I previewed both conferences in the NFL, now let’s talk some NCAA Football. The kids deserve some love too, right? Alabama enters the year once again as the favorites to win it all and Clemson is projected to make another run at the National Championship game. Here, I’ll recap all the teams I have winning their respective divisions, and give a prediction on who gets to their conference championship games. Enjoy folks.
1. ACC Atlantic: Clemson Tigers– Deshaun Watson is hands down the most exciting player in the nation. He can throw it down the field, stand tall in the pocket, make a throw on the run and he uses his feet to run into the open field if none of his receivers are open. I remember Nick Saban electing to and onside kick hoping to get the ball back, so that right there shows you how dominant he is and how much respect he has for him. Florida State will be competitive I think, but I’ll still give Clemson the edge in winning this division for the second straight season. Although they’ve lost Dodd and Lawson on defense, Venables will work with what he does have on defense. A consistent season from Watson will land him in New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation.
2. ACC Coastal: North Carolina Tar Heels– They surprised so many people last season and there’s not too much competition in the Coastal division of the ACC. I think North Carolina will be victorious once again and win this division under Larry Fedora. There have been so many solid running backs in the game of college football over the past couple of seasons and Elijah Hood is one of them. This year the offense will be built around him with a new quarterback under center this season. Gene Chizik will try to improve a defense that took some strides in 2015. As I said in the previews last month, the schedule may be a bit more challenging to them this year, but they will still come out on top in their division.
3. AAC East: South Florida Bulls– They finished the season on a high note in November by going on a winning streak and making a bowl game. Now, they can only go up from here and coach Willie Taggert is determined to keep them as a winning football team. Marlon Mack and Quinton both return on offense and the defense will look to stay the same with the 4-2-5 formation under Raymond Woodie who was promoted from the linebacker coach to defensive coordinator replacing Tom Allen (who took the same position at Indiana).
4. AAC West: Houston Cougars– They were one of the biggest surprises in all of college football last season and they look to build off the success in Tom Herman’s second year as head coach. With Catalon returning in the backfield as a running back and Greg Bird under center at quarterback, the offense shouldn’t miss a beat and the defense will have to find a way to replace star cornerback William Jackson III. They made a bowl game last season and look to aim higher this year, the College Football Playoff.
5. Big Ten East: Michigan Wolverines– With both Ohio State and Michigan State losing some key pieces to their rosters, this could be the year of Big Blue. After coming out the gates struggling in 2015, Jim Harbaugh got things right and Michigan started clicking on all cylinders. With a large chunk of their offense returning including tight end Jake Butt and receivers Jehu Chesson and Amaru Darboh, it should be a smooth transition for Houston transfer John O’Korn. The defense has two guys I’ll be sure to have my eyes on all season and that’s Jabril Peppers and Rashan Gary who both will have impacts on that defense. It could be a very special year in Ann Arbor.
6. Big Ten West: Iowa Hawkeyes– The Big Ten West isn’t as superior as the Big Ten East and Iowa will be victorious once again after winning the division last year, making the Big Ten title game and an appearance in the Rose Bowl, they should win the West once again with so many pieces still intact on both sides of the football. There’s no Jordan Canzeri but the running game will see a lot of LeShun Daniels and the biggest key will be keeping C.J. Beathard healthy.
7. Big-12: Oklahoma Sooners– This team is just stacked and they will be gearing up to make yet another run at the playoffs and possibly more, a shot at a championship. Baker Mayfield returns and this year, he’s regarded as a Heisman candidate. Samaje Perine, another underrated back is also returning and is poised to have another big season. The defense lost some key guys but they have others that can step it up and fill in for what they lost. It should be another year of success in Norman once again under Bob Stoops for these Sooners.
8. Pac-12 North: Stanford Cardinal– The offense will be built around Christian McCaffrey and though they will lose Kevin Hogan and some other guys that were key to the team they have been able to overcome that and give credit to David Shaw. For them to be victorious once again, it will take a team effort and a rebuild. The offensive line is revamped and McCaffrey will make his case for the Heisman trophy once again.
9. Pac-12 South: UCLA Bruins– I don’t think Jim Mora Jr. has received enough credit for the job he’s done with this Bruins team. The offensive line will enter the year without three starters from last year’s team, but UCLA is poised to adjust. Josh Rosen is looking to build off his debut season as quarterback. With the talent they have on both sides of the football, they will be the favorites projected to win the Pac-12 South.
10. SEC East: Tennessee Volunteers– They enter this season with very high expectations. 18 starters from last season return and they are ready to make a nice run in the SEC East. The running game has been the engine to this offense but you can’t always depend on one phase of the game. You have to balance things out and the passing game will need to improve under Joshua Dobbs under center. On defense, all but two guys return.
11. SEC West: Alabama Crimson Tide– Was there really any other choice? They have become the New England Patriots of college football because every year, it seems that we just expect them to win a certain amount of games, play in the SEC title game and compete for a National Championship and Nick Saban has some ties to Bill Belichick from their days in Cleveland with the Browns. They are the defending champions and to get to the top, you have to knock them off the throne but until then, they are the kings of college football.
AAC Title Game– Houston defeats South Florida
ACC Championship– Clemson defeats North Carolina
Big Ten Championship– Michigan defeats Iowa
Pac-12 Championship– Stanford defeats UCLA
SEC Championship– Alabama defeats Tennessee
Next, I will be giving you my College Football Playoff predictions.