2019 College Football Outlook

1. ACC AtlanticClemson Tigers: The defending champs will be one of the favorites to get back to the playoffs and possibly the national title game. Trevor Lawrence will be the opening weekend starter, running back Travis Etienne will be back, a loaded group of wide receivers and four of five starters from the offensive line will be back. A few big names are gone on defense. Clellin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence, Austin Bryant, Trayvon Mullen and Albert Huggins are all gone. Despite that, I believe in Brett Venables because he will make sure that the defense won’t miss a beat. I see linebacker Isaiah Simmons stepping up and becoming the leader of the defense. Dabo Swinney will continue to make sure this team is kept together. I like he Clemson Tigers to win the ACC Atlantic once again for the fifth straight season.

2. ACC CoastalMiami Hurricanes: I think this team can bounce back after a down year in 2018 that saw them finish with a 7-6 record overall and 4-4 record in ACC play. Mark Richt announced his retirement following their bowl game. Manny Diaz was hired to take over at Temple as their next head coach but decided to come back after Mark’s announcement to become the next head coach. Diaz has been instrumental in guiding Miami’s defense to a place among the ACC’s best in each of the last three years. I expect the Hurricanes to run the football until their quarterback can get settled in with the offense. Miami opens with Florida in Orlando to start the 2019 season and travels to Pitt, North Carolina, Florida State and Duke in conference play. However, key matchups against Virginia and Virginia Tech take place in Hard Rock Stadium.

3. Big Ten EastOhio State Buckeyes: The Urban Meyer chapter has ended. The Ryan Day era has officially begun. Despite the transition, I still like them to win the Big Ten East for the third straight season. Coach Day has revamped the defensive coaching staff which should address the shortcomings on that side of the football while the addition of Mike Yurcich adds another sharp mind on offense. The biggest challenge for the Buckeyes will be their quarterback situation. It isn’t easy to replace a guy like Dwayne Haskins who threw 50 touchdowns in 2018. The answer for this could be former five-star prospect Justin Fields who transferred to the university after spending a year at Georgia. The offense will be without some big names from last season. Mike Weber, Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon are all gone. J.K. Dobbins is back to lead the running game. On defense, I’m looking forward to watching Chase Young play as he should become one of the best defensive players in the Big Ten. Safety Jordan Fuller decided to come back for one more season.

4. Big Ten WestIowa Hawkeyes: Right now, this is my favorite to win the Big Ten West. This is a team with an offense that averaged 32 points per game, quarterback Nate Stanley is returning and all three running backs for the Hawkeyes are also back. Both Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson are playing at the next level which leaves offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz to replace Nate’s pass catchers. Whenever I think of Iowa Hawkeyes football, I think of their offensive line and they will be expected to have another solid unit in 2019. In order to win their division, they have a brutal slate of road games. They’ll face Iowa State in Ames, then take on Michigan, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Nebraska all away from Iowa City.

5. Big-12Oklahoma Sooners: I’ll be honest here. It was a close call between these Sooners and the Texas Longhorns. I’m giving the team that’s won the conference title four years in a row and been to the playoffs in the last two seasons. It seems as if no matter who Lincoln Riley plugs in at quarterback, they come in and make all the difference for the team. 2017, he had Baker Mayfield, 2018, he had Kyler Murray. Both guys won the Heisman. This year, a veteran comes in and takes command of the offense, Jalen Hurts. Remember him? Despite the electric Marquise Brown departing for the NFL, the Sooners will still have one of the best all-around offenses in the country. What will determine the outcome for this season will be their defense. The Sooners hired former Missouri assistant Alex Grinch as their defensive coordinator in hopes of elevating their defense to the level of their offense. Grinch’s defense must improve if Oklahoma hopes to legitimately contend for a National Championship.

6. Pac-12 NorthOregon Ducks: With quarterback Justin Herbert returning for another season along with running backs C.J. Verdell and Travis Dye, they’re my pick to win their division and possibly the conference title. The big question regarding their offense is how they’ll replace wide receiver Dillon Mitchell. Although the defense will be without a few big names from last season, I expect defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt to work with what he has, and he has some talent coming to Eugene. Mario Cristobal and his team will begin the season in Arlington when they face the Auburn Tigers.

7. Pac-12 SouthUtah Utes: They won the Pac-12 South for the first time in school history and they’ll be the favorites to win it again in 2019. They will enter the year with a new offensive play caller who will inherit quarterback Tyler Huntley along with a receiving core that’s returning seven receivers who caught at least 15 passes. The Utes should have one of the better defenses again in the conference in 2019 and look to follow up a year where they held opponents to 19 points a game and had one of the best run defenses in the league. It’s looking to be another successful for the Utes.

8. SEC EastGeorgia Bulldogs: They’ve won the last two division titles and I think they make it three in 2019. Despite losing defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, I don’t think this will slow the Bulldogs down on either side of the football. Jake Fromm is back for another year as one of the top quarterbacks in the SEC who threw 30 touchdown passes and 2,749 yards in 2018, running back D’Andre Swift also returns and he’ll be joined by Brian Herrien, James Cook and Zamir White in the backfield. The offensive line will remain one of the best in college football. This receiving core will require a large amount of retooling. Riley Ridley, Mecole Hardman and tight end Isaac Nauta all left early for the NFL. The Bulldogs will be counting on Jeremiah Holloman, Tyler Simmons and Demetris Robertson to lead the way as Fromm’s top receivers. Despite the names they lost on defense, I still like for them to remain as one of the best units in college football.

9. SEC West: Alabama Crimson Tide– They will reload and make another run at a national title this season. As usual, there have been some changes within Nick Saban’s coaching staff, but do you really think that’s going to slow down the team? Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa returns for his second season as the starter to lead an Alabama offense that scored with ease in 2018. Running back Josh Jacobs is now a member of the Oakland Raiders and Damien Harris is also gone, but I don’t expect the running game to miss much of a beat with Najee Harris, Brian Robinson and incoming freshman Trey Sanders. The receiving core will return Jerry Jeudy, Jaylen Waddle, Henry Ruggs and DeVonta Smith. Alabama has been known for their defenses over the years. Last year was one of their worst efforts I’ve seen down the stretch. They gave up almost 5 yards a play (4.9). In the title game, Clemson torched them for 44 points. Replacing Quinnen Williams won’t be easy, but Raekwon Davis passed up on the NFL to come back to Tuscaloosa for one more year.