The launch of this website is designed to be the cutting edge in college football. This website will cover all the elements of college football, not just the teams, not just the rankings, not just the games live and not just the coaches. We will also analyze the point spreads on specific games and more importantly, provide valuable information and knowledge to assist our readers in picking winners each week. For now, let’s just look at the state of college football and who we think will be there in the top four at the end.
College football is back! It begins on August 30 (there are some non-Power Five teams in action on August 25) and week one has some intriguing matchups early in the season. Of course, there are specific games made for television as the NFL takes Labor Day weekend off leaving the college games to fill the void. To be fair, the first week of the season and for that matter most of September, finds a dearth of Top 25 matchups, primarily matching a Power Five school against a non-Power Five school or better yet an FCS-1AA opponent. For every Appalachian State defeating Michigan, also known as the miracle at the Big House, there are plethora of other games where the big schools pay their FBS-1AA teams a fee to get clobbered. Why schedule these games you say? For money, of course. The FCS opponent gets a nice pay check for their program, the home team makes a ton of money from attendance and related fees and the team itself gets in a good practice. Personally, I’d rather see them called what they really are, scrimmages that should not count in a team’s overall record. At least play a school which plays on the same level to have it be included in your official record.
What am I talking about? Example A is Alabama which plays three games out of conference, all at home, against inferior opponents where they will be favored by forty points or more. One is The Citadel (a non FBS-A school). You think the Bulldogs from the Southern Conference, who also play Wofford and Samford have a shot? For getta- about! The Crimson Tide are not nearly the worst offenders. Example B are the Baylor Bears who play the Abelene Christian Wildcats and example C is Texas A & M which plays the Northwestern State Demons. Why? Because they need these games to gain experience, get a victory and make money. The NCAA and the CFP should prevent these games from being scheduled by just penalizing them in the results of teams’ official records when they are being considered in their polling. Isn’t that a novel idea? That would eliminate these types of worthless games. Unfortunately, that will never happen until the money becomes insignificant. Remember it wasn’t that long ago everybody played eleven games and no championship conference games. The good news about these mismatches is if you want to bet the games there will be point spreads to make them “watchable” and that’s where we come in.
For today, however, let’s talk about the big picture and our conference favorites. Who are the Power Five leagues preseason picks to win and who are the top teams to qualify for the top four in the College Football Playoff Poll which does not come out until October? Well, it’s preseason so most of the meaningful games which impact the polls will come in the final two months and the conference championships. But looking at it now, there are huge advantages some teams have because of their reputation, their political clout, their conference affiliation, and most of all, their history. That means the blue blood programs, Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan, USC, Texas, Notre Dame, Georgia, LSU, Oklahoma and some others all start ahead of the curve because they are always ranked high. One loss will not eliminate them, especially early. Teams from the Non-Power Five conferences, also known as the Group of Five or as I refer to them as the “outsiders” have no shot. You know it and I know it. Just ask Central Florida who finished undefeated last year, including beating Auburn (the Tigers had beaten both Alabama and Georgia who played in the CFC game). In fact, those leagues will be forever referred to as the “outsiders” for obvious reasons. They are the American Athletic, Conference USA, the Mid American, The Mountain West and the Sun Belt. It says right here now Boise State runs the table and doesn’t even get a sniff. Quality football for sure, but they basically get the leftovers from the Power Five schools, that being the ACC, Big Ten, SEC, Big 12, Pac 12 and yes, the University of Notre Dame. Notre Dame, that huge corporation, disguised as a prestigious academic institution, which receives preferential treatment with their schedule (they only play 12 games and have no conference affiliation), have their own television network and generally get way too much respect from the CFP Committee voters. I say let them take their football and go play elsewhere. The Irish need the CFP more than the CFP needs the Irish. Of course, college football without Notre Dame is like Christmas without Santa Claus; it’s never going to happen. But there is only one reason Notre Dame is not in a conference for football. Money. Lots of it. The powers at be will not allow the Irish to share the wealth with another league and college football without Notre Dame is an oxymoron so the Irish have leverage. Every conference wants them. This year it won’t matter much as the Irish will lose at least four games and Brian Kelly finally gets fired. Enough of the Irish.
Speaking of wealth, we look next at the “conference of influence and affluence”, also known as the Big Ten. Each team in that league is approaching 50 million dollars a year in payments from the league. You think anyone wants out? The conference expanded to include Maryland and Rutgers recently by adding the New York and Washington/Baltimore markets on the East coast. While they do play football, both teams have a long losing history, especially Rutgers which arguably is the worst Power Five team over the past fifty years. But it adds more money to the conference’s war chest in TV ratings, the number one element which drove expansion in the first place. The Big Ten’s legacy has been dominated by Ohio State and Michigan but since Urban Meyer came along, it’s been Ohio State and everybody else. We told you all last year Wisconsin was for real even though they got no respect from the CFP Committee. Michigan, they had three quarterbacks last year and three new ones this year. Jim Harbaugh hasn’t beaten the Buckeyes yet and he won’t this year. Penn State, which returns quarterback Trace McSorley is the only team with a chance to defeat Ohio State when they play at Happy Valley on September 29. There are other games with significance as well but this one is all that matters early. Of course, Ohio State must travel to Dallas to play TCU two weeks earlier, a game with huge implications for the Big 12 which is always looking for respect. We’ll go with Penn State in the East and Wisconsin and their star returning running back Johnathan Taylor to win the west with the Nittany Lions prevailing in the championship.
In the ACC, it appears to be Clemson and everybody else. They have an NFL defensive line and they return quarterback Kelly Bryant and seven starters on offense. They are also loaded with depth at every position. So, who can beat them? Well, they play at Florida State but who is the Seminole quarterback and how far has this team dropped with new coach Willie Taggert taking over the reigns from Jimbo Fisher? A lot. Deondre Francois is back, and he was great as a freshman, but he is coming off a very serious injury which kept him out almost the entire season. Sophomore James Blackman showed flashes of brilliance especially at the end of the year but there are questions. Miami? We told you they were pretenders last year because of their quarterback play so this year is no different with Malik Rosier at quarterback who has lack confidence in the past. Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson is gone at Louisville so forget about them. North Carolina State? Yeah, right. Virginia Tech is good and does not have the Tigers on their schedule this year. But it won’t matter as Coach Dabo Swinney is just reloading again and their path to the First Four is favorable especially with their opening scrimmage against Furman on September 1. The Furman Paladins? What’s a Paladin anyway? It is a “paragon of chivalry, a heroic champion; a strong supporter or defender of a cause; and any of of the 12 peers of French emperor Charlemagne”. Huh? I already told you why this game is even happening so see above. Anyway, it’s the Tigers conference title to lose. I say they run they run the table.
In the Big 12, there are just ten teams but at least they all play each other. Oklahoma, with Texas A & M transfer Kyle Murray, anointed as the starter after the graduation of Baker Mayfield, is the team to beat. Texas will be better just because coach Mark Herman has another year under his belt and has recruited well. The team to watch is West Virginia which plays no defense but has the best returning quarterback in the nation in Florida transfer Will Grier. The Mountaineers with a little luck, will have one loss going into the Oklahoma game on November 23 and it is at home. They also play TCU at home, so expectations are as high in Morgantown as they’ve been since the days of Major Harris. Texas Christian Coach Gary Patterson has another typical team that does not beat itself. There game against Ohio State is the biggest non-conference game on campus in the last fifty years. In the end, Oklahoma just has too much talent, but they will be tested.
The Pac 12 is widely seen as a race between two schools, Washington and USC, teams in opposite divisions who do not pay each other during the regular season. The Trojans play Stanford early and have their usual intersectional rivalry with Notre Dame but a manageable schedule. The big question is who replaces Sam Arnold? USC has three studs in JT Daniels, Matt Fink and Jack Sears with Daniels expected to get the nod here. Washington has an experienced quarterback in Jake Browing who was great as a sophomore but failed to emerge as a Heisman candidate last year. They also have the worst kicking game in the nation and lost two games when they couldn’t kick an easy field goal. Their offense looked completely out of sync, including Browning who played scared and inconsistent. They are, however, loaded on defense. Their chance at a national championship will be tested early when they play at Auburn in week one of those made for TV games. Oregon has their third coach in three years in promoted assistant Mario Cristobal. He brings a new offense, the pistol, but typical speed which the Ducks are known for. It says here Washington is the pick in the Pac 12 but needs to beat Auburn to finish in the top four.
That leaves the SEC. Alabama is the heavy favorite, but they have issues at quarterback as to who is their starter. There was no debate for the past two years until backup Tua Tagovailoa, who barely played all season, rallied the Tide in the second half of last year’s championship game against Georgia. That leaves incumbent Jalen Hurts on the outside looking in and I expect him to transfer by October if he is not the starter. Georgia brings their starter back in Jake Fromme and loads of talent on both sides of the ball. So again, another year where the best game to see in the SEC (Georgia-Alabama) is not on the schedule. Then again, I make the same point every year that one of the reasons is because the SEC only plays eight conference games, one less than any other conference. Georgia also has incoming freshman, Jacob Fields, the number one recruited quarterback in the country. He will play himself onto the field because he is electrifying. Everyone wants to see if new head coach Jimbo Fisher can get the Texas A & M Aggies over the hump and win the conference. Auburn is a threat as always, but their schedule is difficult. It says here Georgia, playing in the weak east division, finishes on top. I’ll go out on the limb here and tell you Georgia also wins the conference and Alabama won’t even win the west. Then again, that happened last year, and the Tide were voted in the top four and won it all. Personally, I think you need to win your conference to be a top four candidate, but the SEC has too much clout right now for that even to be a consideration. Right now, the CFP is supposed to “pick the top four teams in America.” Yeah, right.
So, who is out of the top four from the conference champions? Right now, it’s Washington. Unless, of course they beat Auburn on the road. That will change everything. In no order, it’s Georgia, Ohio State, Clemson, and Oklahoma. Next up, what do we miss most about college football?