College Football Preview: Alabama, Clemson teams to beat

The college football season officially kicks off this weekend and storylines abound across the CFB landscape. Alabama and Clemson are heavyweights that look primed for another championship bout, but teams such as Washington, Ohio State, Georgia, and Oklahoma have the potential to make things interesting. Dark horses like Penn State, Michigan, Miami, and Wisconsin are aiming to sneak into the College Football Playoff for the first time, while Central Florida hopes to continue their success from last year’s undefeated campaign. Each week promises must-watch action, so to best help your viewing experience, here are the best games of the CFB schedule, week by week. Rankings are based off preseason rankings, while my projected rankings are below.

 

Sept 1: 6 Washington Huskies vs 9 Auburn Tigers (in Atlanta)- Week 1 of the college football season features this inter-conference battle between two CFP contenders, Washington and Auburn. Washington is the favorite to take the Pac-12 title once again, while Auburn, led by quarterback Jarrett Stidham, aims to build off last year’s stunning upset of Alabama. The winner of this game will surge into the playoff picture. Projected Winner: Washington

Sept 8: Arizona Wildcats @ Houston Cougars- Though neither team projects to be in the CFP discussion, these teams both boast Heisman-caliber superstars- quarterback Khalil Tate for Arizona and defensive lineman Ed Oliver for Houston. Both have been unstoppable in their college careers, so it will be interesting to see what gives. Projected Winner: Houston

Sept 15: 5 Ohio State Buckeyes @ 16 TCU Horned Frogs- This battle between Big Ten and Big 12 powers added a level of intrigue when OSU coach Urban Meyer was suspended for the first three games, and the final game of that suspension will be when the Buckeyes take on a dark horse Big 12 contender in TCU. The outcome could be pivotal in deciding the team’s respective conference champion. Projected winner: TCU

Sept 22: 13 Stanford Cardinal @ 24 Oregon Ducks- Heisman contending running back Bryce Love and the Stanford Cardinal take on a Pac-12 foe in the Ducks. The Cardinal could be the biggest contender to Washington’s throne, but Oregon, a disappointment over the past few years, could trip their rival up and signal the program’s resurgence. Projected winner: Oregon

Sept 29: 5 Ohio State Buckeyes @ 10 Penn State Nittany Lions- The Big Ten East Division’s representative could definitely come out of this game, a clash between two of college football’s powers. Penn State lost Saquon Barkley to the NFL but returns star quarterback Trace McSorley and will have home field advantage against their nemesis. Projected winner: Penn State

Oct 6: 23 Texas Longhorns @ 7 Oklahoma Sooners– The Red River rivalry may have been a bit stale over the past couple seasons, with Texas in turmoil and the Sooners in the College Football Playoff. But the Longhorns figure to put up a fight in this one, led by quarterback Sam Ehlinger and elite coach Tom Herman. Projected winner: Oklahoma

Oct 13: 4 Wisconsin Badgers @ 14 Michigan Wolverines- This interdivisional Big Ten rivalry could make or break Michigan’s College Football Playoff chances. Coach Jim Harbaugh has his most talented team yet, with perhaps the nation’s top defense and quarterback Shea Patterson, but Wisconsin has a top-tier offensive line and a Heisman candidate in running back Jonathan Taylor. Projected winner: Michigan

Oct 20: 7 Oklahoma Sooners @ 16 TCU Horned Frogs- Oklahoma will have their hands full in this Big 12 rivalry game against TCU. The Horned Frogs hold a home field advantage and have a dynamic offense that should give the Sooner defense fits. Projected winner: TCU

Oct 27: 2 Clemson Tigers @ 19 Florida State Seminoles- Clemson is ridiculously talented, particularly on the defensive line, and it remains to be seen if any ACC team can even pose a threat to them. If any team topples the Tigers, it would probably be the Seminoles, led by first year head coach Willie Taggart. Keep an eye on the battle between Clemson’s monster defensive line and Florida State running back Cam Akers. Projected winner: Clemson

Nov 3: 17 West Virginia Mountaineers @ 23 Texas Longhorns- The most exciting offense in the country could come out of Morgantown, West Virginia, home to All-American quarterback Will Grier and star receiver David Sills. The Mountaineers could be a threat to Oklahoma’s Big 12 reign, but a road game at Texas provides a tough test. Projected winner: Texas

Nov 10: 9 Auburn Tigers @ 3 Georgia Bulldogs- Auburn nearly knocked Alabama out of the College Football Playoff last season and will have a similar opportunity when they take on the Georgia Bulldogs. With a win against the loaded Bulldogs, the Tigers could catapult themselves into the CFP conversation. Projected winner: Georgia

Nov 17: 8 Miami Hurricanes @ 20 Virginia Tech Hokies- Both of these teams are ACC sleepers. Miami was a playoff contender for most of last season, and if they want to keep their chances alive this time around, a road win over a conference rival could be the perfect opportunity to send a message. Projected winner: Miami

Nov 24: 14 Michigan Wolverines @ 5 Ohio State Buckeyes- One of the best rivalries in sports will conclude the college football regular season, possibly with a spot in the Big Ten title game on the line. Under Harbaugh, the Wolverines have never beaten Ohio State, but this could be their best team yet. Projected winner: Ohio State

 

Projected Rankings

  1. Alabama Crimson Tide (13-0, SEC title)
  2. Clemson Tigers (13-0, ACC title)
  3. Washington Huskies (12-1, Pac-12 title)
  4. Penn State Nittany Lions (12-1, Big 10 title)
  5. Oklahoma Sooners (12-1, Big 12 title)
  6. Georgia Bulldogs (11-2)
  7. Ohio State Buckeyes (10-2)
  8. Miami Hurricanes (10-2)
  9. Michigan Wolverines (10-2)
  10. West Virginia Mountaineers (10-3)
  11. Wisconsin Badgers (10-3)
  12. Auburn Tigers (9-3)
  13. Texas Longhorns (9-3)
  14. Stanford Cardinal (9-3)
  15. Michigan State Spartans (9-3)
  16. TCU Horned Frogs (9-3)
  17. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (9-3)
  18. Houston Cougars (11-1, AAC title)
  19. Arizona Wildcats (9-3)
  20. Florida State Seminoles (8-4)

 

Conference Championships

ACC: Clemson Tigers over Miami Hurricanes

Big 12: Oklahoma Sooners over West Virginia Mountaineers

Big Ten: Penn State Nittany Lions over Wisconsin Badgers

Pac-12: Washington Huskies over Arizona Wildcats

SEC: Alabama Crimson Tide over Georgia Bulldogs

 

College Football Playoff

Cotton Bowl: 1 Alabama Crimson Tide over 4 Penn State Nittany Lions

Orange Bowl: 2 Clemson Tigers over 3 Washington Huskies

Championship: 2 Clemson Tigers over 1 Alabama Crimson Tide

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