College football season predictions
Jeremy Young '24
The college football season has started and this year has been the craziest in the last ten years. Ohio State has already lost and has had a player quit mid game, Clemson has lost twice, Texas A&M has lost, Texas has lost, USC has fallen apart, and Florida State has yet to win a game. Similar to years past, the SEC looks to be the dominant conference with Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, and Auburn who all hold spots in the Top 25. Alabama and Georgia hold the top two spots and will likely meet in the college football championship while Oregon and Oklahoma will fill out the other two spots. The ACC will most likely not be able to put a team into the College Football Playoffs, as surprisingly Clemson has lost two games already and looked dreadful in their most recent loss to North Carolina State. While the predictions here will most likely be wrong by the time this article comes out, these are my predictions going into week 5.
Most Disappointing Team: Clemson, despite losing their first game to Georgia, Clemson remained the clear favorite in the ACC. They have a lot of experience on the defensive side including 4 seniors and 4 juniors and returning all 11 starters helping them to have one of the best defenses in college football that limited Georgia to 3 points on offense. This paired with an elite core of skilled positions on the offensive side means they are dangerous on both sides of the ball. Watching the game against Georgia the one flaw that was holding them back was their quarterback DJ Uiagalelei. While he played well last year in the few starts he had, he was still relatively untested and he looked out of his depth against Georgia’s defense where he threw for 178 yards and 1 interception going 19/37. The other major problem with Clemson is their offensive line which allowed 7 sacks against Georgia. After a very weak performance offensively against Georgia Tech, there are a lot of questions as to whether D.J. Uiagelelei can lead this team on offense. Their defense seems pretty solid but after beating Georgia Tech 73-7 in 2020 and only beating them 14-8 in 2021 it leaves fans with a lot of questions. After losing to North Carolina State in overtime (despite NC State’s 3 missed field goals down the stretch) Clemson has been exposed. They are not a playoff team at all; their offense cannot score points at all, their offensive line cannot protect D.J. Uiagalelei, and D.J. Uiagalelei cannot get the ball in the hands of the playmakers. Clemson isn’t going anywhere as they have now lost two games.
Worst Team: Florida State actually looked very good in week 1. Losing in overtime against highly ranked Notre Dame was nothing to be ashamed of and their loss fell mostly onto a poor coaching decision to go for it on fourth down in their own territory. But in each week after it, Florida State has looked worse and worse. Losing in week 2 to Jacksonville State and then getting beaten handedly by Wake Forest. Florida State looks like a team that has given up on the season, don’t expect them to do much this season.
Most Surprising Team: Virginia Tech finished the 2020 season a dismal 5-6, hopes were low for the Hookies, not to mention losing their starting quarterback Hendon Hooker to Tennessee who had thrown for over 1,500 yards in the 2019 season. Despite this, they came out week 1 and shocked the world knocking off at the time No 10. North Carolina in front of 65,500 people. Their defense has been stellar so far collecting 4 interceptions across two games, three of which against early Heisman Candidate Sam Howell. Playing in one of the weakest divisions in College Football (ACC Coastal) and having already taken down North Carolina leaves Virginia Tech as the clear favorite to win the division. While it will be interesting to see them face off against Clemson for the ACC championship, they will most likely find themselves in a New Year's Six Bowl Game, not the playoffs.
Best Team: After a rocky week 1 where they made a decent Tulane team look like a great team, Oklahoma seems like they have settled down. You know exactly what to expect from this team, high powered offense led by star quarterback Spencer Rattler, but heavily lacking in defense. In true Oklahoma style they have scored over 100 points in two games and will continue to put up these numbers against a lackluster Big 12. This is a very similar Oklahoma team to ones in the past, they will score a lot of points but also give up a lot of points as the game against Tulane showed. They play an astonishingly easy schedule with only one top 25 team on it. The two games to watch out for are Iowa State and the Red River Shootout against Texas. If they can survive these two games, they have a good chance for the college football playoffs, where in true Oklahoma fashion they will get demolished by a well rounded team like they have four times before.
Most Surprising: Most surprising doesn’t always mean a good thing. Texas is not a good football team. For a team that plans on joining the SEC, they just got destroyed by Arkansas. And Arkansas isn’t all that good. Texas has tried everything; new coach, new quarterback, soon to be new system but time and time again the harsh truth shows; Texas isn’t what they once were. This isn’t going to be their year, at best Texas will be a Big 12 fraud; a product of an easy schedule and at worst they’ll be 6-6.
Worst Team: Kansas started this season with a win over South Dakota ending a 13 game losing streak stretching back to October 2019. But Jayhawks fans don’t get too excited, this might be your only win of the season. They just got absolutely obliterated by Coastal Carolina and by Baylor by a combined 65 points and expect this trend to continue.
Best Team: Ohio State. Despite losing to Oregon, Ohio State remains the best team in the B10. C.J. Stroud is going to be a superstar in a couple years and they have a very good receiver core led by Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. The defense especially against the run is severely lacking for Ohio State. Against Minnesota they allowed 203 rushing yards and against Oregon they allowed 269 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns between the two. Ohio State is going to have an uphill battle to the college football playoffs, facing Penn State and Michigan, but if they win those games and win the B10 Championship they might have a chance of making the College Football Playoffs.
Most Surprising: While Iowa was 6-2 in 2020, they have taken a huge step forward in 2021. Starting off the season routing Indiana 34-6 and then following it up with a win over Iowa State 27-17. They are the first team in College Football with two wins over ranked opponents. Their defense has played very well and should lead them to a successful season.
Worst Team: Illinois won the first game of the season beating Nebraska, but since then it's all been downhill. After getting beaten by UTSA, they were destroyed against Virginia and beaten by Maryland, another sub-par B10 team. Since the win against Nebraska their defense has only gotten one sack and forced one interception. There is nothing special about this team and expect for them to be among the bottom feeders of the B10 West.
Best Team: Oregon shocked the world by upsetting Ohio State 35-28 in Ohio State. This paired with a week 1 victory over a very underrated Fresno State puts Oregon atop the Pac-12 as the dominant team. The hardest part of the schedule is behind them as they face one ranked team for the rest of the year being UCLA. C.J. Verdell took the world by storm after a 161 yard rushing and 2 touchdown game against Ohio State. Playing against the easiest conference in college football, Oregon will be able to go undefeated (looking at their schedule it's really easy) and win the Pac-12, placing them as the number 2 seed in the college football playoffs.
Most Surprising: The Pac-12 south has never been strong in football and this looks to be true again this year. Now that every team in that division has lost a game the division is left up in the air. USC, UCLA, and Arizona State all look to fill in this spot. After a strong 2019 season capped off with an upset win over Oregon, Arizona State showed quite a bit of promise. They took a few steps back in 2020 finishing 2-2. In 2021 however they started the year 3-1 with high scoring victories over Southern Utah and UNLV. Despite a week 3 loss to a very good BYU team, Arizona State could be a force to be reckoned with in the Pac-12 south. Their real test will be against USC, but even if they don’t win that game, expect a 8-4 finish for the Sun Devils.
Worst Team: Arizona is sitting with a 15 game losing streak stretching all the way back to October 2019. With almost a two year losing streak, Arizona doesn’t have much to hope for as they have lost to BYU, San Diego State, and Northern Arizona. Considering they have failed to beat Northern Arizona and they only play Pac-12 teams from here on out, there isn’t much hope for them to finish anything but 0-12.
Best Team: Yes Alabama didn’t look completely dominant in week 3 over Florida, but that has more to do with Florida being criminally underrated than anything to do with Alabama. In week 1, they made at the time ranked Miami look like a division 2 team, in week 2 they got bored and crushed Mercer, and in week 3 they were tested for the first time, barely beating Florida. As is the problem every year with Alabama, they aren’t returning as many players as a team such as Clemson, they will make some mistakes due to their lack of experience. With that out of the way, they are hands down the best team in college football. They are in a tier of their own and will prove that this year as they will face Arkansas, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Auburn, and most likely Georgia in the conference championship. Their defense was most impressive against Florida holding Emory Jones to under 200 yards. Watch out for October 2nd because their next test will come at the hands of Matt Coral and the Rebels. They play a hard schedule, but they are the clear favorite to win the National Championship.
Most Surprising: It was a hard choice between Ole Miss and a much improved Bo Nix and Auburn as well as Arkansas' huge win over Texas but, As mentioned earlier, Ole Miss is a very good football team and has a shot to win a lot of games this year. Matt Coral is putting together quite a good Heisman resume throwing for 997 yards and 9 touchdowns across 3 games. Their defense is nothing to write home about but if they can get into some shootouts against the likes of Texas A&M and Alabama, they have a good shot at winning.
Worst Team: Vanderbilt looks to stay the laughing stock of the SEC losing to East Tennessee State to start off the season. Despite Tennessee losing out on almost an entire roster due to their cherating scandal, they still somehow are better than Vanderbilt. Assuming they beat UCONN who has lost their coach and four games this year, the Commodores will likely finish at 2-10. Better than last year’s 0-9.