2016 College Football Preview
The Wolf previews all the big conferences in this year’s college football action.
Alabama coach Nick Saban is reaching a status that puts him among the college game’s elite all-time coaches and the Tide enter the season as defending national champions and favourites for their fifth national title since 2009. With an incredible defensive unit, Alabama will again take the SEC if they can get some production at quarterback with only LSU really challenging them in the SEC West.
The SEC East is a more open affair with Tennessee expected to play in their first title game since 2007 while Georgia are looking to put a disappointing 2015 campaign behind them and return to the big game for the first time since 2012. The Vols have arguably the best QB in the SEC but Butch Jones has hardly set Rocky Top alight in three years. Georgia get a new coach this year in former Bama DC Kirby Smart and if he can get results with a talented squad immediately Georgia could challenge.
Ohio State and Michigan enter the season the $2.75 equal favourites for the Big Ten but The Wolf is willing to pot them both. Michigan have had a full season under Jim Harbaugh and are the trendy pick after his country-wide recruiting trip but the Wolverines have not been a national power since 2004 and look a real bust team. Ohio State run a great program under Urban Meyer but were huge disappointments last season and bring back just six starters this season. Michigan State won it last year and Mike Dantonio is the most underrated coach in college football. This team has no stars but it is a team that plays at an exceptional level and should slip under the radar again.
Oklahoma are the odds-on favourites to take the Big 12 for the second straight year after a big 2015 under their high-powered offense that averaged 43.5 points per game under the direction of Baker Mayfield, the most decorated quarterback in the country. At $1.80 though they are short enough. TCU have only three returning players on offence but they have a quality and experience defence that can take them to the conference title. With the Baylor scandal wiping them out and Texas still defining mediocrity, this looks a race in two.
Winner: TCU ($6.00)
The ACC is a race in two between Clemson and Florida State, who have shared the last five ACC titles. Each are expected to go undefeated … except for their matchup in Tallahassee on October 29 which is already being touted as the game of the year. Punters are ready to write the Tigers off but their national championship appearance last year will only serve them well. Clemson have the best offense in the conference and maybe the country. They can win it all. Pittsburgh seem set to be the fodder for the winners of the Tigers-Noles clash.
The Pac-12 this season looks high energy, wide open and probably lacking in a genuine playoff contender.
The North will see favourite Stanford, hot sleeper pick Washington and usual contender Oregon battle it out. Stanford will be led by Heisman candidate Christian McCaffrey as they look to their fourth conference title in six years. They are well coached but with only 12 returning starters turnover is high. Oregon have just 11 returning starters but outside of a quality running back corps lack class. Washington have not won a Pac-12 title since splitting it in 2000 but this could be their breakout year thanks to a quality defence and QB Jake Browning. The North have won every Pac-12 Championship game.
Down South it is UCLA and USC who will fight for division honours. USC are perennially overrated and have been again. UCLA have Josh Rosen at QB who looks a star in the making. They have a great coach. And they ranked Top 50 in both offense and defence last year. They can change the tide for the South.
The Sun Belt looks a race in three between perennial powerhouse Arkansas State (champions 4 of the last 5 years), former FCS big dogs Georgia Southern and the best offensive team in the conference in Appalachian State. Arkansas State have the best offensive and defensive line play and a history of success. Defence more often than not reigns supreme in the Sun Belt.
Winner: Arkansas State ($3.25)
Boise State are ready to return to prominence on the national stage and are probably the best hope of a playoff berth from outside a power five conference. The Broncos are the best coached team in the Mountain West, Brett Rypien is far and away the best quarterback in the conference and he has offensive weapons all over. If the defence improves then the Broncos can reclaim the Mountain West.