We ultimately get to the SEC, the conference everyone loves to hate, as well as our picks on the College Football Playoffs for 2019. And lest we forget, a few of us got some of these things right last season. Sort of. (T.D. was almost there!)
Blaine Duncan — Were it not for Auburn starting a freshman quarterback, I don’t know if I wouldn’t give them the pick in the West. In the past few seasons, they always manage to win some they aren’t supposed to win. But a freshman QB would have to grow up fast in a tough SEC. This year, Auburn could have a defense that’ll be one of the best in the conference, and if Alabama continues with an injury bug that’s spreading like the flu in preseason practice, the Tigers could topple them in late November; I’m also working under the assumption that Auburn will recover quickly from an early season loss to a more experienced Oregon team. But, damn. It’s hard to pick against Nick Saban and a proven offense despite a defense that lost some key members to the first round of the NFL. And to think that there are folks out there with the notion that Jimbo Fisher may have what it takes to take down Saban and the Tide in the West. They won’t. As for the East, Florida is a season away at best: one has to keep in mind they have Dan Mullen (I think that’s his name) as a head coach. Elsewhere in the East, Jake Fromm is a fine quarterback, D’Andre Swift is a fine running back, and Kirby Smart is a fine head coach. It’s fine. They’ll be fine. SEC Champions: Alabama Crimson Tide
TD Wood — I think we all know this is Alabama’s conference to lose. Even if the defense falters some after the loss of Dylan Moses, the offense will probably break a slew of program records along the way to being one of, if not the, best offenses in the country. LSU is being hyped up as their biggest contenders in the West, but I don’t see it. I think last year’s 10-win season was a bit of a smoke and mirrors act. They’re talented, of course, but to get to 10 wins again they’d need to win at least four of these games: at Texas, Florida, at Miss. St., Auburn, at Alabama, Texas A&M. The Aggies should continue to improve in Jimbo Fisher’s second season, but that schedule is brutal. State will fall off a bit, Arkansas is going to be bad for a few years, and Auburn is a wild card. The Tigers could go 9-3, or they could go 4-8. That’s frightening. Ole Miss won’t challenge for anything, but the addition of Rich Rodriguez as offensive coordinator intrigues me. The Rebels are at their best with a prolific offense that can sneak up on you every few years. They don’t have the talent yet to really exploit Rich Rod’s offense, but keep your eyes on them. In the East, Georgia should easily win again. That said, the Bulldogs lost a lot of production on offense, and they have a pretty tricky schedule. It isn’t too much of a stretch to see the Dawg’s slip up and give the East away. Florida is the most likely team to take advantage of a Georgia misstep, I could 100% see them losing at LSU, but beating Georgia in Jacksonville and taking the East on a tiebreaker. Tennessee isn’t quite there yet, but should be better this year and make a bowl. Kentucky will fall back a bit, South Carolina is in a bit of a make or break year under Will Muschamp, but woo boy that schedule ain’t no joke. Vanderbilt will do Vanderbilt things. SEC Champions: Alabama Crimson Tide
2019 College Football Playoffs and National Champion
Blaine Duncan — I mentioned this week that I think the Big Ten will be the date not going to the dance this year, which seems fitting as Michigan will win that conference. That leaves room for the other Power Five Champions. There will be another Clemson and Alabama game (would we really be at Bama-Clemson V?), despite the bitching and moaning from anyone not in the states of Alabama and South Carolina (and some that are). Get over it. They’re two of the best teams year in and year out. Alabama will best Clemson in a semi-final game for the ages, but will be tired to win another National Championship. Georgia will be playing Oklahoma. (And everyone’s panties will be in a wad over two SEC teams in it once more.) That leaves Jalen Hurts will do what he does: he and the Sooners will beat the Bulldogs, and in the biggest sports story of the year, Hurts will bring the Sooners a National Championship after besting his former coach and team, Nick Saban. 2019 College Football Playoffs: Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Oklahoma. National Championship: Oklahoma over Alabama
TD Wood — Look, Alabama-Clemson V is inevitable. Just accept it and move on. Besides, it’s gonna be great to see Alabama take a shot at revenge against Clemson. Anyone who says this rivalry is bad for college football is a fucking moron. These two programs are simply that much better than everyone else, and in 30 years those same naysayers will be telling their kids “I remember those games” and blah blah blah. Elsewhere, and I hate to do this, but, Michigan. I think if the Wolverines can get over the Ohio St. speed bump, they’ll be in the playoff. Look on the bright side, though: it will be hilarious to see Jim Harbaugh throw a fit on the sideline when he’s getting his ass kicked in the semi-final. As for the fourth spot: Washington. I think the Huskies make by running through the PAC-12. Their four losses last year were by a combined 15 points. They have the best coach in the PAC-12, and everyone else around them is either crumbling or rebuilding. Ultimately, I think Nick Saban’s rolling (well, flying now) death machine will burn down anything in their path to get back to Clemson, and I think the Tide gets their revenge. 2019 College Football Playoffs: Peach Bowl: (1) Clemson over (4) Washington; Fiesta Bowl: (2) Alabama over (3) Michigan; National Championship: Alabama over Clemson.
But Keep an Eye On
Blaine Duncan — It’s painful to acknowledge, but Notre Dame does build a decent schedule each year and the media freaking loves them. A high enough ranking mid-season and beyond could catch the playoff committee’s eye and force their hand on a team sans conference once more. And wouldn’t it be something if Michigan did manage to win the Big Ten without a lot of losses? If so, they could fill a playoff slot and not Georgia. Lastly, I do like LSU and Coach O improves each year as a head coach. Good for him. He’s a likable dude. But he would have to win at Tuscaloosa this year, likely at night, and that’s just not going to happen. That place will be rocking.
TD Wood — The Heisman Trophy race seems like a two-horse ticket: Tua Tagovailoa versus Trevor Lawrence. The long-haired Clemson QB showed he’s the real deal last year, but Tua has the better arsenal surrounding him this year and will take home the trophy. As far as mid-major teams to watch, I like Memphis to be the best of the bunch. They took UCF to the limit last year (probably should’ve won), and should make a run at the AAC crown again. I’m also interested to see what Dana Holgorson does at Houston. UCF will be solid again, but with a new QB and losses on D. Boise St. has to replace a lot on offense, but should win the MWC again. Appalachian St. might have the best shot at crashing the New Year’s Six bowls. Even though they have a new head coach, if they can beat North Carolina in Chapel Hill and South Carolina in Columbia, they have what it takes to run the table in the Sun Belt. As far as CFP sleepers from the major conferences, Oregon and Utah might be worth watching out for if they can handle their business.
Hey! Beginning this Saturday, the real fun begins! First thing, bright and early — going so well with that morning coffee — we will give our weekly picks against the spread. Come back and let us know how badly we suck at this.