Adam's Bold Predictions for Each Power 5 Conference
College football season is right around the corner. Last year it was the year of defense. This year we see a large amount of offensive talent expected to take center stage. This off-season we saw the wildest coaching carousel ever. Lincoln Riley left Oklahoma for USC, Brian Kelly left Notre Dame for LSU, and Clemson lost both their long term coordinators. The transfer portal was crazy again with Caleb Williams going to USC and Spencer Rattler heading to the University of South Carolina.
Alabama are the favorites to win the National Championship right behind defending champs, Georgia. However, in a crowded SEC, could we see a new team atop of the power conference? Oklahoma and Texas are leaving soon, do they leave their mark on the Big 12 before their exit? Ohio State dominates the Big Ten each year, when will their reign end? Clemson was finally dethroned last year, does Dabo get redemption? Lincoln Riley is new to the Pac-12, does he continue his winning ways out west? There are so many questions for teams, but does Bryce Young become just the second person ever to win 2 Heisman Trophies or does another QB like Ohio State's CJ Stroud get his Heisman moment? Lets take a look at some bold predictions for each power 5 conference.
Ohio State’s defense restricts them from making the College Football Playoff
Ohio State has the best offense in college football. CJ Stroud at QB, TreVeyon Henderson at RB, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba at WR. All 3 of those players could be the first player taken at their position in the 2023 NFL Draft. This offense is going to be electric, but their defense is still weak. There are still some good offenses in the Big Ten, and a bad loss late will keep them out of the playoffs.
Sean Clifford gets benched and James Franklin's seat heats up
Sean Clifford is not a good college football QB and especially not for a team that wants to make the playoffs. Last year he only threw 21 TD's and 9 interceptions. Not great for a team that relies on their QB. James Franklin has underperformed every year. Besides 2016, he has not had a great season. He has relied on his top tier coordinators, but they all leave for head coaching roles. Manny Diaz is a great addition, but not sure if he can save Franklin's job.
Michigan State vs. Ohio State will determine the Big Ten
Circle October 8th on your calendar. Ohio State will travel and play Michigan State. These are the two top teams in the Big Ten. The winner of this wins the conference and will 100% be in the playoff. If the stars align, the loser could find a way in, but this game is each team's top priority. Michigan State is returning a core of starters. They need to replace Kenneth Walker's production, but their defense can slow down this Ohio State offense.
All eyes are on Bama/UGA, but Arkansas is your dark horse.
I expect to see Alabama and Georgia on top, but Sam Pittman has this team on the right direction. They will be a top 25 team and probably a top 10 team this season. They return KJ Jefferson at QB and 4/5 offensive line starters from last year. The transfer portal was Arkansas' best friend and they loaded on. Their defense is loaded with transfers from in conference powers as well as other national powerhouses. Watch out for Jadon Haselwood and Matt Landers to make instant impacts as transfers.
Bryce Young is not a 2x Heisman Winner
It is going to be extremely tough to win back-to-back Heisman's. He is going to have a great season and has the support to win it again, but to win it, you need to have an even better season. He threw for 4,872 yards and 47 touchdowns last season. It is going to be hard for him to mirror those numbers. His biggest downfall is his other Heisman competition. There are 10 other QB's right now who are serious contenders for the nation's highest honor. He needs to do a lot in order to stand out, and I do not see him being able to do that.
Brian Kelly should have stayed at Notre Dame
Brian Kelly is going to learn very quickly that an SEC schedule is much more difficult that a schedule that you get to hand pick at Notre Dame. Games against Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Texas A&M is going to be rough. His biggest downfall is his best coordinator at Notre Dame Marcus Freeman stayed back. I never liked this hire for both Kelly and LSU and I believe both parties will agree fairly soon.
The Brent Venables era starts slow
The biggest story of the off-season was Lincoln Riley leaving Norman and Brent Venables returning to become the head coach where he was previously an assistant. The best way to describe this Oklahoma team is by the word different. Only 9 starters remain, but a load of transfer like Dillion Gabriel at QB should help this team down the stretch. The team has a lot of holes especially at offensive line. They struggled last year on the line, and that will be a major concern this year. This team is going to enter the SEC as a powerhouse. It will take Venables a year or 2 to get back to that level.
Baylor repeats as Conference Champs
The Big 12 is wide open this year. Oklahoma does not have the force to get back to where they are. Texas once again is not back. OK State has too tough of a road schedule. Baylor's defensive line returns Dillion Doyle who was the anchor of that defensive line. They held teams to 5.2 yards per snap, I expect that caliber of production to return.
Baylor defeats Kansas State in the Conference Championship
Kansas State is going to shock a lot of people this season. With Deuce Vaugh at RB, Nebraska transfer Adrian Martinez at QB, and Cooper Beebe at WR, this offense has the fire power to make a run in this conference. The team lost a lot of starters but return a lot of players with substantial playing time. The conference is weak, so this could be a good year for K-state to make a run.
NC State wins the ACC and makes the College Football Playoff
For a team that went 9-3 last year they return 17 out of 22 starters from last season. They did lose 3 elite players to the draft, but they do return QB Devin Leary who had 35 TD's and 5 INTs last year. The defense returns their leaders at LB who will be a major force on that defense. NC State has a lot of talent and on paper are the best team in the conference. They have a fairly easy schedule. October 1st, they travel to Clemson, but a victory there could and should put them into the playoff conversation.
Clemson's struggles continue
There is no hiding that Clemson had a disappointing 2021. They did not win the ACC for the first time in 6 years and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2014. The defense should not be an issue. The loss of Brent Venables to Oklahoma will take some adjustment, but the players they are returning on defense will still be a driving force. Their concerns on offense are going to be their Achillies heal. DJ Uiagalelei struggled at QB last season, and I do not see an improvement that will let him keep his job. He lost his top wideout Justyn Ross to the NFL and he still has one of the worst offensive lines in the ACC. Dabo truly needs a full reset of the program before they return to dominance.
Brennan Armstrong win OPOY
The ACC might be the dark horse conference for the deepest QB conference. Sam Hartman at Wake Forest, Kedon Slovis at Pitt, Devin Leary at NC State, and the list can go on. However, it is going to be Brennan Armstrong from Virginia who wins Offensive Player of the Year. New head coach Tony Elliott has a long history of QB success at Clemson. He now inherits the nation's leading passer from a year ago. Armstrong returns his receiving core of Billy Kemp IV, Dontayvion Wicks, Keytaon Thompson and Lavel Davis. The tools are there for him and he is not going to take his foot off the pedal.
USC does not return to greatness in 22'
Let's start with the obvious. New head coach Lincoln Riley is not going to turn a 4-8 team into a national contender in year 1. Caleb Williams started off last year looking like a star, but took huge step backs towards the end of the season. He does have a new WR in Jordan Addison from Pitt. I can see the offense taking major strides forward, but the defense is still an issue. The team got pushed around way too much last year. Riley needs 2 or 3 recruiting classes before he takes this program back to where they want to be.
Oregon wins the PAC 12
Dan Lanning inherits a roster that returns 14 starters from last season. He also landed QB Bo Nix in the transfer portal. This is an extra prediction... Bo Nix is a Heisman Finalist in 2022. However, back to Oregon. Their schedule is in their favor. No USC and UCLA/Utah at home. Their offense returns the entire offensive line and a great group of playmakers for Bo Nix to have. Week 1 game against Georgia will determine if this team are playoff contenders and after that week 1 win, Oregon will be on their way to the College Football Playoff.
Herm Edwards lands a broadcasting job with Chip Kelly
This one is easy. Both Arizona State and UCLA will be looking for new coaches for 2023. Edwards and Kelly both failed at their task of bringing these programs back to dominance. They had some key wins over the years, but they both never got consistent within the conference. Major setbacks will push them closer to the broad cast booth.
The college football season is right around the corner. I fully expect for the usual suspects to be in the playoff conversation. Alabama once again reloaded, Georgia has all eyes on repeating, Ohio State wants to win for the first time since 2014, and Oregon wants to return to glory.
I expect Alabama to repeat as conference champions. They have the best roster in college football and it is not even close. Ohio State missed out on the conference championship last year, but don't you worry, they will be back. NC State is going to make a run for a playoff spot after their ACC championship this year. Oregon will be joining them as fellow conference champions looking to make the playoffs. I am not sure what we will get from the Big 12. Baylor will repeat as champs, but not sure if it will be enough for them to be serious playoff contenders.