The great Odell Beckham Jr. once said, “Football is my sanctuary. It’s where I go to escape. It’s where I’m most happy.” In the college game, athletes escape in sanctuary’s all over the country where hundreds of thousands of people scream their names every week. These sanctuaries range from the valleys of Salt Lake City to the plains of Norman Oklahoma. See, college football isn’t just a game, it is a way of life, don’t believe me? Go down to SEC country and call college football “Just a game.” Do that and try to find your way out alive. What makes college football so special is the tradition. The pride and the pageantry. The atmospheres and the rivalries. College football is a sport like no other. It is a billion-dollar business where the athletes don’t get paid and the coaches make more than doctors. It is a sport where blood is drawn, tears are shed and battle scars are made. Over the next 10,000 words or so, I am going to take you around the nation to get you prepared for the upcoming college football season. I am going to tell you who is going to flat out stink this year as well as who is going to turn more heads than one. I am going to tell you who will be in the CFP before the season even begins and who will reign king come early January. I first, however, want to take y’all down south, home to the greatest conference in the history of college sports.
The SEC. AKA the best conference in college football. Home to 10 of the last 19 national champions, the SEC proudly presents itself as a full-blown powerhouse. Before each upcoming season, one can almost pencil in at least one team from the South Eastern Conference to be in the mix of things come years end. This year should be no different. In my eyes, the SEC currently has 3 teams in it that can make the CFP. Alabama, who I feel is already a lock (as crazy as that sounds), Georgia, who can find their way in with an upset in the SEC Championship and Florida, who is one of my dark horses to win the National Championship this year. However, it would not be fair to you guys if I were to tell you this from the jump and not preview both divisions in the SEC. With that being said, I would now like to break down one of the most lopsided divisions in the entire nation.
The SEC west is one of the easiest divisions to predict in all of college football. The reason being is that Alabama’s dominance has become such a problem, it is almost unfair to the remaining 6 teams in the division. Now yes, Texas A&M is going to have a flashy offense with Junior QB Kellen Mond leading the ship. And yes, there will be some hype at Auburn as the Tigers are rumored to have a suffocating defense, but you and me both know, that Alabama has this division locked up in the bag before the season even started. And if you are questioning me, let’s just think about this logistically for a second. The SEC announced the annual playing of the SEC Championship game in 1992. Since that point, Alabama has appeared in 12 of them, been in 7 of the last 11 championship games and has brought home 8 SEC titles. Now if we want to talk Alabama’s dominance on a national level, we can bring up the fact that Alabama has won 5 national championships under current Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban and has never missed the CFP playoff since it was introduced during the 2014-2015 season. And if you REALLY want to make the case even stronger for Alabama’s chances to win the SEC West this season, you can just bring up the fact that they have the second-best QB in the entire nation in Tua Tagovailoa. Coming off a year in which he threw for 3966 total passing yards, tossed 43 TD passes and hurled just 6 INTs, Tagovailoa is poised for another dominant season with the Crimson Tide. Alabama also has a top 15 defense in the country and will be led by Senior DL, Raekwon Davis. In conclusion, the only way Alabama can lose the SEC West this year is if Tua suffers a serious injury that would sideline him for the duration of a season.
With this being said, I do think there is a clear second-place team in this division and I would like to give them a shadow of the spotlight. The LSU Tigers would have a good shot of winning 4 of the remaining 5, power 5 conferences this season if they were to compete in them. It just so happens, however, that they will be left out of the CFP conversation completely because they are stacked up in the same division as one of the greatest dynasties we have ever seen. Don’t let that fool you though, as this LSU team is one of the most talented teams in the entire nation. Lead by head coach Ed Orgeron, the Tigers are looking to accomplish something they failed to do last season. finish games strong. Other than a blowout loss to Alabama in Baton Rouge on November 3rd, the Tigers only lost 2 games during the entire season by a combined 10 points. If LSU can find a way to get a final stop or score during a final drive come fall, this could be a historic season for the boys in purple.
It is also important to note that if LSU wants to succeed in 2019, they are going to have to rely heavily on the production of their Senior QB, Joe Burrow. Burrow, a transfer from Ohio State, is the type of QB coaches can only dream of. He stands tall at 6 feet 4 inches tall, has an above-average throwing arm, can hang tough in the pocket and is not afraid to get knocked on his ass for the sake of his team’s success. Last season, in what was Burrow’s first year as a starting QB, Burrow took Baton Rouge by storm, throwing for 2894 yards, tossing for 16 TD passes and turning the ball over just 5 times. While it may seem like these numbers aren’t the most overwhelming in the world, it is important to remember that LSU had one of the best defenses in the country last season, allowing just 338 yards per game. So why am I basing LSU success this year on the productivity of Joe Burrow? Simply put, I think the SEC is starting to become an offensive-minded conference. Now yes, LSU is going to have a good defense next season, but the amount of high powered offenses they are going to have to mend every week may be too much for them to handle. There are going to be certain points throughout the season where Burrow is going to have to take over a game and if he doesn’t, the Tigers are going to find themselves on the losing side of things. A perfect example of this will come in week 2 when LSU heads to Austin to face Sam Ehlinger and the high powered Texas Longhorns. If Burrow can figure out a way to lead his team to victory, we may be looking at a special team who is poised to do some special things during the remainder of the season.
SEC West Winner: Alabama
Now let’s talk about the SEC East. I feel that the SEC East is going to be a two-dog race this year. Although I do like the new look Missouri Tigers led by Kelly Bryant and I feel that Kentucky has a chance to be decent, they just do not compare to the level of talent coming out of Gainesville and Athens. Starting with the Florida Gators, I feel that this team has an outside chance of winning the National Championship this year. Now yes, I realize that is bold, but at least give me a chance to back up my statement before coming for my head. For starters, I am a huge fan of Florida’s second-year head coach, Dan Mullen. Mullen, who was previously the head coach of Mississippi state from 2009-2017, is a football guru. Certain coaches across America have a certain feel for the game of football that can not be taught or replicated. It is a priceless characteristic that Mullen carries with him. In his first year with the Gators, Mullen led his team to a 10-3 record which was capped off by a 41-15 trouncing in the Peach Bowl against the Michigan Wolverines. I am excited to see the continual growth of Mullen in his Tenured with the Florida Gators.
While Mullen is great in all, he is not the main reason I am so high on this Florida Gator team this season. The reason why I feel that Florida has the potential to make the CFP this season and even potentially win the natty is that they have one of, if not the best defense in the country coming into 2019. When I watched Florida play last season, two things quickly stood out to me. One, how young they were and two, how freaking quick they were. In the college game, it is no surprise that speed kills. If you have a high tempo offense, you will more likely then not have success (Ex. Oklahoma). To counter that, if you have a fast defense you can keep stride with opposing offenses and eventually, tire them out. This is something that attracts me so much to Florida’s defense. They have the speed to kill. Their corners, led by C.J. Henderson who arguably is the best cover corner in the country, are as quick as lightning. Their front 7, can get to the ball like it is a 5-course meal and their safeties, gravitate to the ball like it is a magnet. I also am a big fan of Floridas DC, Todd Grantham who is one of the most aggressive defensive play-callers in the SEC. Overall, I feel that this Gator defense has the potential to be one that is remembered. If they stay healthy, stick to their game plan, and play fast, they may very well carry their team all the way to New Orleans come early January.
As the saying goes, opposites attract. But what happens, when opposites clash? The Georgia Bulldogs come into the season as an almost polar opposite to the Florida Gators. Although they have a good defense, they are known for their high powered, dominant offense. Dan Mullens is a defensive-minded head coach and Kirby Smart like offense more than his own family. Something will have to give. With this being said, it is very hard to predict a winner for this division. It is almost as if you are picking your own poison. Do you like a good offense or a stout defense? In my opinion, I give Georgia a slight edge because I feel that their offense is going to be unstoppable this year and points win ballgames.
The main reason why the Bulldogs will be so successful this year with their offensive attack is that they have one of the best 1-2 punches in the nation in Junior QB Jake Fromm and Junior RB D’Andre Swift. Starting with Swift, some say that this back is the most talented RB in the nation, one of these analyzers being myself. Swift is heading into In his first two seasons with the Bulldogs, Swift has been nothing but a freight train for the boys down south. Last season, in which Georgia was a stop or 2 away from making the national championship, Swift rushed for a total of 1049 yards, averaged 6.4 yards a carry and equated for 10 rushing TDs. Swift was also a skilled receiver and finished his 2018 campaign with 297 receiving yards. One thing that I really like about Swift, is his ability to rough defenders up. Swift is a downhill runner, and if you get in his way, you are going to have to pay the consequences. I expect Swift to have a monster season and think he could finish the year anywhere from 1600 to 1800 rushing yards. As Georgia continues to develop running back greats, Swift is just another man to fit the mold.
Finally, when talking about Georgia football, one must discuss the brilliance of QB Jake Fromm. It comes with the territory. I could write, talk and watch Jake Fromm all day long and fail to get bored even for a second. In his first two seasons with the Bulldogs, Fromm has done things I hadn’t even thought were possible at the college level. In his freshman season, Fromm led his Bulldogs to a 13-2 record which featured an SEC Championship and an appearance in the National Championship game. I remember watching Fromm that season and thinking to myself, how is this kid doing this as a true freshman? It shouldn’t look this easy. Then, last season in what was Fromm’s sophomore campaign, Jake continued to succeed, throwing for a total of 2749 yards, tossing for 30 TD passes and equating for just 6 INTs. Fromm also led the Bulldogs to their second straight SEC Championship game in which they dominated the Alabama Crimson Tide during 75 percent of the game. Fromm may be a bit overlooked as his numbers are not comparable to one of Tua or Trevor, but if you judge by the eye test in which I have extensively, you know that this kid has the it factor and is as good of a player as anyone in the entire nation. I expect Fromm to have a huge Junior season and feel that he will lead his Bulldog team to their 2nd CFP in 3 seasons.
SEC East Winner: Georgia (By a SLIM Margin)
SEC Champion: Alabama
We now make the transition of talking about the best conference in college football to talking about one of the worst. Well, at least the worst out of the power 5. The Pac 12 is an interesting animal. It is a conference that every so often has a good team (2016 Washington,) but can never compete with the more competitive, more dominant conferences in the power 5. The good news, however, is that it is a very competitive conference in its own right, and makes for some good Saturday television. Lets now talk about what is going to be one of the most intense, competitive divisions in the country, The Pac 12 North.
Boy, do I get excited when I start to talk about the Pac 12 North. Not because I think any of these teams are talented enough to make the CFP, but because literally 5 teams in this division can win the whole thing and it is going to be a blood bath on the gridiron every Saturday. With that being said, I want to highlight two teams that I feel have a slight edge over the others coming into the 2019 season. Those teams being, the Oregon Ducks and the Washington Huskies. Starting with the Oregon Ducks, I think it is safe to say that the Ducks are the small favorites coming out of the north and this is in thanks to one man and one man only, Senior QB, Justin Herbert. Herbert, who was a projected top 5 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, decided in December that he would forgo the draft and return to Eugene for his senior season. In what was a move that sent shockwaves throughout the college football world and Shivers down Pac 12 defensive coordinators spines, Herbert knew this was the right decision for him. Herbert, a 6″6 righty from Eugene Oregon, is coming off of a breakout season in which he threw for 3,151 total passing yards, tossed 29 TD passes which were good enough for 10th best in the country, and finished the season with a passer rating of 144.7. If Herbert can stay healthy for the duration of the year, this Ducks team has the chance to play in Pasadena on New Years Day.
Shifting to the Washington Huskies, it is safe to say that we should expect to see a new-look team come fall. Jake Browning, who had captained the ship for Washington for the last 20 years is off to the NFL and the Huskies have now been forced to hit the restart button and find their new identity. With this being said, the Huskie faithful feel that this identity has already been found through transfer QB, Jacob Eason. Eason, a transfer from the University of Georgia, has been the early talk of summer camp in Spokane. Eason is a 6’5 pro-style QB who is rumored to have the strongest arm in the Pac 12. If Eason can handle the early pressure of being a starting QB at the division one level, expect Washington to make some noise this year.
Pac 12 North Winner: Oregon
While the Pac 12 North is expected to be as competitive as a sibling rivalry, the Pac 12 South should be as lopsided as Humpty Dumpty. In my eyes, I feel that there are are only two teams that have a realistic shot of taking home a Pac 12 South title. These teams being the Utah Utes and the Colorado Bison. Starting with Utah, my expectations for this team could not be higher. Utah is coming off of a year in which they finished conference play with a 6-3 record and were rewarded a birth in the Pac 12 championship game. If the Utes are going to have a repeat of success in 2019, they are going to have to rely on the production of duel threat QB, Tyler Huntley. Huntley, a senior from Dania Florida, has the potential to dominate Pac 12 defenses every week. With an above-average arm and an ability to make plays with his legs, Huntley finds himself in a position to play on Sundays soon. However, there is a hole is this versatile QBs game. Huntley is very injury prone and is coming off a season in which he missed the last five game of the year with a broken collarbone. Although fully healed, it will be interesting to see if Huntley can remain fully healthy for his senior season. If he can, which is a big if, Utah will be playing in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.
While the success on the offensive side of the ball may be contingent on the health of QB, one aspect of Utah’s team that will not be a concern in 2019 is the Utes defense. Utah’s defense comes into the season absolutely stacked and is for all intents and purposes, the best defense in the Pac 12. Last season, Utah ranked second among all Pac 12 defenses and ranked first against the run. Utah is also bringing back a pair of defensive lineman in Leki Fotu and Bradlee Anae who were absolute forces in 2018 and have only gotten stronger during the offseason. If this defense plays up to standard come conference play, Huntley’s health may not be that big of an issue at all.
It is now time to talk about my official sleeper in the Pac 12 this season, The Colorado Bison. There are certain offenses across the nation that are so smooth, so crisp and so masterful that they become must-watch TV on Saturday afternoon. Examples of these offenses include Clemson, Alabama and in a smaller scale version, Colorado. So why am I so high on Colorado’s offense you may ask? Well, the answer to that is simply put in three words. Laviska Shenault Jr. Shenault Jr. is not only the best receiver coming into the Pac 12 this season, but very well may be the best WR in the entire nation. Shenault Jr. is quick has lightning, has hands that resemble and young Deandre Hopkins, and is a playmaker through and through. Last year, in what was Shenault Jr’s Sophomore season, the WR out of Desoto Texas balled out, recording 86 REC and receiving for a total of 1,011 yards. Shenault Jr. also made a splash to his Sophomore campaign as he racked up 211 receiving yards in a week one win against Colorado State. People all already looking at Shenault Jr. as a top 10 pick for the 2020 NFL Draft but for the time being, this playmaker is just focused on leading his team to Levy’s Stadium come seasons end.
Another reason why I am so high on this Bison offense this year is that they have a QB in Steven Montez who is as competitive of a QB west of the Mississippi as you will find. Montez, a Senior from El Paso, is looking to end his tenure with the Bison on a high note. Montez doesn’t have the strongest arm in the world, he isn’t the most athletic QB you will ever see, but he has a knack to the game that can not be bought and wants it just a little bit more than everybody else. When Montez’ Junior season was all said and done, the gunslinger from the lone star state had thrown for a total of 2,849 yards, had contributed for 19 passing TDs and was given an overall QBR of 135.8. I expect Montez to have a huge Senior season and help lead his team in the right direction moving forward. Although Colorado did not finish the season off how they wanted to a year ago (losing their last 7,) this is a team that has a new blueprint in 2019 and may surprise some people when all and said and done.
Pac 12 South Winner: Utah
Pac 12 Champion: Utah
Coming into each season, one very lucky conference has the pleasure of hosting the defending National Champs. This conference can use this team as a marketing chip to make it seem that their conference is the best in the nation as “Home of the defending National Champions,” holds a ton of weight. This year, that privilege goes to the ACC and the Clemson Tigers. With this being said, I do not think the ACC is the best conference in the country, not by a wide margin. I do, however, believe that the National Title this year will run through the Atlantic Coast as I believe that Clemson in the most talented team in the nation by a long shot. But we will get into that later. Let’s first preview the ACC Coastal division AKA “The fight for second place.”
The ACC Coastal Division. One of the sloppiest divisions in America. I use this term ambiguously of course, as this division is an open book. Let’s face it, Clemson has the ACC won this year and the season hasn’t even started yet. It is just a reality. So with that being said, the teams in this division are really fighting for a right to go to North Carolina, only to get embarrassed by the Tigers in the ACC Championship game. However, this makes for an interesting and competitive dynamic. The two teams that I think have a chance of winning the ACC Coastal division this year are the Virginia Tech Hokies and Virginia Cavaliers.
Starting with the Hokies out of Virginia Tech, it is safe to say that 2018 was a major disappointment. With such high expectations coming into the year, I don’t think anyone in their wildest dreams could have imagined the Hokies to finish the season with a 6-7 record which included a loss to Old Dominion. Now yes, VT’s starting QB Josh Jackson was sidelined for a substantial amount of time due to an injury, but the Hokies defense led by defense coordinator Bud Foster was way too talented to allow an under .500 season to take place. Virginia Tech is now faced with the task of starting over. They need to forget about the past and realize that they have the talent to win this division.
Furthermore, it is important to acknowledge the talent from the Hokies that will help them get back to success come 2019. Starting on the defensive side of the ball, Virginia Tech is going to run their defense around Junior LB, Rayshard Ashby. Ashby is a physical, big-hitting, missile seeker who can smell a ballcarrier from a mile away. If Ashby plays up to potential, Bud Foster’s defense should be just fine, as they will feed off his energy. However, the same can be said the other way around as negative energy and uninspired football can spread like wildfires. Leaders set the tone and lead by example. We will just have to wait and see if Ashby becomes that guy.
Moving to the offensive side of the ball, the Hokies expect to run out a new form, new led offense come 2019. During the offseason, the Hokie faithful were sent into a state of shock as QB Josh Jackson announced he would be transferring to the University of Maryland in the fall. This had to be a gut punch to VT as Jackson was the past, the present and the future of Virginia Tech football. But, as we all know, college football is a business and you have to move on quickly if you want to have any form of success. With that, Virginia Tech has now decided to put their marbles into Senior QB, Ryan Willis. Willis, a 6’4 pocket passer from Kansas, is no stranger to being the second option, as he has spent the majority of his collegiate career at the backup position. However, Willis has had his fair to prove his worth at the college level, as he has thrown for over 5000 career yards with both the Kansas Jayhawks and the Virginia Tech Hokies. Last season, when Jackson came down with a season-ending injury vs Old Dominion, Willis was called on to be the new man in charge. In 10 games as the starter, Willis threw for a total of 2521 passing yards, tossed 23 TD passes and managed just 9 INTs. Willis does not quite have the upside that Jackson possessed, but he is more than capable of leading this Hokie team to a winning record this season. I am taking a risk here predicting the Hokies to have success in 2019, but you know what they say; high risk, higher reward.
Horton here’s a Hoo. Well, in this case, Horton hears an extremely talented, underrated football team. The Virginia Cavaliers come into the 2019 season with literally 0 eyes on them. I have tried to find articles where professionals hype this team up but have found nothing. And this surprises me, as I think this Virginia Football team is extremely talented. They have a super talented QB in Bryce Perkins and run a defensive scheme that has the potential to be special. I guess I will be the first one to give these boys some praise coming into the fall.
When talking about Virginia, the first thing you must do is talk about their HC Bronco Mendenhall. Mendenhall, who is in his 4th season with the Cavaliers, has been nothing but a saving grace for this once-struggling program. When Mendenhall took the reigns in 2016, Virginia football was the laughing stock of the ACC and was an easy win for any team who got them on the schedule. In his first year as Head Coach, Mendenhall lead his team to a measly 2-10 record, leaving him out of a bowl game for the first time in his coaching career. Although this season looks like a failure on paper, Mendenhall was slowly building a new era in Charlottesville and knew that Rome wasn’t built in a day. In 2017, Virginia started the year with a 5-1 record which included a road upset over nationally-ranked Boise State. They would then go own to play in their first bowl game since 2011. Last season, Mendenhall lead his Cavalier team to an 8-5 record, a national ranking during one point in the season, and a 28-0 Belk Bowl victory over South Carolina. With the gradual progression and improvement throughout Mendenhall’s tenure with the Cavaliers, one can only imagine what is to hold for the Hoos come 2019.
ACC Coastal Winner: Virginia
The ACC Atlantic division, AKA the Clemson Tiger preseason. This is how talented Clemson is. Over the last couple of years, conference play has simply been a warm-up for the Tigers in preparation for the CFP. It is not to disrespect any other team in the division, Clemson is just simply that much better than every other team in the ACC.
So what makes Clemson so good? Well for starters, they have the best recruiter in the nation in Dabo Swinney. Although Dabo’s official title is head coach, Swinney excels in the recruiting game. He will go into your home state (Florida, Alabama, Texas, Georgia) and take your best player. He will then see that the player turn into a star and win a National Championship. Rinse, wash and repeat. One of these players that Swinney stole is Junior RB, Travis Etienne. Etienne, a speedster from Louisiana, is an absolute workhorse. In his Sophomore campaign, Etienne found himself in the Heisman conversation running for a total of 1,658 yards (5th best in nation,) scoring 24 rushing TDs (3rd in the nation) and averaging a staggering 8.1 yards a carry. The crazy and frankly scary thing is that Etienne is not even the most talented athlete on this Tigers offense. That honor goes to the best QB in college football, sir Trevor Lawrence.
I think it is first important to establish why I just praised Lawrence as the best QB in the nation. For starters, when I watched Trevor Lawrence play, I see a star being made. I see a kid, who last year as a freshman, took his team and not only beat Alabama in a National Championship but absolutely dominated them. When I watched that game, I saw a kid who was younger than me, do things that I don’t think could be done by most men in their late 30s. By game’s end, Lawrence had amounted for 347 total passing yards, had thrown 3 TD passes and finished the game with a 184.5 QBR. I also see a kid who finished the season throwing for 30 TD passes, over 3000 yards in the air and equating for just 4 INTs on the year. I see a star in the making.
Lawrence was born to be a QB. The amount of poise he carries with him on the field is absolutely admirable. The pinpoint accuracy he displays is something you only see in the NFL and his arm strength, oh his arm strength reminds me of Aaron Rodgers in his prime. I think Trevor Lawrence is so good in fact, that if healthy this season, I think he can lead his team to a national championship, win the ACC and ACC player of the year, go undefeated and win the Heisman going away. I could go as far as saying that I think we are looking at the next Aaron Rodgers in the making. I believe that much in this kid. The scary thing is, he has two more years to dominate college competition before any NFL team can even get their hands on him. Enjoy it while you can college football fans.
Now yes, Clemson has a lot of reloading to do on the defensive side of the ball, but they have the best recruiting class in the nation and by midseason, everyone will forget the Tigers even had holes to fill in the first place. In conclusion, I think you all know where I currently stand with this Clemson team. I feel that nobody in this conference has a chance to even touch them and feel that they will head into the CFP undefeated for the second year in a row. Furthermore, I only see two teams in the entire nation that can even come close to dethroning the kings. Those teams being Alabama and Georgia. Can they beat the Tigers, however? We will just have to wait until the CFP to find out.
ACC Atlantic Winner: Clemson
ACC Champion: Clemson
No more Will Grier. No more Kyler Murray. Where is the firepower going to come from this year? Oh, don’t you worry, the Big 12 is as flashy as ever. The Big 12 has been known for many things over the years but one of those things is not defense. For some reason, you rarely find a Big 12 team with a great defense. If you like high scoring games or a flair for the dramatic, this is the conference for you. What also makes the Big 12 special is that there are no subdivisions to split it up. Everybody plays everybody and the top two teams at the end of the year battle it out in the newly formed Big 12 Championship game. This format allows for much more competitive play and less repetition of repeat champions.
This season, I feel that 2 teams have a legitimate chance to win the Big 12 along with an outside sleeper. These teams being the Texas Longhorns, the Iowa State Cyclones and of course, the Oklahoma Sooners. Starting with the sleeper pick, I feel that Iowa State is a team that could surprise some people this year. They are fast on offense, have a really impressive head coach in Matt Campbell and have a defense that has the potential to play above Big 12 standards. I also am really high on Iowa State’s pro-style QB, Brock Purdy. Purdy, a Sophomore from Arizona, is the type of QB, that will be built to play in the Big 12. He is tall, has an above-average arm, and can read a defense better than J.K Rowling in a book club. Last season as a Freshman, Purdy threw for a total of 2,250 passing yards, tossed 16 TD passes and acquired just 7 INTs. I expect Purdy to continue to develop and grow in Iowa City and become to the face of this young, building program. While I don’t believe Iowa State is talented enough to compete with a team like Oklahoma or Texas just yet, I do believe that in a few years, they could be a team that is playing in the house that Jerry built, with the hopes of raising that illustrious Big 12 Championship trophy.
Now let’s talk about the Sooners of Oklahoma. The big headline coming out of Norman this offseason has been the acquisition of former Alabama QB, Jalen Hurts. Hurts, a one time star at the University of Alabama, has recently taken a backstage seat from the fame and spotlight as Tua mania has spread across Tuscolusa like wildfire. Although Hurts may not be a prominent name anymore, it does mean he lacks talent, as the starting QB job at Alabama does not get handed out to just anybody. Hurts hopes that this second chance of some sorts will lead him into new fame and even potentially, take him back to the promised land that he was once so accustomed to seeing.
While the Hurts hype may be alive and well in Norman, he will not be the main factor when it comes to the overall success of the 2019 Oklahoma Sooners. This honor will, in fact, go to the Sooners defense. Let’s face it, Oklahoma’s defense was bad last year. Like embarrassingly bad. They gave up 32.4 points a game, allowed over 400 yards per contest, and had to make an impromptu to move to fire their defensive coordinator in the middle of the season. If this effort on the defensive side of the ball continues for the Sooners in 2019, I don’t care how good their offense is, they won’t be going anywhere come postseason time. With that being said, there have been rumors floating around Norman this summer that speculate the Sooners will have a new and improved defense come fall. For starters, Oklahoma has a new and improved defensive Coordinator in Alex Grinch that has an aggressive play-calling style and lives for the big hit. Grinch is an obvious improvement from what Oklahoma has previously had on this side of the ball, and the improvements he should make in his first year with the club should be significant. Secondly, Oklahoma’s defense is a year older and with that, comes leadership and growth. Two key players to watch for defensively this fall for the Sooners are going to be Junior safety, Robert Barnes and Senior utility man, Parnell Motley. Both have been said to have looked great thus far in Summer camps, and I am excited to see what they can do during this upcoming season. In conclusion, do I expect Oklahoma’s defense to be stellar this year? Of course not. That would take a miracle. But I do expect some sort of improvement in one way or another. If this improvement comes, it will open the door to a dominant, offensive lead season that ends with a CFP appearance. If it doesn’t however, the Oklahoma Sooners will not win the Big 12 for the first time since 2014.
It is now time to shift our focus and talk about my favorite team in the Big 12, Texas. The first thing that comes to mind in thinking about Texas Longhorn football is pure grit. These boys from the Longhorn state know how to get down and dirty and will do anything, and I mean anything, to come away with a W on Saturday afternoon. Over the last 2 seasons, LongHorn HC Tom Herman has built and developed a culture in Austin that is reminiscent of the glory days down south. Texas is coming fresh off a 10-4 year which was capped off with a Sugar Bowl win over SEC powerhouse, Georgia. So to answer the question “Is Texas back?” You better bet your damn biscuits they are.
In regards to how well I think the Longhorns are going to be in 2019… Well, let’s just say I think they are only a year or two away from making the CFP. Starting with Texas’ defense, there aren’t many bad things you can say about it. Defensive coordinator Todd Orlando has done a phenomenal job turning this squad from a once lackluster bunch to an above-average force. The one player you want to keep your eyes on for Texas defensively this year is Sophomore Safety B.J Foster who is coming off of a huge 2018 campaign in which he led the team in sacks and tackles for losses. Although they are extremely young, if this Texas defense plays up to potential, they can be the best defense in the Big 12, and by a wide margin.
While I am a fan of the Long Horns defense as well as the growing culture surrounding Texas football, these are not the main reasons why Texas is my favorite team in the Big 12. The reason why I am so high on Texas this year is thanks to a man named Sam Ehlinger. Ehlinger, a 6’3 junior from Austin, is a SPECIAL QB., and I don’t use that word lightly. The dual-threat QB out of the lone star state can hurt you in more ways than one portrays leadership qualities that are hard to find in any profession. Last summer, when Ehlinger returned to campus for his sophomore season, the Texas Longhorn football program was in a place of shambles. They were not winning games and needed someone, something to get them back on track. Sam was that guy. Slowly but surely, Ehlinger put this team on his back and began to climb up the mountain of success. Texas began to win ball games and at one point, even beat its rival Oklahoma in a game for the ages. During that rivalry game, Ehlinger had the game of his life, throwing for 314 yards, and compiling 5 total touchdowns (2 in the air, 3 on the ground.) By season’s end, Texas was not only officially back, but Ehlinger had established himself as one of the best QB in the nation, as he threw for a total of 3292 yards, tossed 25 TD passes, and recorded just 5 INTs. Ehlinger also ran for 16 total TDs and rushed for a total of 432 yards. What does 2019 hold in store for the Texas Longhorns? I can’t really disclose that information to you right now. One thing I can tell you, however, is that when Sam Ehlinger is under center, Texas will always be in the thick of things. Hook ’em!
Big 12 Champions: Texas
The Big Ten. A conference that is as tough as nails and at times, can be as cut throughout as a bad divorce. To win the Big Ten conference, one must display a great sense of pride, honor, and grit. Out of the last 8 Big Ten Champions, two have gone on to win the Rose Bowl, two have gone on to play in the CFP and one has even gone all the way of winning the National Championship. Coming into 2019, these expectations should not change one iota. In my opinion, the Big Ten is the second-best conference in America and has two teams in it, that have a serious shot of making the CFP. I want to start previewing this conference however, by talking about a division that may experience some rare parody come conference play.
In the offseason of 2010, the Big Ten announced that they would host a conference championship game at the end of each season. They also announced that they would be separating the conference into two divisions. These divisions being; the Big Ten West and the Big Ten East (Initially introduced as the Legends and Leaders divisions.). Since that decision was made nearly a decade ago, Wisconsin has owned the Big Ten West (Leaders Division.) They have appeared in 5 of the 8 Big Ten Championship games and to this day, hold the record for most appearances in these respected games. However, 2019 will be a different story in regards to the Big Ten West. Wisconsin will not be the dominant force that teams have been accustomed to seeing over the past decade. They do not have a QB anymore as Alex Hornibrook has transferred to Florida State, their defense is going to be suspect and I am not high on their current head coach, Paul Chryst. All and all, I see Wisconsin having a down season in 2019 which should leave this once lob sided conference, wide open and up for grabs.
The question that now remains is who do I feel will win the Big ten West in 2019. To be honest with you, I am having a hard time choosing just one team at the moment. I feel that there are three or four teams that could really step their game up and find their way to Indianapolis come December. However, there are two teams in this conference that I feel have a slight edge over the others and are who I am going to dub as the favorites coming into the 2019 season. Starting with the Nebraska Cornhuskers, I feel that this Scott Frost lead bunch is going to have a complete 180 come seasons play and surprise an entire nation of doubters. However, these doubters have a good reason to be disbelievers as the Scott Frost era has begun on an awful note. Last season, in what was Frost’s first year at the helm, the Cornhuskers had an abysmal 4-8 season in which they finished conference play at just 3-6. With this being said, one positive note that could have been taken away from the 2018 Cornhuskers season was that they got tremendous production from their QB, Adrian Martinez. Martinez, a 6’2 righty from Fresno, is the type of QB that one creates in a video game and maxes out all the stats. Martinez is extremely quick on his feet, has a rocket arm and does an exceptional job of alluding pressure in the pocket. Last season, Martinez made a splash during his freshman season, throwing for a total of 2617 yards, passing for 17 TDs and finishing the year with a 64.6 completion percentage. Martinez also amounted for 629 rushing yards on the year and came up with 8 rushing TDs. It is important to note that Martinez was only a freshman last season so although these numbers are not the most impressive in the world, one can assume he is only going to grow with age. It is also worth noting that Nebraska has one of the best-recruiting classes in the country coming in and Martinez has been welcomed to campus this summer with some new offense weapons. I really like Martinez, and believe he even has what it takes to win the Heisman. He is one of the more versatile QBs in the nation and is a born playmaker. The reason Nebraska is going to make a name for themselves in 2019 is because of this Californian who was born to shine in the spotlight. Do not be surprised if you see Martinez and his Cornhusker teammates in Indy, come season’s end.
The second team that I am dubbing a favorite in the Big Ten West heading into the 2019 season is the Iowa Hawkeyes. Iowa is not a team that is going to put up 30 points a game or make the SC top 10 with flashy plays on Sunday morning. They are instead, a team who is going to beat you with a stout defense, a ground and pound offensive attack and are a team that displays a disgusting amount of toughness. This is simply the Iowan way and this team is the perfect definition of what Big Ten Football is all about. The Hawkeyes are a team that is lead by a Head Coach in Kirk Ferentz who has been commander and chief since 1999. They are a team that has strength and conditioning coach who gets paid 800K dollars a year to help players pump Iron. Iowa is a different breed and is a breed you do not want to mess with under any given circumstances.
In regards to the 2019 Iowa Hawkeyes, I want to discuss why I believe they are one of the favorites in the Big Ten West heading into the regular season. For starters, I am a big fan of Iowa’s starting QB, Nate Stanley. Stanley, a Senior from Wisconson, was born to be the starting QB for the Iowa Hawkeyes. He is a tall, white pocket passer who fits the mold perfectly as to what every starting QB in Iowa’s program history has looked like. With this being said, Stanley is also a very talented pocket passer. A year ago, in what was Stanley’s Junior season, the 6’4 righty racked up a total of 26 passing TDs, threw for 2,852 yards in the air and finished with an overall QBR of 136.5. Now, it is worth mentioning that Stanley will be without his top two targets this season as TE’s T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant are both now in the NFL. However, over the last few years, Iowa has become is a breeding ground for TE’s, so I think Stanley will be just fine.
In regards to Iowa’s defense this year, you can’t go two seconds without bringing up the defensive sensation that is A.J. Epenesa. Epenesa, a 6’6″, 280-pound junior defensive end, has a chance to be the best pass rusher in the Big Ten—and one of the best in all of college football. Epenesa is coming off of a season in which he didn’t even start for the Hawkeyes defense, but still managed to rack up 10 1⁄2 sacks, which lead the Big Ten. If Epenesa can do this much damage as a second-string player, the mind can only wonder as to what this dominant force can do once placed on the starting line.
Big Ten West Winner: Iowa
The Big Ten East, my favorite division in all of college football. Now yes, my favorite team Penn State resides here so I may be a tad biased, but this is by no means the only reason I am so enamored year in and year out by Big Ten East play. The fact of the matter is, the Big Ten East is the most loaded, most talented and in many ways, could be considered the most competitive division in college football. I mean we are talking POWERHOUSES such as Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Penn State all in the same division. That is just unfair. Now, While I do believe Michigan State has a good program, I will mainly be focusing on the three teams that I believe have the best chance of winning the Big East. Let’s kick off the most anticipated preview of the article off, by talking about some players in PA, who seem to always be happy, in a magical valley.
WE ARE, PENN STATE! This is, of course, the famous chant that rings upon 110,00 people inside a packed Beaver Stadium on Saturdays afternoons in the fall. For Penn State fans, this team is not just a team to root for, it is a tradition like no other. This team is family and this team is here through ups and downs. Unfortunately, one of these downs was experienced during much of the Nittany Lions 2018 season. With expectations through the roof coming into summer camps, it is understandable to feel disappointed after the Lions finished the year with a 9-4 record which was capped off by a Citrus Bowl loss to Kentucky. Trace McSorely underperformed in his Senior season, the defense gave up too many late leads to count, and Head Coach James Franklin looked as lost as a stray cat during certain points throughout the year. With household names like Trace McSorley, Miles Sanders and Shareef Miller now gone to the NFL, fans across Happy Valley are left wondering is the Lions are on the verge of another season on vast disappointment.
As the voice of good reason, I am happy to report to all Penn State fans, that this team is going to be just fine come 2019. They have an outstanding recruiting class come in, are reenergized on the defensive side of the ball, and have a new ora to them that was not portrayed during this time last year. Last season, Penn State was coming off of a huge season and really had nothing to prove. This year, the Lions are coming off of a season of disappointment and are out to prove that they are a team that is worth mentioning when discussing elite programs across the county. I promise you, this changed mindset will play a huge difference come week one.
While all this sound bright and dandy, there is still one huge question that must be answered; who is going to start at QB for the Nittany Lions come week one against Idaho? The answer to this inquiry is that the Lions plan to send out and start Red Shirt Sophomore Sean Clifford. Clifford, a 6’2 pocket passer from Illinois, has attempted just 7 passes thus far in his collegian career. This could be a curse by the fact that Clifford is going to be thrown into the fire with virtually no real playing experience, but could also be a blessing as teams will not have much film to study against him early on. I have studied Clifford high school film extensively, and I gotta tell ya, I think this kid has a real chance to have a break out year. He is quick on his feet, has an above-average arm, and does something that Trace McSorley could not do a season ago – which stays in the pocket when pressure is looming near. Clifford will also have a stacked, deep WR core to work with and this luxury should help him get settled in with his new role as BMOC. Overall, I think Penn State is going to have a really good season. If you want to find out more about why I think that exactly is, tune into “The Lions Den” A Penn State Football Podcast, returning Wednesday, August 28th!
Hail to the victors! Michigan football is about as historic and dominant of a program as you will find in America. However, over the last decade or so, this has not been the case. As of late, Michigan has been a team of relevancy, up until the last week of the season, where they fall of the cliff to their arch-rival, the Buckeyes of Ohio State. In 2015, Michigan hired Head Coach Jim Harbaugh in hopes to flip the script and change the narrative to ultimate success. Fast forward 4 years and Harbaugh has failed to do the job, going a miserable 0-4 in games against Ohio State. This leads people to believe, what possibly else does Michigan have to do to get over the hump. They are just one, HUGE win away from most likely, reaching the CFP and perhaps winning a National Championship.
With all these being said, rumors are floating around Ann Arbor that leads people to believe, that this is the year Michigan finally gets over that hump. There have been reports that Michigan’s defense, led by Defense Coordinator, Don Brown has looked better than they ever have and this is saying something, as last season I would have ranked them as the best defense in the country when fully healthy. Although Michigan has lost some key pieces on defense such as Rashan Gary, Chase Winovich and David Long, they have some outstanding returning talent such as Lavert Hill, Josh Uche and Khaleke Hudson. If Michigan’s defense can remain healthy, they will go into the last week of the season with a chance to clinch a birth in the Big Ten Championship game, as long as they can find a way to get over that hump.
Although we all know that Michigan’s defense can be expected to be dominant this season, the same can not be said about the offensive attack. In my opinion, the main factor that will decide whether Michigan is ready to get over the hump or not will be the production of Senior QB, Shea Patterson. I’m gonna be honest, I am not the worlds biggest Shea Patterson. I think he is overrated, I think he is cocky and think he is not nearly all that he is cracked up to be. Last year, in what was Patterson’s first year in Ann Arbor after transferring from Ole Miss, the QB from Lousiana looked mediocre at best, throwing for a total of 2,600 yards, accumulating 22 TD passes and finishing the year with a total QBR of 149.8. I watched a lot of Michigan’s games last year, and when I watched Patterson play, I saw an average QB at best. He seemed timid in big games, he looked scared when he got hit, and the Shea magic that was promoted out of Oxford was nowhere to be found. Some people have proclaimed Patterson as a Heisman hopeful coming into the 2019 season. In my eyes, however, Patterson is going to have to improve his game significantly, to even be put in the discussion of best QB in the Big 10, rather less the nation. In conclusion, Michigan is going to experience success in 2019 and will find themselves just one big win away from making waves come postseason time. The one problem is however, I just do not think they have it in them to accomplish that daunting task and will be left disappointed for yet another year.
Let’s now direct our attention and talk about in my eyes, the most talented team in the Big 10 heading into 2019; The Ohio State Buckeyes. You wanna talk about a roller coaster of emotions that this team has been on over the last year or so? For starters, Urban Meyer, college football royalty of sorts, started the season on the (figurative) bench as he was suspended for his involvement, or lack thereof, in regards to a former coach and a domestic violence dispute. Then, after a 7-0 start to the season, the Buckeyes made their way to West Lafayette, only to get blown out and bombarded by the Purdue Boiler Makers which sent their chances at a CFP birth down the drain. Finally, at the year’s end, it was announced that Meyer, who had been the Head Coach at Ohio State since 2012, was retiring from the game of football and would be handing the responsibilities over to former offensive coordinator, Ryan Day. The Buckeyes now enter 2019 with a new head coach, a new QB in transfer Justin Fields and a new opportunity to reach the CFP for the first time since 2016 (2016-2017.)
Although Ohio State is going to have to rely on new defensive leaders as they are now without Nick Bosa, the main factor that will determine this team’s success in 2019 is their offensive attack. It no surprise to anyone that Ryan Day is going to run his team with an offensive heavy mindset. He is going to want to play fast and score a lot, and I mean a lot of points. Fortunately for Day and his staff, they are given the proper talent to produce and perform at the high level needed to achieve success. Leading the Buckeye offense in 2019 is going to be transfer QB, Justin Fields. Fields, a once top-ranked recruit from Georgia, is looking to become the star he always envisioned himself to be. When Fields committed to the University of Georgia, he did not know that he would be riding the bench behind superstar sensation, Jake Fromm. When you are THE GUY in high school and are listed as the top-ranked player in the country, you expect that same treatment to follow you when arriving at college. When a guy already has the spot that you thought was going to be yours, it is very hard to stay there and accept it. While Fields may have been a backup to Fromm for the duration of last season, he certainly has the talent to become a star in 2019. He has an arm that may be as strong as Haskins, he can scramble better than J.T Barrett and has the poise that the great Troy Smith once obtained in the early 2000s. Fields has the best attributes from former Ohio State greats, all rolled up into one. If Fields can find his footing early on in Columbus, I will go as far as to say that he will be a Heisman finalist in NYC come early January. The Buckeyes can also hurt you on the ground with Junior running back, J.K Dobbins. Last season, Dobbins became the first running back in Ohio State history to record 1,000-yard seasons in both his freshman and sophomore year, a third-such performance would tie him with Archie Griffin as the only Buckeye with three 1,000-yard rushing seasons. If you should expect anything from this Buckeye team in 2019, it’s points, a lot of points. This team has one of the most loaded and deep offenses in the country and if you are a defense in the Big 10 my best advice to you would be…RUN!
Big Ten East Winner: Ohio State
Big Ten Champions: Ohio State
5 Biggest Surprises of the 2019 CFB Season
Utah State coming out of the Mountain West is a team that I feel has a chance to make some serious noise this year. What attracts me the most to the Aggies is that they have one of the most free-flowing, crisp offensive attacks outside of the power five as you will ever see. Lead by offensive coordinator David Yost, this Aggie offense has the potential to run circles around MW defenses all season long. Another thing I really like about Utah State is their Junior QB, Jordan Love.
I first fell in love with Love (lol) last August, when Love led his Utah State Aggies into East Lansing, to face powerhouse Michigan State on the road. Now, it was the first game of the season and Michigan State was given a preseason national ranking, so I was expecting the usual “cupcake butt-whooping” put on by power 5 programs. However, Love stepped onto the field with that attitude and swagger that he was the best player on the gridiron. And for all intents and purposes, he may very well have been. Every pass Love made was on the money and was as crisp as a new one-dollar bill. As the fourth quarter rolled around, Love had nearly 300 passing yards to his name and had his Aggie team on the verge of a historic upset. Utah State ended up losing the game by 7, but it didn’t matter. I had already seen enough to know that Love was a star in the making. As the weeks began to progress in the season, Love began to grow stronger, both as a teammate and as an individual. His arm was a thing that you only see in made up comics and his confidence is what you only see in NFL vets. By season’s end, Love had thrown for over 3500 yards, had thrown just 6 interceptions, and finished 10th in the nation in TD passes with 32. As we head into the fall, I feel that Love is not only talented enough to win the Mountain West Conference POY by a landslide but also have an opportunity to be sitting in Times Square on December 8th. If you have not heard of Jordan Love before, I advise you to do some homework, because this Cali boy is about to become the talk of the nation.
Row the boat! Since starting these previews back in 2017, I have put Minnesota as a surprise team for each and every article. Why? Well for starters, I may be the world’s biggest P.J. Fleck fan. Fleck, who is heading into his third season as the HC of the Gophers, is everything good that college football represents. The message of “Row The Boat” that Fleck construes to his team daily is inspirational in itself, never mind the fact that Fleck is a walking ball of high energy and positivity. A lot of times when we evaluate second or third-year head coaches at the division one level, we look at the progression and improvement of play over time, to determine whether or not a team is on an upward slope or downward spiral. In Fleck’s first season as commander and chief, Minnesota went 3-0 to start the year, but managed to only scratch two more wins the rest of the way, finishing the year at 5-7. Fleck then acquired some highly coveted recruits in the offseason and headed into the 2018 year with hopes as high as the Snoop Dog. As the year got underway, it was as clear as day to see the improvements Minnesota had made from just a few months ago. They were faster to the ball, played with more physicality to them and just looked like they were playing with a purpose week in and week out. Although they weren’t necessarily winning every game, they were fighting like hell, and you can’t ask for much more than that if you’re the coach. The highlight of the Gophers fall came on the last week of the regular season, when Minnesota stormed into Camp Randall, to take Paul Bunyan’s Axe from Wisconsin for the first time since 2003. This win was not only huge for the Gophers program but was huge for Fleck as well, as he now has his signature win at Minnesota under his belt. I expect the Gophers to continue to build on this ongoing success in 2019 and think they will finish their season out with an above .500 record.
O BABY am I excited about the Missouri Tigers this year. First things first, however, let’s address the elephant in the room. Did Kelly Bryant get effed over at Clemson? Yes. He should not have been made the starting QB in 2018 in the first place as it had to have been clear to the Clemson coaching staff that Trevor Lawrence was the better QB the second he stepped on campus. For Bryant too, in a way get to lead on the way he did, is not right and I wish his time at Clemson would have ended in a more peaceful matter. With this being said, however, I do not think Kelly Bryant could have picked a better place to transfer to in the entire country. Missouri is a program that just lost longtime QB Drew Lock to the NFL and was in need of someone to quickly fill that hole. The Tigers also have an offensive coordinator in Derek Dooley who handles dual-threat QBs like Bryant daily and turns them in Sunday talents. It has also been rumored that Bryant has not only adjusted to his new home in Colombia during summer camps but has taken it over. Words like dazzling, dominant and electric have been thrown out when discussing Bryant’s early production at camp and I could not be more excited to see what this cat can do against SEC defenses all season long. I am also excited to see what Missouris defense can do this year as Senior LB, Cale Garrett is as electric of a defensive force, as you will find in the SEC East. Now, am I saying that I think Missouri has enough talent this season to contend for an SEC East title? Let’s not go that far. But they will be a fun team to watch this year and should be fun to follow.
4. North Texas
I know what you guys are thinking. WHO? But let me just explain myself before everybody flips out on me. The big, mean green, fighting machine that is known as North Texas football is going to be absolutely disgusting this year. I’m talking, a one-loss season at max and maybe even a potential national ranking at one point in time for the boys from the lone star state. And this success will all be thanks to one man and one man only, Mason Fine. Mason Fine is the best QB that you have never heard of. And this 5’11 Senior from Oklahoma isn’t just good, he is special. Last year, during the gunslingers Junior season, Fine threw for a total of 3,793 yards (8th best in the nation), tossed 27 TD passes along the way and finished the year with an overall QBR of 149.4. When a watch Fine play, I am reminded of a young Matt Ryan playing ball at BC. A poised, confident QB who is not afraid to stay in the pocket and deliver a big throw, even if it means taking a big hit in the process. If I had to make one guarantee during this whole preview article, it would be that Mason Fine is going to be a pro bowler sooner than later. There are certain athletes you know are going to be special the second you lay eyes on them and Fine fits that mold perfectly. If Fine played for a power five school, he could win the Heisman this year, but for now, I guess he will just have to focus on leading this Machine to the best season in program history.
Last season I predicted that Arizona would shock the world and win the Pac 12 South. I may have jumped the gun as the Wildcats finished the year with a 5-7 record and finished 3rd in the division. However, certain factors lead to Arizona’s let down season that I expect to be fixed come 2019. For starters, Kevin Sumlin, the head coach of the Wildcats, had to go through the kinks during his first year with the team, and I expect him to have a strong, second fall with his team. Secondly, Arizona’s QB Khalil Tate did not live up to the hype that was surrounding his name. The dual-threat QB entered his Junior season looking flatter than a beat-up tire. By seasons end, Tate had put up average numbers at best, throwing for a total of 2530 yards, tossing 26 passing TDs, and finishing the year with a total of 8 INTs. However, what makes Tate special is his ability to hurt defenses with his legs. In 2017, Tate rushed for a total of 1411 yards and was considered one of the nation’s most electric dual-threat QBs. Although Tate had a down year with his legs last fall, I expect him to return to his old ways in 2019 and be praised as one of the best QBs the Pac 12 has to offer. Go cats!
5 Biggest Disappointments of the 2019 CFB Season
November 23rd, 2018. The UCF Golden Knights are on the quest to win their 24th straight game in what has been a run for the history books. Standing in their way and W number 24? The USF Bulls, UCF’s biggest rival. The 2nd quarter has arrived and UCF finds themselves protecting a 7-0 lead. The down is 3rd and 7. UCF’s head coach, Josh Heupel calls an RPO that is designed for none other than QB, McKenzie Milton. Milton, who has been the Knights leader throughout this entire historic run, takes the ball and begins scrambling to his right. As Milton gets taken down shy of the first, the Junior QB from Hawaii grabs his right knee in a grimace. As the camera zooms in on Milton’s knee, you can see that the star QBs ligament is severely damaged and in a way, looks detached from his body. Milton is rushed to The Tampa General Hospital, where doctors take an artery from his left leg and sew it into his right leg. Nerves are damaged, and Milton can’t feel his right leg. Milton was then diagnosed with a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament, only later to find out that he didn’t tear the ACL or MCL in his right knee, but rather tore the popliteal artery in the leg and suffered extensive nerve damage. Fast forward to the present day, and Milton hopes to one day get back on the field, to play the game he loves.
What was the point of telling this story? It was to show that no matter what type of season UCF experiences in 2019, it will be considered a disappointment in comparison to what Milton achieved in his three years with the Knights. It is also to show that football is a game that can give so much but can also take so much away in just a blink of an eye. I wish Milton nothing but a speedy recovery and this excerpt is in honor of him.
2. Washington State
Let me first preface something. Although I may be predicting Washington State to have a down year this season, I am in no way taking anything away from Cougar head coach, Mike Leach. That man is college football royalty and must be protected at all costs. With that out of the way, let’s now discuss why I feel that the Cougs will have a sour fall. For starters, their leader, their captain and their superstar, Gardner Minshew is now gone. Minshew, who is now a part of the Jacksonville Jaguars, threw for 4779 total passing yards last season and was a walking show stopper every time he stepped on the gridiron. With him gone, I just do not see the Cougars experiencing any of the same success they did a year ago. Furthermore, Mike Leach is currently in the midst of a QB competition between Anthony Gordon and Gage Gubrud. After watching both of their films extensively, I have come to the concussion that neither of them comes close to having the upside that Minshew provided in Pullman. I also do not think Washington State has a great defense and feel that a good Pac 12 offense, could expose them in more ways than one. They say that college football is a tough business, and this saying could not be more true in this scenario, as the Cougs are about the find out what it’s like to go from a hero to a zero.
If a big-time recruit steps on campus in Madison Wisconsin, he will most likely be told about the dominance Wisconsin has experienced in the Big Ten over the last decade or so. Since the playing of a Big Ten Championship was announced in 2011, Wisconsin has appeared in 5 of the 8 Championship games and to this day, holds the record for most appearances in these respected games. However, 2019 will be a different story in regards to the Badgers’ success. Wisconsin will not be the dominant force that teams have been accustomed to seeing over the past decade. They do not have a QB anymore as Alex Hornibrook has transferred to Florida State, their defense is going to be as suspect as a criminal, and I am not high on their current head coach, Paul Chryst. All and all, I see Wisconsin having a down season in 2019 and think we will see a new champion emerge in the Big Ten West. (I know Northwestern won the BTW last year, but you get the point.)
A year ago, Syracuse was the feel-good story of 2018. They were young, upset driven, and had an inspirational Head Coach in Dino Babers. The Orange finished their 2018 campaign with a 10-3 record, which was capped off by a 34-18 bowl victory against West Virginia. Heading into 2019, Syracuse has their eyes set on another magical season and feels that their new QB, Tommy Devito will lead them to new and greater heights. So with everything said to be so high on the Syracuse Orange heading into the fall, why do I have them as a disappoint in 2019? You know when you have the gut feeling something isn’t gonna go right. That’s kinda the feeling I am having with this Syracuse team heading into the year. For starters, I think Syracuse has an extremely difficult schedule ahead of them, and feel that they will have a hard time keeping their head above water. I also, for some reason, do not think QB Tommy Devito and offensive coordinator, Mike Lynch are going to mesh well. I think they have different styles of doing things and although Lynch has the hierarchy in this situation, it doesn’t necessarily mean Divito is just going to give in. I think Syracuse will be good in 2019, I just do not think they will have as much success as everyone believes they will and for that reason, I’m out.
Finally, in what may be the biggest disappointment of the year, we have the Miami Hurricanes. Miami isn’t going to be just bad this year, they are going to be flat out embarrassing. Last season, Miami finished the season with a mediocre 7-6 record. They got absolutely blown out in their bowl game to Wisconsin, and were left wondering “What the hell just happened.” Then, on December 30th, 2018, Miami’s HC, Mark Richt dropped a bomb on the program, announcing his immediate resignation from the University. This decision sent shock waves across the college football world, as nobody but a mind teller could have predicted this to go down. 11 hours after the announcement was made, Manny Diaz, Miami’s defensive coordinator, took the coaching vacancy. Then, a few months after this all transpired, it was announced that Tate Martell, a once star QB at Bishop Gorman, would be transferring to the U. Fast forward to present day, and Martell has lost the starting job to Jarren Williams and will be starting the season on the sidelines. The point I am trying to make here is that there are too many moving parts for Miami to possibly have a successful season in 2019. Manny Diaz is a defensive coach, and I do not know how he will be able to manage the offensive shit show that will be the Miami Hurricanes in 2019. Overall, I expect the U to be turned into an L this year and if you are riding this Hurricane train right now, I advise you to jump off while you can.
CFP Preseason Prediction:
Pete’s Preseason National Champion: