September 22, 2020

The 2018 Tailgate Society College Football Preview

This Saturday, August 25th, college football returns into our lives. The 2018 season kicks off with Duquesne traveling to UMASS, a game that is certainly bound to be one of the most pivotal contests of this new campaign. Just kidding.

We asked our contributors to take a stab at a few predictions for this upcoming season. The best part is, we can come back after the National Championship game and see who was way off and who was spot on. With no further ado, let’s get started.

Austin Narber

Best Group of Five team

Boise State. Could be smooth sailing in 2018 if they can escape Stillwater with a win. Then we get to do the UCF thing all over again!

Over-achieving team

Memphis. They lost their starting QB and best WR to the NFL and could still be favored in every game except a road trip to Mizzou. Take care of USF or UCF in the AAC title game and the ceiling—I repeat: the ceiling—looks to be 11–12 wins and another Liberty Bowl-type postseason reward… and they have no business being that good. ESPN currently ranks Memphis 49th in FPI.

Underachieving team

Michigan currently has the 5th best odds to win the National Championship — fifth! They play on the road at Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State, with games against Wisconsin and Penn State scheduled on either side of that trip to MSU. OSU is the Big Ten favorite, and they share a division with Michigan. That’s all you need to know. The odds should be heavily on 8–9 wins and another Outback Bowl, not a potential CFP berth. Maybe “bust” is a better word than “underachieve.”

Playoff picks

I’m unhappy about how boring this is but:

  • Georgia over Alabama
  • Clemson over Washington

I won’t mess around with seeding, but let’s just assume the committee makes sure they avoid another all-SEC championship game this year. I don’t mind it much, but I know I’m in the minority on that.

National Championship game

Clemson 35, Georgia 27

Heisman winner

Since 2000, the Heisman has gone either to a QB or an Alabama RB. I like the running backs in this year’s class, especially Alabama’s Damien Harris. However, if Saquon Barkley of all players couldn’t do it last year (which is more Baker Mayfield’s fault than anything else), I’m not sure we’ll see one win it anytime soon if there are enough solid QBs to choose from.

To predict the Heisman in August, you need someone with decent odds who’s low-risk and has an opportunity for prolific numbers and a lot of wins. If you could guarantee me West Virginia will win 10 games, I’d probably pick Will Grier. Instead, I’m down to Jake Fromm and Trace McSorley. Fromm is safe and Georgia could win anywhere from 12–15 games this year. But with McSorley, you get the gaudy numbers and a Baker Mayfield-like presence in the offense, which also happens to be missing Barkley this year. I think that’s enough, even if we only see Penn State win nine games or so. I’ll take McSorley.

Breakthrough player

I’ll just say Dwayne Haskins. He’s never started a game, but he’s Ohio State’s QB in a year they’re expected to win the Big Ten and contend for a National Championship. Seems like a pretty good recipe to make a splash.

If someone could only watch one game this year, which one would it be and why?

If you can only watch one college football game this year, you’ll want to make sure it has everything. You’ll want an electric atmosphere, maybe a little bit of bad blood. You’ll want points. And you’ll want it to mean something. Within those parameters, Washington vs. Stanford in Week 12 looks pretty good. Great coaching matchup… Bryce Love and Jake Browning could be in Heisman contention… positioning for a Pac-12 North title… late night in Seattle… Why not?

Coach who will get on the hot seat

I’m assuming D.J. Durkin and Urban Meyer don’t qualify for this, right? There are still a ton of candidates here, but the most likely for me is Ed Orgeron. Any other program in the country would consider Miami-Auburn-Florida to be a handful, except that’s just the first half of LSU’s schedule. The back half still has Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi State, and a road trip to College Station. But this is the SEC, where strength of schedule isn’t an excuse, so I don’t think Orgeron survives.

THREE BOLD TAKES

  1. It’s been 18 years since an FBS team won a 4th consecutive conference title. Oklahoma and Clemson both have a shot at it this year, but I predict the streak continues, and they both fall short in their respective conference championship games.
  2. Florida goes from 4-7 last year to an Outback Bowl win this year. They only play four road games, and those are against teams that averaged 6.25 total wins in 2017. Their toughest home game is against LSU. They play Georgia on a neutral field. No Alabama. No Auburn. No Texas A&M.
  3. Iowa State leads the Big 12 in both yards and points allowed per game.

AJ Jones

Winners of the power conferences?
Clemson, Oklahoma, (I have to biased)Michigan, and Washington
Best Group of Five team?
UCF
Overcheiving Team:
Utah
Underachieving Team:
USC
Playoff picks?
Bama, Clemson, Washington, Michigan
National championship game?
Michigan vs Alabama
Heisman winner?
Shea Patterson
Breakthrough player?
Kyle Kempt
If someone could only watch one game this year, which one would it be and why?
The Game: Ohio State vs Michigan is a great rivalry game (even if it has been one sided for a very long time).
Coach who will get on the hot seat?
Harbaugh, if he doesn’t beat his rivals.
THREE BOLD TAKES:
  1. Michigan wins the natty.
  2. A defensive player will be in contention for the Heisman.
  3. Chip Kelly will shine.

David Graf

Winners of the power conferences?

ACC: Clemson

If I thought Willie Taggart was as good a coach as Jimbo Fisher, I’d expect Florida State to roll through ACC play with the return of Deondre Francois, but I’m skeptical of Willie Taggart when the spotlight is really on him. Miami with Mark Richt is at the same point that Clemson was at in 2012-2013, and they can be taken seriously when they win a big game. Until then…

Kelly Bryant leads Clemson to the playoff in his freshman season, and I expect that he’ll only get better. Clemson may have lost some guys, but Dabo reloaded the roster and will lead Clemson to another ACC title.

Big Ten: Michigan State

It was hard to have faith in Ohio State after they were tasked with replacing J.T. Barrett, but everything going on with Urban Meyer has made it impossible to have faith in them. Sorry, Colin Cowherd, but I’m not sold on Nate Stanley as the best quarterback in his conference, let alone the country.

Give me Brian Lewerke of Michigan State! Lewerke accounted for 3,352 total yards and 20 touchdowns last year and rolled over Washington State in the Holiday Bowl. After putting the university distractions that dogged them last season behind, Michigan State will go back to being known for their greatness on the gridiron.

Big 12: West Virginia

Kyler Murray never excited anyone during his brief stint in College Station, but he may have picked up a few things watching Baker Mayfield play up close in Norman. The fact that Murray’s MLB Draft signing bonus will practically match Lincoln Riley’s salary leads me to believe there will be plenty of tension in that relationship.

Dana Holgorsen has seemingly been on the hot seat for a few years now, and he and quarterback Will Grier both have something to prove. The duo will look to finally put West Virginia’s stamp on the Big 12 Conference.

Pac-12: Washington

Bryce Love can only carry Stanford so far, and if he’s not healthy, the Cardinal don’t have much to fall back on. USC will have a hard time replacing golden boy Sam Darnold, and Chip Kelly won’t be able to turn UCLA around in just a year’s time. Arizona State may have had a strong team if they hadn’t fired Todd Graham in favor of Herm Edwards (still a major wtf).

If Jake Browning and co. hadn’t laid an egg in Tempe against Arizona State last season, they probably would have made the College Football Playoff again. In Browning’s senior year in Seattle, the Huskies look poised to add another Pac-12 conference title to coach Chris Petersen’s mantle.

SEC: Alabama

As long as they don’t try to make a quarterback “rotation” work, I refuse to pick against Nick Saban.

Best Group of Five team: UCF

Scott Frost may be gone, but McKenzie Milton is still at UCF. Milton threw for 37 touchdowns and 4,000 yards last season as a sophomore. UCF lost a couple guys to the NFL like heart and soul of the defense Shaquem Griffin, but they replaced Scott Frost with former Mizzou offensive coordinator Josh Heupel. Heupel turned Mizzou into an offensive machine and left behind probably the SEC’s best offense. Milton and Heupel together should form an offensive juggernaut and will put the Group of Five on notice again.

Overachieving Team: Arizona State

Manny Wilkins and N’Keal Harry have the talent to form one of the best quarterback-wide receiver duos in the country, and they will thrive together on offense despite the precense of Herm Edwards on the sideline. The Pac-12 South is also weaker than it has been recently with the departures of notable figures like Rich Rodriguez, Sam Darnold, and Josh Rosen.

Underachieving Team: Oklahoma

I can’t be the only one who lost faith in Lincoln Riley when his butt puckered up during overtime of the Rose Bowl against Georgia. He played it safe and was rewarded with a loss, so I’m worried about that loss sticking in the back of his head all season long.

Kyler Murray also didn’t flash much potential during his time at Texas A&M, and it’s a tall task to follow a Heisman-winning quarterback, let alone one of the greatest college quarterbacks ever in Baker Mayfield.

OU will still probably win 8-10 games, which will be a major letdown after appearing in the College Football Playoff.

Playoff picks?

I’m a firm believer that no conference should have two teams in a four-team playoff, so apologies to SEC fans.

Alabama vs. Michigan State, Cotton Bowl Dec. 29

Alabama only knows how to make the playoff. Michigan State will take advantage of an Ohio State team in disarray and emerge for a rematch of the 2015 Cotton Bowl.

Clemson vs. Washington, Orange Bowl Dec. 29

Washington will dominate a weak Pac-12, and the Big 12 won’t have a clear frontrunner. Clemson will do what they do best and dominate.

National championship game?

Washington vs. Alabama, Jan. 7

It’s hard not to pick Alabama. I’m certainly not rooting for them to repeat, but either guy they trot out at quarterback can seriously ball, and I’m sure the defense will be chock full of NFL talent again.

Heisman winner?

Jake Browning has put up monster numbers since he stepped on campus at University of Washington, and he will finally be rewarded with a Heisman trophy in his senior year. A strong opening weekend performance against Auburn will catapult him to the top of the conversation.

Breakthrough player?

Brian Lewerke will become a household name in 2018. Lewerke is a dual-threat quarterback, and college football fans love dual-threat quarterbacks. He was the 2017 Holiday Bowl’s Offensive MVP, and he is going to build on that performance and lead Michigan State to Big Ten glory.

If someone could only watch one game this year, which one would it be and why?

The only way I can envision someone only being able to watch one game all year is if every single one of their friends is a dick and plans a fall Saturday wedding. If that is the case, I am very sorry and will pour one out for your existence.

If it is for some other reason, the only game you have to make time for is this year’s edition of the Iron Bowl. Alabama vs. Auburn is almost always a classic, and this year has the all the ingredients for another one. Great coaches, great quarterbacks, great defense, great fanbases, and a whole lot of hatred. What more can one ask for in a college football game?

Coach who will get on the hot seat?

Urban Meyer shouldn’t count and was totally unexpected until recently. The coach who will be on the hot seat first is Ed Orgeron at LSU. Coach O is an excellent recruiter and has an all-time Cajun accent, but I don’t think he’s long for the head football coach position at Louisiana State University.

THREE BOLD TAKES:

  1. LSU will finish last in the SEC West.
  2. Brian Kelly will leave Notre Dame.
  3. Florida Atlantic will find itself ranked at one point during the season.

Alex Gookin

Winners of the power conferences?
ACC: Clemson. It’s amazing that this Clemson team might actually be Dabo’s best to date.
B1G: Wisconsin. The top of the B1G is incredibly dense this year, but Wisconsin is the real deal and the B1G West will likely leave them less bloodied than their B1G East brethren.
Big 12: TCU. It’s almost silly to assume Oklahoma won’t find a way to reclaim the Big 12 title, but I’m not sold on Kyler Murray and the OU defense quite yet. The Big 12 is going to be less offensive this year with QB inexperience, and that plays into TCU’s strengths.
Pac-12: Washington. I really like Stanford this year to be a legit contender in the Pac-12 race, but Washington is the conference’s best hope at a CFB Playoff team this year.
SEC: Alabama. Next question.

Best Group of Five team?
Boise State. As you’ll see below, I’ve actually been hired on as a hype train conductor for the Broncos.

Overacheiving Team:
Boise State, and not because they’re not expected to be good. Boise State was the original BCS buster before the likes of UCF and Houston, but it’s come full circle this season. They’ll start the season in the Top 25 and wins against Oklahoma State and San Diego State early in the season could catapult them into the top-10. Going undefeated would create the strongest case for a G5 team making the playoff in history.

Underachieving Team:
Michigan, and not because they won’t be good. You’ll see them ranked anywhere from Top 10 to Top 15 in the preseason, but their schedule needs a NSFW tag. Their margin for error is already thin with the pressure on Harbaugh to win more than 8 games and the QB equation still unsolved, but they’ll be lucky just to get back to 8 wins with the gauntlet they face.

Playoff picks?
Alabama, Clemson, Wisconsin, Boise State

National championship game?
Alabama vs. Clemson

Heisman winner?
Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin RB. I really, really like Wisconsin this year, and if they make the playoff, Taylor will be a huge part of that.

Breakthrough player?
David Montgomery, Iowa State RB. Most college football fans know who David Montgomery is, but I don’t think we’ve seen what he’s actually capable of. If the offensive line sees run-blocking improvement and the coaches can get him involved in the passing game, his numbers will catch up with his hype.

If someone could only watch one game this year, which one would it be and why?
There seems to be a handful of must-watch games every week of the season this year, so I’ll go a bit untraditional. FAU vs. UCF is going to be damn good, and I’m interested to see how the winner of this game ends up in the G5 conversation at the end of the season with Boise State being my bet to take the G5 crown. I imagine the talent and level of play will rival any Power 5 game you’ll watch this season.

Coach who will get on the hot seat?
Kliff Kingsbury, finally. His seat has stayed fairly cool despite uninspiring results but it can’t stay that way forever.

THREE BOLD TAKES:
Boise State will be the first G5 team to make the CFB Playoff
Preseason #3 Ohio State will be the 3rd best team in the B1G
The B1G will average more points per game than the Big 12 (and the B1G will be applauded for higher scoring games while the Big 12 will be criticized for more defensive battles, because narratives are one-way streets)

Tami Dooley

Winners of the power conferences?
ACC: Clemson
Big 12: TCU
Big 10: Penn State
Pac 12: Washington
SEC: Georgia

Best Group of Five team?
Boise State

Overacheiving Team:
Michigan

Underachieving Team:
Notre Dame

Playoff picks?
Bama
Georgia
Penn State
Clemson

National championship game?
Penn State/Bama

Heisman winner?
Trace McSorely – Penn State

Breakthrough player?
Britan Covey – Utah

If someone could only watch one game this year, which one would it be and why?
Homer pick: Boise @ Okie Light. Do you like offense? Coz there will be much offense.

Coach who will get on the hot seat?
Brian Kelly – Notre Dame
Bob Davie – New Mexico
David Beaty – Kansas

THREE BOLD TAKES:

1) The SEC will reign because that’s how life works, and the P12 are going to be the ones that have to pay this year.

2) Boise will get put against UCF because its about time we had another Separate but Equal bowl game experience, like playing TCU in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl.

3) Iowa State is a 9 win team and is going to just flat stomp someone in a fairly meaningful bowl game.

Emily Cornell

Winners of the power conferences?
Pac-12: USC
SEC: Georgia
ACC: Clemson
Big 10: Michigan
Big 12: West Virginia

Best Group of Five team?
Wyoming #buildingsomethingspecial

Overcheiving Team:
Memphis

Underachieving Team:
Texas

Playoff picks?
Alabama
Michigan
USC
Florida State

National championship game?
Florida State vs Alabama. Alabama wins

Heisman winner?
Kyle Kempt, Iowa State

Breakthrough player?
Spencer Brown, UAB

If someone could only watch one game this year, which one would it be and why?
Washington State at Wyoming because, regardless of how the game turns out, the atmosphere is going to be great. Any time a Power Five school plays in War Memorial Stadium, game day experience is amplified since it’s not a huge stadium. I’m picking this game because I’m biased and think fan experience is a major factor into the one game one would watch in a season.

Coach who will get on the hot seat?
Urban Meyer might already be there, so…Mike McIntyre if Colorado doesn’t have a winning season this year.

THREE BOLD TAKES:
1. KU wins 3 games
2. 10 Group of Five upsets against P5 teams
3. Urban Meyer gets sacked early in the season but Matt Campbell does not go to Ohio State

Travis Halm

Winners of the power conferences?
Clemson
Alabama
Michigan
Oklahoma
Washington

Best Group of Five team?
South Florida

Overcheiving Team:
Indiana

Underachieving Team:
LSU

Playoff picks?
Clemson
Alabama
Oklahoma
Michigan

National championship game?
Alabama vs Clemson

Heisman winner?
Shea Patterson

Breakthrough player?
Shea Patterson

If someone could only watch one game this year, which one would it be and why?
Army vs Navy – This game stands for more than just football in a time when we need camaraderie and unity in something.

Coach who will get on the hot seat?
Ed Orgeron

THREE BOLD TAKES:
1. Michigan will win the Big Ten
2. Texas will beat Oklahoma
3. Scott Frost will disappoint in his first season

Spencer Hughes

Winners of the power conferences?
ACC: Clemson
Big 10: Wisconsin
Big 12: Oklahoma
Pac-12: Washington
SEC: Georgia

Best Group of Five team?
UCF. Maybe it’s the loss of Scott Frost, but it seems like they’re somehow flying under the radar after their “national championship” season. McKenzie Milton, one of college football’s most exciting players, will lead them at QB again. We’ll get a look at how good they are early on when they play at UNC on September 15.

Overachieving Team:
Duke. Never bet against David Cutcliffe, who has turned this moribund program into one that can compete in the ACC. Add in Daniel Jones returning at QB with a trio of senior WRs to target, and the offense could really live up to expectations alongside a usually pretty stingy defense. The Blue Devils are facing a pretty tough schedule, but don’t be surprised if they win nine games and stay in the mix for the Coastal division.

Underachieving Team:
West Virginia. The Mountaineers were picked 2nd in the Big 12 by the media, but I don’t see it. Will Grier will have a strong year, but the ‘Eers face a daunting schedule against 11 Power Five opponents and a brutal November that includes games at Texas and Oklahoma State and home against TCU and Oklahoma. WVU is getting double-digit win hype, but I see them racking up around seven Ws.

Playoff picks?
In seed order: Georgia, Clemson, Oklahoma, Wisconsin.

National championship game?
Clemson takes down Georgia. Dabo continues his surprising rise among the all-time best coaches.

Heisman winner?
I’ll go with Jake Fromm, the Georgia QB, but I don’t really have a good feeling here. Fromm put up solid numbers last year, but I especially like him because he has high-level experience and about as strong of a supporting cast as you can ask for. The Heisman isn’t a Best Player Award. It’s a Most Impressive Statistics From a Skill Position Player on a Very Good Team Award. Fromm has as good of a shot at getting that as anyone.

Breakthrough player?
It’s too easy to say David Montgomery, Iowa State RB, as a Cyclone fan. So I’ll go with someone a little different: Cam Akers, Florida State RB. This kid is crazy talented and put up great numbers for an FSU team that flew well under the radar at 7-6 last season. (What, you didn’t catch Akers in the Independence Bowl against Southern Miss?) Expect his sophomore season to attract more attention on a team that should do much better this time around.

If someone could only watch one game this year, which one would it be and why?
Instead of giving you one game, I’m going to go ahead and give you one day: September 1, the first big Saturday of college football. Week 1 used to be kind of sleepy, but now it’s appointment TV. Start things off with Joey Freshwater’s FAU squad heading to Norman to take on Oklahoma, while Texas (at Maryland) and Ohio State (vs. Oregon State) try to avoid early season disaster. For the mid-afternoon slot, check out what might be the biggest game of the day as Washington meets Auburn in Atlanta. Then keep an eye on West Virginia-Tennessee. Grab some dinner while Nicholls State takes an early lead on Kansas, then settle in for Michigan-Notre Dame and Louisville-Alabama in the night slot. And if that’s not enough, enjoy the first Pac-12 After Dark of the season when BYU visits Khalil Tate and Kevin Sumlin’s Arizona squad. Close to 14 hours straight of college football = yes please.

Coach who will get on the hot seat?
I was wrong about him last year, but I’m going to use the same answer: it’s Kliff Kingsbury at Texas Tech. If he has his third-straight losing season in Year 6 at TTU, he’ll be shown the door. The Red Raiders can’t sit around and wait for Matt Rhule to get his feet under him at Baylor, especially while Iowa State continues to grow their program, or Tech will find themselves deep in the #9 hole in the Big 12 (with Kansas obviously at #10). It’s do or die for Kliff.

THREE BOLD TAKES:
1. Pac-12 Panic sets in as the conference misses the College Football Playoff for the second-straight season and the third time in five years. The conference considers some (pretty drastic measures) before ultimately doing nothing.
2. Where’s Alabama? They fall out of the picture with a loss to LSU in Death Valley on November 3.
3. Kansas has lost a record 46 road games in a row (That is not a typo. Forty-six!). The streak finally ends September 8 when the Jayhawks play at, and beat, Central Michigan.

Jake Ohlde

Winners of the power conferences?
Alabama, Clemson, Wisconsin, Washington, Oklahoma

Best Group of Five team?
Boise State

Overachieiving Team:
Mississippi State

Underachieving Team:
West Virginia

Playoff picks?
Alabama, Clemson, Wisconsin, Washington

National championship game?
Alabama 27, Clemson 14

Heisman winner?
Bryce Love, RB – Stanford

Breakthrough player?
Cam Akers, RB – Florida State

If someone could only watch one game this year, which one would it be and why?
SEC Championship game. This will very likely will be a rematch of the 2018 CFP title game, and we saw how that one turned out.

Coach who will get on the hot seat?
Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

THREE BOLD TAKES:

1. West Virginia loses AT LEAST 4 games. They’re a popular pick to make the Big 12 title game behind QB Will Grier, but they’re also severely lacking depth and have a tough non-conference (Tennessee, NC State) AND conference schedule.
2. Mississippi State is the best team in the SEC (not named Alabama). I think it’s very possible they could give Alabama all they want in the SEC West (although they do have to play in Tuscaloosa). They’ve got a monstrous defensive line, terrific QB in Nick Fitzgerald (assuming he’s healthy), and made an outstanding hire in Joe Moorhead when Dan Mullen ducked out of town. They’re definitely a CFP dark horse.
3. Missouri beats Georgia on September 22nd. I think the Bulldogs drop a road game they shouldn’t, and I believe that’s most likely in Columbia. Drew Lock can put up numbers and it’s very possible the Tigers sneak up on UGA with the game so early in the year.

Matthias Schwartzkopf

Winners of the power conferences?
Alabama, Clemson, Wisconsin, Washington, Oklahoma

Best Group of Five team?
Boise State

Overachieiving Team:
UCF

Underachieving Team:
TCU- based on their high preseason views, will underachieve

Playoff picks?
Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma, Washington

National championship game?
Alabama, Oklahoma

Heisman winner?
Bryce Love

Breakthrough player?
Hakeem Butler, Iowa State

If someone could only watch one game this year, which one would it be and why?
Notre Dame vs Virginia Tech, big national implications, fun matchup

Coach who will get on the hot seat?
Jim Harbaugh

THREE BOLD TAKES:

1. Iowa State in top three of the Big 12.
2. Notre Dame pushes for one of the playoff spots.
3. Pac 12 not impressive at all. Washington runs the table there.
Chaplin
Matthias Schwartzkopf
Matthias Schwartzkopf 19 Articles
Staff Writer

He is Matthias Schwartzkopf, the Highlander. Born in 1592 in the Highlands of Scotland and he is still alive. He is immortal. For four hundred years he's been a warrior, a lover, a wanderer, constantly facing other Immortals in combat to the death. The winner takes his enemy's head and with it, his power. I'm a Watcher, part of the secret society of men and women who observe and record, but never interfere. We know the truth about Immortals. In the end there can be only one. May it be Matthias Schwartzkopf, The Highlander.

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