Everybody wants Bama: 2018 college football predictions

Dl5GfdMW0AMz6tH(Even Purdue wants Bama. And they couldn’t even beat Northwestern./Twitter @capstonekid)

By MIKE HERNDON

“We Still Want Bama,” the sign read.

And as Central Florida made its season opener against UConn look like a glorified walk-through in a 56-17 victory, it was difficult to cling to any belief that the Golden Knights don’t deserve the shot – weak opponent or no – if they follow up an undefeated 2017 with a perfect 2018.

But Nick Saban would tell the Knights that their biggest enemy isn’t the CFP selection committee, it’s complacency. They heard everyone from their own AD to the governor of Florida proclaim them “national champions” despite the hardware sitting in Alabama’s trophy case. They had a parade. They hung banners. They even got a line in the NCAA record book thanks to the Colley rankings – thin, yes, but so are the legs upon which Alabama props some of its own previous national championship claims (1941, anyone?).

So do the Golden Knights still feel like they have something to prove? And will they feel like they have to prove it to SMU and Memphis? Or do they come into 2018 with the satisfied air of a national champion, whether they have the trophy to prove it or not?

Thursday night’s opener seems to show there’s still a chip on their shoulder. But in a conference that does nothing for your strength of schedule and a non-conference schedule whose biggest name is North Carolina, it won’t matter. Even if UCF runs the table again, the Knights will likely be on the outside looking in.

And the student with the sign can get another year of use out of it.

With the 2018 college football season upon us, some predictions:

Your 2018 College Football Playoff teams are: Alabama, Clemson, Wisconsin and Washington.

Jalen or Tua? Tua or Jalen? I’m betting we won’t get a definitive answer to Alabama’s quarterback competition until at least two or three games into the season. I’m also betting it won’t matter which one plays until November and by then, expect Tagovailoa to have nailed down the job. Yes, I know Hurts is 26-2 as a starter. I also doubt he could have made the throw that won the national title on 2nd-and-26 against Georgia.

Clemson finds itself in a situation at quarterback that’s similar to that of Alabama last year, with a successful returning starter in Kelly Bryant and an inexperienced backup that’s an even more talented passer. The Tigers also return a defensive line that may be the best in the country, half of which should be in the NFL right now.

Wisconsin rides the best offensive line in college football and Heisman contender Jonathan Taylor to a Big Ten title and playoff berth. And yes, Auburn will defeat another playoff team this year, as the Huskies fall to the Tigers in Atlanta and then run the table in the Pac-12.

Your College Football National Championship Game is: Another Alabama-Clemson rematch. And the hot potato goes back to the Tigers, whose defense will win the day. And wouldn’t it just be poetic if Trevor Lawrence had to come in to seal the victory?

Your Heisman Trophy winner is: Trace McSorley, QB, Penn State.

The best player in college football this season is probably Houston’s Ed Oliver, but linemen don’t win the Heisman. The most exciting offensive player might be Arizona’s Khalil Tate, but the Heisman rarely goes to players on teams that aren’t contending. But Oliver will be stopping touchdowns instead of scoring them and Tate’s Wildcats won’t likely be in CFP contention. If McSorley equals or exceeds last year’s 3,600 yards and 29 touchdowns and the Nittany Lions are in contention for a playoff berth, as they should be, we’ll likely see him emulating the stiff arm in New York come December.

Your Name, Image and Likeness rights are: Still owned by the NCAA and your school, if you’re a college student-athlete. And don’t be selling your shoes either. But you’ve got a waterfall in the training room. What more do you want?

Twenty FBS coaches, meanwhile, made $4 million or more last season. Thirty-nine made more than $3 million. That list included such stellar names as Butch Jones, fired at Tennessee after finishing no higher than second in the SEC East in his five years in Knoxville, and Lovie Smith, who is 5-19 in two years at Illinois.

Alabama, meanwhile, plans to pour another $600 million into its athletic facilities, including another renovation of Bryant-Denny Stadium. When everybody wants you, you’ve got to stay ahead of the pack.

Welcome to another season of “amateur” athletics.



Categories: College football

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