For the last four years, the college football world has been crushed under the heels of Alabama and Clemson. With the 2019 season weeks away and the two schools locking down the first two spots in both the AP and Coaches’ Polls, neither football powerhouse looks ready to give up their position anytime soon. Predicting what will happen with those two feels easy. The rest of the top-ranked teams present a tougher challenge.
Here are some predictions for over-under achievement, for entertainment purposes only.
1. Clemson Tigers (OVER 11.5 wins)
One of the most remarkable characteristics of Dabo Swinney’s second national championship team was the production they received from their underclassmen. This season, most of that core will return, including Heisman hopeful quarterback Trevor Lawrence and many of his favorite targets, plus running back Travis Etienne.
The big question mark is on defense, as five of their standouts – four on the defensive line alone – are now NFL-bound. A mostly fresh cast of characters will fill that side of the lineup, but even a half-strength Clemson defense should be just enough for another championship run on a team with such a high-powered offense. A relatively easy schedule, featuring such worthy opponents as Charlotte and Wofford, will help matters.
2. Alabama (OVER 11 wins)
For those hoping that their unexpected humbling in the national championship game would be the start of a trend, don’t get your hopes up. Nick Saban hasn’t spent 100 percent of his time making excuses for last season. It just seems like it.
The Crimson Tide have a budding superstar quarterback of their own. Tua Tagoviloa is back for at least one more run, and while a slight cool-off may be expected of him after his record-shattering performance in 2018, he still has one of the best receiving corps in college football to guide him. A host of improvements on defense, especially in the secondary, may patch the microscopic holes in Saban’s master plan.
3. Georgia (OVER 10 wins)
Of the two teams best poised to potentially unseat Alabama as SEC champion, Georgia looks like the better bet. The Dawgs’ offense has most of its key playmakers back, including Heisman candidate Jake Fromm at quarterback and DeAndre Smith at tailback. If Georgia’s conference-leading five five-star recruits pan out, the Bulldogs may pose a serious threat for years to come.
Not to mention, their place in the SEC East means they avoid Alabama (for the time being.) The third SEC hopeful, LSU, does not have that luxury.
4. Oklahoma (OVER 10.5 wins)
Perhaps no team embodied modern football more than last season’s Sooners, who possessed an explosive offense and a porous defense to match.
With new transfer Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma is lucky enough to plug in a proven signal-caller to fill a void on offense. If new defensive coordinator Alex Grinch can mitigate the damage on the other side of the ball, the Sooners may have the power to get over the playoff hump this season.
5. Ohio State (UNDER 10.5 wins)
It’s a testament to Ohio State’s recruiting prowess that the Buckeyes are ranked #5 in the wake of Urban Meyer’s retirement.
No team on this list has more to prove than Ohio State, who enter 2019 with a new coach and a new quarterback. It should help Ryan Day some that most of Meyer’s staff is still around to provide some semblance of continuity, and that his quarterback is No. 1 ranked recruit Justin Fields. Still, expect some growing pains from this new-look Buckeyes team.
6. LSU (UNDER 9 wins)
For better or worse, quarterback (and walking meme) Joe Burrow will take a larger offensive role this season. While he showed flashes of brilliance last season, his red zone offense was the worst in the SEC by a wide margin. A switch to a more option-oriented offense may be the release Burrow needs to excel, but that will be difficult with the toughest schedule of all three SEC contenders.
7. Michigan (UNDER 9.5 wins)
The Wolverines are entering year five of the Jim Harbaugh Experience with plenty of wins, but little tangible reward to show for their efforts. Very little has changed from the 2018 squad which ended the season on a whimper following a ten-game winning streak. Whether this squad comes out hungry from last season’s setbacks against Ohio State and Florida, a No. 5 ranking seems inflated.
A daunting schedule with nary a “cupcake” in sight – don’t expect Middle Tennessee State to roll over in week one, either – won’t help matters.
8. Florida (OVER 9 wins)
There isn’t that much more hill for the Gators to climb after last season’s six-win improvement, and expectations are high in the Swamp.
This season for Florida will ride on junior quarterback Feleipe Franks, who improved dramatically under head coach Dan Mullen as a sophomore. With the duo together for another season, the Gators should provide Georgia with their only realistic competition for the SEC East’s spot in the conference championship game.