College football is just days away.
I know, crazy girl, we're excited, too.
Let's finish off preview and prediction season with a look at the Power 5 conferences and predicting the champion.
Consensus Favorite: Oklahoma Sooners
The Sooners rank in the top 10 of every major preseason poll based on a strong 2016 and a lot of returning talent. That we know. What we don't know is how Lincoln Riley handles adverse situations as the head honcho at a major program.
The Sooners did lose Joe Mixon and Dede Westbrook, among others, but return QB Baker Mayfield and a Top-10 recruiting class of incoming freshman, including CB Justin Broiles, RB Trey Sermon, OL Tyrese Robinson and LB Addison Gumbs.
Oklahoma State can match OU's offensive potential with QB Mason Rudolph and WR James Washington. The Cowboys schedule is interesting, however.
Unlike OU who travels to Ohio State in Week 2, Oklahoma State does not have that early, tough road game, and they get the Sooners at home November 4. They also get TCU at home with West Virginia their toughest road test.
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Pete Fiutak of College Football News predicts OSU to beat OU on November 4 but lose at Texas Tech and Texas. If Mike Gundy can keep his clan from one of the two road upsets and take care of business at home, they could end up a one-loss regular-season champ with a spot in the first-ever Big 12 Championship game.
Champion: Oklahoma State Cowboys
I'll take OSU to beat OU twice in Mike Gundy's first two matchups with Lincoln Riley's Sooners, adding welcomed fuel to the fire of that rivalry for years to come.[divider]
Consensus Favorite: Alabama Crimson Tide
Alabama, of course, is the heavy favorite to win the SEC title again and challenge for the national championship. The SEC appears to be better on paper this season than last, with an improving LSU squad, Florida adding a dual-threat quarterback to the mix, Tennessee and Georgia looking to build on their 2016 season with deeper rosters and Auburn a legitimate threat to LSU in the SEC East.
The Tide get LSU at hoke but hit the road to finish the regular season at Auburn. They also have an October 7 road game at Texas A&M and Nick Fitzgerald's Mississippi State Bulldogs may prove to be a legit threat if 'Bama goes into Davis Wade Stadium and expects to sleepwalk to an easy win.
But Nick Saban's program remains the elite in the country and with a battle-tested Jalen Hurts back at quarterback, Alabama's offense may be a few ticks better than a year ago. Running back Bo Scarbrough also returns, as does one of the best receivers in college football in Calvin Ridley.
Saban lost a lot of talent on defense — three starting linebackers, the best interior lineman and the team's best safety and best cornerback — but has proven time and time again he simply reloads. It may be a team a little more offensive-driven than last year, but Alabama is the team to beat nationally, let alone the SEC.
It's difficult to imagine Alabama losing more than once in the conference — and they very well could run the table — suggesting they find their way into the SEC Championship game. Again. Where they will favored. Again.
Champion: Alabama Crimson Tide
Auburn and LSU might have to trip up Alabama in the regular season simply to earn their way to the conference title game, but there's almost zero chance they beat them twice.[divider]
Consensus Favorite: USC Trojans
The Trojans have tons of talent, but a lot of this year's is new and starts the season with a lot to prove. Gone are WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, CB/RET Adoree' Jackson, OL Zach Banner, RB Justin Davis and CB Leon McQuay III, among others.
Sam Darnold returns, however, and most importantly so does the USC coaching staff led by Clay Helton. But the Trojans' advantage over the other elites in the Pac-12 is very small and may be nonexistent in the end.
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If Stanford gets their QB situation settled, they're a legitimate threat and visit USC in Week 2. Helton's clan doesn't play Washington this season, but may face them in the Pac-12 Championship game.
The Huskies lost three starters in their secondary and two starting defensive linemen, but unlike Colorado — who also lost three starting defensive backs — Washington is well-equipped to handle those losses and remain a stingy defense.
Where the Huskies have an advantage is on the offensive side of the ball. Jake Browning is back, as are both feature backs in Myles Gaskin and Levon Coleman. John Ross is now a deep threat for Bengals QB Andy Dalton, but Dante Pettis (53 REC. 15 TD) returns and Chris Petersen's freshman class that may contribute immediately include RB Salvon Ahmed, TE Hunter Bryant and WR Ty Jones.
Linebackers Azeem Victor and Kieshawn Bierria return, as does the conference's Defensive Freshman of the Year, safety Taylor Rapp and projected first-round pick Vita Vea, the team's top interior defensive lineman.
The North will be a challenge — Stanford on the road in November is a key matchup, as is the Apple Cup to end the season and a date with the hated Oregon Ducks in Seattle — but the Huskies should end up in Santa Clara for the conference title game again, with revenge on their minds: USC handed Washington their only regular-season loss last season.[divider]
Consensus Favorite: Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State is a heavy favorite in the conference with evidence to back up the projection. Starting QB J.T. Barrett is back, as is feature back Mike Weber. The receiving corps is young but uber talented with speed and explosive ability.
The Buckeyes' O-libe looks to be in good shape, too, with seniors returning at center, Billy Price, and left tackle, Jamarco Jones, and a junior at both right guard and right tackle in Malcolm Pridgeon and Isaiah Prince.
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The defensive side of the ball will have a much different look, having lost Malik Hooker, Marshon Lattimore, Gareon Conley and Raekwon McMillan to the NFL. Tyquan Lewis, OSU's best pass rusher, returns, however, as does senior DT Michael Hill and there remains a lot of experience on the field.
Champion: Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State will face challenges from their conference foes, including at Indiana to start th… Okay, forget that one. At Nebraska October 14 could be interesting and two weeks later the Buckeyes head to Happy Valley to face Penn State for what may be the game of the year in the conference.
Urban Meyer's team ends the regular season at Michigan, who lost more players than did Ohio State from last year's team. Don't sleep on Michigan State and Iowa in 2017, but OSU gets the Spartans at home. The dangerous one there is Iowa, on the road, a week after the matchup with the Nittany Lions.
The likely Big Ten Championship Game matchup is Wisconsin, who returns their QB but lost their feature back and their best defensive player. [divider]
Consensus Favorite: Florida State Seminoles
The Seminoles return their QB, Deondre Francois, and a load of talent blended with impact underclassmen. I'm not sure I get why they're so decisively the favorite in the conference, however.
Yes, they're loaded with talent. They were a year ago, too, and lost RB Dalvin Cook, DE Demarcus Walker, WR TRavis Rudolph, OT Roderick Johnson and CB Marquez White, among others.
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There's little question Florida State will be good, and they'll be tested right out of the gate in the matchup versus Alabama September 2. There's just too much talent at Clemson to consider FSU any kind of sure-thing, overwhelming favorite.
Champion: Florida State Seminoles
The 'Noles do not have a favorable schedule in terms od running the table. After Alabama Week 1, they host Miami and North Carolina State and Louisville but are out of town to face Clemson before finishing their season out of conference versus rival Florida.
Defensively Florida State looks susceptible to long drive abd big plays, just as they were a year ago, If that isn't fixed early, not only will they likely get their doors blown off by Alabama, but Miami, Louisville and even Syracuse with QB Eric Dungey could be scary matchups.
All bets are off if Kelly Bryant takes the Clemson QB job and runs with it, figuratively and literally. Dabo Swinney is one of the elite coaches in the country and despite a dozen key losses to their roster from the title team last year, give him an inch… I dare you.
The most likely challenger from the Coastal Division is Miami, but it's difficult to envision even the Hurricanes finding a way to beat FSU or Clemson in the ACC title game.