Tonight is the night every dorm room, frat house, and alumni club across the country has been waiting for for eight months. College football begins tonight. And just when I thought my sports life couldn’t get any busier (my life already ended once at the start of Major League Baseball in April), I’m having to prep my TV, laptop, and phone to all be watching multiple games at once.
Opening day gives us some fairly high profile matchups in Division I football, with #9 South Carolina taking on #21 Texas A&M in an SEC powerhouse battle. Also #18 Ole Miss takes on small conference contender Boise State.
This is an especially important year for college football, with the BCS coming to an overdue end we will see the first attempt at a four-team playoff. The entire infrastructure is being redesigned, which is why I’m looking to make some predictions. Here are the four teams I am calling to make the inagural playoff.
Usually my favor for the Seminoles would be skewed by the fact that I grew up in Tallahassee, but the reigning champs look poised to be just as dominant as last year. Heisman trophy winner Jameis Winston is getting his second crack at a title with a somewhat unproven receiving core, new runners in the backfield, but otherwise a squad of proven National Champs who are going to be even better with an extra year of experience.
Begrudgingly, I’ll put Michigan State up here. Although they play in what I consider the weakest of the major conferences, and despite the fact that three of their out-of-conference games are Jacksonville State, East Michigan, and Wyoming, they do have one make-or-break game: Sept 6th vs #3 Oregon. If they can pull off a win over highly touted Oregon, it would immediately push them into the early playoff conversation. And then, besides a midseason matchup with Ohio State, they have a general cakewalk into the playoffs.
There has to be someone from the SEC. Whether it’s hype or true pedigree, there is a 0% chance of the playoffs not including one team from “America’s best conference.” But why LSU? Well, Alabama has quarterback issues – with fifth-year senior Blake Sims reportedly just beating out FSU transfer Jacob Coker. The lack of decisiveness at the sport’s most important position could prove destructive. Auburn is without Heisman trophy candidate Tre Mason, and I’m not sure they’ll catch quite as many breaks as they did last year. South Carolina could be a difference maker and I was extremely close to picking UGA, but I’m taking LSU. I think last year’s #1 prospect RB Leonard Fournette will be one of the biggest stories in football – with some even picking him as the favorite to win the Heisman trophy. Also, I respect any SEC team who doesn’t book complete cupcakes in their out-of-conference match ups. And while LSU does have Louisiana Monroe and Sam Houston on the schedule, this week’s contest against #14 Wisconsin earns them some brownie points with me in comparison to the rest of the SEC (with some exceptions).
Okay. Yes. This is my alma mater. I’ll admit my bias up front. But a healthy Trojans squad looks about as formidable as anyone in the Pac-12. As long as new head couch Steve Sarkisian can manage the offense better than his predecessor Lane Kiffin, and if they can manage to stay healthy (that means no more jumping out of imaginary windows to save imaginary nephews Josh Shaw) SC could be the nation’s dark horse.
That’s my take. Hit me with the hate.