BOLD PREDICTIONS FOR 2019 COLLEGE FOOTBALL SEASON

Alabama has barely had time to put another National Championship Trophy away and we are already thinking about the 2018 season. Alabama capped the 2017 college football season with a 26-23 overtime victory over Georgia in the College Football Playoff championship game. It was a great game and showed that the SEC had the best conference in the country. Or did they just have the top two teams? That is a great question but one from last year. We are on to 2018 and trying to see what that future holds.

Who will win the national championship next? It’s never too early to ask. That question — and others — will shape the upcoming college football season and the chase for the next College Football Playoff all offseason. With that mind, we ask 17 questions and try to answer them for you and leave you with some bold predictions for the 2018 season.

1. How will Alabama deal with losing their OC and DC?

Nick Saban has lost plenty of assistants in the past and he seems to just find someone new and reload. But this year is different as he losing his Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll who took the same position with the Buffalo Bills and his Defensive Coordinator Jeremy Pruitt who is now the head coach at Tennessee.

In short they will be just fine. They are Alabama and they just reload. It is a little more complicated than that as they also have a “quarterback controversy” with the emergence of Tua Tagovailoa in the National Championship game. Will the coaching changes be that big of an issue or will they just keep rolling? History says they will still be at the top and compete for a spot in the playoff.

2. What’s next for Bulldogs?

Will the Bulldogs be able to repeat their success from this year? They are losing a lot including their top two running backs from last season. To help soften that blow Kirby Smart just went out and signed the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class. Oh and he has this guy named Jake Fromm at quarterback. He only led the Bulldogs to the national title game in his freshman season. Expect the Bulldogs to drop off a little but they are still very dangerous and with the SEC West being the weaker of the two divisions in the SEC, look for the Bulldogs to make it back to the SEC Championship game

3. Who can actually unseat the Tide?

The usual suspects: Clemson, Ohio State and Oklahoma will round out most top-five rankings, but those programs have varying levels of quarterback intrigue. Clemson’s Kelly Bryant will have competition from Trevor Lawrence, the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2018. Dwayne Haskins and Kyler Murray have the inside track on the jobs at Ohio State and Oklahoma, respectively.

4. Which Top 10 team is most intriguing?

Wisconsin. The Badgers should easily win the Big Ten West but their schedule is tougher this year. The knock on them in 2017 was even though they were undefeated their schedule was very soft. In 2018 they have to travel to Michigan, Penn State and Iowa. If they can make it though that gauntlet undefeated then they will deserve their lofty ranking. They have exciting skill position players, and Jonathan Taylor is a nice value pick for the Heisman Trophy.

5. Is Jim Harbaugh on the hot seat?

No, but the criticisms he faces are valid. The Wolverines are 1-5 against Michigan State and Ohio State, and coming off a five-loss season. The Wolverines do not lose a lot from 2017 and their defense is going to be really good again, but that wasn’t the problem this year. They have to find a way to score points or this will be another long year and the fans will get even louder in their disapproval. The schedule is brutal this year, starting with a season-opening test vs. Notre Dame in South Bend, home games against Penn State and Wisconsin, and road games at rivals Michigan State and Ohio State. Ole Miss transfer quarterback Shea Patterson will help, if eligible, but the Wolverines need to open up the offense more.

6. Which first-year coach will be a hit?

Scott Frost. Remember when Harbaugh arrived in Ann Arbor? It’s like that in Lincoln now. Frost’s arrival rejuvenates a program that needs to find its identity, and the excitement level will be off the charts for his program. Will that be enough to challenge for a Big Ten West championship right away? Maybe, but Wisconsin is really good and they have brutal crossover games in the Big Ten. They host Michigan State and travel to Michigan and Ohio State.

7. Which first-year coach can make an early statement?

Willie Taggart. The Seminoles barely made a bowl game in 2017, but they can set the tone in a Labor Day opener against Virginia Tech. Quarterback Deondre Francois should return after missing almost of last season with a leg injury. When he went down in the first game last year so did the Seminoles season, who barely made a bowl game. FSU should be much better in 2018.

8. Which first-year coach will be a viral sensation?

Herm Edwards. In what was probably the strangest hire this year, Edwards comes to Arizona State with lots of enthusiasm.We can’t wait for the news conferences, even if we’re unsure about the results on the field at Arizona State.

9. Which first-year SEC coach intrigues you most?

The easy is answer is Jimbo Fisher at Texas A&M, but how will Dan Mullen do with bigger expectations and a fan base hungry for a winner.

10. Who has the biggest shoes to fill?

Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray. Baker Mayfield had the Oklahoma offense clicking on all cylinders at the end of his Heisman winning year. They were near unstoppable and proved that in their loss to Georgia. Murray will have to step in and try and keep that momentum going. He can’t be Mayfield right away but with as bad as OU’s defense was last year he needs to step up quickly.

11. Which conference needs to make a statement?

The Pac-12. The 1-8 bowl season came on the heels of being left out of the College Football Playoff for the second straight year. USC and Washington were knocked off in New Year’s Day Six bowls, and the conference will also fight for attention with those late Saturday kickoffs. That makes the season opener between Washington and Auburn in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff game huge for conference perception.

12. Will UCF win another “national title?”

Frost is gone, but UCF could create some real playoff discussion under first-year coach Josh Heupel. The Knights bring a lot of talent back, including dark-horse Heisman candidate McKenzie Milton. UCF plays North Carolina and Pitt in non-conference play, not to mention what will be a highly publicized in-state battle with Lane Kiffin and Florida Atlantic on Sept. 22. With their win over Auburn in the Peach Bowl, will the voters give them a little more respect if they keep winning?

13. How will Miami bounce back?

That’s an interesting question for the ACC. Miami broke through in Mark Richt’s second season, but a three-game, year-ending losing streak showed the Canes still have a long way to go. The “turnover chain” helped The U get its swag back, but we’ll see how real that is in a season opener against LSU at Jerry World.

14. What’s next year’s big playoff debate?

The same as it has been the past two years. Does a team that doesn’t win its conference deserve to be in the playoff. In 2016 Ohio State got in despite not playing in the conference championship and got destroyed by Clemson 31-0. Alabama did the same thing this year but they proved they belonged by winning the National Championship. Will it happen again this year. My guess is yes. And most likely in the SEC or Big Ten again.

15. Will two SEC teams get in next year?

No. Auburn could make things interesting again, but the Tigers will suffer heavy losses to the NFL Draft and have to go to Athens and Tuscaloosa next season. Georgia will be good but they lose a lot. Alabama has to replace two coordinators and who will play quarterback next year? LSU should be better this year, but can they get through the SEC East gauntlet. One of those teams will get in but not two.

16. Can you make a bold Heisman prediction?

A running back will win the Heisman Trophy. We mentioned Taylor at Wisconsin, and Stanford’s Bryce Love hasn’t made his decision yet. Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins and Clemson’s Travis Etienne are also viable candidates. We think a running back gets the job done in 2018.

17. What’s going to shake up the College Football Playoff race?

Central Florida going undefeated again. If Central Florida can get by the Lane Train of FAU, they could run through their conference again. If they go undefeated again will the committee members have memories of their win over Auburn and let the little guy get a chance?

18. Has Lane Kiffin made FAU by taking a page from Saban?

The Owls’ 10-game win streak is the second longest in the country, behind the 12-game streak put together by Central Florida. FAU now is the only FBS team thus far this season to go unbeaten against conference opponents and also win a bowl game. In the early signing period, Kiffin and his staff had a heavy emphasis on improving the defensive line — four of the Owls’ six signees came from that unit. Your going to start seeing Kiffin slowly steal recruits from UCF and USF in the coming seasons. But next season, expect even more blowouts by these Owls and brief ranking in the top 25.

Bold Predictions for 2019

Alabama will not win the SEC and lose 2 games

Shea Patterson (if eligible) will be the best quarterback in the Big Ten

Washington will win the Pac-12

The Big 12 will be left out of the playoff

Someone other than Clemson will win the ACC

A running back will win the Heisman

West Virginia will win the Big 12

Wisconsin will win the Big Ten and make the playoff

Lane Kiffin will still rule Twitter

Georgia wins the National Championship