ball, the Bulldogs come at you with a strong, physical defensive front to go along with a speedy secondary who will force turnovers and will smell a mistake like it is blood. Overall, I think this Bulldog team is really strong, but I just don’t think they have enough to keep up with teams in the likes of an Auburn or Alabama and have them finishing third this year in the SEC West. As for my winner of the SEC West, I think that will be decided at the Iron Bowl, as the Auburn Tigers will travel to Tuscaloosa on November 24th. Because Alabama is the home team and Tuscaloosa tends to be almost impossible to play in as the visiting team, I have the Crimson Tide winning the SEC West and continuing their dominance in the likes of the CFB World.
SEC West Winner: Alabama
SEC Winner: Georgia
The Big 12 conference is one of the more intriguing conferences in all of college football. It is a conference that is wide open and will feature some new faces that will look to take over the spotlight and shine, as well as some seasoned vets who are looking to show that they are not going anywhere and nothing is going to change until they leave. Last year, the Big 12 had a championship game for the first time since 2010. This game was very much a blessing in disguise as in previous years, the lack of a championship in the Big 12 was a major issue, regarding the CFB Playoff picture. The game was played between the Oklahoma Sooners and the TCU Horned Frogs at AT&T Stadium. The contest was decided in dominating fashion, as the Sooners won by the score of 41-17. The Sooners would than go on to play in the CFB Playoff semi-final at the historic Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. They lost to Georgia but never the less, it was a magical season for Oklahoma and was a season where they dominated the Big 12 conference all season long. In the Big 12, there are no divisions and the deciding factor of who gets to play in the B12 championship game, are the two teams that have the best record at the end of the regular season. This means that everybody plays everybody, and there is no hiding from the more powerful teams or sneaking your way into a championship game as we see with some of the other conferences. Now coming into the season, I think that there are 4 teams that have a legitimate shot of winning the Big 12 this year, with one on the outside looking in. Those teams are the favorite, Oklahoma Sooners, the offensive powerhouse West Virginia Mountaineers, the flashy TCU Horned Frogs, the Cowboys of Oklahoma State and on the outside looking in, Texas.
We of course have to start with the B12 favorites coming into the season, Oklahoma. Now I talked about how successful of a season the Sooners had in 2017 but to bounce back in 2018 they will need to fill in perhaps the biggest gap that has been left in program history. That gap was left by a man who goes by the name of Baker. Baker Mayfield did everything for the Sooners. He won them a B12 title, led them to a playoff appearance, won a Heisman trophy and with the snap of a finger he is gone. Baker is off to the NFL as he was selected as the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns. Looking to fill that gap to the best of his ability, will be the new starting QB for the Oklahoma Sooners, Kyler Murray. Murray is a junior from Texas who may be the most athletic athlete in all of collegiate sports. In the 2018 MLB Amateur Draft, Murray was selected as the number 9 overall pick by the Oakland Athletics. Murray decided to play college ball one more year and head off to play Major League Baseball next season, according to his agent. It is almost unfathomable to think that a man who is going to start at the QB position for a top 5 football team in the country, got drafted in the top 10 of a draft that has 40 rounds. Although the sample size is small, the word on the street is that Murray can do magical things on a football field, and may even be better than Baker. He is super quick, extremely versatile, and throws one of the prettiest balls you will ever see. If you go back to my Heisman blog, I predicted Murray to be in the hunt for a Heisman Trophy come seasons end and I am sticking to that. I think this kid is a physical specimen and cannot wait to see what he can do in 2018. Oklahoma also has one of the faster defenses in the country and has a secondary that most college coaches could only dream of. I expect Lincoln Riley’s bunch to have a big season and barring a major injury or lack of chemistry, I see no reason why this Sooner bunch won’t make an appearance back in the CFP.
The second team that I believe has a legit chance of winning the Big 12, are the TCU Horned Frogs. TCU finished the 2017 season on a low note as they were dominated in the B12 championship game but eventually picked themselves up and won their bowl game, defeating Stanford by the score of 39-37. The Horned Frogs come into the season hungry to change the narrative in the conference and have the sheer fire of talent to do so. The Horned Frogs are led by junior RB, Darius Anderson, who is one of the quicker backs in the entire conference. Anderson burst onto the scene in 2017, running for over 700 yards and rushing for 8 TDs in the process. Anderson got hurt towards the end of the season however, leaving him sidelined for the last four games of the season. Anderson is now healthy and is looking to make a big impact for his Horned Frog team in 2018. The thing I like most about Anderson, is that he is extremely quick when it comes to running the ball to the side of the field and can cut through a hole like it is his day job. He reminds me a bit of Kareem Hunt from the Kansas City Chiefs. TCU also has some talented skill players in the likes of WR Jalen Reagor and CB Kennan Reed who will have to produce if the Horned Frogs want to have some what of a successful season. The main concern I have for this Horned Frogs team comes at the QB position. With the loss of QB Kenny Hill, TCU is left with very little depth under center. The candidate that will most likely start week one against Southern University is sophomore, Shawn Robinson. After sitting on the sidelines his freshmen year, Robinson finally has his chance to prove to the world why he was recruited as a coveted athlete. Robinson is extremely quick, gets the ball out of his hand at an extremely fast rate, has the ability to rush for a big chunk of yardage on every single snap. He can also throw a deep ball that will make your mouth drool. Robinson is one of those guys that I am extremely excited to watch this season and see if he can make the most of the chance that he is given. Overall, if TCU can put everything together, they can be really scary. They will light up a scoreboard and run teams over like a Mac Truck. That being said, is it enough to take down power house Oklahoma this year? I just don’t know.
Now let’s talk about the Mountaineers from West Virginia. WVU is coming into the 2018 season loaded with offensive fire power, and has the talent to take this conference home, outright. The Mountaineers are led by their star-studded QB, Will Grier. Grier is not only one of the better QB’s in the Big 12, but is one of the better QBs in the entire country. It is also said that Grier has a legitimate shot of winning the Heisman trophy in 2018. Grier put up staggering numbers in 2017, throwing for 3490 yards in the air to go along with passing for 34 TDs. The senior QB from Charlotte is the textbook definition of a solid pocket passer and is not afraid to let the ball fly. He also has one of the prettier three-step drops I have ever seen and has footwork that in smoother than MJ himself. I expect Grier to light up scoreboards all season long and if he can stay healthy, I think he will be a Heisman finalist come seasons end. Along with their offensive prowess, WVU comes at you with an extremely physical defense that will lay absolute licks on any weak predator who stands in their way. This Mountaineer team has the potential to be special, and if they can get hot, there is no telling just how far the season will take them.
We now move on to the Oklahoma State Cowboys who are looking to seek revenge on some unfinished business left in 2017. The Oklahoma State Cowboys finished their 2017 season on a high note, winning 10 of their 13 games, commencing with a bowl win against Virginia Tech in dominating fashion. The Cowboys had one of the best offenses in college football last year and this was in big thanks to their star QB, Mason Rudolph. Rudolph was an absolute superhero for the Cowboys last season, as he threw for over 4900 yards in the air to go along with 37 TD passes. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, Rudolph is no longer with the team as he is now playing in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers. With Rudolph gone, the Cowboys are going to have their hands full trying to fill the gap that Rudolph left and more importantly, trying to find a starting QB to start the year. As things stand right now, all things are currently leading towards Taylor Cornelius to start the season. Cornelius is a senior from Texas, who has been waiting for three years for his number to be called and is looking to make the most of his opportunity. If Cornelius can produce in the slightest bit this offense is going to be almost as scary as last year, as they are loaded with weapons. The Cowboys come at you with a WR combo of Tyron Johnson and Tylan Wallace who are one of the more dangerous WR duos in America. They also have a RB in Justice Hill who is to be considered as a dark horse and has an upside that is uncanny. This Cowboy offense is full of potential and it is honestly going to be a hit or miss. If it is a hit, they are going to be one of the more dangerous offenses in the nation, but if it is a miss, this could be a long season for the Cowboys who expect nothing but winning and will settle for nothing less.
Finally a team that I think has an outside chance of winning the Big 12 this year, is The Texas Longhorns. Tom Herman’s bunch had a somewhat of a successful 2017 season, as they finished the year with a 7-6 record to go along with a bowl win against the University of Missouri. This year, Texas is looking to improve their 7 win season, and take their level of play to the next level. To do so, they are going to need a lot of production from their sophomore QB, Sam Ehlinger. Ehlinger broke on to the scene his freshman year in 2017, finishing the season throwing for 1900 yards to go along with a respectable 11 TD passes. For Texas to truly compete for a Big 12 title this season, I feel that Ehlinger is going to have to take his game to different heights and is going to have to be way more confident with his deep ball. Texas is also going to need to step it up with their secondary play as they had a very weak secondary last year. If those things can be accomplished, I think Texas can surprise more people than they thought this year and finish the season in the top pack of the Big 12.
Big 12 Championship Game: Oklahoma Vs WVU
Big 12 Winner: Oklahoma
We now arrive at the Pac 12. A conference that is filled with explosive offenses and vast traditions. Last year, the Pac 12 was dominated by the USC Trojans but with an old sheriff in the likes of Sam Darnold now out-of-town, the door is left wide open, leaving the conference title left up for grabs. Pac 12 football is divided up into 2 divisions. The North and the South. The winner of these two divisions go on to play in the conference championship as an outright champion will be crowned. This year, I think that both the North and South divisions will have a very heavy 3 team race that will feature lots of movement and jostling for the top spot throughout the year. Starting with the South Division, I think it will be decided between the USC Trojans, Arizona Wildcats, and my sleeper pick, the Arizona State Sun Devils.
Starting with the Trojans of USC, I think that it is clear that they are the favorite to repeat as Pac 12 South Champions. Although they are without their star QB Sam Darnold who is now in the NFL, the Trojans are loaded with offensive fire power to help fill the void that Darnold left. Leading the offensive firepower brigade, will be sophomore RB, Stephen Carr. Although the Trojans are very deep at the RB position, it is said that Carr will handle most of the work load as he has the brightest upside out of the available Trojan backs. The California native is an extremely versatile back, who can find the tiniest of holes and make them seem like they are gaping apertures. Another player who will be a key to the Trojans success in 2018, will be freshman QB, JT Daniels. Although it is not written in paper that JT will be the week one starter, things are certainly leaning that way. Daniels was a 5 star recruit from Mater Dei High School who has an astronomical bright side and was a huge signing for the Trojans. What I like most about Daniels, is his ability to stay in the pocket and deliver a strike with pressure on him. There are many QB’s across college football who throw the ball away the second pressure comes, as they are fearful of getting put on their butt. Daniels also delivers a pretty ball and when he gets in a rhythm, can move the ball downfield at an extremely high rate. I am very excited to see what kind of season Daniels has in his freshman campaign along with what kind of year it will be for the defending champs.
Another team that I think has a serious chance to win the Pac 12 South this year, is the Arizona Wildcats. The success of Arizona’s season is all going to depend on the production of one man, Heisman hopeful, Kahlil Tate. Tate is a dual threat QB who is everything you could ever want in a college QB and then some. Tate is coming off of a monstrous 2017 sophomore season, in which he finished the year with 1500 passing yards, 14 TD passes, as well as 1400 rushing yards to go along with 12 rushing TDs. The reason why I am so high on Tate is because he is so highly skilled at both the ground and air game that it is almost unfair. With most dual threat college QB’s, they have a tendency to favor the run more than the pass and can not adjust when a defense plays against their strength. With Tate, he is extremely versatile and will hurt you no matter what defense you throw at him. I like to compare him to a higher level Lamar Jackson. Arizona also has a new head coach this season in the likes of Kevin Sumlin who is looking to take this program and crank it the eff up. After coaching at Texas A&M from 2012 to 2017, Sumlin is ready to start this new chapter in his life and is looking to give this program the boost they need to accomplish big things. Overall, I like this Arizona team a lot. I think they are well coached, fast and have the ability to adapt to adversity in a very mannerly fashion. I expect them to be in the hunt for a division title come seasons end and who knows, maybe they could be raising a Pac 12 trophy when all is said and done.
The final team that I think is going to have a chance to win the Pac 12 South and be one of the bigger surprises all season, are the Sun Devils of Arizona State. The Herm Edwards project is finally ready to embark and I could not be more excited. Since being named the head coach of the Sun Devils in late December of 2017, Edwards has been nothing by enthusiastic and energetic, trying to take this program to new heights. Edwards comes into Tempe with a ton of experience as he has been both a player and head coach in the NFL. Sun Devil fans across the Tempe region are ecstatic to see the type of experience and wisdom Edwards will bring and if he can lead this team to heights they have never seen. Regarding the talent on the field, the Sun Devils are going to be led this season by senior QB, Manny Wilkins. Wilkins has one of the stronger arms in the Pac 12 and is not afraid to let the deep ball fly. Wilkins finished his junior season in impressive fashion, finishing the year with 3200 passing yards to go along with 20 TD passes. Wilkins plays with an up-style tempo which I think will coincide well with the fast pace offense that Edwards is going to initiate. Overall, I like the Sun Devils to have a very successful season and expect them to finish in the upper end of the pack in the Pac 12 South. However, if you were to ask me if I thought this team had enough fire power to take the division outright, I would tell you that I don’t think so but hey, crazier things have happened.
Pac 12 South Champion: Arizona
Now let’s talk about the Pac 12 North. The Pac 12 North is a division that is front loaded with really strong teams and is back loaded with weak, non competitive brigades. The three teams that I want to highlight regarding the Pac 12 North are the three teams that I think are the favorites to win the division; The Washington Huskies, Stanford Cardinals and the Oregon Ducks. Starting with the Washington Huskies, I think they are by far the favorites to win the Pac 12 heading into 2018. They are well coached, have a veteran QB, and are one of the most disciplined teams in the country. The Huskies are of course led by their star QB, Jake Browning. It seems that as if Browning has been playing college football for upwards of 10 years now and each year he gets better than the last. During his junior season in 2017, Browning balled out, throwing for 2700 yards to go along with 19 TD passes. This was however a significant drop off from his sophomore season, as Browning finished his 2016 season throwing for 3400 yards to go along with 43 TD passes in a Heismanesk type season. Never the less, Browning is looking to finish his time with Washington off with a bang and hopes to be playing in the NFL in the near future. Washington is also accompanied by one of the best offensive lines in the country that is captained by OT, Trey Adams. Adams is an absolute hoss and is widely considered as one of the best offensive tackles in the country. I am excited to see how much this adroit bunch can achieve this season and see how much they will accomplish come seasons end.
The second team that I feel will be a strong competitor for top spot in the P12 North this year is the Stanford Cardinals. Stanford comes into the 2018 season as the defending Pac 12 North champions and are looking to keep their crown. To do so, they are going to have to lean heavily on their best player, Bryce Love. Love is not only the best player on this Stanford team, but is arguably the best skill player in the entire nation. The senior back is one of the most explosive backs I have ever seen at the collegiate level and watching him over the last three years has been an absolute privilege. Love is coming off a monstrous 2017 season, in which he ran for 2100 rushing yards and ran for 19 TDs along the way. Love also finished the year as a Heisman finalist and finished as runner-up to Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield. I expect Love to have a huge season and he is my preseason pick to win the Heisman Trophy in 2018. Love won’t have to do it all by himself however, as Stanford has a very reliable QB in, K.J Costello. Costello is a junior QB from California who may not be the most skillful guy in the Pac 12, but is extremely reliable and works for everything he gets. Costello finished the 2017 season throwing for 1500 yards in the air to go along with 14 passing TDs. The one weak part of Costello’s game is that he does have the tendency to get sacked and is looking to improve that part of his game this season. Stanford can also come at you on the defensive side of the ball as they are extremely physical and experienced. The Cardinal defense coming into 2018 is essentially a carbon copy of last year’s defense, which had a plethora of success. With all these reasons being said, I expect the Stanford Cardinals to have a very successful 2018 season that features a plethora of accolades along with a healthy chunk of wins.
Finally, let’s talk about the Oregon Ducks. Oregon is one of those teams that is coming into the season with a lack of respect and is looking to use that as a motivational tactic, proving all the doubters wrong throughout the year. Let’s face it, 2017 was a disaster for Oregon football. They finished the year with a mediocre 7-6 record which ended in a bowl loss to Boise State. Over the offseason, they lost their head coach, Willie Taggert as he decided to take a job in Tallahassee, being the next head coach of the Florida State Seminoles. Recovering from this coaching vacancy, the Ducks promoted their former co offensive coordinator, Mario Cristobal to take the reins and lead the ship of this storied program. Cristobal is comfortable with this program, comfortable with their playing style and has a need for speed when it comes to the tempo of his offense. You can expect Oregon to be the fastest team in the Pac 12, as they will average about 1 play per 30 seconds, a tempo that is almost impossible for a defense to keep up with. When a high tempo offense like this is executed properly, it can be a thing of beauty and can be one of the most dangerous assets in college football. However, if there is the slightest bit of miscommunication or lack of focus, this thing can be a disaster and will cause a team to tumble, fast. This is for the most part, what we saw with the Ducks in 2017. Looking to change the narrative in 2018 and help run an up tempo style offense is junior QB, Justin Herbert. Herbert is one of the more underrated QBs in the country and is the type of guy who makes the game of football look like a video game at times. Herbert finished the 2017 season with respectable numbers, throwing for 1900 yards through the air to go along with 15 passing TDs. The thing I like most about Herbert, is that he can hurt you with his cannon of an arm, but also scramble out of the pocket and hurt you with his feet. He is not quite a dual threat QB, but when he wants to, he can hurt you in many ways. If Herbert can execute the fast, high level offense that Cristobal is expecting this season, I think this Ducks team will turn many of heads as well as earn the respect they so rightfully deserve.
Pac 12 North Champions: Stanford
Pac 12 Champions: Stanford
Oh baby! It is time to talk about the ACC. The ACC is what I like to call “America’s flashiest conference.” Teams in this conference love to put on a show. Whether it is a good ol’ fashion pregame entrance or a turnover chain, the ACC does it right. ACC Football is broken up into 2 divisions, the ACC Atlantic and the ACC Coastal. Like most other power 5 conferences, the winners of the two divisions go on to play each other in a winner take all, conference championship game. This year, I think there are only 4 teams who have a true chance at winning the conference. I think the ACC Atlantic is essentially won before the season has even started, with a team trailing close behind. I have the ACC Coastal division however, being a tight, 2 team race that may be won on the last Saturday of the regular season. I want to start with breaking down the ACC Atlantic, where a team is looking to take down a powerhouse who has dominated the division for the past half decade and has no plans of stopping their dominance, any time soon.
For the last 5 years, the Clemson Tigers have not only dominated the ACC Atlantic but frankly, have dominated the entire conference. The Tigers are the 3 time defending ACC Champions and coming into the 2018 season, there are no signs turning against the Tigers winning for a fourth straight year. Dabo Sweeney comes into the season with arguably his most talented team; one in which features an explosive offense, a physical defense and an electric special teams unit. The thing that is most excited about this team is just how deep they are, especially at the quarterback position. Clemson essentially has two stud QBs and although you can’t really go wrong with either guy, the decision looming here could be monumental. The two QBs who are currently fighting for the starting job week 1, are senior QB, Kelly Bryant and the heavily anticipated recruit, Trevor Lawrence. Starting with Kelly Bryant, it is going to be hard for Dabo Sweeney to pick against him as he provided so much for the Tigers just a season ago. In 2017, Bryant threw for a total of 2800 yards to go along with 13 TD passes. He also rushed for an additional 1100 yards to go along with 11 rushing TDs on the year. The dual threat QB is all you could ever want in a college QB. He is fast, agile, versatile and to be frank, the accolades could go on forever. Whatever Bryant is asked to do this season, he will take it in full stride as he is a true competitor and a team player, making sure the symbol on the front of the jersey means more than the name on the back. Now on the other hand, Dabo has another option of who he could start behind center come week one. That man is none other than Trevor Lawrence. Just a season ago, Lawrence was to be considered as the best recruit in the country and was the hot toy on the market that everybody wanted. Fast forward a calendar year and the Clemson Tigers have hit the jackpot, signing this star in the making. Now I could go on and tell you about just how good the experts are predicted this kid to be or the impact he is going to make on the game, but I thought I would instead give my own analysis on the Georgia native who has a flow like no other. Every year on TV, I watch a show entitled “The Elite 11.” The show was created by former NFL QB Trent Dilfer, who wanted to take the best QB at the high school level, put them up against each other and see who is truly elite. Now I have been watching the show for a number of years now and have watched guys in the likes of Jameis Winston and Jake Fromm develop from boys to men, but nothing would prepare me for what I saw from Lawrence last season. The first thing that jumped out to me about Trevor, was of course his flow. The dude had some of the coolest hair I had ever seen. But than as Lawrence started to grip and rip the football, my mouth started to water and my jaw began to drop. Lawrence threw ever pass with a precision and crispness I have never seen before. The throws were hard, tight and every single one was on the money. I quickly began to realize just how special this kid was and how special he will be at the collegiate level. Although this call is hard, if I was Dabo Sweeney I would have to go with Trevor Lawrence to be the starting QB. I feel that he has the ability to turn this team from really good to flat-out memorable.
Even though I am very high on the Clemson Tigers continuing their ACC dominance, I do think there is one team who could give them a run for their money in the Atlantic Division. That team being, the NC State Wolf Pack. NC State is one of those teams who just intrigues the shit out of me. I had them as one of the 5 biggest surprises coming into 2017 and for good reason, as they finished the season with a 9-4 record that was capped of with a dominating bowl win. The thing I praised so highly last season in regards to the Wolfpack, was just how good their defensive line was. I said they were going to have the best D lines in the country and that could not have been more true. Even though NC State has lost some players on the defensive side of the ball to the NFL, they are still coming into 2018 with one of the best defenses in the country. They are fast, physical and will make an opposing offenses day, a living hell. The one key factor however, that is going to determine if this Wolfpack team can keep up with Clemson or slip under the cracks, is going to be the production they get from their starting QB, Ryan Finley. The senior QB from Arizona is going to have to put the offense on his back and carry them, as the Wolfpack offense as a whole, is widely considered weak. That being said, does Finley have the ability to take on this feat? Absolutely. Finley is one of the more collective QBs in the ACC and has shown in previous years that he is not afraid of the big moment. He finished his junior season throwing for a total of 3500 yards, 17 TD passes and an array of big time plays. Finley knows how to light up a stat sheet and with a conference that is so offensively talented, it is essential to have that type of player leading the ship. Overall, I think that this Wolfpack team is a tad unbalanced. Although they have a talented QB, it is clear that most of their talent comes from the defensive side of the ball. I feel that this Wolfpack defense is going to perform well, but will eventually subside as the pressure will just be too much. That being said, they are easily the second best team in the Atlantic and will cruise to a second place finish, leaving Clemson’s dominance untouched.
ACC Atlantic Champions: Clemson
Now, let’s talk about the ACC Coastal division which should be much more competitive and will be a more entertaining division to watch all season long. This year, I think the Coastal division will be decided between two teams and think it will be the tightest race the ACC has seen in years. The two teams that I believe are going to fight it out all year for the Coastal division, are the Virginia Tech Hokies and the Miami Hurricanes. Starting with the Hokies of Virginia Tech, they come into the 2018 season as one of the most talented teams in the country. They are extremely loaded on the offensive side of the ball, have a disciplined defense and can hurt you in every aspect of the game. The Hokies are led by Josh Jackson who is one of the rising starts we have in our game. As a true freshman in 2017, Jackson burst onto the scene and had a year to remember; throwing for 2900 yards in the air to go along with 20 TD passes. The true freshman showed flashes of greatness throughout the season and at points, looked like a seasoned 5th year senior. Jackson is looking to build off of his early success in his sophomore campaign, and will have the supporting cast to do so. Jackson’s main target this year will most likely be sophomore WR, Sean Savoy. Although Savoy may not be the most flashy player in America, he is extremely quick and creates plays as well as anyone in the ACC. The only concern I have for this Hokie team coming into 2018, is the injuries that the defense has suffered in preseason camp. Virginia Tech is said to have start the 2018 season with a chunk of defensive starters on the sidelines as they are either injured or ineligible to play due to academics. This means guys that were not used to playing last season, are going to face playing time in ways they never thought imaginable and for the teams sake, they better step up. With all said and done, I do like this Hokies team a lot and expect them to have a productive 2018 season, but I just don’t know if they have enough to keep up with the big, bad, Miami Hurricanes.
The second team that I want to feature in the ACC Coastal conference, is a team that has the most swagger in all of college football. This team is of course, the Miami Hurricanes. In 2017, Miami was the most exciting show on turf. Their offense could put up points like it was nobody’s business, their defense was as flashy as a new Mercedes and oh yeah, they invented the almighty turnover chain. The Hurricanes come into this season with just as much swag and in many ways could be even more talented than they were last year. If Miami’s head coach Mark Richt knows how to do anything, it is recruit and is widely regarded as the best recruiters in all of CFB. During his time at Miami, Richt has brought in a vast amount of talent who have made a major impact for this storied program. Expect this year to be no different. If Miami is going to have as much success as they did last season, they are going to have to rely on their senior QB, Malik Rosier. Rosier was not only a hell of a player in 2017, but was also a hell of a leader, leading his team to remarkable 10 wins. What I like about Rosier’s game the most is his ability to turn a negative into a positive. There were multiple instances last season, where Rosier looked like nothing but a dead duck being hung out to dry, and somehow turned the play into positive yardage. Rosier is looking to build off a successful junior year in which he threw for 3100 yards to go along with 26 TD passes in the process. I like this Miami team a lot and like them as much as I like any team in the country. I think they will repeat as ACC Coastal Division champions this year and think the famous turnover chain will be sported and shown off all season long.
ACC Coastal Champions: Miami
ACC Champions: Clemson
We have finally arrived to our final power 5 conference preview and may I say, we are going out with a bang. I think it is safe to say that over the past few months, the Big 10 has become the most controversial conference in America. With Scandals swirling left and right in the likes of Urban Meyer’s knowledge or lack their of and Maryland’s potential manslaughter case, it is hard to focus on what is actually happening on the field. Controversies aside, I feel that the Big 10 is the most talented conference in CFB and have 3 teams that are legitimate playoff contenders. The Big 10 is of course, split up into two divisions, the East and the West. This season, I feel that this Eastern division will be a tight 3 team race and feel that the West will be continued to be dominated by the same team who has owned the B10 West over the last couple of years. That being said, there is one team in the West who I feel could give the former champs a run for their money and could be one of the more surprising stories in 2018.
Starting with the Big 10 East, this division is going to be the most entertaining sub conference in all of college football. The race for first that is going to take place between the Michigan Wolverines, Ohio State Buckeyes and Penn State Nittany lions will be one for the record books. Two of these teams have a legit shot at winning the National Championship this year and one has a good shit of making a New Year’s big 6 game come seasons end. The team that I feel does not quite have enough to make the playoff but are talented enough to make a NYB6 appearance, are the Wolverines of Michigan. Let’s cut the shit right now, the season that Michigan had in 2017 was not acceptable in the programs nor anyones standards. They finished the year with a measly 8 wins which was capped off by a bowl loss to South Carolina. Michigan is looking to throw 2017 aside and start with a clean slate. Looking to help start this new slate is the new big man on campus, QB transfer, Shea Patterson. Michigan fans across the country were ecstatic when they heard the news that former Ole Miss QB, Shea Patterson was coming to Ann Arbor in hopes of bringing this programs to new heights. I am personally a big fan of Patterson and think he is just what Michigan needs. Patterson is an extremely athletic QB and can hurt a defense in multiple ways. In his sophomore season with the Rebels, Patterson threw for 2500 total yards to go along with 17 TD passes on the year. If Michigan is going to compete in this stacked division, they are going to need Patterson to produce in big ways and Patterson will for sure be up for the challenge. Another asset of Michigan’s game, is their physical defense that is widely regarded as a top 5 defense in all of college football. Led by defensive coordinator Don Brown, the Wolverine defense is as fast and explosive of a defense as you will ever see. When you have guys like DL, Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich you are bound to have some success and be regarded with high praise. Michigan will be tested early as they travel to South Bend in a much-anticipated week one matchup against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. If they can somehow leave South Bend with a win, I think that momentum will carry them far enough to at least put them in a fight for Big 10 Eastern Division champions.
Now let’s talk about the Ohio State Buckeyes. Ohio State may be the biggest question mark heading into 2018 as although they are insanely talented, there is a dark black cloud looming over this programs head. For those of you who are not aware, Ohio State’s Head Coach, Urban Meyer is currently put on paid administrative leave as an investigation is ongoing on both him and the University. This investigation is in regards to reports that Urban Meyer was aware of domestic abuse allegations that were put on his former assistant coach, Zach Smith in 2015, and did nothing about the knowledge he was given. Now Meyer says that he told the proper hierarchy and followed proper protocol when he was given this knowledge, but nobody for sure knows the truth. This scandal no matter how you want to spin it, will be a huge distraction for this football program in 2018. Meyer is suspended for the first three games of the season, and the media is going to focus more on that rather than what is happening on the field. This distraction is a big shame however, as this Buckeye team is one of the best teams in the country and are/were a serious National Championship contender. The Buckeyes are led by one of the best running backs in the nations, JK Dobbins. The sophomore back put his name on the map last year, rushing for a total of 1400 yards to go along with 7 rushing TD on the year. The Buckeyes are also accompanied by sophomore QB Dwayne Haskins who is going to look to fill the void that former Buckeye QB, JT Barrett left behind. With Barrett gone, Haskins has a chance to make his mark as an impact player on this team and show Buckeye fans why he was such a big recruit out of high school. Haskins has an extremely strong-arm, is very quick and will fit right into Buckeye Offensive Coordinator, Kevin Wilson’s RPO style scheme. The Buckeyes are also an extremely physical bunch on the defensive side of the ball and have one of the best defensive players in the country in Nick Bosa. The junior DE is looking to follow in his brother’s footsteps and go down as one of the best defensive players to ever put on the scarlet red tops with the bright silver helmets, slathered in Buckeye helmet stickers. Overall, I think this Buckeye team is loaded. I think that they do not have a weak part of their game and are one of the most dangerous teams in the nation. If they can find a way to tune out the huge distraction that is this ongoing scandal and boy is that a big if, I feel like this Buckeye team will win the Big 10 and go on to play in the CFP.
The final team that I feel will compete for a Big 10 East Division title and cement their spot in playoff discussions, are the Nittany Lions from Penn State. Now I am a huge Penn State football fan so these makes might be a tad bias, but I do truly believe that this team is one of the more talented programs in the country. Penn State is coming off a memorable season in which they were just four points away from being in the CFP. This year, the Lions are looking to repeat the same success and continue the momentum that they have built up over the last couple of seasons. This will not be easy however, as they will be without their superstar RB, Saquon Barkley, as he is now a member of the New York Giants. Barkley was arguably the greatest running back in the history of Penn State football and filling his shoes in 2018, is a seemingly impossible task. One guy that will look to fill in the cracks that Barkley left will be the multitalented all-purpose back, Miles Sanders. The junior back from Pittsburgh has been heavily praised in Happy Valley over the years and is finally ready to shine in the spotlight, as he has been hiding in Barkley’s shadow for upwards of 2 years now. The thing I like most about Sanders is his explosiveness off the ball and his ability to create big plays on every single snap. Although nobody can live up to the standards that Barkley sustained while at Penn State, I feel that Sanders will do a pretty good job and make fans eventually say, “Saquon who.” Another key part of the Nittany Lions success in 2018, is going to come from the production of their star QB, Trace Mcsorley. Let’s be honest, Trace McSorley can absolutely ball. The 6 foot senior QB is one of the most confident quarterbacks you will ever find and is one who is not afraid to face the biggest of moments head on. McSorley has what I like to call the “It” factor. To have the it factor one has to have the ability to compete at great heights and be absolutely fearless. The Virginia native shares all those traits and then some. Trace is coming off a tremendous junior season in which he finished the year with 3570 passing yards to go along with 28 throwing TD’s. I feel that Mcsorley is going to have a tremendous senior season and would not be surprised if he ends up in New York as a Heisman finalist come seasons end. In regards to the Nittany Lions defense, I think it could honestly be a hit or miss season. In 2017, the Penn State defense was an absolute force to be wrecking with. They were one of the more physical bunches in the country and had the ability to create turnovers by the drop of a hat. Unfortunately for the Lions, Penn State had to say good-bye to an array of defensive players as they have either graduated or made their way to the NFL. Some of these defensive prowesses that have left holes that will need to be filled, include star studded safeties Marcus Allen and Troy Apke. Although these guys will be tough to replace, James Franklin has done a tremendous job recruiting during his time with the Lions and there is no doubt in my mind he will have the defense looking just fine come week one. To conclude, I think this Penn State team is built for success. They have the senior QB who is not afraid of the big moment, the running back who has the potential to be a stud and have an overall urge to seek redemption on a season they felt had unfinished business in it. If the defense can hold to form and be just half as good as they were last season, I think that we are looking at our 2018 Big 10 East Champions.
Big 10 East Champions: Penn State
Let’s now talk about one of the least competitive divisions in the history of college football, the Big 10 West. Since the Big 10 adopted their division format in 2011, forming a championship game at the end of each season, Wisconsin has dominated their division year in and year out and has played in 5 of the 7 Big 10 Championship Games. A football program that prides themselves on their defense and is one of the most disciplined teams in the nation, it is no surprise how successful they have been. Coming into 2018, Wisconsin shows no early signs of stopping their usual dominance. They are ranked as the best defense in the country in many preseason polls and for good reason, as they are filled with defensive superstars. Wisconsin’s defense is led by senior LB, T.J Edwards who is one of the elite linebackers in the nation and is the heart and soul of the Wisco defense. Edwards can do it all. He is fast, physical, and can smell a man with the ball like he is a drug dog looking for a criminal. Wisconsin also has a defensive coordinator in Jim Leonhard who lives, eats and breathes defense. Since joining Wisconsin’s staff in 2016, Leonhard has turned this defense from good to elite and I am ecstatic to see what levels he can take his defense to in 2018. Regarding the offensive side of the ball for the Badgers, Wisconsin’s offense is a clear step down from their defense, but can do enough to get the job done and win games. Leading the Wisconsin offense in 2018, is going to be junior QB, Alex Hornibrook. The 6-4 QB from West Chester is one of the better pocket passers in the Big 10 and knows how to thread a ball through a needle like it is a sowing machine. Hornibrook is looking to build off of his sophomore season in which he finished the year throwing for 2600 yards along with passing for 25 TD passes. The one weak part of Hornibrook’s game is that he has a tendency to throw interceptions as he through for 15 picks in 2017. If Hornibrook can find a way to limit his turnovers and stay healthy, I feel that this offense will be more dangerous than people could even imagine. Overall, it is clear that this Wisconsin team is built for big things in 2018. They have the experienced defense which is one of if not the best in the country, a steady QB who will produce and the overall will to win. Not only do I have this Wisconsin team cruising to a Big 10 West championship title, but if they can somehow win the B10 Championship game, I feel that they will play in the CFP and may hold the national championship trophy come seasons end.
The only other team in the B10 West that I feel has a remote shot of competing with Wisconsin in 2018, is the Northwestern Wildcats. Northwestern had a sneaky successful season last year in which they finished with a 10-3 record, ending in a bowl win. This program is coached extremely well behind Pat Fitzgerald who is entering his 12th year as commander in chief with the Wildcats. The thing that intrigues me the most about this Wildcat team, is just how damn competitive they are. They could be up by 40 or down by 50 and they still treat every snap like it is 4th and goal at the one yard line. When a team has that much of a competitive intensity, it rubs off in a positive way and makes the team very likable. I also think Northwestern has one of the more underrated QB in all of America. Clayton Thorson will be a starting QB in the NFL one day, you can book that. The senior QB from Wheaton IL is everything you could want in a college QB. He is tall, quick on his feet, versatile and throws an extremely pretty ball that makes you want to sing. Thorson is coming off a tremendous junior season in which he threw for 2800 total yards to go along with 15 passing TD in the process. Thorson does have the tendency to throw interceptions as he threw for 12 of them in 2017, but I think because of how versatile he is, that problem will be fixed come seasons start. Overall, I like this Northwestern team a lot. I think they are very fast, have a good QB, a tremendous head coach and have the competitive fire power that certain team can only dream about. That being said, I do not feel that it will be enough to keep up with powerhouse Wisconsin and have them finishing second in the B10 West for the second year in a row.
Big 10 West Champions: Wisconsin
Big 10 Champions: Penn State
5 Biggest Surprises of the 2018 Season
Oh Baby! This Houston team is one of the most exciting teams in football and are must see TV. Coming out of the American Athletic Conference, the Cougars are everything you could ask in a CFB team. They are extremely flashy, have a load of swag, have a physical defense, a QB who can let it rip, a physical and overall attitude of I am better than you and will beat you on any given day. Houston is led by Junior DT, Ed Oliver. Regarded by many, Oliver is the most dominant player in college football. When talking about Oliver, NFL scouts just get giddy as this Houston native can seemingly do it all. Oliver weighs in at a respectable 6-3, 292 pounds but moves like he is a WR. His ability to get off the ball, slip an OT and get to the QB is uncanny and is something I have never seen before. Now Oliver won 2017 AAC Defensive Player of the Year and barring health, you can already hand him the award in 2018, as he is so much better than everyone else it is almost unfair. I expect Oliver to have a monster 2018 season and think he will be the key prospect everyone wants in the 2019 NFL Draft. Houston is not all defense however, as they can score the ball at an extremely high rate and light up scoreboards with the best of them. The Cougar offense is led by Junior QB, D’Eriq King who is one of the more athletics player in the AAC. The Texan native is set to be the starter this year for the Cougars and for good reason, as D’Eriq has a monster upside. He can hurt you with his air attack but can also attack you on the ground and I expect him to have a very productive season. Overall, I am infatuated by thus Cougar team and cannot wait to watch them in 2018. I feel that they will roll over the AAC and may even be the non power 5 representative in a New Years Big 6 game come years end.
Last season, FAU announced that college football royalty, Lane Kiffin would become the next Head Coach of their football program. Fast forward a calendar year and the Kiffin project is in full effect. In his first year controlling the ship, Kiffin lead his Owl team to an impressive 11 win season that was capped with a dominating bowl win in which they beat Akron by the score of 50-3. They are now looking to take that momentum and transfer it into 2018, resulting in an even more successful season. When talking about FAU the first thing that immediately comes to mind is confidence. I remember watching Owl games this year and thinking to my self just how confident they were. They were seemingly never afraid of the moment no matter how big and knew they were better than every team they faced and realized they could not lose if they played up to standards. I also noticed how physical they were on the defensive side of the ball, especially on the defensive front. I don’t know what they are feeling those DL in Florida, but they are some big boys who are extremely physical and are guys you do not want to mess with. FAU also has an explosive offense which was one of the more underrated offenses in the country in 2017. FAU is going to turn on QB De’Andre Johnson to lead the helm and take this offense to new heights in 2018. The name De’Andre Johnson may sound familiar to you as he was recently featured on the hit Netflix series “Last Chance U.” Johnson balled out while in Scuba and as he heading to Boca Raton last year, fans were extremely excited to see what he could do. Unfortunately, Johnson faced a series of scary injuries which included a blood clot, sidelining him for the duration of the 2017 season. Johnson is now back and healthy however, and is looking to make a big impact on this Owls teams. Johnson is a dual threat QB who is one of the quicker QBs in Conference USA but can also throw a ball down field like it is nothing. All things put aside, I think FAU has an extreme upside and will even go to the extent of saying that they will go into Norman week one of the season, beat the Sooners, and be the buzz around the CF universe for weeks on end.
3. Boston College
Now before I say anything, do not get to excited. I am not saying that Boston College is good enough to win the ACC or even finish three for that matter, but for where they finished last year, I do think they will surprise some people. BC is better than people think. Head Coach, Steve Addazio has been around the game of football for a long time and knows what he is doing. This team is coming into the 2018 season as an extremely athletic and disciplined bunch, They are not known to shoot themselves in the foot with penalties and when you can limit the laundry on the filed, you are bound to have some success. The Golden Eagles are led by their Sophomore RB, A.J Dillon who is quickly stultifying himself as one of the best true running backs in the nation. Dillon broke out to the scene in 2017, rushing for 1589 total yards as well as rushing for 15 TDs. The Connecticut native can seemingly do it all, as his swiftness and ability to run up field is admirable. The thing I like most about Dillon is that he never takes a play off. With some backs in college football, you see them get in trouble and they will seemingly just give up on the play, taking the loss of yardage. But with Dillon, you better bring your A game because it is going to take an army to take him down as he is extremely physical and will run your ass over if you give him the chance. Dillon is my dark horse pick to win the Heisman and expect him to have a monstrous 2018 season. BC also has a reliable QB in Sophomore Anthony Brown who had a breakout year in 2017 and is looking to carry that momentum over into this season. The Clifton, New Jersey Product had a tremendous Freshman campaign in which he threw for 1300 total yards to go along with 11 TD passes. Brown is extremely quick and can hurt you in multiple aspects of his game. He throws a pretty ball, has a hard almost violent drop back that creates space and has the ability to rush for positive yardage if need be. Brown is extremely underrated and still has a lot to prove, but if he can use that as a motivation tactic, watch out for him to have a huge year as well as this BC team racking up the wins in the process.
4. Boise State
Boise State is coming into the season with a very talented team and one that I think will do monumental things in 2018. The Broncos are coached by Bryan Harsin who is coming into his 5th season as commander and chief, and has so far done nothing but amazing things for the Broncos. Boise State is led by Senior QB sensation, Brett Rypien. Rypien is coming off of a magnificent Junior season in which he threw for 2800 yards to go along with 16 passing TDs. What I like most about the Spokane native is his sheer poise and his leadership abilities. Rypien knows that he is the captain of that team and takes the role with great pride and honor. You love to see a guy that would give an arm and a leg to come away with a W and Rypien is a walking explain of just that. The Broncos also have a very stout defense that in 2018, is going to be led by Senior DT, David Moa. Moa weighs in at repeatable 6 foot 3 inches, 275 pounds and is an absolute hoss on the football filed. Moa can shed an O lineman like they are a piece of paper and has shown me many glimpses of the NFL great, Cameron Heyward. Overall, I like this Broncos team a lot and think they will be a force to be recking with this season. I don’t see them being touches in the Mountain West and think there is a strong possibility they could find themselves playing in a NYB6 game come seasons end. This is the most underrated team in the nation.
ROW THE FREAKING BOAT BABY. We round off our 5 biggest surprises off the 2018 season by talking about my favorite coach in the country and quite possibly my favorite human on earth, P.J Fleck. P.J Fleck is a football coach, a motivational speaker, a leader and a preacher all wrapped up in one and it is awesome. Last season Fleck left a very successful Western Michigan to join the Big 10 and lets just say, it didn’t work out. The Gophers finished the year with a total of 5 wins and all in all was a failure of a season in Fleck’s eyes. This year however, Fleck’s bunch is looking to flip the script and have a winning season in 2018. One player that is looking to have to step up in order for the Gophers to produce is Junior WR, Tyler Johnson. Johnson was one of the few bright spots for the Gophers as he finished the year with 677 receiving yards to go along with 7 TD passes. Although those numbers are decent, they can be better and Johnson has the potential to be special. Another key player in Minnesota’s cog comes in the likes of RB Rodney Smith, who is arguably their most talented player. The senior Back from Georgia is looking to build on an august season in which he ran for 977 total yards. The only problem was, the Gophers could not find the end zone for the life of them in 2017 as he finished the year with only 3 rushing TD, Smith is a very shifty back who has the potential to be special, and I expect him to have a break out year. Overall, I am not expecting this team to win the Big Ten or even win 10 games, but the expectations that they are given are not fair and I think they are going to prove many people wrong in 2018.
5 Biggest Disappointments of the 2018 Season
1. Florida State
This might be my hottest take of this entire piece. I am going to frank, I do not like this Seminal team and do not think they are going to do big things at all in 2018. Where do I even begin? Well, I could start with their new Head Coach, Willie Taggart. Taggart is coming in from Oregon in which he was average, but did not nearly live up to the Ducks standards. I am not a huge fan of Taggart’s play calling style as I feel that it is a bit rushed rather than rhythmic. For him to succeed with the Seminoles, Taggart is going to have to find his groove and accompany the needs of many different personalities on this team. Next, lets talk about Florida States QB, Deondre Francois. Coming out of high school, Francois was a big time recruit and was expected to be nothing but phenomenal. In his freshman season with the Noles, Francois did just that, throwing for a total of 3350 yards to go along with 20 TD passes. Unfortunately for the Noles, Francois tore his Patella tendon in the 2017 season opener against Alabama, and was sidelined for the remainder of his Sophomore year. Francois is now back and ready to compete and Noles fans are pumped to have him back. Although I do feel that Francois is a hell of a competitor and athlete, I do not feel that he will be the same that he was prior to his injury. The Patella Tendon is very tender and when one tears it is very hard to come back from. Many experts say that Francois is a sleeper to win the Heisman this year but I just do not see it and have him finishing the season with sub par numbers. I also think this Seminole team will finish the season with a .500 record which will be capped off with a bowl loss.
The season that UCF had in 2017 was magical and some might even go to the extent to say it was perfect. The Golden Knights finished the season with an undefeated 13-0 record that was capped off by a Peach Bowl win against the Auburn Tigers. So you may be wondering why I have them as one of the biggest disappointments of the 2018 season. Well there are a few contributing factors. For starters, the expectations that are put on a problem after having a perfect season are almost impossible to sustain. You have this stigma put on you that you are invisible and can do no wrong when in reality that is just not the case. If you look at UCF this year, they are beatable. They lost some key pieces on the defensive side and their secondary is sub par at best. Yes they have returning QB Mckenzie Milton leading the offensive charge, but I feel that this defense is going to be exploited time in and time again all year-long. All things put aside, the main reason that I feel UCF will have a disappointing season in 2018 is the fact that they will be without their Head Coach, Scott Frost. During he offseason, Frost decided to leave UCF and join his alma mater in Nebraska. The loss of Frost I feel is going to damage this program to heights they never thought imaginable. What Frost did during his time with the Golden Knights can only be described as pure bliss and no man will be able to follow-up what he did. Frost was a players coach to the highest extent and there was not a bad word that could have been said about the man. Sometimes, when you lose a head coach, moral can become extremely low and the motivation to win becomes seemingly non-existence. In the Golden Knights instance, I feel that they will have some success during the season as they are following up a perfect season, but it will be nowhere near what people are expecting and this team will be an after thought come seasons end.
3. Washington State
Washington State was one of the more intriguing stories of 2017. The Cougars finishes the year with a 9-4 record in which they put on offensive displays week in and week out. The thing that made the cougars so special in 2017 was their star QB, Luke Falk. Falk had one of the more impressive years we have seen in Washington State history, throwing for 3500 yards to go along with 30 passing TDs. The problem is that Falk is now gone to the NFL in 2018 and has left a huge hole for the Cougars to fill. Washington State is most likely going to rely on Senior QB, Garder Minshew to pick up the slack. The transfer QB from ECU is looking to come into Pullman and flip this program on its head. Minshew had an impressive Junior campaign for the Pirates in which he threw for 2100 yards to go along with 17 TD passes. The thing that worries me about Minshew is that he is a transfer and adapting to a new playbook can be extremely difficult, especially when it is one of the power 5 conference variety. Another reason I feel that the Cougars will underperform in 2018 will be due to the unfortunate suicide of former Cougar QB, Tyler Hilinski. Unfortunately for the entire CFB community lost Tyler Hilinksi to suicide on January 16th, 2018. The California native had a power arm and a smile that would not quit and his loss is going to hurt many people for a long time. Later in the year, it was found that the 18-year-old had a brain condition caused by the physical nature of football, called CTE. This brain disease eventually caused the suicide of Hilinski. I hate to say this, but this loss is going to be a distraction for the Cougars in 2018 and is not going to be something they can just forget about. All set aside, I hope Hilinski rest in peace but I feel like this will be too big of a loss for the Cougars to shake along with Falk, and feel that they will have an abysmal season.
Sometimes when a team loses a star QB, it is enough to turn their program from a successful product to an uncertain commodity. That is exactly going to be the case with the UCLA Bruins in 2018. Josh Rosen was arguably the best player to ever take snaps under center in the hosiery of UCLA Football. He through for a total of 9,000 yards during his 3 years with the Bruins to go along with 59 TD passes. Rosen is now an Arizona Cardinal and to fill the cracks that Rosen has left is going to be seemingly impossible to do. Looking to replace Rosen this season in any way shape or from is most likely going to be Devin Modster. The Sophomore QB from Cali is looking to make his mark and make Bruins fans forget who Rosen even was (obviously I’m joking.) It is unsaid exactly who will be the week one starter for the Bruins, but are early indications are leaning towards Modster. It is said that he has been dominating in preseason camps and has impressed the Bruin coaching staff substantially. That being said, I feel the inexperience of Modster is going to catch up with him and throwing a first year starter in a conference as physical as the Pac 12 can be a dangerous thing. However, the main reason I feel that UCLA will have a lackluster season is because of their new head coach, Chip Kelly. There are very few people on this earth that I despise as much as Chip Kelly. The smug arrogance that Kelly carries with him is sickening and he almost single-handedly ruined the Eagles franchise (Sup Chip?) Bias aside, I do not think that Chip offensive scheme is going to work at UCLA. Kelly is known to go at speeds that have never been seen before and although it worked at Oregon, not every program can adapt to that speed. UCLA does like to run an up tempo offense but not nearly to the extent that Kelly is going to expect. I give him three years top before he is ousted and expect this UCLA team to win 6 games this season.
Let the life after Lamar project begin! Louisville is coming into the 2018 season without one of the best QB to ever put on a Cardinal helmet, Lamar Jackson. Jackson is off to the NFL and with him, is bringing an array of accolades along with a Heisman trophy in 2016. During his three years with the Cardinals, Jackson put on an absolute display, throwing for 9000 total yards to go along with 69 passing TDs. He could also hurt you with his feet as he ran for 4000 yards at his time at Louisville to go along with 50 Rushing TDs. Just by looking at his statistics, you can see just how much of an impact Jackson made on this team and. just how impossible it will be to replace him. One guy that will look to fill the void that Jackson left in 2018 will be Sophomore QB, Jawon Pass. With a last name like pass, you would figure that Jawon would have a rocket for an arm but it is quite the opposite, as Pass mostly relies on his rushing game as he is extremely quick. The thing I like most about the Georgian native, is his ability to stay poise no matter the magnitude of the situation at hand. Watching an array of interviews, it is clear that Pass is not worried one bit of filling the shoes of the great Lamar Jackson. He knows how good Lamar was and rather than ignoring his greatness, he acknowledged it and said that there is no replacing Lamar Jackson. He is Jawon Pass and is going to do his very best to win ball games, plain and simple. Although he is an amazing character guy and does have some sheer natural talent, I do not feel that it will be enough to be successful in 2018 as the Cardinals have one of the hardest schedules in the entire country. Louisville has to open the season against the defending National Champions, Alabama, have to travel to powerhouse Clemson and have to travel to sleeper team, BC. Overall this Louisville team does have some talent however, it is just not enough to compete in the ACC or have a productive season and they will finish with a .500 record when all is said and done.
Pete’s Preseason CFP Prediction
Pete’s Preseason National Champion