Andrew Holman | Sports Editor
Saturday mornings, remember them? No, not just any Saturday mornings, I’m talking about game days. The ones where you wake up, shower, throw on your team’s colors and waste the whole day away glued to the television watching the craziness of college football unfold.
But then the winter came, Alabama rolled to its fourth title in seven years and all of the sudden Saturday became just another day of the week.
Well good news folks, college football Saturdays are back and the weekends just got a whole lot more exciting.
After one weekend, it’s already apparent that the 2016-17 season surely will not disappoint. ESPN called it “the best opening weekend in college football ever.” That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but it surely got the season off to a strong start with three of the nation’s top 10 teams falling.
So now that the teams have taken to the field, it’s time to preview what should be another captivating year of game days.
College Football Playoff (CFP) Predictions:
Florida State Seminoles (1-0, def. Ole Miss 45-34)
There were a lot of questions for the Florida State Seminoles entering the season. The team was undoubtedly loaded with top tier talent, but would they be able to ride the shoulders of a redshirt freshman quarterback all the way to the CFP? After week one, that answer appears to be yes. Quarterback Deondre Francois faced about as much adversity as one could possibly face in their first collegiate game. He was up against the No. 11 team in the country and trailing 28-6 with under one minute to go in the first half. He finished the night with 419 yards passing, 59 yards rushing, two touchdown passes and a 45-34 win. Not to mention, the freshman didn’t turn the ball over against a stout Ole Miss defense. Francois led the Seminoles to their largest comeback win in school history. Things are looking very promising down in Tallahassee.
Clemson Tigers (1-0, def. Auburn 19-13)
In a 2015 championship game to remember, the Clemson Tigers came up just short to the Alabama Crimson Tide by a final score of 45-40. The Tigers go as quarterback Deshaun Watson goes and he may very well be the best at his position in the college game. A Heisman candidate at quarterback boats well for head coach Dabo Swinney’s team. They are also stacked with weapons on the offensive side of the ball who are returning from last year and will surely compensate for a defense that could struggle early on after the loss of some key players. Aside from the matchup with Florida State, Clemson has a very favorable schedule and they appear to be a near lock to qualify for the CFP.
Ohio State Buckeyes (1-0, def. BGSU 77-10)
A late loss to Michigan State derailed the Buckeyes’ 2015 season and denied them a chance to repeat as National Champions. Along with their championship dreams dissolving, the Buckeyes also had to wave goodbye to 16 starters, so it’s a good thing Urban Meyer is one of the top recruiters in the country. Ohio State put up 776 yards of total offense in itsw week one matchup — a new school record. Also, there is no more quarterback competition in Columbus and J.T. Barrett seems poised to lead a talented Scarlet and Grey squad back to the playoffs for the second time in its three years of existence.
Houston Cougars (1-0, def. Oklahoma 33-23)
You will just have to take my word on this one, but I was aboard the Houston hype train way before the season started. After their impressive double digit win over No. 3 Oklahoma, the Cougars reaffirmed the confidence I had in them. Ever since head coach Tom Herman took over the program, the Cougars have been rapidly trending upward. Last year, Houston shocked the country with a monumental 38-24 win over Florida State in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. This year I believe the Cougars will go a perfect 13-0 and earn a spot in their first ever CFP.
Outside looking in…
Michigan Wolverines (1-0, def. Hawaii 63-3)
The Wolverines were one successful punt away from defeating the Big 10 Champion Spartans in 2015. From 2014 t0 2015 the Wolverines added Coach Harbaugh and bolstered their record from 5-7 to 10-3 in just one season. Although I expect them to boast an even better record in 2016, only one team from the Big 10 is getting into the CFP and it’s likely going to be the winner of the Ohio State vs. Michigan rivalry game in the season’s final week, which I expect Ohio State to win at The Horseshoe.
Stanford Cardinal (1-0, def. Kansas State 26-13)
A 2015 Heisman Finalist, Christian McCaffrey will surely keep Stanford in the hunt for a spot in the CFP. Although Stanford is slated to play five opponents ranked in the preseason polls, it seems the Cardinal shouldn’t have too much trouble with their schedule. However, I’m eyeing an Oct. 15 showdown with the Fighting Irish as the game that ruins their perfect record. I don’t see enough signature wins on their schedule for them to make the playoff with one loss.
Alabama Crimson Tide (1-0, def. USC 52-6)
Yeah… leaving Alabama outside of the CFP is tough to back up. All they did was win another national title, bring in a stellar recruiting class and hand the USC Trojans their worst loss in 50 years. But something tells me the “unbeatable” label being placed on them is going to come back to bite them. There was a similar feeling heading into last season for Ohio State and they watched the CFP from their couches. And for some reason, I have a feeling a similar turn of events will play out with the Tide. They seem to have found their quarterback and their defense is reloaded, but I still am not a believer in the Tide. I couldn’t tell you to whom or when it’s going to happen, but I believe the college football world will be put in collective shock as Alabama will be left out of the CFP.
You read that correctly — a grand total of zero SEC schools in the CFP. It’s just an average year in the SEC and Week 1 of the college football season proved that. Aside from Alabama’s 52-6 demolition of USC, the other top teams in the conference were rather underwhelming.
LSU, the team polled to finish second in the SEC behind Alabama, already saw their playoff hopes begin to fade as they dropped their season opener to Wisconsin 16-4. Additionally, Tennessee, the favorite to win the SEC East, needed overtime to defeat Appalachian State and if it weren’t for a favorable bounce on a goal-line fumble, the Volunteers would have already played themselves out of the CFP conversation.
Ultimately, I see a Florida State vs. Ohio State National Championship game in which the Buckeyes win in a shootout. Offense is the name of the game at the college level and Ohio State seemingly has the offense best equipped to bring home the hardware.
At the end of the day, no matter who is in the playoffs it should be another incredible year of college football and one that produces many classic, jaw-dropping moments. Sit back and enjoy these Saturdays, college football fans. Maybe this time winter won’t come along to ruin it all — we can only hope.