Finally, it’s here: the first, full week of the college football season! (Please, for now, disregard Week 0 that’s the new fashion.) And although it doesn’t affect the weather outside a damn bit (thanks climate change), we like to think that the mornings now feel just a little bit more crisp and that the evenings seem a degree or two cooler.
We at The Alabama Take love football (duh), and we’ve been waiting all summer to give our (bad, awful, no good) predictions for the coming season. In the next few days, we’ll detail who will be each of the Power Five’s champions and offer our thoughts on the top four who will make the playoffs.
Let’s begin today with what could be an obvious Big 12 Conference and a more confusing one out West in the PAC-12.
Blaine Duncan — It’s got to be Oklahoma, right? With Jalen Hurts at the helm of the offense and Spencer Rattler (wow, what a name) as a back-up QB, no other team will be toppling a talented group of Sooners. Lincoln Riley’s no stranger to the big stage, either, and an experienced coach tends to do well in big games and long seasons. Some folks out there think that Texas makes leaps and bounds, but I still think Tom Herman’s a chump. I’ll continue that opinion until he proves me otherwise. If anyone has the chance to surprise, give me Matt Campbell and the Iowa State Cyclones: they’ll win a few that’ll have other teams looking over their shoulders a bit worried. TCU and West Virginia are usually interesting to watch but that doesn’t make for a conference champion. And is Les Miles really the Kansas football coach or did I just dream that at the end of last season? Wouldn’t that be something if he turned a Jayhawks team so far around that they upset the likes of Oklahoma State or Baylor? I digress. Oklahoma gets it done, including beating the hell out of the Longhorns. Big 12 Champions: Oklahoma Sooners
TD Wood — At first glance, the Big 12 might seem like another one-horse race and unworthy of your attention. But I think it could be one of the more exciting conferences to watch this year. Jalen Hurts is the new leading man in Lincoln Riley’s offense, can he replicate the successes of Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray? The Sooners should run the ball more this year with Hurts at the helm, but the offense’s success will hinge on whether he continues to show improvement in the passing game as he did last season. While it’s too early to proclaim Texas officially “back,” they did emerge as the strongest contender to the Sooners’ crown last season. The Longhorns showed they are more than capable of beating their archrivals, but they have to replace nine starters on defense. The best news for Texas? Maryland is off the schedule. Iowa State is only going up under Matt Campbell, and may have the best D in the conference. But a tough road schedule (West Virginia, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Kansas State) and the loss of both David Montgomery and Hakeem Butler will prove a tough task to overcome. TCU used to be a perennial contender, but have gone only 24-16 the last three seasons. Is the outstanding and underappreciated run of Gary Patterson coming to an end? Elsewhere, Dana Holgerson is gone from WVU, but Les Miles is in at Kansas to provide all the weird coach shit you could want. As much as I’d like to pick a new champ, OU just has too many weapons. And the D can’t be that bad again… right? Big 12 Champions: Oklahoma Sooners
Blaine Duncan — USC competed every year in the PAC-12 until recently, which leads me to this: I would not buy any stock in Clay Helton. His days are numbered with the Trojans, and I’ll go with an extra prediction and state that he’ll be fired midseason. To me, it comes down to Oregon, Utah, and Washington. Since many of my college football prognostications center on the head coach’s abilities, I almost have to lean towards the Huskies and Chris Peterson: he’s a proven commodity, but something, like a lot of starters who’ve left, tells me that it won’t be Washington’s year; their leading rusher is now in the NFL. The Ducks have a strong, experienced leader at quarterback with Justin Herbert and a second-season ball coach in Mario Cristobal who’s ready to take a step forward. He who also may have learned a thing or two under guru Nick Saban and will open the season with a huge one over Auburn to get the Ducks’ season flying high. PAC-12 Champions: Oregon Ducks
TD Wood — It seems too easy to pick Washington here. They have the best coach in the league and a favorable schedule. Jacob Eason (former Georgia QB) is the front-runner to replace Jake Browning, and should keep the Huskies rolling on offense. The big question for UW will be how the defense responds to losing nine starters. Oregon should step up at the biggest challenger to Washington in the north, and may well be the most talented team in the conference. But the Ducks have a tough schedule (road games at Stanford, Washington, USC and Arizona St.), can QB Justin Herbert lead them to double digit wins for the first time since their 2014 run to the title game? Washington State flirted with a division title last season, but Mike Leach’s band of pirates fell to rival Washington yet again, and probably won’t replicate that magic. In the South, Utah seems poised to repeat. USC coach Clay Helton enters the season on the hot seat after the team lost five of their last six games in 2018. The pressure is on for the Trojans to return to the PAC 12 title picture, but the talent exists in Los Angeles to make a run. Perhaps the real question is, regardless of who emerges as champ, can they make the College Football Playoffs? PAC-12 Champions: Washington Huskies
Check back tomorrow for our takes on the Big Ten and A.C.C. On Thursday, we’ll detail our thoughts on the SEC, who makes the playoffs, and who will win it all. And beginning Saturday morning, we begin our weekly picks against the spread.