Yes, this sounds shocking. The Sooners are loaded with talent. But, as I’ve said twice this year already – since 2011 whenever the Sooners have been ranked inside the top 10 to start the season, they’ve finished at 15 or worse. Baker Mayfield is great, but he no longer has Sterling Shepard to catch his passes. The defensive line will be diminished, missing Charles Tapper who accounted for 50 tackles last season. I don’t think the Sooners escape three or more losses this season, given one of the toughest non-conference schedules: Houston and Ohio State in the first three weeks. Oklahoma has to beat TCU on the road and Texas in Dallas if it hopes to win the Big 12.
2) Deshaun Watson will win the Heisman Trophy
There isn’t any competition coming out of Alabama this year, and the only dangerous backfield in the SEC is LSU’s, featuring Leonard Fournette. The field will be slanted towards quarterback, and I don’t think Fournette can put up the numbers he needs against the defenses he faces.
It’s going to be a year for QBs, and Watson is at the top of the list.
He holds the reins to the nation’s best offense, which I expect will improve from its 15 production.
3) Clemson will win the national championship
Time. It’s running out on Clemson. The Tigers have the best athlete to play at Clemson in its history and he will graduate at the end of this season. Watson will be the best player in the NCAA this season, and lead his team to another title berth. Despite some difficulties on defense, namely losses in the secondary, the Tigers are in the best position of any contender to make it to the season’s final game. Their toughest game is on the road against Florida State, which is depending on Dalvin Cook way too much, and will not keep up with Clemson.
Auburn will be a nice test early and so will Louisville, but these Tigers will run the table, provided their star stays healthy.
4) The Texas Longhorns win the Big 12
As I said earlier, Oklahoma is going to choke this season. TCU is overhyped and Baylor’s offseason scandal has opened the conference up for Texas. Charlie Strong has recruited well his first three years with two top-10 classes to show for it. I like Texas to win its opener against Notre Dame (provided they start freshman Shane Buechele) and upset Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl on October 8. Their toughest games down the stretch are Baylor and TCU, both in Austin. The running game for the Longhorns will be fierce with D’Onta Foreman and Chris Warren leading the best backfield in the Big 12. Seven starters return to a talented defense led by Malik Jefferson. If Buechele is ready to lead, this will be a 10-win team.
5) Tom Herman will be hired away from Houston after this season
Houston has been a farm team for Power Five conferences over the last decade, especially the Big 12. Kevin Sumlin and Art Briles both coming to the conference after a stint in Houston, Herman will be no different. He has an extremely talented squad that has worked well within his system, but if he is smart, he will look elsewhere for employment.
With their back yard heavily recruited, the Cougars can’t bring in enough elite talent to stay in the top-25 for long. Herman knows that, just as Briles and Sumlin did before him.
6) Kevin Sumlin is replaced as head coach of the Aggies
Something isn’t quite right at A&M. After losing two top-rated quarterbacks in Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray, it has just suspended offensive line coach Jim Turner in what is the latest in a string of problems that has plagued this offense. Sumlin has recruited well at A&M, but he can’t seem to figure out how to make it all jell. This season, his problems will come to a head. The Aggies have both Auburn and Alabama on the road, and LSU late. I have them losing each of those games, and at this point UCLA, Tennessee, Mississippi State, and Ole Miss are a coin toss. I think they lose two there. A 7-5 record won’t look good for Sumlin, and the A&M alumni base will seek answers in a new head coach.
7) Michigan will finish the season outside the top-15
The hype has gotten carried away here. The Wolverines are getting stronger, but aren’t quite there yet. Ohio State, as both the AP and Coaches preseason polls reflect, is the better team. Urban Meyer has recruited extremely well and has depth everywhere, a system that is proven, and a proven QB in J.T. Barrett. Michigan can’t say the same. Harbaugh is among the best coaches in college football, but this has simply gone too far.
8) Stanford and McCaffrey win the Pac-12
David Shaw is a genius and McCaffrey may be among the very best of athletes he has had the opportunity to coach. Oregon’s quarterback situation is sticky, and UCLA doesn’t have the same flash as it did with Brett Hundley. The path to another Rose Bowl has been laid down; the Cardinal need only keep marching.
9) Overhyped Washington won’t last in national rankings
Chris Peterson is a magician; I will give the Huskies that. He is among the best in the nation at taking second-tier talent. He ranks among the likes of Gary Patterson or Dan Mullen. But he has to compete with too much talent in a conference where David Shaw and Mark Helfrich are miles ahead. I see the Huskies as a 4-loss team.
10) LSU will beat Alabama in the regular season
Les Miles is back and reinvigorated this season after a brush with the unemployment line
Leonard Fournette will have to step up in this one, but the key to beating the Tide will be the play of Brandon Harris. Cam Cameron’s entire job this offseason was preparing Harris for 2016, and if he has done it well, Harris is in for a big year. I like the Tigers at home in this one, which will shape up to be one of the best games of the year.