Each Friday, our staff at The Comeback has been sharing our conference predictions for the upcoming season. But with our conference previews in the books, we have our College Football Playoff and Heisman predictions, and a few more to share with you today to close out our college football preview content.
College Football Playoff Predictions
- Matt Lichtenstadter: 1. Alabama vs. 4. USC, 2. Ohio State vs. 3. Florida State
- Bart Doan: 1. Washington vs. 4. Michigan, 2. Alabama vs. 3. Florida State
- Phil Harrison: 1. Alabama vs. 4. Wisconsin, 2. Ohio State vs. 3. Florida State
- Terry P. Johnson: 1. Florida State vs. 4. Stanford, 2. Ohio State vs. 3. Alabama
- Kevin McGuire: 1. Ohio State vs. 4. Florida State, 2. Alabama vs. 3. Penn State
There is a consensus on just one team for the College Football Playoff from our staff. Not shockingly, it’s Alabama. The Crimson Tide are the only team to make the playoff in each of the first three years, and our staff is confident they will make it a clean four-for-four this season. Ohio State and Florida State each appeared in four of our playoff predictions, and we ended up having four different teams picked as top-ranked team. Nobody picked defending national champion Clemson to reach the playoff after making it the past two seasons.
You may have noticed something else about our predictions. Nobody picked a team from the Big 12 to reach the College Football Playoff this season. The Big 12 is bringing back its conference championship game this season for the extra data point, but our staff does not see that having a positive impact in the end. The Big Ten and SEC are the only conferences represented on all of our predictions.
College Football Playoff National Championship
- Matt L.: Alabama over Florida State
- Bart: Washington over Alabama
- Phil: Alabama over Ohio State
- Terry: Ohio State over Florida State
- Kevin M: Ohio State over Alabama
Two votes each for Alabama and Ohio State, and three of us picking a title bout between the Crimson Tide and Buckeyes. Everybody has Alabama at least playing for the national championship, making them a prohibitive favorite to reach the final game of the season. Bart was the only one brave enough to go out on a limb compared to the main stream championship predictions by taking the Washington Huskies to win it all. Remember that Alabama eliminated the Huskies from the playoff last year, so this would make for a good revenge story and finally place Chris Petersen in the ranks of national title coaches.
- Sam Darnold, USC (1)
- Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State (1)
- Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma (1)
- J.T. Barrett, Ohio State (1)
- Saquon Barkley, Penn State (1)
There is no definitive and clear-cut favorite to win the Heisman Trophy this season, but our panel agrees the reigning Heisman Trophy winner — Lamar Jackson of Lousiville — will not join Ohio State’s Archie Griffin as a two-time winner. Quarterbacks lead the charge, which is to be expected, with just one vote going to a running back.
Offensive Player of the Year
- Saquon Barkley, Penn State (2)
- Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma (2)
- Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State (1)
The votes for offensive player of the year were trimmed down a bit from the Heisman Trophy predictions, with just Penn State running back Saquon Barkley and Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield receiving multiple votes.
Defensive Player of the Year
- Christian Wilkins, Clemson (2)
- Derwin James, Florida State (2)
- Harold Landry, Boston College (1)
No, these are not our preseason picks for ACC Defensive Player of the Year. It just so happens we think pretty highly of some of the top defensive players in the ACC. In fact, really highly. The ACC took all of the nominations for defensive player of the year from our staff. Interestingly enough, Boston College’s Landry tied our ACC defensive player of the year picks earlier this year with Florida State’s Derwin James (Christian Wilkins received just one vote).
Coach of the Year
- Urban Meyer, Ohio State (2)
- Clay Helton, USC (1)
- Chris Petersen, Washington (1)
- Paul Chryst, Wisconsin (1)
We have some mixed opinions on this category, which was to be expected given some earlier predictions. Ohio State’s Meyer was the only coach to receive multiple votes. That should take some of the pressure off Meyer, who some suggest has not won enough in Columbus.
This question can be asked…
— Paul Finebaum (@finebaum) August 16, 2017
Group of Five Coach of the Year
- Charlie Strong, USF (2)
- Scott Sadderfield, Appalachian State (1)
- Bryan Harsin, Boise State (1)
- Blake Anderson, Arkansas State (1)
Again, we had some mixed opinions here, but Charlie Strong’s first job after things didn’t pan out at Texas is widely being considered a good spot for him. Two members on our staff agreed and made him the preseason pick for Group of Five coach of the year. If Strong gets the Bulls to the New Years Six, it will be hard to argue otherwise.
Who will be the first Power Five coach fired?
- Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M (1)
- Rich Rodriguez, Arizona (1)
- Todd Graham, Arizona State (1)
- Jim Mora, UCLA (1)
If there is one thing our staff seems to agree on here, it is that the job security in the Pac-12 South is not all that great. Half of the coaches in the division were picked to be the first power conference coach getting his pink slip this fall. But will any of the coaches get fired before the end of the regular season? The race is on. Kevin Sumlin is thought to be on a hot seat as well, and after Ole Miss moved on from Hugh Freeze this summer, he could be the first SEC coach on the chopping block if things turn sour once again in the second half of the season. Surprisingly, perhaps, Butch Jones managed to escape our nominations here.
Matt L.: The season will largely go as chalk as college football has in recent years. The biggest favorites for conference titles and the playoffs in the preseason will end up being where most everyone thinks they will. The Playoff favorites now will be those in contention come the end of November. The Heisman favorites preseason will still be Heisman favorites come November, with the biggest surprise possible being that a Sam Darnold/Lamar Jackson is overtaken by a Derrius Guice/Sa’Quon Barkley for the trophy. 10 years ago, college football had it’s absolute wildest season ever, and there has always been some turmoil in one form or another in the past few seasons at least. But my bold prediction this year is that not many bold predictions will come true, because chalk will.
Bart: Michigan will win the Big Ten. Kevin Sumlin will move onto the NFL after this season; so will Brian Kelly. The Big 12 will again miss the CFB Playoff. There will be zero P5 coaches fired during the regular season.
Phil: Two teams from the same conference will make the CFP for the first time, and it’ll come from the Big Ten. Wisconsin will run through a relatively easy schedule and get to Indy undefeated, where it will lose to a one-loss Ohio State team. OSU will get in by virtue of winning the conference, and the committee will have to choose between two-loss champions from the Big 12 and ACC and a one-loss Wisconsin. The Badgers squeak in and that domino falls.
Terry: The ACC Atlantic will be the toughest division in college football this year. Utah will win the Pac-12 South. Led by an influx of transfers, Rutgers will exceed expectations and qualify for a bowl game this year.
Kevin M: Like Phil, I also see a scenario playing out in which two Big Ten teams reach the College Football Playoff. The scenario plays out with Ohio State going undefeated and winning the Big Ten, Penn State loses just one game, a road game at Ohio State, and the Big 12 and Pac-12 pick themselves apart just enough to leave the door open for a second Big Ten team. At Texas A&M, Kevin Sumlin avoids a second-half meltdown to keep his job, while Brian Kelly gets shown the door in South Bend after a second straight year without a bowl trip. And Chip Kelly gets hired by a power conference program. I’m looking at you, UCLA.
That’s how we see the playoff looking this year. Now it’s your turn! Share your college football predictions with us in the comment section or share them with us on Twitter or Facebook. And be sure to check out our conference predictions below.