Here are five bold predictions for college football’s regular season:
Michigan beats Ohio State again
Last November, Michigan snapped an eight-game losing streak in The Game, and this year the Wolverines will end another drought, their stretch of nine consecutive losses in Columbus, dating to 2000. Both teams enter the showdown undefeated, adding even more hype to the bitter rivalry. And Jim Harbaugh’s team will find a way to prevail in a shootout, as the best Michigan offense under his watch can’t be stopped by the Buckeyes.
Enthusiasm in South Bend dulls
For all the excitement over new Notre Dame coach Marcus Freeman, let’s not forget he has never been a head coach before, unless you count the Fiesta Bowl loss to Oklahoma State as an interim. He has unproven options at quarterback and his schedule — featuring games against Ohio State, North Carolina, BYU, Clemson and USC — is a gauntlet. A 9-4 season is very possible. Even 8-5 isn’t out of the question. Irish fans, give Freeman time.
And the Heisman goes to …
No, it’s not Alabama quarterback Bryce Young. There won’t be a repeat Heisman Trophy winner for the second time. It’s not the other heavy favorite, Ohio State signal-caller C.J. Stroud, either. Instead, a defensive player wins the award. Will Anderson Jr., Young’s teammate, makes a run at Terrell Suggs’ sack record of 24 set in 2002 for Arizona State. The aptly named “Terminator” falls a few sacks shy, but wins college sports’ most prestigious honor, joining Michigan’s Charles Woodson in 1997 as the only defensive players to take home the Heisman.
Pac-12 playoff contention
The conference comes close, painfully so, to reaching the playoff for the first time since 2017. But it’s not the team garnering all the preseason hype that makes it interesting. Utah, not USC, is in it until the very end, starting the year with an impressive rout at Florida and knocking off the Trojans head-to-head. But the undefeated Utes finish fifth in the final rankings, edged out by a pair of one-loss teams, Ohio State and Georgia. Their lack of a trademark win is the reason given by the committee in the controversial decision.
Clemson’s struggles continue
The ACC has five teams ranked in the AP Top 25, which is impressive depth for the conference, but that balance won’t help it return to the playoff. The league beats itself up too much, and Clemson is unable to return to elite status after last year’s three-loss season. Dabo Swinney doesn’t have an answer at quarterback — both DJ Uiagalelei and Cade Klubnik falter in big spots — which costs the Tigers in crushing losses to N.C. State and Miami.