By Brian Sullivan and Eric White
Sports are tough to predict. There’s a reason they play the games and don’t just award titles to the best teams on paper. As tough as it is to predict the outcome of professional sports, it is immensely tougher to predict how College teams will fare. There are so many teams and so many players we don’t even know about. Still, we’ll do our best to help you find a few contenders, as well as the overrated and underrated squads this upcoming season.
1. Ohio State Buckeyes
Do I even need to go into detail? This team absolutely dominated down the stretch last year, and they really didn’t lose a ton of talent. They have three guys who can play quarterback at a high level (Braxton could always switch back). Joey Bosa might be the best player in the nation. And to top it off, they’re schedule isn’t too tough.
2. Baylor Bears
Obviously, losing Bryce Petty is unfortunate. But if there’s any team that can overcome losing their star QB, it’s Baylor. All 5 offensive linemen return. Shock Linwood, Cory Coleman, and KD Cannon all return to bolster the offense. And new QB Seth Russell is a fifth year senior. As long as he isn’t an absolute bum, they should be fine. Not to mention their defense, which Eric will get to…
3. TCU Horned Frogs
QB Treyvone Boykin is about as good as they come when it comes to a college style of ball. The offensive line is still dominant, and the defense is loaded with talent. The Big 12 has two legit contenders.
4. Alabama Crimson Tide
Did they lose a lot of talent? Sure, but Nick Saban deals with this on a yearly basis. It doesn’t matter. Until they slow down, I refuse to take Alabama out of this tier. Look for RB Derrick Henry to dominate this season.
5. Michigan State Spartans
Perhaps a bit controversial, but Michigan State is loaded with talent. Few teams dominate the trenches on both sides of the ball as well as Michigan State. The secondary lost some talent, but it is a very well coached unit. Not to mention they have one of the best QBs in the nation in Connor Cook.
1. Ohio State Buckeyes
Duh. Need I say more?
2 Words; Shawn. Oakman. Shawn Oakman will eat your children. He will also feast upon the offensive lines of the Big 12. And if that isn’t terrifying enough, WHICH IT SHOULD BE- LOOK AT THIS MAN, then look for DTs Andrew Billings and Beau Blackshear to terrify offenses as well. As Brian said, Seth Russell is serviceable enough to get the job done on an otherwise stacked offense. In my opinion, Baylor is going undefeated.
3. TCU Horned Frogs
Few teams have one reliable quarterback; TCU has two. Whether it’s Trevone Boykin or A&M transfer Kenny Hill, TCU is going to be able to score points. If you ask me, Boykin could play other positions on offense. Pair that with what has been a great defense, and they should compete.
4. Alabama Crimson Tide
Beating a dead horse here; Bama is still Bama until proven otherwise.
5. UCLA Bruins
My controversial one. A lot of people have them as a sleeper, but I wouldn’t even call them that. UCLA is legit. Like Seth Russell, new QB Josh Rosen is being thrown in to a great situation. A good offensive line, a solid receiving corps, and Heisman candidate Paul Perkins at RB. The defense lost a few leaders, but it is still loaded with talent. If they can set themselves apart from an incredibly tough Pac-12 south, they should make the final four.
1. Auburn Tigers
I feel as though they are only ranked so highly because of their SEC pedigree. They’re still a solid team, but recall how poorly they played on defense last year (63rd in the nation in points allowed). Combine that with the fact that they lose their starting QB, their #1 WR, and their #1 RB, and it’s tough to see them finishing in the top 5, like many predict. Will Muschamp is a defensive genius, but it might take some time.
2. USC Trojans
I love the offense. Cody Kessler and co. will score points. That’s a given. My issue is the front 7. They weren’t great last year, and that was WITH the #1 overall prospect Leonard Williams on the line. Hard to imagine they’ll improve there. Still a good team, but not a contender.
3. Georgia Bull Dogs
Again, the SEC Pedigree. Nick Chubb is certainly a beast at the tailback position; I’m not concerned about that. I’m not ready to trust Brice Ramsy though, especially when he doesn’t have a great receiving corps to throw to. Like USC, they’re certainly a good team, but not ready to go for a national championship.
4. Florida State Seminoles
I like Everett Golsen, but this team lost a lot of talent. They really were a little overrated last year – yes they won all of their games and deserved their ranking, but TCU and Baylor CLEARLY had more talent. Not, they lose their top QB, their top 2 CBs, their NT, and one of their best WRs. I just see regression for them; it’s about time.
5. Clemson Tigers
This one is based on health. If Deshaun Watson can stay healthy, then they certainly have a chance to beat anybody in the nation. But I’m not sure if I can count on that. Combine that with the fact that they lost multiple pieces of their talented front 7 to the draft, and it’s hard to imagine them being a top 10 team.
1. Oregon Ducks
It’s very hard to imagine the Ducks to continue their run after losing one of the most prolific college quarterbacks we’ve ever seen. Transfer Vernon Adams is certainly a nice player, but he’s a significant downgrade from Mariota. Expect some regression.
2. Clemson Tigers
As much as I love Deshaun Watson, I don’t see them as a title contender, especially now that WR Mike Williams is hurt. Vic Beasley was the heart and soul of that defense; they won’t be the same without him. The defense is also losing pieces. Cornerback Mackensie Alexander called himself “the best cornerback in college football”; I doubt he lives up to that. I’m also not a huge fan of Dabo Swinney. Look for them to take advantage of an easy schedule that will make them look better than they are.
3. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
It feels like they’re overhyped EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR. Brian Kelly is NOT the answer at coach for them. RB Tarean Folston is overrated, look for C.J. Prosise to give him some competition. Also, they just lost their starting nose tackle, likely for the season. QB Malik Zaire is unproven. They’re not a contender.
4. USC Trojans
Cody Kessler is overrated in my book, and he’ll suffer after he lost top target Nelson Agholor. Match that up with a brutal schedule, and I doubt they finish in the top 10.
5. Florida State Seminoles
Everett Golsen is a step back from Jameis Winston (duh), and the off the field issues with RB Dalvin Cook could significantly hurt their run game. They have some tough games, including battles with Texas A&M and Georgia Tech. This team is headed in a bad direction.
1. Tennessee Volunteers
Joshua Dobbs. Joshua Dobbs. Joshua Dobbs. The quarterback is expected to come in and dominate after he showed flashes of brilliance last year. He’s a dark horse Heisman candidate. AND he has some nice weapons to throw to. Pair that with a well rounded defense (weak at ILB, but strong besides that), and you have yourselves a sleeper.
2. Oklahoma State Cowboys
I’m a huge believer in Mason Rudolph, especially when he has a ton of talent to throw to.The defense is highly underrated; the secondary and defensive lines are both stacked. If the offensive line can improve, they could shock some people.
3. UCLA Bruins
Unlike Eric, I’m hesitant to actually put them in the “Contenders” tier. But there’s not denying this team’s talent. Paul Perkins is my pick to win the Heisman, and I really like Josh Rosen. Jim Mora Jr. is a fantastic coach. My only concern is their tough schedule; can they not just win, but DOMINATE in a brutally tough Pac-12 South?
4. UNC Tar Heels
Call me crazy, but they’re my favorite to win the ACC Coastal. I love Marquise Williams, and I think he will improve along with the offensive line. He has some big targets to throw to as well. The defense is a bit of a question mark, but there aren’t really a ton of holes. If a few of the younger guys can elevate their games, UNC could make some noise.
5. Arizona State Sun Devils
MIKE BERCOVICI. LOOK AT HIM. DOES THAT FACE NOT SCREAM “I am the savior”. All jokes aside, I’m a HUGE fan of his. As well as this entire Sun Devils offense. The defense concerns me a bit, specifically the defensive line. But if their LBs can step it up, they could really make some noise.
Semaj Perrine is one of the most underrated running backs in all of college football; look out for him. I’m a believer in the QB Baker Mayfield. Also, this team has some amazing chemistry. Besides Baylor and TCU, they’re the team to watch in the Big 12.
Words can not describe the man crush I have on Leonard Fournette. He is a legit Heisman candidate; he might be the best back in the nation. Combine that with a very good defense, and a great head coach in Les Miles, and I can see them slipping into the top 5.
Arizona State Sun Devils
Look at what Brian said about Mike Bercovici. Basically I feel the same way (though not quite as much). He has a ton of weapons to throw to, and they have some favorable home match-ups in the tough Pac-12 South.
Mississippi State Bull Dogs
See what Brian said about Bercovici? That’s how I feel about Dak Prescott. The kid is a stud. And he’s behind a very strong O-line. They did lose some talent in the draft, but the defense as a whole is still nasty. I can honestly see them beating out Bama to win the SEC West; yea, we’re the MadMan Sports for a reason.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
They run the Triple Option better than anyone else. They are Triple Option deliciousness. They also have a solid defense AND they play in a relatively weak division. Look for them to win a ton of games and remain in the top 10 throughout the season.
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