By Cole Tussing
- Clemson Tigers, 12-0 (8-0 conference)
- NC State Wolfpack, 11-1 (7-1 conference)
- Syracuse Orange, 9-3 (5-3 conference)
- Boston College Eagles, 6-6 (3-5 conference)
- Louisville Cardinals, 6-6 (4-4 conference)
- Wake Forest Demon Deacons, 5-7 (2-7 conference)
- Pitt Panthers, 10-2 (8-0 conference)
- Miami Hurricanes, 8-4 (5-3 conference)
- Virginia Tech Hokies, 8-4 (5-3 conference)
- Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, 7-5 (4-4 conference)
- Virginia Cavaliers, 5-7 (2-6 conference)
- North Carolina Tar Heels, 2-10 (1-8 conference)
- Duke Blue Devils, 1-11 (0-8 record)
Taking Clemson to win the Atlantic Division, win the ACC and become one of the nation’s top teams once again feels like a blanket statement. This team arguably has even more talent than last year and will certainly be a challenge for Alabama and others going after the trophy. Trevor Lawrence had a phenomenal freshman year, and it’s crazy to think he can get better. For his first collegiate season at the quarterback position he posted 3,280 yards, 30 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions, giving him a QBR of 157.6. This already put him above Deshaun Watson’s QBR at Clemson throughout Watson’s entire career. Those numbers are very similar to the stats Tim Tebow put up as a Junior, which was statistically his best season.
Lawrence is the preseason All-American and has the highest odds to take the Heisman. He would be the first Clemson player to ever win. His weapons are Justyn Ross, who played great in the National Championship, Tee Higgins, who works very well in the slot, and Travis Etiene who is the starting RB and is projected to be a first round pick in this year’s NFL Draft.
Dabo Swinney is arguably one of the best coaches in college football in the way he took his team from a 7-win team, to one that could possibly dethrone Alabama as the top program. I anticipate NC State and Syracuse will give Clemson a little trouble, but ultimately the Tigers will come out on top in the division. They also had the best 2019 freshman recruiting class, with Andrew Booth, the 5-star CB from Lawrenceville, GA and Frank Ladson, the 4-star WR from Homestead, FL, leading the way. It’s back to the College Football Playoff for Clemson.
- Northwestern Wildcats, 9-2 (6-2 conference)
- Purdue Boilermakers, 8-2 (6-2 conference)
- Wisconsin Badgers, 6-4 (4-4 conference)
- Minnesota Golden Gophers, 6-4 (4-4 conference)
- Iowa Hawkeyes, 5-5 (3-5 conference)
- Nebraska Cornhuskers, 2-8 (1-7 conference)
- Ohio State Buckeyes, 10-0 (8-0 conference)
- Michigan Wolverines, 9-1 (7-1 conference)
- Michigan State Spartans, 8-2 (6-2 conference)
- Penn State Nittany Lions, 7-3 (5-3 conference)
- Maryland Terrapins, 5-5 (3-5 conference)
- Indiana Hoosiers, 3-7 (2-6 conference)
Northwestern won the division for the first time in school history last year, and I think it will happen again. They have young talent coming in with Genson Hooper-Price, the 3-star wideout from Houston.
Looking over to the East, I’m taking the Buckeyes to not only win the division, but also the conference. They may have lost Haskins, Bosa and company, but in return they got Georgia-transfer and former 5-star recruit Justin Fields. KJ Hill and J.K. Dobbins are also coming back, making one dangerous offensive force that’ll leave opposing corners terrified. While it may be true that Urban Meyer retired, Ryan Day, their current coach, took over during the first three weeks Meyer was suspended and won all three games. This may be the year where the Buckeyes finally get in the College Football Playoff.
- Texas Longhorns, 11-1 (9-0 conference)
- Texas Tech Red Raiders, 11-1 (8-1 conference)
- Oklahoma Sooners, 10-2 (7-2 conference)
- TCU Horned Frogs, 8-4 (6-3 conference)
- Kansas State Wildcats, 8-4 (5-4 conference)
- Oklahoma State Cowboys, 7-5 (4-5 conference)
- West Virginia Mountaineers, 4-8 (3-6 conference)
- Iowa State Cyclones, 4-8 (2-7 conference)
- Kansas Jayhawks, 3-9 (1-8 conference)
- Baylor Bears, 2-10 (0-9 conference)
There are realistically three teams that can compete to win the Big 12: Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech. Baylor hasn’t been in the picture since Robert Griffin III was at the helm, and Kansas may have gotten Les Miles as the coach, but their offensive and defensive firepower just isn’t there. Iowa State and West Virginia lost too much in the NFL draft in David Montgomery and Will Grier respectively. TCU, Kansas State and Oklahoma State will all have decent seasons, but still need a few weapons to compete with the elite in the conference.
Let’s take a look at Texas, my pick to win the Big 12. First, I was shocked to see the Longhorns check in at no. 10 in the AP preseason Top 25 poll. I personally think the team is worthy of being ranked near the 6 or 7 spot. They brought in enough quality freshman to have the best class in the Big 12, and 3rd overall in the nation. Bru McCoy is the 9th ranked prospect, regardless of position. The Longhorns can utilize these weapons to compliment Sam Ehlinger’s game, the 4-star freshman wideout Jake Smith, the power runner Kirk Johnson and the soft-hands tight end Cade Brewer.
- Oregon Ducks, 11-1 (8-1 conference)
- Washington Huskies, 11-1 (8-1 conference)
- Washington State Cougars, 11-1 (8-1 conference)
- Stanford Cardinal, 5-7 (5-4 conference)
- Cal Golden Bears, 3-9 (1-8 conference)
- Oregon State Beavers, 1-11 (0-9 conference)
- USC Trojans, 8-4 (6-3 conference)
- Utah Utes, 7-5 (4-5 conference)
- UCLA Bruins, 6-6 (6-3 conference)
- Arizona State Sun Devils, 6-6 (4-5 conference)
- Arizona Wildcats, 5-7 (4-5 conference)
- Colorado Buffalo, 3-9 (0-9 conference)
To my knowledge, three teams tied in a division at the top has never happened before. Let’s first take a look at the calmer South and then dive into the hectic North.
Arizona already has played a game this season, with that one being a loss to the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. Even though USC had a wild coaching run with now Arizona Cardinal coach Cliff Kingsbury, I still think there’s enough talent on the roster to win the division. The Trojans have the 20th overall and 3rd in the Pac-12 recruiting class. Kyle Ford should be able to do some damage, being the headline recruit of the class, and should be able to learn a lot from Michael Pittman, one of the leaders and centerpieces of the offense. Having these weapons should make JT Daniels a more conservative and comfortable quarterback.
Moving on to the North division, I think the Ducks are the team to beat. Justin Herbert, the quarterback, had the option to go the NFL Draft last season but chose to stay. This means they have an NFL-ready caliber quarterback who is also a born leader. Their rankings last year were 25th in the nation in points per/game with 34.8. They were also 48th in the nation in points allowed and did the best when it came to recruiting, having the best class out of any other team in the conference. They were the only school in the Pac 12 to get a 5-star recruit, which made their class overall rank 7th. That 5-star is Kayvon Thibodeaux, who could’ve gone virtually anywhere, seeing as he was the 2nd overall recruit. They also got the 4th best corner coming to Eugene in Mykael Wright, so expect the defensive numbers to be better than last season.
- Alabama Crimson Tide, 12-0 (8-0 conference)
- LSU Tigers, 11-1 (7-1 conference)
- Mississippi State Bulldogs, 9-3 (5-3 conference)
- Texas A&M Aggies, 8-4 (5-3 conference)
- Ole Miss Rebels, 6-6 (2-6 conference)
- Auburn Tigers, 5-7 (2-6 conference)
- Arkansas Razorbacks, 4-8 (0-8 conference)
- Georgia Bulldogs, 12-0 (8-0 conference)
- Missouri Tigers, 11-1 (7-1 conference)
- Florida Gators, 9-3 (5-3 conference)
- Kentucky Wildcats, 7-5 (3-5 conference)
- South Carolina Gamecocks, 6-6 (3-5 conference)
- Tennessee Volunteers, 5-7 (1-7 conference)
- Vanderbilt Commodores, 3-9 (0-8 conference)
Finally, just like Clemson in the ACC, picking Alabama to win the West and SEC feels too easy, yet every year this team is the real deal. With his championship resume, Nick Saban is seen as the best coach in college football. Coming in at second in the Heisman voting is their quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa.Tagovailoa will be entering his junior year, which means if he decides to commit to the NFL Draft, he’ll want to make this a season to remember. He has enough games under his belt and enough playoff experience to really emerge as a leader, and the Crimson Tide clearly has enough weapons to complement Tua’s skillset. Najee Harris has shown consistently he’s one of the best running backs in the nation, and Ruggs III and Jerry Jeudy are significant firepower as the primary wideouts. Finally, Alabama still has the best recruiting class in the SEC and ranked 2nd nationally, so they have veterans and enough of a young core to supplement. Their offensive line is going to be very hard to get through with Evan Neal and Pierce Quick coming in as offensive tackles. Both are 5-stars, and Neal is ranked the best offensive tackle in this class.
Edited by Emma Moloney | firstname.lastname@example.org