Time to make college picks and obviously, we have to start with Alabama. Coach Nick Saban has lead the Crimson Tide to back-to-back BCS Championship and in this, the final year of the BCS system, the Tide are the clear favorite to roll through their competition and win their third straight title. Bama has a relatively easy schedule by SEC standards, avoiding Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina in inter-division games, the three teams that will likely vie for the SEC East title. Coach Saban’s bunch’s toughest test will be a visit to Johnny Football and Texas A&M in College Station and the Bayou Bengals of LSU in Tuscaloosa.
Speaking of Johnny Football and A&M, the NCAA has just announced that Manziel will be suspended for just one half, against Rice. The reigning Heisman trophy winner has gotten away with everything and A&M will have no problem running all over Rice with or without him. But what can the Aggies do now that Manziel’s status has been cleared up? Texas A&M starts the year with Rice and Sam Houston State, two easy wins regardless of who is under center, but after that the Aggies host the mighty Crimson Tide of Alabama. Unfortunately for them, Manziel will not be able to knock off the Tide for the second year in a row for one reason: Nick Saban will not allow that to happen. That said, Manziel will still lead the a Aggies to a good year, 11-2 with the only other loss in Baton Rouge to LSU.
Outside the SEC, it is a two team race to challenge Bama: Oregon vs. Stanford in the Pac-12 which will come to fruition on Thursday night, November 7th, in Palo Alto, California. Oregon has been the most electrifying team in college football since Chip Kelly took over, but now Kelly is off in Philadelphia, and former offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich is taking over the program. However, David Shaw has built the best team Stanford has ever seen, led by quarterback Kevin Hogan and linebacker Shayne Skov. The Cardinal’s pro style offense is as physical as any in the nation and in the words of Lee Corso are the “Alabama of the West.” But can the Alabama of the west beat the real Alabama? Here are the picks:
Clemson over Miami in the ACC Championship. Tajh Boyd leads the Tigers to the ACC title headlined by a huge win over Florida State at home. Miami rebounds under Al Golden, after earning the ACC Coastal bid last year but being banned due to self-imposed sanctions, the Canes led by sophomore RB Duke Johnson will put forth a solid season.
Louisville will win a weak conference, led by Heisman candidate Teddy Bridgewater. The Cardinals have no real competition in this conference and may very well run the table as a result. But make no mistake, despite their win over Florida in last year’s Sugar Bowl, they will not be able to compete with the SEC elite.
Michigan over Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis. I realize this may seem like a homer pick, but the Wolverines are establishing a pro style offense with Devin Gardner under center. Meanwhile, while the Buckeyes coasted through a largely soft schedule, especially non-conference. Watch out for Coach Hoke’s Wolverines.
Texas Longhorns. This is finally the year that Mack Brown and Texas return to natural relevance. Texas returns to the spread offense this year, which better suits the skill set of junior QB David Ash. Additionally, the Horns have a stable of talented backs in Jonathan Gray, Malcolm Brown, and Joe Bergeron.
Stanford over UCLA. I love the Cardinal: great coach, great quarterback, great defense and they should beat an Oregon team in transition to win the Pac-12 North, and then easily beat whoever challenges out of the South. That team will be determined by the USC-UCLA game, but Brett Hundley at quarterback will be too much for an unproved Southern Cal team.
Alabama over Georgia. Its hard to pick against an Alabama team that continually wins national titles and then brings home the nations #1 recruiting class. Between AJ McCarron, TJ Yeldon, and Amari Cooper the Tide have plenty of firepower on offense and a Saban coached defense is annually dominant. The true test of the Tide will come when LSU comes to T-Town, but Bama should take care of business at home. As for the SEC East, I see Georgia coming into its own this year despite an unproven defense. With Aaron Murray and Gurshall, the Dawgs offense should be able to carry the team until the defense figures itself out.
Marcus Mariota, QB Oregon. Although I don’t see the Ducks getting past Stanford, I think the young Hawaiian will be brilliant this year. Oregon is loaded with offensive talent, but Mariota will get the greatest opportunity to shine. As much as I love Ducks tailback/receiver De’Anthony Thomas, I don’t think he will get enough touches to win the Heisman. Mariota proved as a freshman that he is more then capable of running the Kelly/Helfrich offense to perfection. His ability as both a runner and a passer scared even the mighty Johnny Football away from his commitment to Oregon.
National Championship Game:
Alabama over Stanford. By winning his third straight national title, Nick Saban will establish himself as the greatest coach in NCAA Football history. As much as I like Stanford, they just don’t have Alabama’s talent and Saban has shown his teams do not get complacent. However, don’t expect the rout you saw last year over Notre Dame, Tide fans. The Cardinal can play, but at the end of the day the Tide will Roll through Pasadena to win another Title.