Not much mystery left at this point in the preseason, so why not put our cards on the table? Here are my projections for the standings in every conference. Below those are my picks for the College Football Playoff.
ACC Championship: Florida State over Miami
*Miami wins ACC Coastal via head-to-head win over North Carolina.
*I won't lie: This conference is about as blah as it gets for me. Florida St. and Clemson have established themselves as elite programs, but the rest... Living in ACC country, I can't begin to explain how depressing it is on a Saturday morning to wade through the league's noon games.
*Really like Louisville, but Cardinals are looking at a few landmines. Sandwiching a trip to Marshall between CU and FSU? Not nice.
*I can't predict injuries, but in light of the attrition that has slammed Baylor, the Bears are one of the teams most likely not to live up to these projections.
*Don't understand how TCU has become such a popular sleeper team this offseason. The Horned Frogs have a tremendous head coach and staff, but their losses on the offensive side of the ball are massive. The Air Raid might be a "plug-and-play" offense. That doesn't minimize the importance of Trevone Boykin, Josh Doctson and Aaron Green. Take a look at TCU's offensive production last year with Doctson and without.
Also, it seems notable that TCU is 9-2 in one-score games in the last two years.
*Would 6-6 keep Charlie Strong safe?
Big Ten Championship: Michigan over Nebraska
*I don't feel particularly bullish on either division winner in the Big Ten this year. Somehow, though, I have both finishing with pretty strong records.
*I feel uneasy fading a team that has stockpiled as much talent as Ohio St., but I foresee some early problems for the Buckeyes. I thought OSU missed Devin Smith badly in the passing game last season, and I have a hard time buying in on this team until a big-play threat emerges out wide.
Pac-12 Championship: Oregon over USC
*USC wins Pac-12 South via head-to-head win over UCLA.
*I don't like anything about picking Oregon here, but somebody has to win it.
*This league looks primed to cannibalize itself.
*Sonny Dykes might be wishing he found another job to take in the offseason come December.
*I hate how Utah's schedule sets up. The Utes get three of what I see as "50-50" games on the road: California, Arizona St. and Colorado. That sounds like a formula for a disappointing season.
SEC Championship: Tennessee over LSU
*Too contrarian? Eh, I really like the Volunteers' roster, so I'll roll with UT. Truthfully, my biggest concern is that big bundle of nerves wearing the headset on the sidelines.
*I'm going the Crimson Tide primarily because of the schedule. I'd feel better about road trips to Ole Miss, LSU and Tennessee with a more stable quarterback situation.
*Texas A&M is a real sleeper, but Kevin Sumlin will need to figure out a way to keep Trevor Knight's uniform clean playing behind a green offensive line.
College Football Playoff
Peach Bowl: No. 1 Florida St. over No. 4 Oregon
Fiesta Bowl: No. 2 Tennessee over No. 3 Michigan
Championship: FSU over Tennessee
The selection committee could be looking at a thorny debate this year when it comes to the fourth sport:
- Pac-12 champ Oregon at 11-2;
- Big 12 champ Oklahoma at 10-2;
- Clemson at 11-1;
- Mountain West champ Boise State at 11-1.
To be fair, the Broncos will get knocked out by their schedule. Their will be some talk about access issues, however, if so.
Ultimately, I think the committee would favor a conference champ (Oregon and OU) over CU, which would lack even a division crown. When it comes to picking between the Ducks and Sooners, this may be one of those cases where not having a conference championship game comes back to bite the Big 12 title holder.