This is the lone chalk selection you’ll see, but it seems to be one of the easier picks to predict this season. It’s a two team league, the ACC…period. No disrespect to North Carolina, Louisville, or even Pittsburgh, but expect either Florida State or Clemson to win the ACC and represent the conference in the College Football Playoff. With the best quarterback at the college level right now, Deshaun Watson will be dominant against a relatively manageable schedule, and will win the big game on the road at Florida State on October 29th.
Saturday night (Sept 3) on the road at Auburn should produce some interesting storylines, including the first game at quarterback for new Auburn quarterback Sean White, and the season will bookend with SEC foes, as Clemson hosts rival South Carolina, now led by former Florida head man Will Muschamp.
Predicting Clemson to go undefeated in the regular season (again), clean up on whomever wins the ACC Coastal (again), and be the top seed entering the College Football Playoff (again).
Looks like Bob and I agree on the ACC, but once again, it isn’t really bold. The season will rely on that October 29th game in Tallahassee, but if they can get by with a win and finish off the rest of the season, expect them to get the number 1 seed.
Deshaun Watson will have a great season, which is why I believe they will undefeated heading into the Playoff. It will be difficult for him to repeat his season, and they will have to stay focused every week (The ACC is deeper than it has been).
I’m a little scared of the home matchup against Arkansas in Week Two for the Horned Frogs. Arkansas is going to be a much-improved, physical, running football team, and the run-and-gun Horned Frogs could have issues there.
That said, I love the fact that TCU hosts Oklahoma on October 1st, and I feel comfortable with the road matchups against Baylor and Texas. The Big XII, more than any conference in college football, is a zero sum game, with just enough teams at the top that are of top quality, but not quite deep enough to have a champion end with two losses (cough, Pac 12, cough). You can pick out about three teams that have a chance to be the champion, and can almost guarantee the champion will be right in the discussion for the Playoff.
However, one team that could change that this year is Texas Tech. Do NOT be surprised to see the Red Raiders and Quarterback Patrick Mahomes sling the ball all over the yard and shock a top team or two this season.
For TCU, there will be a new look at Quarterback. With Trevone Boykin moving on, Foster Sawyer lost out as the incumbent to Texas A&M transfer Kenny Hill. Hill will bring a very strong, accurate arm as well as big-game experience to complement the wide swath of skill players that TCU returns. High hopes for a TCU team that was ranked a little lower than it should have been in the preseason, driven by the unknown aspects of the roster.
Kevin: Ohio State
After coming in as an overwhelming favorite last season, the Buckeyes had a disappointing season. Yes, they have lost a lot of talent to the NBA, but one great advantage is the lack of QB debate.
J.T. Barrett is the starting QB, and there is no question about it. QB competition is sometimes good, because it brings out the best in the players, but sharing reps and not gaining great chemistry hurts in the long run. The QB competition last year lasted too long in my opinion and it hurt the team. Expect Barrett to electrifying this season.
Their schedule is not easy, and they will be challenged. The Buckeyes will be traveling to Norman to take on the 3rd ranked Sooners on September 17th. A month later they have back to back away games against Wisconsin and Penn State. These two teams aren’t the class of the Big Ten, but it is easy to lose focus in the middle of the season and slip-up.
“A team from the East makes the College Football Playoff? You’re nuts, Bob……Wait, that team is Tennessee, the fall-from-grace laughingstock of the SEC in recent years?”
Yes and Yes. The Tennessee Volunteers are going to surprise a lot of people this year, and that’s a shame. A shame because this is a team that last year was legitimately four plays away from being 12-0 in the regular season.
A comeback win by the soon-to-be Big XII CFP representative Oklahoma in Week 2, a 1-point come-from-behind win by Florida two weeks later, a bad home loss by the Vols to an average Arkansas team, and a 5-point loss in the final minutes against eventual national champion Alabama. Those were the only blemishes of Tennessee’s season, one that concluded with seven wins in the last eight games.
The Volunteers feature Joshua Dobbs at quarterback, as well as Jalen Hurd at running back. This duo, along with a strong defense under Head Coach Butch Jones, is enough to make those few plays that separated this program from greatness last year.
Tennessee begins the season with three winnable games against Appalachian State, Virginia Tech, and Ohio. Then come the first two East Division games against Florida at home and in between the hedges at Georgia, both teams with a new head coach and Florida with serious questions on offense.
Next, a road test against Texas A&M will be difficult, but I think the Tennessee defense comes up with big stops to eek out arguably its most important game of the regular season. The following week the Vols host Alabama, which, and hear me out, truly isn’t as important of a game (The next matchup of those two will be). Even with a loss here, Tennessee ends the season at South Carolina, an FCS-bye against Tennessee Tech, then hosts Kentucky and Missouri, and travels to Vanderbilt. With one loss, but to an SEC West team, the Vols guarantee themselves a place in the SEC Championship in Atlanta, and I pick the Vols to upset Alabama and move to the College Football Playoff.
What a bold two picks! The team two competed in the Championship Game last year, so it is no surprise to see them here. Bama will have a devastating offense with Calvin Ridley, one of the best 2 WRs in the country (Along with JuJu Smith-Schuster from Southern Cal, watch them both on September 3rd), O.J. Howard, the hero of the National Championship Game, and also Bo Scarbrough.
Alabama does have to travel to Baton Rouge to take on Leonard Fournette and the LSU Tigers on Novemeber 5th, but they have won this rivalry 5 straight games dating back to the 2012 BCS NCG. If they can keep Fournette in check, like they did last year when he ran for 31 yards on 19 carries.
After winning the SEC West, Bama will have a tough matchup with Georgia, but an unexperienced Bulldogs team will not be able to handle the Tide offense. Wouldn’t that be a story for the Bulldogs if they could win though! All of those years with Mark Richt at the helm (and hot seat) and going the last decade without and SEC title, and they win in Kirby Smart’s first season.
The Hawkeyes were, much like Tennessee, a play away. A play away from a trip to the College Football Playoff, after losing a thriller in the Big Ten Championship Game to Michigan State as Connor Cook and the Spartans marched down the field on a 22-play, 82-yard drive that culminated with a 1-yard touchdown run by L.J. Scott.
This Iowa team won’t be able to fly under the radar this year, but that’s ok – a really good Hawkeye squad and a favorable schedule should get them to Indianapolis in December for the Big Ten Championship Game.
A home test against Northwestern on October 1st will be paramount to the Hawkeyes’ resume. Later in the year, back-to-back-to-back big games, hosting Wisconsin, at Penn State, and hosting Michigan from late October into November is the true meat of the regular season for the Hawkeyes.
C.J Beathard will return at quarterback this season, but the focus will be in the trenches, as the Hawkeyes return three starters on the offensive line and three of the top four running backs, including LeShun Daniels and Akrum Wadley, who combined for more than 1,100 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. Also returning is Matt VandeBerg at wide receiver, who caught 65 passes for 703 yards last season.
Predicting Iowa to have one loss entering the Big Ten Championship Game, and to defeat Ohio State in Indianapolis to earn the spot in the College Football Playoff.
Kenny “Trill” Hill! You might remember him from taking over at Texas A&M after Manziel left for the NFL. In his first career game, he threw for 511 yards and 4 touchdowns at #9 South Carolina back in 2014. It is a shame that this has been the highlight of his career thus far.
The Big 12 will be a mess this year, and I think TCU has the chance to take advantage of its schedule and they will have to win their close games. Teams like Baylor and Texas are in interesting transitions and are both away games for TCU, and the Horned Frogs get Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech all at home. An experience team in College Football is always dangerous in close games, and a solid defensive line led by Josh Carraway will force a lot of problems for opposing offenses.
1. Clemson – 4. Iowa – Similar to last season, the Big Ten suffers a meltdown in the College Football Playoff, the best team in the conference is sitting on the sideline (Ohio State), and Clemson moves on.
2. TCU – 3. Tennessee – What a game this could be. Will Tennessee’s physical front be able to muscle around the offensive line of TCU? Can Tennessee’s offense keep up with TCU? I think Tennessee and Joshua Dobbs does enough to take care of TCU
1. Clemson – 4. TCU: Clemson is just too good, or should I say Deshaun Watson is just so good. TCU has a strong front 7, but is difficult to contain Watson.
2. Ohio State – 3. Alabama: J.T Barrett is good, and Alabama’s defense can respond. We saw Watson tear up the Bama defense last year, and Barrett is a better player than 2015 Watson. Ohio State advances in highest scoring game of the Playoffs.
Bob: It takes all my strength not to pick Tennessee to win this one, but I do think it is Clemson’s time. Perhaps fortunate that Ohio State, Alabama, or LSU did not make the Playoff, Clemson is the class of these four teams and wins by a touchdown over Tennessee in a battle of the Orange, to win the 2017 College Football Championship.
Kevin: I do agree with Bob with the assumption that it is Clemson’s time. But I disagree that they win this game. They probably should win this game, but I think that Ohio State has the best player on the field in J.T. Barrett, and they may possibly have the best player on the field at all times. Yes, Raekwon McMillan is that good. McMillan will be in charge of containing Watson, and I think he will do a good enough job to make a key stop and win this game.
Bob: Deshaun Watson – Coming off a year in which he was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, all attention is on him this year. The Heisman favorite is in a conducive offense for his skill set, and the success achieved by Clemson this year will push him higher in that discussion. Watson will throw for 4,000 yards and 40 Touchdowns this season, with 10 interceptions, and will run for 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Kevin: If you haven’t figured it out by now, I think J.T. Barrett is pretty good. If he leads the Buckeyes to the CFP, he will almost certainly be one of the finalists for the Heisman. Many others are being discussed, such as Fournette, Watson, Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, and Baker Mayfield, but think about the last time a preseason favorite won the Heisman. It doesn’t happen often. If you want to read more about that check the article on The Ringer which says “According to data from Sports Odds History, since 2009, 71 players have entered a season with 20–1 or better odds to win the award. Just 26.7 percent of them went on to finish in the top 10 in Heisman voting in their respective years, and just 14.1 percent reached the top five. Oregon’s Marcus Mariota is the only one from the sample who actually won.”