14 August 2016

2016 College Football Predictions

It certainly was not easy against the Clemson Tigers this past January in Glendale but it was the Alabama Crimson Tide that came out on top on last year's College Football Playoff. As another college football campaign is literally right around the corner, both programs look to be contenders to make it to the semifinals this year but we all know there are a bunch of quality clubs that should be right in the mix.

Who will make it to college football's final four and who will come out on top this January? Here are my predictions for the 2016 college football season.

Coaching Carousel

Could the ACC be the first team to get two teams into the College Football Playoff? It is certainly possible considering both Clemson and Florida State look like top five-caliber teams. In fact, I came close to predicting just that. While Louisville should make it interesting thanks to quarterback Lamarr Jackson, this conference is going to come down to October 29th in Tallahassee. There, I think a strong Deshaun Watson performance will get the Tigers the Atlantic crown and a prime ticket to the College Football Playoff. 

1. Clemson
2. Florida State
3. Louisville
4. NC State
5. Syracuse
6. Boston College
7. Wake Forest

1. North Carolina
2. Pittsburgh
3. Miami
4. Virginia Tech
5. Georgia Tech
6. Duke
7. Virginia

Clemson over North Carolina

Bowl Projections
Clemson - Peach Bowl (CFP)
Florida State - Orange Bowl
Louisville - Russell Athletic Bowl
North Carolina - TaxSlayer Bowl
Pittsburgh - Pinstripe Bowl
Virginia Tech - Sun Bowl
NC State - Belk Bowl
Syracuse - Military Bowl
Georgia Tech - Independence Bowl
Boston College - St. Petersburg Bowl
Houston is the clear favorites to take home the American bacon this season but do not sleep on either the Bulls of South Florida or the Owls of Temple. South Florida returns a bunch of key players from their breakout season a year ago and the Owls should still be stout defensively. That said, I fully expect Cougars to be the Group of Five team to reach a New Year's Six game. 

1. South Florida
2. Temple
3. Cincinnati
4. UConn
5. East Carolina
6. UCF

1. Houston
2. Navy
3. Memphis
4. Tulsa
5. SMU
6. Tulane

Houston over South Florida

Bowl Projections
Houston - Cotton Bowl
South Florida - Birmingham Bowl
Temple - Military Bowl
Navy - Armed Forces Bowl
Memphis - St. Petersburg Bowl
Cincinnati - Boca Raton Bowl
UConn - Miami Beach Bowl
East Carolina - Bahamas Bowl
The balance of power clearly remains tilted towards the East (and yet do not sleep on Iowa yet again). Michigan State should still be able to do their thing and ride strong defense and a balanced offense into division title contention but I do think that it is going to come down to The Game. There is no question that Ohio State has the talent to not just win the B1G but also compete for the national championship but there is just so much unproven for the most part. On the other hand even as they are replacing quarterback Jake Rudock, they have got plenty of pieces on the offensive end while defensive, they get to feature the omnipotent Jabrill Peppers and a pretty good new coordinator in Don Brown. This team is ready to go to Columbus and get a win.

1. Michigan
2. Ohio State
3. Michigan State
4. Penn State
5. Indiana
6. Maryland
7. Rutgers

1. Iowa
2. Nebraska
3. Wisconsin
4. Minnesota
5. Northwestern
6. Illinois
7. Purdue

Michigan over Iowa

Bowl Projections
Michigan - Peach Bowl (CFP)
Ohio State - Rose Bowl
Iowa - Citrus Bowl
Michigan State - Outback Bowl
Penn State - Holiday Bowl
Nebraska - Pinstripe Bowl
Wisconsin - Music City Bowl
Minnesota - Foster Farms Bowl
Northwestern - Quick Lane Bowl
Indiana - Heart of Dallas Bowl
As long as Baker Mayfield stays healthy and upright, the Sooners should be the conference champions and a strong contender to get to the College Football Playoff. Defensively, Oklahoma should be solid (not like defense means anything in this conference) and especially so if they can get a pass rush cranked up. That said, don't rule out the Horned Frogs, especially if they have better luck with their health than they got in 2015, or the Cowboys because they're always fun. And regarding Baylor, they could go 11-1 or they could go 7-5 and I don't think people would be surprised. 

1. Oklahoma
2. TCU
3. Oklahoma State
4. Baylor
5. Texas
6. Texas Tech
7. West Virginia
8. Kansas State
9. Iowa State
10. Kansas

Bowl Projections
Oklahoma - Fiesta Bowl (CFP)
TCU - Sugar Bowl
Oklahoma State - Alamo Bowl
Baylor - Russell Athletic Bowl
Texas - Texas Bowl
Texas Tech - Cactus Bowl
West Virginia - Liberty Bowl
Kansas State - Armed Forces Bowl
Will Jeff Brohm's Hilltoppers be the clear-cut champion of C-USA with star quarterback Brandon Doughty gone? I do still think that Western Kentucky will be the conference champions but there will be some solid competition. Middle Tennessee has a solid quarterback in Brent Stockstill, Marshall has itself a nice mix of talent on both side of the ball and if Jay Hopson can build on what Todd Monken built at Southern Miss, that's a dangerous club. But the offensive pieces around the quarterback already in place for WKU gives them the difference. 

1. Western Kentucky
2. Marshall
3. Middle Tennessee
4. Florida Atlantic
5. Old Dominion
6. FIU
7. Charlotte

1. Southern Miss
2. Louisiana Tech
4. Rice
6. North Texas

Western Kentucky over Southern Miss

Bowl Projections
Western Kentucky - Heart of Dallas Bowl
Southern Miss - New Orleans Bowl
Marshall - Hawaii Bowl
Middle Tennessee - Boca Raton Bowl
Louisiana Tech - Arizona Bowl
UTEP - New Mexico Bowl
BYU finds itself surrounded by Big 12 expansion talk, and rightfully so, but the big story with the independent programs is whether Notre Dame can work its way into the College Football Playoff. With their schedule, if they win out they (should) get in. It will be fun to see who wins the quarterback position between Malik Zaire and DeShone Kizer and either could be one of the finest quarterbacks in the country. If the Irish can put together a solid front seven, they'll be in great shape.

1. Notre Dame
2. BYU
3. Army
4. UMass

Bowl Projections
Notre Dame - Orange Bowl
BYU - Poinsettia Bowl
P.J. Fleck has been building something in Kalamazoo thanks to some truly impressive recruiting classes and I think that 2016 may just be the time for them to break through. That said, they'll have to manage the consistently consistent Northern Illinois, who return 12 starters and Toledo, which also returns plenty but does not return head coach Matt Campbell. The East division is more of a grab bag, meaning the West champion is the clear favorite in a championship game in my opinion. Given that they host NIU and Toledo, WMU is my pick.

1. Ohio
2. Bowling Green
3. Akron
4. Kent State
5. Miami (OH)
6. Buffalo

1. Western Michigan
2. Northern Illinois
3. Toledo
4. Central Michigan
5. Ball State
6. Eastern Michigan

Western Michigan over Ohio

Bowl Projections
Western Michigan - GoDaddy Bowl
Northern Illinois - Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Toledo - Bahamas Bowl
Ohio - Miami Beach Bowl
Central Michigan - Quick Lane Bowl
Bowling Green - Camellia Bowl
Unless we see some craziness (always a possibility in this sport), this will be a race between Boise State and San Diego State not just for the Mountain West crown, but a potential New Year's Six bowl bid. We know that Boise State will be able to supply plenty of offense and plenty of points thanks to returning quarterback Brett Rypien, running back Jeremy McNichols and a solid receiving corps, but the questions with this team are whether they can stop anybody and particularly so in the run game. The Aztecs return a strong defense, particularly so in the secondary and at linebacker, and a terrific running back in Donnel Pumphrey. If they get any improvement from the passing game, they'll be quite dangerous. Even so, I like them to take out the Broncos in the Mountain West title game.

1. Boise State
2. Air Force
3. Utah State
4. Colorado State
5. New Mexico
6. Wyoming

1. San Diego State
2. Nevada
3. San Jose State
5. Fresno State
6. Hawaii

San Diego State over Boise State

Bowl Projections
San Diego State - Las Vegas Bowl
Boise State - Hawaii Bowl
Air Force - Poinsettia Bowl
Utah State - New Mexico Bowl
Nevada - Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
San Jose State - Arizona Bowl
Colorado State - Cure Bowl
New Mexico - Birmingham Bowl
When I look at the Pac-12 this year, I see a bunch of pretty good teams but I don't see any great club. And frankly, you could make a case for like five or even six teams to win the conference and get to the Rose Bowl. There is a lot of buzz surrounding the Washington Huskies this year with 17 returning starters, including quarterback Jake Browning and running back Myles Gaskin, and a strong defense and thus they should be a Pac-12 title contender, although Oregon, Stanford and even our friends in Pullman should be divisional contenders as well. Meanwhile in the South, it should come down to the winner of the Victory Bell. You could make a case that USC is more talented but Josh Rosen plays for the Bruins and he'll be the difference in both the division and for the conference.

1. Washington
2. Oregon
3. Stanford
4. Washington State
5. California
6. Oregon State

2. USC
3. Utah
4. Arizona
5. Arizona State
6. Colorado

UCLA over Washington

Bowl Projections
UCLA - Rose Bowl
Washington - Alamo Bowl
Oregon - Holiday Bowl
Stanford - Sun Bowl
USC - Foster Farms Bowl
Washington State - Las Vegas Bowl
Utah - Cactus Bowl
Arizona - Independence Bowl
Arizona State - New Mexico Bowl
Yet again, the SEC should be the top college football conference in the country. When you have got teams that project to be very good like Ole Miss, Georgia, Florida and a resurgent Tennessee team, one that has been getting a lot of buzz, you see why but when it comes to the College Football Playoff picture, it will come down to Alabama and LSU. The cases for either are clear. The Crimson Tide have to reload as they seemingly do every year but they are such a juggernaut under Nick Saban, they'll be title contenders until the football gods say otherwise. LSU has got plenty of talent in their own right, including the top running back in Leonard Fournette, and if quarterback Brandon Harris takes a step forward like I think he will, they can win it all. Getting to host Alabama in Death Valley on November 5th will be the difference.

1. Tennessee
2. Georgia
3. Florida
4. Missouri
5. Vanderbilt
6. Kentucky
7. South Carolina

1. LSU
2. Alabama
3. Ole Miss
4. Arkansas
5. Texas A&M
6. Auburn
7. Mississippi State

LSU over Tennessee

Bowl Projections
LSU - Fiesta Bowl (CFP)
Alabama - Sugar Bowl
Tennessee - Cotton Bowl
Ole Miss - Citrus Bowl
Georgia - Outback Bowl
Florida - TaxSlayer Bowl
Arkansas - Texas Bowl
Texas A&M - Liberty Bowl
Auburn - Belk Bowl
Mississippi State - Music City Bowl 
Once again, the Sun Belt looks like a three team race for the conference championship between Appalachian State, Arkansas State and Georgia Southern and frankly, you may as well pick out of a hat. The Mountaineers feature a tremendous backfield and a veteran defense, the Red Wolves have speed to burn all over their roster while the option attack of the Eagles is still very much a machine. Based on their experience and on how the schedule breaks, I like Appalachian State to get the conference title but it'll be fun to watch as it always is. 

1. Appalachian State
2. Georgia Southern
3. Arkansas State
4. Troy
5. Georgia State
6. Louisiana-Lafayette
7. Idaho
8. South Alabama
9. New Mexico State
10. Texas State
11. Louisiana-Monroe

Bowl Projections
Appalachian State - New Orleans Bowl
Georgia Southern - Cure Bowl
Arkansas State - GoDaddy Bowl
Troy - Camellia Bowl

Utah State Aggies (2001 - 2011)Arizona State Sun Devils (2011 - Pres)

Washington State Cougars (1995 - Pres)

Bowling Green Falcons (2006 - Pres)Troy Trojans (2008 - Pres)

Georgia Southern Eagles (2010 - Pres)Colorado State Rams (2015 - Pres)

Southern Miss Golden Eagles (2015 - Pres)Appalachian State Mountaineers (2014 - Pres)

UConn Huskies (2013 - Pres)Ohio Bobcats (1999 - Pres)

Cincinnati Bearcats (2006 - Pres)Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (2007 - Pres)

Brigham Young Cougars (1978 - 1998)Air Force Falcons (2004 - Pres)

Northern Illinois Huskies (2001 - Pres)Nevada Wolf Pack (2000 - 2007)

East Carolina Pirates (2014 - Pres)

Navy Midshipmen (1942 - Pres)Kansas State Wildcats (1989 - Pres)

Western Michigan Broncos (1998 - Pres)Arkansas State Red Wolves (2008 - Pres)

Boise State Broncos (1974 - 2001)

Boston College Eagles (2001 - 2004)

Central Michigan Chippewas (1997 - Pres)Northwestern Wildcats (1981 - Pres)

Arizona Wildcats (1990 - Pres)Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (1969 - 1977)

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (1999 - Pres)Indiana Hoosiers (1997 - 2001)

Temple Owls (1972 - 1995)Syracuse Orange (2006 - Pres)

Oregon Ducks (2013 - Pres)Penn State Nittany Lions (2005 - Pres)

Utah Utes (2015 - Pres)Texas Tech Red Raiders (2000 - Pres)

Nebraska Cornhuskers (2016 - Pres)Pittsburgh Panthers (2016 - Pres)

Louisville Cardinals (2013 - Pres)Baylor Bears (2005 - Pres)

Southern California Trojans (2016 - Pres)Minnesota Golden Gophers (1986 - Pres)

Arkansas Razorbacks (2014 - Pres)Texas Longhorns (1974 - Pres)

South Florida Bulls (2003 - Pres)New Mexico Lobos (2009 - Pres)

Auburn Tigers (1971 - Pres)North Carolina State Wolfpack (2006 - Pres)

Washington Huskies (2007 - Pres)Oklahoma State Cowboys (2001 - Pres)

Texas A&M Aggies (2001 - Pres)West Virginia Mountaineers (1980 - Pres)

Stanford Cardinal (2014 - Pres)Virginia Tech Hokies (1983 - Pres)

Wisconsin Badgers (2002 - Pres)Mississippi State Bulldogs (2009 - Pres)

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (2008 - Pres)San Jose State Spartans (2006 - Pres)

Florida State Seminoles (2014 - Pres)Notre Dame Fighting Irish (1994 - Pres)

Mississippi Rebels (1996 - Pres)Iowa Hawkeyes (1979 - Pres)

Florida Gators (2013 - Pres)North Carolina Tar Heels (2015 - Pres)

Michigan State Spartans (1983 - Pres)Outback  Bowl (2008 - Pres)Georgia Bulldogs (1964 - Pres)

Tennessee Volunteers (2015 - Pres)Houston Cougars (2012 - Pres)

Ohio State Buckeyes (1968 - Pres)UCLA Bruins (1996 - Pres)

Alabama Crimson Tide (2001 - Pres)TCU Horned Frogs (1995 - Pres)

Clemson Tigers (1976 - 1976)Michigan Wolverines (1976 - Pres)
If the Wolverines can control the tempo and grind away with their running game and their defense, they may have a chance to keep Deshaun Watson at bay just enough to pull an upset. But even then, you can only rein in a guy like that only so much.
Pick: Clemson

LSU Tigers (1977 - 1979)Oklahoma Sooners (1977 - Pres)
A defensive matchup between these two teams, even with Bob Stoops' skill at building defenses going back to his days as Steve Spurrier's defensive coordinator, really would not be that close. And the Tigers should be able to ride Leonard Fournette to victory here and let their defense seal the deal.
Pick: LSU

Clemson Tigers (1976 - 1976)LSU Tigers (1977 - 1979)
I have framed both of the semifinal contests as matchups of wide open offenses against stout defenses with Clemson riding their skill and their superb quarterback and LSU riding their running game and their defense. That clash of styles will very much be the key to this showdown. I could go either way with this matchup but I do think that after coming so close to winning their first national championship a year ago, Dabo Swinney and his players will do one better this time.
Pick: Clemson


  1. You forgot the Outback Bowl.

  2. Well I must admit I am a bit surprised you have picks for the upcoming season in college football this early because I thought it would be up next week but look forward to see how many you get right