With Week 1 fast approaching, here is everything you need to know about the 2016 college football season. Alabama will try to defend their national championship with their fourth quarterback in the past four years. Heisman Trophy runner-up Deshaun Watson leads a Clemson team that lost many of its key defensive players. Quarterback J.T. Barrett finally has control of Ohio State’s offense, but can the Buckeyes overcome a tough divisional slate? Former walk-on quarterback Baker Mayfield and star running back Samaje Perine will look to put up eye-popping offensive statistics against weak Big 12 defenses. Michigan has perhaps the most athletic player in the sport in Jabrill Peppers, but can coach Jim Harbaugh find a position for him? The most important question, though, is who will make the College Football Playoff?
The Bruins have a budding star in sophomore Josh Rosen, who threw for 3,670 yards last season. While his off-the-field antics may distract from his talent, there is no question that he is the man to lead the Bruins to their first conference championship since 1998. A strong and experienced secondary should help slow down the spread offenses of the Pac-12. UCLA’s schedule sets up favorably, too. After playing Texas A&M on the road in Week 1, these Bruins will likely head into their Week 4 matchup against Stanford undefeated. Having home-field advantage in that game can only help UCLA. After that, all their games seem winnable with the rivalry game versus Southern Cal being the only challenge remaining. The winner of the Pac-12 North, whether is is Stanford, Washington, or even Oregon will have a tough time upsetting a potentially undefeated UCLA team.
Alabama Crimson Tide
It is hard to bet against Alabama, and now is not the time to start doing so. Sure, the Crimson Tide have a new quarterback and lost Heisman Trophy-winning running back Derrick Henry. But Nick Saban is a master recruiter and continues to reload at every position year after year. Alabama has the most difficult schedule in the nation, with road games at LSU, Tennessee, and Ole Miss. Add in an emotional rivalry game versus Auburn, and it would seem as though the Tide have a slim chance to even make their conference championship game, let alone the national championship game. However, Alabama’s defense is consistently one of the best in the country and wide receiver Calvin Ridley is coming off a 1,045 yard year. These two piece should help ease the transition at quarterback and running back. Expect Alabama to end the regular season with a loss, but is is anyone’s guess as to who hands them that defeat.
TCU Horned Frogs
Gary Patterson has led the Horned Frogs for 16 seasons and during that time has taken the team from an average team in Conference USA to a Big 12 title favorite. The next logical step in this ascent is a College Football Playoff berth. Former Texas A&M Aggie Kenny Hill will start at quarterback after sitting out a year due to NCAA transfer rules. TCU plays every team in the Big 12, so they will still have to overcome powerhouse Oklahoma and an improving Texas team. Their nonconference schedule is not too demanding, but if TCU is not careful, Arkansas could steal a win from them. Seven starters return on a defense that could be one of the stronger ones in a high-scoring league, especially if their defensive line can pressure opposing quarterbacks. TCU does not have to worry about winning a conference championship game, but their Week 5 battle with Oklahoma should be a de facto title game.
Florida State Seminoles
Clemson seems to be getting all of the preseason hype, but Florida State returns every single one of last year’s offensive starters. That experience will prove to be invaluable as the season wears on. FSU players surely remember last year’s Peach Bowl loss to Houston and want to ensure that their season ends much better this time around. Running back Dalvin Cook averaged 7.4 yards per carry last season, which is absolutely insane. The Seminoles have a talented defense, with some of its best players teaming up with five-star recruits. Florida State has to beat Clemson in what should end up as the ACC Atlantic Division title bout in Week 9, but they need to also watch out for North Carolina in Week 5. Of course, Florida State has to open their season with a Labor Day battle against Ole Miss, which will not be an easy win. A loss to the Rebels will not hurt the Seminoles, but a win could push them into the top-5 heading into Week 2. A rematch with North Carolina is possible in the ACC Championship game.
Championship Game Prediction: UCLA over Alabama
The Rest of the New Year’s Six: Big Ten Champion Ohio State, Boise State, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, North Carolina, Southern Cal, LSU, and Michigan State