2018 NCAA Football Preview

The guys couldn’t get together in time for a show to discuss the biggest topics at the start of a new college football season. To make up for that, we’ve put our thoughts into written words.

This works out well since the gang hardly agrees. The only things they agree on are Wisconsin and Oklahoma winning their respective conference championship games as well as the matchups in the ACC and SEC championships with each Clemson and Alabama each coming out on top.

No spoiler alerts here but they all agree Alabama will claim its sixth national title in the Nick Saban era. That’s what happens when it’s his world and everybody else are plain witnesses.

Now, we can look back at this at the end of the season — like Danny and Arthur have too often on a friendly bet they made on whether Florida State can win a national title under Willie Taggart in his first five years — and see just how wrong all of us are.

What top 10 team is most likely to be unranked at the end of the year?

  • Danny —  No. 5 Ohio State: One could make an argument that Urban Meyer got off easy only being suspended for three games to start the season, however in college football, that number can make or break your season. With the Big 10 looking like the days of old, there are a lot of solid teams the Buckeyes will have to navigate past in the second half of the season. If they can’t survive the Urban-less start, they will be out of the top 10 faster than you can say domestic abuse.
  • Jimmy — No. 8 Miami: The Hurricanes have a favorable schedule and play three ranked teams in No. 25 LSU, No. 19 Florida State and No. 20 Virginia Tech. So, why do I think they’ll finish unranked? Because in the NCAA nowadays, the teams with the easier schedules are often on the outside looking in. So, this is nothing against Miami, but it’s more or less better teams have tougher schedules and have better chances of winning those games to maintain a top 10 spot.
  • Arthur — No. 9 Auburn: The Tigers have one brutal schedule and they are immediately tested by No. 6 Washington. They later host No. 25 LSU before having to travel to No. 18 Mississippi State, No. 3 Georgia and No. 1 Alabama. That is one bad draw, folks.

What team outside the top 10 is likeliest to crash the College Football Playoff?

  • Danny — No. 12 Notre Dame: I know I am a homer and sound like a broken record, but every year it seems like the Irish are primed to make a run at the CFP just to get the conference with stubborn analysts and voters triggered about them being an Independent. But I believe at this point, they have one of the best defenses in the country and a coach who should be squarely on the hot seat. College Football is better with them in the conversation and I think this year they make the jump back into the spotlight.
  • Jimmy — No. 11 Michigan State: Every year we see Michigan State flirt with the top 10, and they usually find themselves on the inside. They found themselves in the Big 10 Championship game in 2016 and won 10 games in 2017 with a very young roster that now has much-needed experience. It won’t be easy though, as they have No. 10 Penn State, No. 14 Michigan and No. 5 Ohio State to go through. The good news? Ohio State and Michigan are home games, so the Spartans can definitely split those games.
  • Arthur — No. 15 USC: As of right now, USC has two ranked opponents (No. 13 Stanford in week 2 and Notre Dame to close out the season), but if things go well for Utah —who should be ranked — and Arizona with its electrifying QB Khalil Tate, expect that number to rise. A spot in the Pac-12 Championship and win over Washington, Stanford or Oregon would turn some heads when it matters most.

What team in the Group of Five has the best chance to be this year’s UCF?

    • Danny — Boise State: I wish I could pick a MAC team because who doesn’t love a little #MACtion, however, it’s the blue turf Broncos who I’m looking at. Back in the BCS days, they were always in the conversation for a major bowl bid and I see them returning to form this year. As Arthur later alludes too, they return a lot of starters and along with their schedule, the stars appear aligned to make another run at knocking off Power Five school from a prime bowl appearance.
    • Jimmy — Wyoming: Josh Allen came out of nowhere last year to be a top 10 NFL draft pick. And while the Cowboys did finish with eight wins, their schedule should be a lot more favorable this year with only No. 22 Boise State as their ranked opponent.
    • Arthur — Boise State: The Broncos have 16 returning starters, including QB Brett Rypien. Their schedule looks to be similar to UCF’s a year ago and play schools that for at least one week should break into the polls. It helps to have a good reputation outside the Power Five as they’re no strangers to the Fiesta Bowl and have a real shot at returning to that exact bowl game.

Which player has the biggest shoes to fill?

  • Danny — Kyler Murray, Jr., QB, Oklahoma: How do you replace the  No. 1 overall draft pick, the fan favorite, walk on to Heisman, heartthrob starting Quarterback in a powerhouse like Oklahoma? I am not really sure, but Murray has to figure it out and fast. Oklahoma is my favorite to win the Big 12 and make it to the CFP, but it will have to be on the arm of Kyler as this conference is a high flying, high scoring, offensive juggernaut.
  • Jimmy  Miles Sanders, Jr., RB, Penn State: Saquon Barkley was the guy who did everything at Penn State and was a top Heisman Trophy contender before a mid-season slump derailed his chances. And it was barely a slump as he still finished the season with over 1,200 yards rushing and 21 total touchdowns. It’ll be hard to replicate what Barkley did, and he was without a doubt that offense’s best weapon.
  • Arthur —D’Andre Swift, So., RB, Georgia: The Bulldogs were oh so close to winning a national championship and should they contend again, they need the running game to continue being its bread and butter. The team finished 10th in the nation in rushing offense last season but lost both Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Swift, though, has shown a lot of promise, carrying the ball for 7.6 yards per carry last year.

Which newly hired coach will have the biggest impact in his inaugural season?

  • Danny  Chip Kelly, UCLA: If there is one coach in football  pro or college  that makes the biggest splash with arrivals, it’s Chip Kelly. The way he transformed the Oregon Ducks, failed with the Philadelphia Eagles, and now back home in college football makes me thing UCLA is going to become the run and gun offense he wants to see. From the way his players recover off the field to how much they run on it, Chip will install his system and run the team his way from the jump, no doubt about it. For the record: I’m not saying this is a positive impact, but it will be the biggest.
  • Jimmy  Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M: Fisher took a Florida State team to the National Championship and had them on the cusp of another one the following year, so the man can win games. His biggest problem last year was his starting quarterback Deondre Francois got injured, and the team relied on inexperienced youth to carry them. The man has proven he can turn a program into a winner.
  • Arthur  Joe Moorhead, Mississippi State: He’s one of the brightest offensive minds in the game today, and has a great chunk of the team returning including QB Nick Fitzgerald, a good receiving core, and great defensive line. The work he put in at Penn State will be missed and he’s proven in his stops at Fordham and State College that he knows what he’s doing.

Which newly hired coach has the most promising outlook?

  • Danny — Scott Frost, Nebraska: The obvious choice for the new Huskers coach. They want him to turn Nebraska around the way he was able to transform UCF. A Nebraska alum himself, he understands the way Big 10 football is played, the transition will take time for him to get his players in place, but I believe we will be seeing him at the helm for years to come and Nebraska returning to the top-25 faster than people think.

  • Jimmy  Mario Cristobal, Oregon: It hasn’t been easy on the Ducks since the Chip Kelly days ended, but despite all of the hardships this program has proven that it lets coaches do their job to recruit the players they need. I’m not saying Cristobal will turn this program around overnight, but once he gets the players he needs I think he’ll find himself on the right side of a lot of games which will make his stay last even longer.
  • Arthur — Willie Taggart, Florida State: He’s proven to be a great recruiter and he now has an even bigger platform to work from. Florida is no stranger to some great football talent and he’s shown while at Oregon, he can dip into other states rather successfully. Put that together and the fact that this is his dream job and you have a happy marriage. Players will want to play for him and he’ll have great success in recruiting even with the likes of Florida and Miami in his state alone.

Which prominent coach is doing most of his work on the hot seat?

  • Danny: Jim Harbaugh, Michigan: A vote could have easily gone to Brian Kelly at Notre Dame, but Harbaugh’s seat is as warm as anybody’s. He was brought in to turn around one of the most historic programs in the NCAA but has not yet done it. We are reaching the years where the team is all his. If he can’t win with his own guys in place, then the honeymoon will be over and the Big House should see another man at the helm in 2019-2020.
  • Jimmy — Harbaugh: He went back to Michigan with a lot of high hopes as everybody was expecting the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry to be renewed and for the Wolverines to contend for a National Title. Since his return, the Wolverines are 0-3 against the Buckeyes under Harbaugh and the team hasn’t even played in the conference title game. Another season of disappointment and mediocrity might not cut it anymore.
  • Arthur— Ed Orgeron, LSU: It’s a dog eat dog world in the SEC. Not that he had a bad season or is a bad coach, but losing to Notre Dame in the Citrus Bowl and falling to Troy at home was not good for a program with sky-high expectations and demands. Fair or not, there’s far more pressure for a college coach than professional coach and that’s especially true in the SEC, and his seats already warm without a game started.

Which player will hoist this year’s Heisman Trophy?

  • Danny — Bryce Love, RB, Stanford: Running backs seem to have lost their luster over the last few years in the eyes of the Heisman committee, but Bryce Love is electric who plays in a Stanford system that allows him to excel. We’ve seen big-name running backs make the transition really well into the NFL and I think that is bringing the spotlight back to the position in the NCAA. He is the pre-season favorite, and if he says healthy, I believe he runs away with the award (pun intended).
  • Jimmy — Will Grier, QB, West Virginia: The Big 12 quarterback competition is open thanks to the departures of Mason Rudolph and last year’s Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield. Grier tossed 37 TDs to 12 interceptions last season, and he didn’t play in the season finale against Oklahoma. Head coach Dana Holgorsen loves to air it out, and Grier has shown he’s the guy to do it.
  • Arthur — Khalil Tate, QB, Arizona: A dual-threat QB in every sense of the imagination. Overlooked in his own conference by Oregon’s Justin Herbert and Washington’s Jake Browning, Tate threw for over 1,500 yards and ran for another 1,400 yards without the benefit of starting much of last season. He also has the benefit of playing QB a position that has won the award 15 times since 2000. If he cuts down on his turnover rate then his only problem is he plays out west.

What is the game of the year?

  • Danny— Michigan at Michigan St.: Both schools are going to be contenders for the Big 10 title this season and as always this game will determine the fate of their seasons. With Harbaugh believed to be on the hot seat, if he finds a way to lose to Michigan State, again, he might not even make it through the season. On the flip side, this will be the second week in a row against a top-10 team having to travel to Happy Valley the week before. If the Spartans can somehow pull off these two wins in a row, they deserve to be at the forefront of CFP talks
  • Jimmy — UCLA at Oregon: Chip Kelly returns to where he made a name for himself and almost lead Oregon to its first National Title. He kind of stiffed the program after he nearly signed a deal to be the head coach of the Cleveland Browns in 2012 before backing out and pledging his allegiance to the Ducks, only to turn around weeks later and sign with the Philadelphia Eagles. On paper, this game may not seem exciting, but I think it’ll wind up being a down to the wire, high scoring affair.
  • Arthur — Ohio State at Penn State: The winner of this matchup has represented the Big Ten East in the conference championship game the last two years. In that same time frame, we’ve seen two late, great comebacks (14 points by PSU in 2016, and 18 points by OSU last year) that decided games with a victory margin of a combined four points. We get this treat in September.

Conference championships for the Power Five:

  • Danny
    Clemson over Miami
    SEC: Alabama over Georgia
    Big Ten: Wisconsin over Michigan
    Big 12: Oklahoma over TCU
    Pac-12: Stanford over USC
  • Jimmy
    ACC: Clemson over Miami
    SEC: Alabama over Georgia
    Big Ten: Wisconsin over Penn State
    Big 12: Oklahoma over Texas
    Pac-12: UCLA over Washington
  • Arthur
    ACC: Clemson over Miami
    SEC: Alabama over Georgia
    Big Ten: Wisconsin over Ohio State
    Big 12: Oklahoma over West Virginia
    Pac-12: Washington over USC

Predicting the College Football Playoff:

  • Danny
    Alabama over Oklahoma
    Clemson over Wisconsin
    Title: Alabama over Clemson
  • Jimmy
    Alabama over Wisconsin
    Oklahoma over Clemson
    Title: Alabama over Oklahoma
  • Arthur
    Alabama over Washington
    Wisconsin over Clemson
    Title: Alabama over Wisconsin

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