Are you ready for some football? Maybe you didn’t hear me – I said are you ready for some FOOTBALL (and not that fruity kind played by Europeans with man buns, I’m talking the REAL shit involving young, underprivileged black men giving each other CTE for our spectatorial amusement?)
Well, thankfully a new college football season is upon us, which means we can all revel in the joy that is watching 300 pound 18-year-olds bash each other’s skulls together so taxpayer-subsidized cathedrals of radical liberal indoctrination can generate more cash for their state of the art white guilt centers.
Naturally, none of us can really trust ESPN to give us objective football commentary no more, so we here at HalfGuarded have taken it upon ourselves to project, predict and prognosticate the ENTIRE 2017-18 NCAA college football season. Want to know which Power Five conference will get left out of the playoff race, which non Power Five teams have the best chance of crashing the big dance and just how goddamn terrible Notre Dame is going to be this year (spoiler: VERY)?
Well, you’re in luck, kiddos … our eight BOLD predictions for the season ahead will tell you everything you could ever possibly want to know about the new college football season, including the eventual conference champs, the playoff teams and even the outcomes of all the big bowl games; concluding, of course, with the final score of 2018’s National Championship Game.
Prediction #01: Louisville wins the ACC and Lamar Jackson wins the Heisman again
Although the ESPN and A.P. wehrmachts have Florida State and Clemson penciled in as the presumptive ACC champs, I think a one-loss Louisville team (powered by an even more dominant Lamar Jackson, who is bolstered by a better offensive line and a vastly improved defense) will actually win the conference championship by virtue of FSU and the Tigers each losing two games. The Cardinals will then clinch the ACC crown by beating a resurgent 10-2 Miami team in a very close championship matchup, with Lamar Jackson leading Division I in rushing touchdowns and passing touchdowns and picking up his second consecutive Heisman trophy in December. And if you’re looking for some teams that are likely to over-perform this year, I’ve got North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest all finishing the season with at least eight wins.
Prediction #02: One-loss Alabama steamrolls its way to another SEC title
Yeah, it’s not exactly going out on a limb to predict Alabama wins the Southeastern Conference again this year, but their path to a fourth consecutive SEC crown won’t be without some drama. While ‘Bama will hold off LSU (11-1) and Ole Miss (8-4) in some close ‘uns, they will drop their only loss of the year to, of all teams, Arkansas (9-3). They will have a relatively easy time in the conference title game, dispatching Georgia (10-2) by a comfortable two touchdown lead. Elsewhere in the SEC, expect Missouri and Florida to wrap up the year with at least eight wins while Auburn, Texas A&M, Mississippi State and Tennessee all fall to .500 records.
Prediction #03: Wisconsin goes 12-0 but doesn’t make the playoffs
Considering how competitive the Big 10 East is, it’s no surprise that no team in the division will wrap up the year lossless. With a lighter schedule and only a handful of daunting opponents, I anticipate the Wisconsin Badgers to run the regular season table, perhaps even wrapping up the year slotted in as the overall No. 1 team in the country before the conference championships are contested. Alas, their Cinderella story ends there, as 11-1 Penn State blows them and their national title aspirations out of the water in a fairly uncompetitive Big 10 title game. Ohio State will wrap up the year 11-1 (that sole loss stemming from a fateful late October skirmish with the Nittany Lions) and Michigan will conclude the season 10-2 (thanks to losses against Wisconsin and Ohio State, although they will be the only team to deal Penn State a loss during the regular season.) As for the rest of the conference, only two other teams – Iowa at 9-3 and Northwestern at 7-5 – will wrap up the season with above .500 records.
Prediction #04: The Big 12 won’t send any representatives to the playoffs
The division-less Big 12 finally has a championship game, but with Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State each cancelling each other out in pigskin roshambo, it will be the only Power 5 conference without a representative come National Championship playoffs time. All three of the aforementioned teams will conclude the regular season 10-2, with the mathematical tie-breakers setting up Texas against Oklahoma in the championship decider. While Oklahoma will get the best of the Longhorns during rivalry weekend, Texas will exact revenge by handily beating the Sooners in the Big 12 title game by a comfortable double digit lead. Meanwhile, TCU and Baylor will both finish the season with sub .500 records (in fact, neither team will win more than five games this year), while Kansas State (8-4), West Virginia (8-4) and Texas Tech (7-5) should all exceed their lowly preseason expectations.
Prediction #05: USC will win the Pac-12 title, but it definitely won’t be easy
As expected, the Trojans’ offense will get off to a rollicking start and the on-field production should remain consistent all year long, as USC (whose only loss will come against a 10-2 UCLA squad) punches their ticket back to the Pac-12 championship game. An 11-1 Washington team will meet them in the title scrap, with the Trojans’ run game just narrowly getting them past the Huskies’ top ten-ranked defense. With 8-4 records, Stanford and Colorado will each take a step back while Oregon takes a huge step forward, finishing the year with a 10-2 record. No other teams in the conference will post winning records.
Prediction #06: Despite some teams doing very well, no non-Power 5 team will finish the season ranked higher than 15 in the national polls
Seemingly every year we hear idle chatter about some non Power 5 gatecrasher sneaking their way into the playoffs, but alas, 2017 ain’t going to be that season. With a 12-1 record, the Temple Owls will be the highest ranked non Power 5 team in the AP polls after championship weekend, finishing the regular season standings at the 19th overall slot. The 13-0 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers will follow at 20, with Army (11-1), Appalachian State (10-2) and Memphis (11-2) rounding out the 23, 24 and 25 spots. While the two most heavily hyped non-Power Fivers in the preseason will finish the regular season with winning records, neither Boise State or Houston will win their respective conference titles; the blue turfers will get upset by the 9-3 UNLV Rebels for the Mountain West crown, while the Cougars will fail to even make it to the AAC championship tilt.
Prediction #07: The big bowl games will be insanely good
The last couple of years the bulk of the big New Year’s bowl games have been pretty uneventful. Thankfully, such won’t be the case come Dec. 31, 2017 and Jan. 1, 2018. I’ve got Clemson surviving LSU 35-31 in the Cotton Bowl, Washington besting Florida State 28-21 in the Fiesta Bowl, Miami topping Wisconsin 30-21 in the Orange Bowl and Ohio State triumphing over Georgia 24-16 in the Peach Bowl. Oh, and if you’re wondering if Notre Dame will be playing in the Belk Bowl or the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, better clear your calendar; I’ve got the Catholics finishing the year 4-8 and, by proxy, ineligible for any bowl games, even that showcase of the gridiron immortals, the Dollar General Bowl.
Prediction #08: Bama beats the Trojans in an all-time classic for yet another national championship
The four playoff teams, in order, will be Alabama, USC, Penn State and Louisville. I’ve got the Tide crushing the Cardinals in the Rose Bowl 51-17, while the Trojans knock a last second field goal to surmount the Nittany Child Molesters 38-35 in an all-time classic. That gives us a good old-fashioned 1 vs. 2 championship final in Atlanta, with Alabama’s top-ranked defense going toe-to-toe with USC’s top-ranked offense. It’ll be a hell of a game with plenty of back and forth action, but it’ll be Alabama’s fourth down defensive heroics that allow them to stop the Trojans on a crucial fourth and 10 with just one second left on the ticker. In a battle for the ages, I’ve got Alabama winning it all again, while the Trojans spend the rest of the offseason pouting about their narrow 34-32 loss.