104.5 The Team’s 2018 College Football Preview
Although some teams have already kicked off their season, most of the FBS level college football teams get their season underway over the next few days. What teams win what conference? Who wins the Heisman trophy? What teams play in the college football playoff and win it all? The 1045 The Team staff has your answers below. Do you agree or disagree? Share your opinions with us below.
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ACC Champion: Clemson
Clemson has been king in the ACC for a few years, and that doesn’t stop this year as they look for their fourth straight conference championship. The Tigers are arguably stronger than they were last year when they made the CFP and have the right mix of upper and lower classmen to make this team fun to watch. The ACC as a conference is stronger than it has been in a while; Miami is looking to build on last year’s strong season, Virginia Tech is always there, and don’t sleep on Florida State being a serious threat under first-year head coach Willie Taggert. However, Clemson is in a league of their own and they will be in the CFP once again this season.
Big Ten Champion: Penn State
It’s amazing how far this program has come since James Franklin’s arrival in 2014. All that is left for the Nittany Lions on the checklist after two top-10 finishes, a conference championship, and a Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl appearance in the last two seasons is a CFP playoff appearance that I still believe Franklin’s squad was robbed of two seasons ago. Yes, gone is Saquon Barkley, OC Joe Moorehead, and several leaders on defense. But, this is James Franklin’s first season with it being HIS team with all HIS recruits. Those classes have been top-5 for the past few years. Heisman candidate Trace McSorley leads this team under center, and there is no reason to believe this kid can’t take this team to the top. The Nittany Lions have a lot of young playmakers ready to take on roles and the most depth they’ve had in several seasons. Not to mention, though they have a tough schedule, most of their big games are at Beaver Stadium (Ohio State, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan State) where they haven’t lost since 2015 while their only big road test this year is in the Big House against Michigan. The Nittany Lions are primed for a trip to Indy and the program’s first-ever CFP appearance.
Big 12 Champion: Oklahoma
This conference is always a mess. Defense doesn’t exist in this conference and I always wonder how these teams can be compared to more “football-sound” conferences like the Big Ten, SEC, and ACC. However, we must pick a champion. I don’t see anyone sniffing the Sooners this season. The fact that this team’s most serious threat this year is West Virginia says a whole lot about the depth in this conference. Lincoln Riley’s biggest question is at QB. Losing Baker Mayfield is a huge blow, but they have a very capable kid replacing him in Kyler Murray, the 9th overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft by the Oakland Athletics. He has the swagger and poise to be comfortable replacing Mayfield under center, but is it enough to really call this team elite? Ultimately Murray’s performance will dictate how far the Sooners can go in 2018. It should be enough, at the least, to win a mediocre conference this season.
Pac 12 Champion: Washington
This was a tough one for me. The Pac doesn’t have that elite team, much like the Big 12, but I think this conference will be a lot deeper than last season. There are four teams that I think can push for the conference title: Washington, USC, Stanford, and to a lesser degree Oregon. I’m going with the Huskies because I think they’re the most balanced and have the most weapons on both sides of the ball. 16 starters return led by QB Jake Browning for Chris Petersen’s squad. They have one of the best secondaries in college football and return the core of a defense that held opponents to just 16.1 points a game last season. As great as that defense is, the offense will still struggle to put points on the board even with Browning under center. Washington starts the season Saturday against Auburn, and I think if they lose that game the Huskies can’t afford another loss. I just don’t see a 2-loss Pac team making the CFP due to lack of a strong conference schedule. You will see what the Huskies are made of early this year. If they weather the storm and have an Auburn win on the resume, they could push for a CFP appearance.
SEC Champion: Alabama
I mean, really, did you expect a different answer? Look, I don’t want to take anything away from Georgia because that is a damn good football program in the SEC East that I don’t think loses until the conference championship. Only problem there is that this Crimson Tide squad won’t lose a game either coming out of the West, and will win the SEC championship. Bama wont even be tested until November when they play Auburn. Auburn is a good program this year and I think has a chance to surprise people, but they aren’t in the league of Bama. Bama returns practically everyone on offense, that front seven is a nightmare, and that will take the pressure off that secondary that is young and is a “weak spot” on this team. QB Tua Tagovailoa is taking over for Jalen Hurts after his heroic performance in the National Championship last season, and it could be a legit argument he’s the most talented QB Saban has ever had. His ability to stretch the field is something Bama just didn’t have with Hurts. This team is Number 1 in the preseason polls for a reason.
Heisman Trophy Winner: Trace McSorley, QB Penn State
This year’s Baker Mayfield without the attitude and ego problems. McSorley is the heartbeat and lifeline of what the Nittany Lions will do on offense, and he can hurt you through the air and with his legs. He plays with a chip on his shoulder, has a team-first mentality, and plain and simple is just a winner. McSorley took over at QB after the departure of Christian Hackenberg and since he did in 2016, he hasn’t looked back. For his career he has posted 7,369 passing yards, 899 rushing yards, totaled 77 touchdowns, and has 22-4 record. McSorley already holds several Penn State school records, including completion percentage (61.8%) and pass efficiency (152.9). Always taking a backseat to Saquon these past 2 years, this is now his moment as a senior and the nation is going to realize what the Nittany Lions have in him.
College Football Playoff:
- Alabama (13-0)
- Clemson (12-1)
- Penn State (12-1)
- Georgia (12-1)
Cotton Bowl- Alabama defeats Georgia
Orange Bowl- Penn State defeats Clemson
Alabama defeats Penn State in the CFP Championship