We made it, folks! We are less than three weeks away from the CFB season getting underway and it is finally time to roll out the previews. From betting my Ohio State future the day after the National Championship, to a trip to Casa Prep, to my college football content binge over the past few days, it has been a long offseason and I am finally ready to unload my thoughts on the world.
I am going to be rolling out previews for each conference over the next couple of weeks leading up to the start of the season. Today’s blog is going to be more of just my overarching thoughts on the season including who I think could make the playoff, could win the National Title, and refresh my Heisman picks. Then here is the schedule for the rest of the previews, I will be combining the G5 previews two conferences at a time and then giving each P5 conference their own preview.
8/10- Sun Belt + C-USA
8/11- MAC + Mountain West
8/12- AAC + Independents
8/15- Big 12
8/16- Pac 12
8/17- Big 10
8/19- Final Wrap-Up/Best Bets
That is nine more college football previews over the next twelve days. Then all of the sudden Week Zero will be rolling around and it will be time to bet some real games (if you haven’t already). I will be doing a weekly preview article on here during the season but as always you can get my picks instanteoulsy by following me @ BlakeyLocks on the Action app. With all of the housekeeping aside,,, let’s get into the football. I feel like the easiest thing to do here is to tier the teams based on their ceiling.
One of These Teams Will Win the National Championship
Alabama– the Tide are out for revenge and Saban basically wins every other year so you have to put them as the favorite. Bryce Young returns after his Heisman season and they have the most talented roster in college football top to bottom.
Ohio State- My preseason pick to win the whole thing. Alabama might have the best overall roster but the firepower on the Ohio State offense is absurd. They should breeze through the B1G this year and if it’s a shootout against Alabama for a National Title, I like Stroud over Young.
These teams all have a shot to make the playoff and in a crazy scenario could upset one of those top two teams in a semi-final.
Georgia- The Dawgs are still the champs until they’re not. Stetson Bennett is back for year 17 but Georgia basically had to replace an entire defense of NFL players. I think this will be a transitional year for them although they should still win the SEC East and could sneak into the playoff with their only loss being to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.
Clemson- I am not a DJ Uighsigalelege believer and I think Clemson did little to nothing to improve using the transfer portal in the way other top teams did. I know last year they only lost two games in a “down year” but with the ACC being the last-ranked P5 conference, I still think Clemson would probably have to have one loss or less to make the playoff. With a few tough opponents on the schedule (NC State, BC, Wake Forest, Miami, Notre Dame, South Carolina) I can easily see them losing two games again and that won’t be enough out of the ACC.
Notre Dame- In my mind, Notre Dame should only make the playoff if they go undefeated until they decide to join a conference and have to play in a Championship Game. With Clemson, Ohio State, USC, and more on the schedule, I can’t see them going undefeated. However, if they can beat Clemson and run the table against everyone after losing the opener to Ohio State, they could easily grab a playoff position.
Utah- This is my favorite team out of the PAC-12. I know you have probably heard this story before and they have been so close in the past, but this Utah team is legit. Cam Rising is a real deal QB and they are well-rounded across the board. They are my pick out of the PAC-12 and if they can survive with only one loss then I have them in the playoff.
Oklahoma/Baylor- I am lumping these two together. I think these will be the top two teams in the Big 12 playing for the Big 12 Championship. If one of them can go undefeated or even have one loss they could make the playoff but I can’t see either of them winning a playoff game.
These teams could shock the world and steal a conference or playoff spot from a favorite.
Oregon– Utah is my pick to win the PAC-12 but Oregon is the only other team I could see running the table and giving themselves a playoff shot. If Bo Nix can find a different level against inferior PAC-12 defenses (compared to what he’s used to in the SEC West) then this team COULD do something special.
NC State– This is probably my favorite dark horse in CFB. I loved this team last year and I think Devin Leary is the most underrated QB in the nation. The way their schedule shakes out they should comfortably be 4-0 heading to Clemson on October 1st. If they can upset the Tigers for the second straight year then they will be in the driver’s seat in the ACC.
Pitt– It is hard to replace what Kenny Pickett gave to this program but Kedon Slovis actually has more raw talent than Pickett, in my humble opinion. Slovis was never properly refined at USC but the combo of Narduzzi and OC Frank Cignetti Jr. will be the best coaching Slovis has ever had. This team also has the good fortune of being in the other division from Clemson.
Texas– COULD TEXAS BE BACK??? probably not. But I do think Quinn Ewers could be really really good and Sark is an improvement from their past couple of head coaches. I think they are still a couple of steps away from being a playoff team but I think they could sneak into the top two and have a chance to play for the conference.
Wisconsin– If one team in the B1G will stop Ohio State (although I think no one will) I actually would back Wisconsin to be that team. Braelon Allen is a legit freak and I think Wisconsin will cruise through the B1G West just as easily as Ohio State will get through the B1G East. I would back Ohio State to comfortably win that championship game at this moment but in a one-game sample… you never know.
Houston– COUGSSSSSS! If any Group of 5 team has a chance to make a Cincinnati run to the playoffs I would back the Cougs. They are my pick to win the AAC (not just because their mascot died) because of their DC Doug Belk who should have their D as a top unit in CFB and their QB Clayton Tune who has mastered this Dana Holgerson offense.
These are the highly ranked teams I do not believe in.
Texas A&M– It’s the same old story with the Aggies. Ever since Jimbo arrived in College Station, A&M has been the team pegged to steal the West from Alabama. Well… the Tide have still dominated and the one year they were knocked off it was by LSU. I’m not really a Max Johnson believer but most of all I’m not a Jimbo believer. Texas A&M WILL NOT beat Alabama which means they won’t win the West and I would not be surprised if they lost to Miami, Arkansas, Mississippi State, South Carolina, or anybody that’s not Sam Houston State or UMass.
Michigan State– I am not buying TuckCoin or MelCoin or whatever the fuck that is. It was a great first year for the Spartan head coach but I don’t think there’s much room for them to improve. I think they are a clear third-best team in the division and there is an even bigger gap to the top than last year. In addition to their tough B1G East schedule, they also have a difficult road trip to Washington early in the year.
Michigan– Last year was a dream season for Jim Harbaugh after finally beating Ohio State. However, they got a rude awakening about their place in the larger CFB landscape when the Dawgs took them to the woodshed in the CFP semis. I think there is nowhere to go but down for Michigan especially with Ohio State improving. They could still be the second-best team in the B1G but I am selling them as real contenders.
USC– In the national championship there is a clear top-four who are heavily favored to be the four playoff teams (Alabama, Ohio State, UGA, Clemson) then there is a significant drop-off in odds. However, the next team on the list (at least at FD) is the Trojans. Lincoln Riley and Caleb Williams famously fled Norman to head to LA but I think this team is still at least a year away. With a brand new head coach and a team riddled with transfers and not-great players from the old USC days, I think there will be an adjustment period for Lincoln Riley. They actually have a decently favorable schedule for the most part but would have to go to Utah and win then beat either Utah or Oregon in the Championship Game to ensure a playoff bid. That’s in addition to seeing Notre Dame in the final week of the season. I’m selling the Trojans at this price… for now.
I will be including my official playoff picks and National Championship pick in my final preview in a couple of weeks but this is my overarching view of the CFB landscape for this season. Look out for a preview almost every day for the next two weeks and follow along on Twitter @BlakeyLocks for more CFB content leading up to Week Zero.
Cheers, Go Bucks.