The 2019 College Football Season began last Saturday with Miami losing to Florida in Orlando (24-20), while Hawaii knocked off Arizona (45-38). There are a few questions that everyone wants to know. Will Clemson repeat? Will Trevor Lawrence have a sophomore slump? Are the Texas Longhorns back? Here are the official Game Changer Sports Network predictions from me, Jason Williamson, and Tim Sorota.
The Heisman has become a quarterback award and the QB on the best team in the nation has a solid chance of taking the trophy home. That’s why we all selected Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence is the surefire number one pick in the 2021 draft. He’s got a huge arm and can make all the throws. He is also very composed as evident by his performance in the National Championship against Alabama as a true freshman. With the weapons he has at his disposal, Lawrence should be able to rack up huge numbers. He will be impossible for the Heisman committee to ignore.
ACC: We all selected Clemson. The strength of Clemson’s national championship team from a season ago won’t be a strength of the 2019 team since three of their defensive lineman were selected in the first round of last April’s NFL draft. But that should not affect Clemson’s win/loss record this season. There aren’t many teams, if any at all, on the Tigers’ schedule that will be able to keep up with their offense. Led by likely first round picks, quarterback Trevor Lawrence, running back Travis Etienne, and receiver Justyn Ross, the unit is as deadly as any in college football.
Big 10: We all selected Michigan. After last years 62-39 thumping at the hands of arch-rival Ohio State, head coach Jim Harbaugh is on the hot seat. Fortunately for Harbaugh and company, the Wolverine offense is as good as its been in his tenure. They’ll miss running back Karan Higdon who graduated in the spring, but another season of Shea Patterson under center should make up for the yardage lost. He has elite receivers on the outside to throw to led by Donavan Peoples-Jones and his running ability will keep any defense honest. Michigan lost a lot on the other side of the ball, but defensive coordinator Don Brown has proven that his defensive scheme will work regardless of personnel. Brown wants to bottle teams up and force them to run in between the tackles. Ohio State gave them fits a season ago, because Bucks’ QB Dwayne Haskins was able to spread out the Michigan defense and throw to receivers all over the field. But with a QB and coaching change in Columbus, question marks at the signal caller position for Wisconsin, and no Trace McSorley at Penn State, Don Brown’s defense should thrive in 2019. The Michigan-Michigan State game may determine the Big 10 winner.
Big 12: We finally had a split when selecting the winner of the Big 12. Jason and I selected Oklahoma.We will keep this one simple, Alabama transfer Jalen Hurts took Alabama to the National Championship twice. Oklahoma has the talent to not only win the Big 12, but potentially be in the National Championship against Alabama.
Tim selected Iowa State. The entire outlook of the conference changes now that the first pick in the NFL draft does not play quarterback for Oklahoma. With no disrespect to Jalen Hurts and all he accomplished at Alabama, he lacks the big play ability that Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield possessed each of the last two years. The Sooners’ defensive woes may be on full display for everyone to see this fall. Iowa State lacks any sort of those problems. They return a defense that finished first in the conference in points per game allowed, first in rushing defense, and second in passing yards. Along with TCU, the Cyclones were the only team in the Big 12 to allow 350 yards or less per game a season ago. Redshirt junior defensive back Greg Eisworth is back to anchor the secondary with defensive end Jaquan Bailey rushing the passer. Bailey led the team with 8.5 sacks a season ago. On the other side of the ball, the Cyclones lose their leading rusher and receiver, but quarterback Brock Purdy is back for another season at the helm. This isn’t a team I necessarily expect to compete for a College Football Playoff spot, but if each team in the Big 12 has multiple losses, Iowa State could steal the conference.
PAC 12: Tim and I chose Washington.
Washington and Oregon are close. The decision to give the edge to Washington comes down to schedule. After heading to Texas to play Auburn in week one, Oregon has road games at Stanford, at Washington, and at USC. Washington, meanwhile, gets USC, Utah, Oregon, and Washington State at home with their only menacing road game at Stanford. Washington loses quarterback Jake Browning and running back Myles Gaskin but should have enough pieces to make up for those losses. Big play threat Salvon Ahmed should provide some explosive plays out of the backfield and make up for the loss of Gaskin. Junior Jacob Eason takes over for Browning after transferring from Georgia and sitting out last season. Eason was the #1 quarterback recruit in the country out of high school and was named the 2015 High School National Gatorade Player of the Year. He played one season for UGA leading them to an 8-5 record before getting injured the following season and losing his job to Jake Fromm. With nearly three years between starts, we’ll see if Eason has any rust. His potential is still sky-high.
Jason chose Oregon. Justin Herbert is getting for his senior season and with a plethora of receiving candidates and solid back field, it will be an old school Oregon football field from the days of Mariota. Expect true freshman Mycha Pittman to lead the way in receiving this year and Oregon to blow out opponents again. It’s time to get back to real Pac-12 and Oregon football!
SEC: Tim and I picked Georgia to win. Georgia’s offense should be one of the best in college football this season. Their backfield is as good as anyone’s with the three headed monster of DeAndre Swift, Elijah Holifield, and Zamir White. This group may be as good as 2014’s which featured future NFLers Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb, and Sony Michel. Swift, Holifield, and the redshirt freshman White should have a field day running behind the Dawgs’ offensive line, which features four projected starters that were named to preseason award watch lists. Georgia does however lose their five leading receivers from 2018. Swift is their leading receiver returning from a year ago, so he will be looked at to make plays through the passing game. But most of that burden will fall on the shoulders of Jake Fromm. This will be an opportunity for Fromm to play himself into a top ten draft pick come spring. On the other side of the ball, Georgia returns their three leading tacklers but loses DeAndre Baker. Redshirt freshman Divaad Wilson, junior Mark Webb, and senior Tyrique McGhee all vie to replace Baker’s spot. If they can find a viable replacement, UGA’s defense will be just fine.
Jason selected Alabama to win. It’s no secret that Nick Saban puts out the most talented and well-disciplined team in the SEC every year and the 2019 season will be no exception to that. With quarterback Tua Tagovailoa coming back for his junior year, and without the help of senior quarterback Jalen Hurts (who transferred to Oklahoma in the offseason), it is going to be interesting to see if he can stay healthy all year and still be able to put up the Hesiman-like numbers he had last year.
We each picked a team we think could be a dark horse.
Mine; West Virginia– A lot of people are counting out the Mountaineers, because they lost a lot of players and Dana Holgorsen, but they still have a lot of talent coming back or in Austin Kendall’s case coming in. Neal Brown is going to change this program for the better and an example of that is the change in defensive schemes. The Mountaineers will rely heavily on the run game with 4 returning running backs. This leads me to believing the Mountaineers can easily start the season 4-0. Kendall was a back up to not one Heisman winner, but two. If he has chemistry with T.J. Simmons and Sean Ryan this could be a year where WVU upsets Texas (in Morgantown) and shock the Big 12.
Jason; Iowa State – They have the greatest chance to dethrone the usual contenders in the Big 12. And with a convincing season and a win against Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship, they could sneak into the Playoff and do some damage.I would have to say Iowa State. They have the biggest chance to dethrone the usual contenders in the Big 12. And with a convincing season and a win against Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship, they could sneak into the Playoff and do some damage.
Tim; Utah – It’s hard to call any team ranked in the top 15 of every major preseason poll a dark horse, but that’s exactly what Utah is in the age of Clemson and Alabama running college football. Utah returns nearly everyone from a Pac-12 South Championship team a season ago. They are led by a stout defensive line which has seen six former Utes d-lineman drafted into the NFL in the last five years. Seniors Leki Fotu and Bradlee Anae both elected to stay in school last spring and look to keep that tradition alive. In the meanwhile, Anae would like to build on his conference best 8 sacks from a season ago while Fotu will try to continue clogging up running lanes. Offensively, Utah returns QB Tyler Huntley and RB Zach Moss. Both missed the last five games of 2018 but with both healthy, their offense becomes as balanced as any in the conference. The schedule sets up well for a nice run. If they can survive a September trip to Southern California, Utah could find themselves undefeated heading into a November 2nd clash at Washington which could be the game of the year in the Pac-12, if not the country.
Mine: #1 Clemson over #4 Michigan
#3 Oklahoma over #2 Georgia
National Champion: Clemson
Tim: #1 Clemson over #4 Alabama
#2 Georgia over #3 Michigan
Naional Champion: Clemson
Jason: #1 Alabama over #4 Michigan
#3 Oklahoma over #2 Clemson
National Champion: Alabama
Keep an eye out for our weekly pick ’em article, which will be released every Friday.
Photo Credit: daily-tribune.com
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